Hi. I’m Tony Hassini, Chairman/CEO of the International Magicians Society. On my next birthday, I will be 70 years old.
I got into magic when I was 16 years old. I founded the International Magicians Society in 1968 with the purpose of promoting and preserving the art of magic. In the same year, we created the Merlin Award to reward the magicians for their hard work and dedication to the art of magic.
I have devoted my entire life to promote IMS and the Merlin Award.
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.
Also, the Merlin Award is designed to help magicians to negotiate for their next contract, which quite often becomes a good negotiation tool.
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.
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 that year, we publish the category and announce it at our press conferences. Thereafter, it did not serve a 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Within any of the three scenarios, our main focus is to generate as much PR as possible with the general public. A good example of this is when we were going to present the Merlin Award to Louis Yan in Hong Kong, we could have presented the award to him in our Hong Kong IMS office. Or we could have had our IMS members meet at a nice Chinese restaurant and present the award to him there. Then we came up with an idea. We approached one of the largest shopping malls in Hong Kong. Not only did they build a custom stage and provided enough seating for the audience, they also provided guards for crowd control. The mall management, with their media contacts, were able to invite newspapers, radio, and television to cover the event. Both the mall and Louis Yan received tremendous PR and public awareness.
My father used to say "If you want to sell lemonade, go where the crowds are." If the crowds are at the mall, by all means, we're going to the mall. If the crowds are at the ball game, then let's go to the ball game. As a matter of fact, in 1976, I created the Marvelous Magical Burger King character for Burger King Corporation. The following years, we took the Burger King character to the largest sporting events across the USA. He performed a baseball bat levitation in Yankee Stadium to 55,000 people in attendance, surrounded 360 degrees. We repeated this with other ball parks, as well as basketball games, where the Marvelous Magical Burger King will stake basketballs and levitate a girl on top of them to very large surrounded gatherings.
Here are pictures of the Marvelous Magical Burger King's performances at ball games during half time, click here.
Anyhow, getting back to the Merlin Award, I am toying with an idea to present the Merlin Award to a very prestigious magician during the Super Bowl at half time and build Merlin Award statues as big as trojan horses to get he message across.
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, magic convention organizers, and performers who create a magical experience for their audience.
For the current 2010 Merlin Award recipients’ photos, go to this link: http://imsmagic.com/ma2010p/ma2010p.php
For the 2010 decade Merlin Award recipients' photos, go to this link: http://imsmagic.com/ma2010p/da2010.php
Until next time!