When I first interviewed and auditioned for Magician Membership at the Magic Castle
I failed miserably. I was awful. My timing was off. My routine lacked continuity. In short my first audition was little more than amateurish fumbling (had Dai Vernon been alive and present he would have thrashed me thoroughly - and I would have deserved it.) But instead of being tossed out on my behind, I was treated with kindness and compassion (a rare commodity in today's world.) Two of the members of the audition committee that evening were particularly kind and helpful: Robert Parker
- and "Ice" Kenrick McDonald
"Ice" spent nearly a half hour consoling and advising me, one-on-one after my total blowout bomb of a performance. He encouraged me to regroup, recover, and re-audition in a couple of months. His kind words bolstered and buoyed my sinking heart. He suggested that I attend "Magic Summer School" at the Jeff McBride Magic Center
in Las Vegas - www.mcbridemagic.com
- to prepare for my second audition at the Magic Castle.
Robert followed up with email to me, also encouraging me to try again and to give serious thought to the summer weekend intensive offered by Jeff McBride. I took the suggestion of these two very kind men, enrolled at the McBride center and was soon off to Las Vegas.
Not to sound melodramatic but frankly, my experience at the McBride Magic Center was life-altering. There, in a small intimate group of both seasoned and neophyte Magicians I was honored to study directly with Jeff McBride, Eugene Burger, and Alan Ackerman. I explained my situation and my need to "hone my chops" for my upcoming second Magic Castle audition.
Jeff McBride is a marvelous, caring human being. He went out of his way to see that I received the training and experiences that I needed in Magic, challenging me to grow as a performer and as a Magician, but with each challenge also generously soothing me with kindness and humanity. He made a point of introducing me to Eugene Burger, because like Eugene, I am launching a career in Magic later in life than most, leaving a successful career in the business world behind to "leap empty handed into the void" clinging only the belief that my feet will find solid ground on the other side, rather than plunge into the abyss.
Jeff helped me to infuse my Magic with heart and soul. Jeff is one of the few that when he speaks directly to you, he makes you feel like there is no one else in the room, that there is no one more important to him than you, that you have his complete attention. Eugene helped me to learn to wrap my magic in the nearly lost art of storytelling. Alan helped me to see how bad my mechanical technique with the cards was, and worked with me to greatly improve my skills.
I returned to the Magic Castle for my second audition as scheduled with a newly crafted routine, and this time full of confidence and serene in the knowledge that I had worked very hard to prepare for the challenge. I passed the audition and was accepted as a Magician Member that night.
I still have a lot to learn. And I remain in awe of my good fortune to be able to move freely about the domain of Milt Larsen's dream of a Victorian style, posh but not snooty, always fun but ever elegant, private club for Magicians, their guests, and invitees. This is hallowed ground my friends. And it is a privilege and an honor to draw breath in the same space in which Dai Vernon once "held court" nightly, to walk down the hallway and run into the likes of, Milt Larsen, Mark Wilson, Billy McComb, Whit Hayden, and countless other masters of the art and craft of Magic. And it is all the more enjoyable and meaningful for me because I had to work for it. Simply signing a check was not enough to be admitted to this fraternity of Magical arts. I had to earn my Magician Membership through difficult training, hard work and hours of preparation - and with it a sense of belonging at the Magic Castle.
If it was merely money that they were after the night of that first audition, then it was a poorly executed grift indeed. To send me home the with my un-cashed check for membership dues in my hand, it having been returned to me, violated the first rule of the con, "never let the mark leave with money in his pocket." There was no chalk mark on my back that night. This is a genuine gathering of those who honor and practice the art of Magic. And I'm honored and proud to have been accepted as a peer within such an auspicious group of masterful artists. To quote Mike Myers, "I'm not worthy." A little of the "Zen mind, beginners mind" could benefit most of us from time to time.
Yesterday (Thursday, June 23, 2005) in the mail I received my Notice of Special Assessment of $250 from the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc at the Magic Castle. Today I'll mail my check for not $250, but $350. I am not a rich man. In fact because of my midlife career change I have not earned even a single dollar in over a year until very recently. (What a bum, huh?) I can't be throwing money around thoughtlessly. But I have thought about The Magic Castle, and I cannot bear to see this beloved institution cease to be. Hence I'm voluntarily increasing my payment, by one-hundred dollars to $350.
To the members and fans of the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc at the Magic Castle that may read this and to others that care about the preservation of important landmark institutions such as the Magic Castle, I urge you to mail in your check right away. And please if you can, join with me in adding whatever amount you can manage (an extra hundred, or more is great.) If you are a working Magician or even a hobbyist, ask yourself how much money you have spent on magic books and DVDs - it is easy to spend $350 on Magic supplies, ephemera, and learning aids. How much would you and a companion have to spend in order to attend a performance of David Copperfield, Lance Burton, or Penn and Teller in Las Vegas?
Please don't let Milt's dream die. Help Dale Hindman, Milt Larsen, and the others manning the wheelhouse of this glorious ship of Magic, to sail it out of the maelstrom and into calm waters; to keep it afloat, for all of us: Members, future Members, guests and generations to come that might otherwise not experience the rich history and practice of the Magical arts. At a time when all art forms continue to be under attack and are often left untended to wilt and die, please help save this one bastion of all things Magical. A life without Magic would be grey existence indeed. Magic shows us not what is, but what might be. It frees our minds to see the world from a new perspective and to reject the artificial boundaries of what is "impossible." The dream, the waking dream of Magic, past present, and future lives on in the Magic Castle. We mustn't allow this vessel of wonderment and creativity to founder. Please help save the Magic Castle. Please send in your check today.
David Walske David Walske Magic www.davidwalske.com PLEASE NOTE:
I am not herein speaking for nor am I affiliated with the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc. in any way other than by way of paid Magician Membership.