Sunday morning I stumbled down to Hollywood Blvd for some coffee and a light bite. I felt I should fortify myself for a Sunday afternoon rehearsal at the Avalon Theater Hollywood and Vine in the heart of Hollywood.
I ride to the Avalon with a fellow nominee/member of the board of trustees. I pump him for information but no one is tipping any information. However, I am getting a strong indication that I should think about what I might say in accepting the award. I am still cautious but I begin to think about what I want to say.
The Avalon is a grand old Hollywood landmark that is very comfy inside. There are booths and boxes that line the sides and the back of the Orchestra section. An ornate balcony wraps around the house. Behind the balcony is a bar and lounge area that is elegantly furnished with large couchs and chairs. I am very impressed with the choice of this as the venue. This refurbed theater is nothing short of grand. It is by far the best venue for this event I have ever seen. I regret not having any pictures of the inside but it was very intimate and wonderful.
The ringleader of the group is Neil Patrick Harris. He is to be the main emcee for the evening. He has done an amazing job of touting this ceremony on Ellen and Late night with Craig Ferguson. Besides being a talented actor he is also a pretty good magician.
An interesting diverse group are assembled in the Avalon Theater. There are a lot of people I recognize and a lot more that I don’t. We began the walkthrough and once I figured out what I was supposed to be doing and where I was supposed to be doing it, I snacked on a sumptuous buffet and then I was ready to get back to the hotel to rest.
Sleep was not happening. I was totally over caffeinated so I quivered in my room til it was time to make my way to the ‘thea-tah’. I began to wrap my mind around the fact that I might just win the thing tonight! I have prepared remarks for the past few years on the off chance that I might be called. Surprisingly, some of the previous thoughts came to the surface again. I patch together some thoughts.
Not wanting to have a car to park and then drive home later, I took a cab to the Avalon. The outside of the place was swarming with tuxedoed men and elegantly gowned women. Very Glamourous. Guests numbered in the 500-600 range. There was a palpable buzz in the air that added a bit dreamlike quality.
I really miss having at least one of my kids here for this.
As a nominee, I made my way through the press line, with cameras snapping like crazy, huge video cameras and folks with microphones asking inane questions. Verbally sparing with Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight personalities, I made my way through the gauntlet.
Finally made my way into the place to find my seat in the front. The air was electric. The orchestra section was where the nominees and other luminaries were seated around little cocktail rounds- 5-6 per table. It was veritble who’s who in magic. They had a great group playing fabulous music that just enhanced the vibe. The show started just a few minutes past 7 as Neil Patrick Harris, a solid television personality and a member of the board of directors at the Magic Castle emerged from behind the curtains to start the evening. NPH has done a tremendous job of elevating the visibility of the Magic Castle and the awards show. .
The opening act was a Korean kid that did an unbelievably fast paced act with cds, a cd player and headphones. This is a act that is virtually impossible to describe so I won’t try. What I can tell you is that nearly everyone in the room was out of breath when this kid stopped.
The first category was lecturer of the year and that went to Jeff McBride. Then, following a few fellowship awards it became time to award the closeup magician of the year award. The producers of this show wanted to mix it up a bit so all five nominees for Closeup were back stage and we were introduced with the next skit.
Here’s what happened… David Regal went out into the crowd to have a card selected and signed. He then came back on stage where I was to receive the deck with the card in it and do some thing sneaky. Lots of comedy and laughs later, I handed the deck off to Jason Latimer who did more sneaky stuff. He handed it off to Andrew Goldenhersch who did more sneaky stuff.(all presented BTW in a very exaggerated and cartoonish way). Andrew then handed the deck off to Jon Armstrong, who then whips out his wallet all ready for the reveal but that doesn’t work, it’s not in there. Then from twenty feet away, Mac King a Las Vegas headliner and one of the emcees reached into his jacket to reveal a Raisin Bran box (a key part of his Vegas act) and said, “Maybe I can help.” and he opened the box. Christina Hendricks (from Madmen) opened the bag of Bran and pulled out the signed card.
Hopefully, what started out to be a gag, still fooled the audience.
Following each of our parts in this skit, we assembled back stage and waited for the announcement. I was still apprehensive, having tasted disappointment before, but when Christina announced my name I thought my head would explode. I stepped into the spotlights with what must have been a huge grin. I spied the coveted wooden box and began to tremble as it was handed to me.
My acceptance speech was short and to the point.
“Thank you… thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. That’s for tonight and for all the other times I have been in the room and havent had a chance to get up here and say thank you to the Academy for even putting my name on the list. It is an honor just to be on this list with these guys and I appreciate it.
This award is really for my kids who have all been out here at various times for this event. It’s for all the times that they watched me climb in the car and head off to work in the evening… hopefully this will help to show them that I wasn’t just jerkin’ around
You know that these are strange times that we are living in right now. So now, especially, I am blessed to be doing what I love to be doing and tonight I am doubly blessed because it seems that you love what I do as well. Thanks again.”
From here on out, I was floating several inches above ground and the rest of the evening was dreamlike.
I was ushered off the stage by the ‘award goddess’ and went right to the photo set up for a bunch of photos with Christina and Mac. I stumbled out side into the twilight and noticed I was trembling as I punched the number to call home and tell them the good news. It had been eleven years since I received my first nomination so this was a real mark in time for me.
The award for bar magic I received in 05 was a crystal thing… very nice and unique because it was the only year that they gave these particular awards… but it wasn’t the wand.
Handmade by one of the world’s leading illusion builders, John Gaughan, it is Brazilian rosewood with African ebony tips and sterling silver rings encased in a beautiful Hawaiian Koa wood box. It is a treasure-made even more valuable by what it represents.
Standing in the alley out back of the theater, I texted a few people with the good news, tried to compose my self a bit and reenter the room. The show was still going on! The dreamlike quality was enhanced by a couple of strong cocktails and the rest of the evening was a bit of a blur as I flitted from person to person, luminary to luminary. A late night swing by the Castle probably wasn’t advisable, I was pretty lit at that point but I was kidnapped and had little to say about it. I am pretty sure I didn’t embarrass myself there to the late night crew… but all the precincts haven’t reported back yet!
I eventually stumbled back to the Gardens and somehow made my flight home from LAX on Monday noon.
It was truly one of the grandest nights of my life.