Junior Achievement AwardPerhaps no accolade presented to me meant more than one you see pictured here.  This is my Junior Achievement Award.  It hangs proudly in my office.  What’s so special about it?  Well, the first “Junior Achievement Award” was presented to magician Dirk Arthur in 1977.  The stated purpose of this award is Performance Recognition.  It is given to the one person who has become a better performer and who has reached a higher “excellence” in performing standards through his membership in this very special group.

I mention the importance of a good mentor in my writings.  Fortunately, one of mine was an entire group dedicated to the art of magic called the Junior Magicians Group. Careful examination of the recipients of The Achievement Award shows that they all heeded the advice given them in the lectures they were privy to in this group.  Many of the names have earned prominence in the field of magic.  Mark Kalin has performed in Vegas Tahoe and Reno and become a celebrity amongst magicians.  Ed Alonzo has a similar list of credits, including opening for Brittany Spears.  Actor Neil Patrick Harris (now the Magic Castle’s president) has a scored huge success on TV.  Michael Weber is well known as a performer and is a highly creative thinker in the magic world.  Bill Goodwin and Ray Kosby are top card men.  Scott Cervine makes amazing alternative films at his company Movies From The Heart.  Scott Tokar, who used to spend weeknights brainstorming with me, heads a company called Corporate FX, providing corporate magic to companies.  Lorenzo Clark performs on cruise ships like me and we often run into each other in ports.

The idea for the Junior Group came from the group’s president, Diana Zimmerman, who knew the Castle had the facilities to provide an  environment to enhance the magic of young followers.  The Board of Directors approved her proposal for the group and held auditions.  Twenty-five of the 175 applicants were accepted and became the first members of the Magic Castle Junior Society.  The group was created at the beginning of the “Magic Renaissance” of the 1970s.  Doug Henning had opened on Broadway, David Copperfield was beginning to make his name in magic. 

At that time the Magic Castle was over ten years old and had developed a reputation around the country as The Mecca Of Magic, luring aspiring magi from around the world to gather nightly and exchange ideas.  Shouldn’t it be possible to provide the same services for those under 21, as a storehouse of knowledge and a meeting place for the newer performers and the more seasoned professionals?

Diana Zimmerman thought it should and realized the potential of such a group and how the Castle could serve as headquarters.  At the time, The Long Beach Mystics was still going strong, and had developed a well-deserved reputation as the finest club for young magicians anywhere.  A number of impressive performers had come out of that group, and in some respects the facilities of the Magic Castle were potentially greater in terms of stage facilities, library, and accessibility to magic personalities.  With husband Dick Zimmerman, Diana drew up a thumbnail sketch of what such a program would entail and how it could potentially operate meeting once a month at the Magic Castle, limiting enrollment to those from 12 through 20 years of age, enforcing attendance requirements, etc.  When presented to the full board of directors (of which Dick was a member), the proposal met with well-founded skepticism…particularly in view of the possible time and expense involved.

It took nearly a full six months (and the help of then-Board member, actor Cary Grant) to finally push the idea through and set it on the road to becoming a reality.  Consequently, in early spring of 1974 the Magic Castle newsletter announced the formation of the Junior Membership of The Academy Of Magical Arts.  With an initial sponsorship consisting, among others, of Dick And Diana Zimmerman, Glenn Falkenstein, Jerry Blount, Jules Linier, Peter Pit (both mentors of mine), the search was on for the founding group of Junior Members.

What I am today is due in great part to the Magic Castle Junior program.  I saw a news clip on TV devoted to the group at age 13.  I made up my mind that I simply HAD to be a part of it.  I auditioned and got in on my first try; a very rare occurrence, I’m told.  I did a solid set of close-up magic that I had not only rehearsed assiduously but had honed through live performance in restaurants.  Needless to say my nicely routined coins across trick were as about as new to these onlookers as they were to me.  I was given the nod from the board and when I received a letter in the mail saying, “You Have Been Accepted,”  I was on cloud nine!

That day was the beginning of an incredible learning and maturing process; a process that is experienced by a handful of young men and women who happen to have the motivation and desire to subject themselves to the cold, harsh world of professional show business.

The group met officially on the last Saturday of each month at approximately 11:00 am in the Magic Castle library.  From arrival time until lunch (which consisted of Magic Castle hot dogs and potato chips) we would share new and improved magic tricks and ideas in an informal setting.  Immediately following lunch we would dismiss ourselves to the Palace Of Mystery or Close-Up Gallery for performance and critiques by the group.  Afterward the shattered egos were swept clean from the stage.  No one was ever as good in front of the group as they were at home in front of the mirror.  We would proceed to the Parlor Of Prestidigitation for the final and most exciting part of the day, The Lecture.  Boy did I learn from these!  We were honored to listen to the likes of David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Harry Blackstone, Jr., Shimada, Bruce Cervon, Eugene Burger, and Vito Lupo to mention only a few.  In addition to these rare treats we were also blessed with the constant support of Diana Zimmerman, Peter Pit, Robert Dorian, Jeff Semel, Paul Butler, Jim Starr, and many other wonderful magicians who managed to donate their time graciously to the program.

To date I can honestly say that I would be half the person, or one tenth the performer that I am today without the guidance and friendship that the juniors provided me.  Many of us in the group were misfits, and this was the one place where we could fit in.  I remember being so psyched about the meetings.  I have made friends who remain my friends to this day.  Bob Dorian and I are still great friends.  He is the chairman of the group.  He says he can tell in the first 15 seconds of an audition if the candidate is “Junior material” or not.

I know that a many of you Alexandrites who faithfully read these blogs are in your teens and you have a passion for the art of magic.  Are you Junior Material? If so here’s how to audition for the group:  http://www.magiccastle.com/juniors/auditions.cfm.

I am grateful to the Magic Castle for allowing us to grow and learn, and for giving us the opportunity to be the best that we could possibly be.  This blog is in a small way, a means of exposing the results of the kindness extended to me.

One Response to “The Junior Magicians Group”

  • Very great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly loved surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing in your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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