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12 entries from October 2010

The "What about you though..." defense

I wasn't going to mention Matt Hollywood's latest award here on this blog, but I did mention it on my Facebook page. It's the comments from one person in particular that has prompted me to respond here.

Apparently, the award Matt got has been almost unanimously approved of, moreso than any other previous recipient, however in the eyes of one man I am the "bad guy" here because apparently I'm behind the blog that issues the award!

Not only that, but

"I object to Matt - or anyone else - being tried in the court of public opinion where he has no right of legal recourse. Especially when the person I suspect is behind the article is guilty of many of the same things and only serving their own self interest." 

So, apparently it's terrible for anyone to be "tried in the court of public opinion" and yet isn't that exactly what this commenter is doing by accusing me of the same things.

Not only that, but this commenter was President of the club Matt belongs too, which begs the question, how much responsibility does a magic club have to ensure it's members behave ethically and don't bring the club into disrepute. 

None, I guess.


There was one other person who stepped to Matt's defense because, apparently, 

"...some of the routines you do are taken from other magicians too, as they have told me."

I asked him to clarify this, but the reply was:

"i really dont know alot about it, i hear all different things from people."

What fascinates me so much about this sort of response is that the only way these guys can defend someone against accusations made from someone on the other side of the globe is to vaguely wave a rag of hearsay in my face and run away when questioned.

Don't just mindlessly repeat gossip. Man up and state your facts in writing and sign your name to them like Roland did.


Some people in magic are actually defending the practice of fake awards.

Take, for example, the fact the Criss Angel now hypes himself as MAGICIAN OF THE CENTURY. 


Sounds impressive doesn't it. 

If someone had MAGICIAN OF THE CENTURY on their billboard, you'd most probably consider going to see their show. Especially if you were choosing between MAGICIAN OF THE CENTURY and MASTER MAGICIAN.

You would assume that this guy was so good, all the other magicians voted him BETTER than everyone else in the last hundred years!

You wouldn't assume that he would be calling himself that if it was just a title presented to him by a local club... like 'The Academy of Magicians, Greece'.

It's not a "fake award" as such but, on closer inspection, it's certainly not nearly as impressive as it sounds.


As people like comparing their awards to The Oscars, imagine if you heard a movie was 'Winner of ten Oscars'. You'd probably buy a ticket and pay to go see it. But then, when it turns out to be pretty weak, and you find out that the 'Oscars' it "won" were presented by a local film school the director grew up in, you'd be cheesed off, but hey, "Great promotion! They got your money!"

Imagine if you never found out the awards were fake. You'd assume 'The Oscars' was just a joke and you'd lose respect for them.

That's what happens when people book a magician based on his or her credentials. If the act lives up to the hype, great! But if an act promotes themselves as 'Magician of the Year' and they're only so-so, the award loses credibility, and the people think "If that was the best, no way do I want to see any others!"

Some say, if that's the case, it's the public's fault. They say most people realise it's all "hype" and don't believe it anyway. So why are more and more magicians using fake awards to promote themselves?

Because it works.

People believe them. If they are going to see someone, they want to see the best. 

There's always been an element of "hype" in the way acts promote themselves, but over the last ten years it's really been sinking to an all time low. 

Magicians were proud of their achievements. They worked hard to be able to put an award on their resume. Look at Lance Burton, for example.

But then, awards started getting handed out willy-nilly. If you could afford to pay the "out of pocket cost", you could join the ranks of the elite and have the same award as Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy and Penn & Teller... and if you didn't want to spend any money... just make one up!


A word of warning though, the press are starting to get savvy. When Steve Wyrick declared bankruptcy in June this year with $54 million of debt, the Las Vegas Sun started investigating into how this multi-award winning magician could go so bad... and Rick Lax took a closer look at his resume:



To the best of my knowledge, nobody ever questioned Wyrick's résumé until now.

According to one of Wyrick's old press releases, Wyrick "walked away with the top awards at both the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians annual competitions." The press release also said, "Once every four years the Olympian like Federal Congresso DeMagica' DeSpain is held for top magician from all around the world. Still 15, Steve took ninth place at this largest and most prestigious of all competitions!"

Let's start with the International Brotherhood of Magicians: Wyrick did win first place in their competition, but, according to a 1985 Linking Ring article, he won first place in the Junior Stage Magic category, not the main one. People who aren't serious magicians would assume the young Wyrick beat out men and women twice and three times his age.

