In January I heard from the Board of Trustees of the Magic Castle that I had once again made the short list of nominees for Closeup Magician of the year. I have been fortunate enough to be on that list more than a few times before. I have always arranged time to go out there on the chance that I might actually receive the distinction but I have managed to get nosed out for all those years.
I’ve brought each of my kids out for these in the past years. This year, prior commitments and schedule conflicts on their parts plus the sour taste of disappointment meant I was flying solo on this trip.
I have gotten so used to just being a nominee that I didn’t take this very seriously.
For someone who is used to having to change planes at least once when leaving the mountains, the direct LAX Aspen flight is a joy. The down sides are that the that CRJ airplane is like a miniature plane or torture device. Mercifully the two hour flight goes quickly.The other drawback is that it dumps you into LAX as opposed to a smaller more manageable airport. But once through that mixmaster I took a delightful detour through Santa Monica, a light bite of some sushi and a couple of cold Asahis and I was ready for LA.
I glided through the traffic in an elegantly understated Altima toward the hills of Hollywood.
My hotel was in the shadow of the Castle. The renovations at the Highlands Gardens Hotel are quite nice and the gardens are just coming into bloom so that wonderful perfumed air is wafting all around. A welcome change to the high altitude dried out nasal passages I landed with. Spring is one of my favorite times to be in Southern California. The sun shines differently there and I love the way the scented air permeates everything.
The Castle was absolutely abuzz that Saturday night. The night before reception in the Inner Circle of the castle was a starstudded event for magicians. The following names may not mean much to some of you. But for the magicians reading this, it was grand.
The winners of the four categories, Closeup Magician/Parlor Magician/Stage Magician/Lecturer are a secret. The other awards like Literary Achievement, Special Merit, Lifetime Achievement are not as cloaked in secrecy so the game became, which one of the people in the room was to get what award.
My pal Louis Falanga was fairly obvious choice for Literary for his contributions to recording some of the modern day masters for posterity.
Eric Eswin got a special award for his many years as the secretary general of FISM (The Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (International Federation of Magic Societies).
I spied a dear friend Bob Fitch who has coached everyone from Broadway actors to magicians. He was to receive a Life time Achievement award.
Howie Schwartzman, a giant in the sleight of hand world, was to receive a special fellowship.
Guy Hollingsworth of the UK was to receive the Magician of the Year award. Guy is a lawyer by day and sleight of hand innovator/performer by evening. He is an elegantly dressed gentleman who is a charming and skilled performer.
It was grand fun rubbing elbows with these celebrities of magic. All this was going on in the Inner Circle where the WC Fields Magic Bar is located. I love the space. I helped design the bar area so it feels like home!
The rest of the castle was swarming with regular people. It made it even more bizarre by occasionally seeing folks from the reception. Every corner of the castle had clusters of people. I bounced from person to person thoroughly enjoying myself. I greeted a huge number of folks. My pal Jim Patton, who I haven’t seen in a couple of years, made a surprise appearance and I felt honored that he had driven up from OC to see me. He backed me up as the bartender on several occasions in the past so we have much to talk about. My pal Tom Frank made a special effort to come up as well. There were many many others who were all wishing me well, it began to dawn on me that, ‘Hey, I might just win it this year!’. I have had that feeling before but it was strong this time around.
I stumbled home to the Gardens at about two and slept the sleep of the dead.
I love being at the Castle. I remember walking into the place 30 years ago and felling overwhelmed by it all. It is so much different now.
(To be continued)