Blackstone magic continues

Gay Blackstone of Redlands, widow of renowned magician Harry Blackstone Jr., announced the formation of the Blackstone Foundation at the awards show of the Academy of Magical Arts

Our Town Editor

World-renowned mistress of magic and Redlands resident Gay Blackstone announced the formation of the new Blackstone Foundation at the star-studded 37th annual Academy of Magical Arts Awards Show and Banquet Sunday, March 6.

Blackstone, vice president of the Academy, took the stage to announce that the new foundation will offer scholarships of up to $5,000 to magicians who qualify.

"These scholarships are going to be available to magicians of any age, not just young magicians, but those who have been at it a while as well, but could use the opportunity to improve their skills," said Blackstone in a private interview after the event. The full details of the scholarships will be released once the foundation has been fully established, Blackstone said.

"This is a very new project," she said.

The event, at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theater in Hollywood, was the annual celebration of magic's best and brightest talent of the year. Darren Romeo, last year's special guest entertainer, took home the coveted Magician of the Year Award at this year's event. Jeff Hobson served as a dynamic master of ceremonies, and headline entertainment was provided by The Magic Wave, Karim, Losander, Rick Merrill and Les Arnold & Dazzle.

Celebrity guest presenters included Teri Hatcher ("Desperate Housewives"), Tony Shalhoub ("Monk"), Yvette Freeman ("E.R.") and Camryn Manheim ("The Practice").

" I was on a drama for nine years, but I'm (blank)-ing hilarious," said Manheim during the irreverent and humorous ceremony.

Hobson was equally funny and made several outrageous jokes. He first arrived to the stage dressed as "Karnak" of Johnny Carson fame and later delivered a very poignant moment when he presented video tribute to the talk show host and great lover of magic.

The final clip included Carson presenting a magic trick with Bob Hope serving as his assistant.

High honors went to Danny Cole for Stage Magician of the Year, Dana Daniels for Parlour Magician of the Year, Whit Haydn for Close-Up Magician of the Year, Michael Finney for Comedy Magician of the Year, and Bob Sheets for Lecturer of the Year.

A new award created in the memory of W.C. Fields was presented to Doc Eason for Bar Magician of the Year. The ward was presented by Fields' grandson Everett Fields. The Magic Castle, home of the Academy, contains a special exhibit dedicated to W.C. Fields, who was also a magician.

Special Fellowship Awards went to Magic Christian, Performing Fellowship; Kevin James, Creative Fellowship; Bart Whaley, Literary Fellowship; Mark Nelson, Special Fellowship; and David Berglas, Masters Fellowship.

Berglas has been a master of magic for decades. Back when smoking still fashionable, Berglas was know for being able to produce an endless supply of cigarettes from thin air. He once even performed the trick under water, actually lighting and smoking one of the cigarettes while submerged. Known as the "International Man of Mystery," he revolutionized the way magic is presented in a number of mediums by redefining the boundaries of the possible.

A Lifetime Achievement Fellowship was presented to Irene Larsen. Crowned the "Princess of Magic," Larsen is the goodwill ambassador of the Magic Castle. She helped her husband, William Larsen, and his brother Milt Larsen to establish the Academy and create the Castle it lives in. She was presented a diamond tiara and a standing ovation from the audience.

The entertainers all presented highlights from their magic acts. The Magic Wave performed a "surf's up" routine involving conjured sand and magical surf boards. Losander, master of levitation, caused a number of items to float and fly around the stage under his powers. Karim produced endless playing cards from magical decks with mysterious properties, and Rick Merrill entertained with a humorous, yet amazing, series of illusions using pencils, ink markers and coins. Les Arnold & Dazzle presented their own kind of comical magic, including teleportation and matter distortion.

Members of the Academy of Magical Arts will present their talents in April when Milt Larsen and Terry Hill present "It's Magic" at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre. Tickets and information: (323) 404-4075. To learn more about the Magic Castle visit www.magiccastle.com