Next, the Society of American Magicians: When participating in the SAM's competition, Wyrick did enter the adult category, but he didn't win. He took home the second-place "Award of Merit," not the first-place Chairperson's High Score award. So Wyrick got "top honors" in the SAM competition in the same sense that John McCain got "top honors" in the 2008 election.

And what about the Federal Congresso DeMagica' DeSpain — "the largest and most prestigious of all competitions"?

I've never heard of it.

I contacted two magic historians and one acclaimed Spanish magician to ask whether any of them had heard of it.

They said that they hadn't.

Remember, we're talking about what is ostensibly the largest and most prestigious of all competitions — and Wyrick mentioned it in not one, but two press releases.

If the "Federal Congresso deMagica DeSpain" is (or at one point was) the "largest and most prestigious" magic competition, I'd be able to find at least one mention of it on Google, right?

Well, I couldn't find even one.

In reality, the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (held every three years) is the largest and most prestigious magic competition, and the only award Wyrick truly deserves is one for résumé padding.




Now the IMS lists their Merlin Awards...

In his new FAQ page Tony Hassini explains:

"Sometimes, I am asked why don’t we publish the year and category for each magician’s Merlin Award on our website. The fact is that when the magician receives his award, during the press conference, we announce the category. Thereafter, it serves no purpose to publish the category or the year on our website. Because some categories might sound more glorious than others, there’s no point of hyping or diminishing anyone’s award or the year they received it. And there’s no point in dating their awards either. The bottom line is everyone who received the Merlin Award is a Merlin Award Recipient and is entitled to enjoy the glory for the rest of their life without dating or categorizing it."

He must have had a change of heart as he has now listed all the 2010 Merlin Awards here.

Well, not quite. He has listed 35 awards and I have 3 more here.  


  • John Taylor - Show of the Year
  • Raymond Yuh - North Korea (no idea what his award is)
  • Criss Angel - Magician of the Century

Tony Hassini responds

I am pleased to see that Tony Hassini has responded to the many questions asked about the Merlin Awards with the creation of a new Merlin Awards FAQ page.

The questions he addresses are listed below. For some, his answers are comprehensive. For me, they raise a few more questions:


Q: Why the Merlin Award?

A: "The Merlin Award was designed to promote the magic and the magician to the general public. A good example of this is Siegfried & Roy using their Merlin Award win on their billboards all over Las Vegas, as well as the marquee billboard on The Mirage Hotel & Casino. David Copperfield uses his Merlin Award in his live shows; before his shows begin, a large projection shows his awards and in large letters, “Magician of The Century, by the International Magicians Society“ is shown over and over again. And Criss Angel uses it quite often in his TV shows, his live show at The Luxor, and his magic set."

To me it seems the opposite. It looks like the magicians you mention here are promoting the Merlin Award to the general public.

New question: Also, how can all three (S&R, Angel, and Copperfield) all be 'Magician of the Century'? Wouldn't that look odd to the public?

"Also, the Merlin Award is designed to help magicians to negotiate for their next contract, which quite often becomes a good negotiation tool."

Possibly... it does sound like you've designed it as more of a promotional tool than, as Jim Callahan puts it, "a tribute of excellence to those in the industry"

"Recently, we presented the Merlin Award to Tse Tow Joon Yeen for Best Close-Up Magician In Brunei. The event was covered by radio, television, and all of the newspapers in Brunei. In fact, the Merlin Award made the front page of Brunei’s leading newspaper with the Sultan of Brunei.

When the Chairman/CEO of IMS travels the distance to go to a country to present the Merlin Award to a magician of that country, their media takes interest. This creates good PR for the recipient magician, as well as magicians in general."

Well, not for the other magicians who didn't win the Merlin Award. No doubt anyone looking for a Close Up magician in Brunei will want "the best". It does create great publicity for the Merlin Award too.

And when your selection process is like this, it does take some of the prestige off the actual win.


Q: Why is there no list of Merlin Award winners by date or title, like The Oscars do with their winners?

A: "Sometimes, I am asked why don’t we publish the year and category for each magician’s Merlin Award on our website. The fact is that when the magician receives his award, during the press conference, we announce the category. Thereafter, it serves no purpose to publish the category or the year on our website. Because some categories might sound more glorious than others, there’s no point of hyping or diminishing anyone’s award or the year they received it. And there’s no point in dating their awards either. The bottom line is everyone who received the Merlin Award is a Merlin Award Recipient and is entitled to enjoy the glory for the rest of their life without dating or categorizing it."

