With Marco Tempest receiving a Merlin Award for 'Contemporary Magician', and Tony Clark and Paul Reder winning 'Producer of the Year', people are again asking about The Merlin Awards.
The first "award winners" included David Copperfield, Doug Henning, and Siegfried & Roy (Magicians of the Century).
By giving "the big guys" Merlins, it established the awards as having credibility. But, as the list of "award winners" grows ever longer, including magical novices like Scarlett for 'Best Female Magician' and 'Fairy Star' from Thailand.
And did you know the Merlin for 'Best Close Up Magician' just went to a 27 year old from Brunei who, I bet, you've never even heard of before?
Is there a consistency in the awards themselves? Is there always a 'Magician of the Year' (a few times we've had two or three in the same year - as happened with 'Female Magician of the Year'), then there was the recent controversy with Bambi Van Burch and her 'Female Magician of the Decade' Merlin being revoked and we have both Siegfried & Roy and Criss Angel as 'Magicians of the Century'.
Are there assigned categories for awards? Sometimes title are given annually, sometimes not. Most frequently new titles are created like 'Best designer and first producer of magic items', '30 years of exceptional magic', and 'Excellence in the impalement arts'.
Here's one I just discovered. 'Best Manipulators in Vietnam'.
One of the other problems is that Tony Hassini claims: "Every three years, the International Magicians Society hosts a banquet dinner, where those magicians who have acheived the highest level in their craft are awarded the coveted Merlin Award. The voting members begin with approximately one hundred names and narrows down to a handful. The criteria that the voting members consider are talent, showmanship, originality, skills, and above all the rare ability to entertain under any conditions."
Yet, there is no banquet. The awards aren't handed out every three years, but constantly. Several people I personally know have told me they "bought" there Merlin awards (for publicity purposes) by paying Tony and flying him over first class to present them.
Murray wrote "I have a Merlin Award... It was given to me at the Flamingo when I was performing there... it's a publicity stunt! But the Merlin award is probably one of the best designed and sharpest looking awards in magic. FISM should adopt the same look... it looks like an oscar... Bottom line... if you can get PRESS from something do it... it's part of the bizzzzzzzz...."
If you are not a well known magician, or can't afford a Merlin, the recent 'Miraculous Amber' magic convention in Latvia advertised they were giving away three Merlin Awards as part of their competition. Sure enough, Xavier Giro from Spain won the Merlin for 'Most Original Act', Jimmy Kikuchi from Japan 'Best Cabaret Magic', and Timothy Trust & Julie for Germany now have the 'Best Stage Magician' Merlin.
Just like the Oscars.
I first posted about The Merlins here:
and I tried to present a complete list of 2009 winners here:
Personally, I have no problem with the recipients of the awards. Every one of them I have met, without exception, are genuinely nice people and extremely talented magicians. Some have been given their awards out of the blue while others have bought them.
According to the IMS website, Bryan Dean and Franz Harary are on "the board" so, I assume, they'd have some say in the way the Awards are decided. I'd LOVE to hear from them.
One magician, a Merlin Award recipient who shall remain nameless, told me "Tony's come up with a pretty good racket. He gets flown all over the world first class, treated like a celebrity, paid for these awards and while he's there he films the winners and uses the footage to make more DVDs to sell through his magic club."
I was guest artist at the recent magic festival in Malysia where Tony Hassini was also attending to present (I think) eight Merlin Awards. I tried to get the opportunity to chat with him and interview him about the Merlins... but he seemed to be avoiding me for some reason.
Hopefully someone will be able to get an interview out of him one day.