It was a secret, but now I can now at last reveal where I was this weekend. I was in Los Angeles, receiving an Academy Award – no, not that Academy, the other one: The Academy of Magical Arts. I was awarded a Literary Fellowship for my contribution to magic history through my translations and research for the Conjuring Arts Research Center, during the awards show for professional magicians. I was asked to tell no one until the awards were over. The winners were supposed to be a secret, but the “special awards” like mine were actually announced in the program.
The award was just one part of a whole wonderful weekend, in which my sister Mary and I explored the Magic Castle (the exclusive private magicians club in LA), and enjoyed dining privileges there. We also stayed at the Castle’s own hotel, where we were treated like VIP’s.
I began Friday night before Mary arrived having dinner with magicians Gene Anderson (the awards show host) and Paul Green. I took in a wonderful magic show at one of the Castle’s several theaters. Mary and I took a bus tour of LA on Saturday, saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and had lunch at a restaurant near the Santa Monica pier, which a spectacular view. Then in the evening we attended a pre-awards show reception at the Castle. On Sunday, we also enjoyed their famous brunch, with the most delicious food, everything from prime rib to chicken piccata, amazing desserts I can’t even name, and mimosas (champagne and orange juice cocktails).
The awards show took place at 7 p.m. Sunday at the historic Orpheum Theater in LA. The men were in tuxedos, many of the women in evening gowns. It was like the Oscars in a great many respects, including a screen lit up with all the nominees and winners. Also like the Oscars, the awards were interspersed with entertainment, but unlike most Oscar performances, they were actually entertaining. We were treated to some enchanting and sometimes hilarious magic acts by magicians from all over the world.
My award was presented by Richard Kaufman, editor of the very prestigious magic magazine Genie. He said that “Dr. Pieper. . . is unique in our field, a linguistic detective, tracking down the secrets of who really created this principle, sleight or trick, and when – and it’s usually hundreds of years earlier than we previously thought. I can’t think of anyone who’s more deserving of the Academy of Magical Arts’ Literary Fellowship.”
Here is what I planned to say during my speech. I’m not entirely certain of exactly what I did say, but apparently everyone liked it. Here is the gist:
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the Academy for this very great honor. I never could have imagined anything like this when I first came to Conjuring Arts back in 2004. Back then I knew nothing about magic or its fascinating history – I couldn’t even do a single magic trick. I did know several languages and was desperate for a job.
I have learned much since then, but all the expertise I have in magic is due to Bill Kalush, and Stephen Minch, the editor of our journal Gibiciere, both of them previous recipients of this same fellowship. And then there are the many rewarding contacts with magicians from all over the world.
I have been very happy to be in such company, and to have made a contribution to this much-neglected but very important area of the history of popular culture. This award shows that you think it important too. I have learned that I am also receiving a lifetime membership in the Academy. I am very happy that you have welcomed me into your fold, especially since — I have to confess — I still can’t do a single magic trick, but I still hope to learn. Thank you all very much!”
Then on to another Oscars-like tradition — the after-party at the Castle, which continued into the wee hours, though we left early to get some sleep. We returned home on Monday after the experience of a lifetime!
(The picture was taken by Mary after the show in the very crowded theater lobby. There were some backstage photos as well, which they will eventually get to me).