New question: Then why do some people receive Merlin Awards several years in a row? By this logic, that would be unnecessary.


Q: How many Merlin Awards are presented each year?

A: "I’m also asked how many Merlin Awards do we present per year. Since we are an international organization and have IMS Presidents in different countries, we try to consider as many countries and their magicians.

There are over 200 countries in the world. It will be humanly impossible to present 200 awards a year. Therefore, we try to narrow it down to approximately 30 countries and their magicians per year. Sometimes, there might be two or three magicians from each country."

Yet in 2005, for example, the only awards presented went to the cast of one Vegas show.


Q: Why are there multiple winners in some categories each year?

A: "We also presented duplicate categories in different countries. For example, there might be a Best Close-Up Magician In India, Best Close-Up Magician In China, and Best Close-Up Magician In Thailand. However, there is only one Magician of The Year, Illusionist of The Year, Mentalist of The Year, and Most Original Magician of The Year within any given year throughout the world."

New question: But how does that explain two 'Magician of the Year' awards in 1999 (both in the USA), two 'Most Original Magician of the Year' awards in 1999 (USA and Italy), two ;Magician of the Year' awards in 2004 (USA and Germany), three 'Female Magician of the Year' awards in 2008 (two in Vegas, one in Branson), two 'Magician of the Year' awards in 2009 (USA and Italy), three 'Magician of the Century' awards, two 'Mentalist of the Decade' awards (2008 and 2010), and three 'Illusionist of the Decade' awards (2004, 2009, 2010).


Q: How do you get chosen to receive a Merlin Award?

A: "I’m also asked how do we consider a nominee for the Merlin Award? A magician must send to the IMS World Headquarters a videotape or DVD of his complete act for our Board of Directors to consider. (No promo DVD’s or online videos are accepted.)"



Q: Are there any costs to receive the Merlin Award?

A: "The other question I am asked is “Are there any costs to receive the Merlin Award?” First, I must say that the Merlin Award is not for sale at any cost.

Regarding the actual out-of-pocket cost, this varies from situation to situation.

There are three ways a magician can receive the Merlin Award. One is to attend our Merlin Award banquet dinner; this is by invitation only, after the recipient was voted to receive the Merlin Award.

Two is to participate and win a Merlin Award competition in different countries, which is organized by IMS with the event and convention organizers.

And three is for us to travel to the magician’s country and present the Merlin Award to them in their own country.

So let’s look at the cost of the first scenario, which is where the magician must obtain a visa from the American embassy to travel to the USA. He must purchase airline tickets, other travel related costs and fees, hotels, meals, and $500 US dollars per plate at the Merlin Award banquet dinner.

In the second scenario, again the magician must travel to the event where the Merlin Award competition is taking place. He pays all of the same travel expenses as mentioned in the first scenario and pays for the entrance fee to the convention or to the competition, whichever applies.

In the third scenario, where we have to travel from the USA to the magician’s country, either the magician or the magician’s producer pays for all of the travel expenses, hotels, meals, airlines, and other related expenses.

Within any of these three scenarios, it’s always a trade when it comes to the cost."

But, as one magician I know found out, if you qualify to receive a Merlin Award but can't afford the "costs" of any one of these three scenarios, you won't win the award.


Q: Why do non-performers when when the IMS criteria states “The criteria that the voting members consider are talent, showmanship, originality, skills, and above all the rare ability to entertain under any conditions.”

A: "The Merlin Award is not only presented to the magicians, we presented the award to other individuals who helped create and shape magic and magicians. This includes illusion designers and builders, magic producers/directors, and performers who create a magical experience for their audience."



I'm a WINNER!!!!

In a master stroke of irony, I just received the following email.

Dear Tim & Sue,

Congratulations! Jen here, and your blog, Magic Unlimited, is a Master Blog of Magic!

We've scoured the web looking for amazing blogs that not only are great in content, but informative and helpful when needed.  And we've determined your blog to be such!  We like to call it a Master of its category!

You can see your blog and others at:

As a winner, we honor you by presenting you with an awards badge.  You can get your badge at the bottom of our winner's page, just to show your readers that you are a Master.

If you choose to accept or decline to be recognized, please let me know.

Please do not hesitate to call or email if you have any questions.  Again, Congratulations, and keep up the awesome work!


Jen Hughes




So I'd like to congratulate myself for receiving this fake award and display it proudly on this post entry for all to marvel at!