This transcript is from the 2019 Milbourne Christopher Awards ceremony, held on September 28, 2019 at the Garde Arts Center in New London, Connecticut. The opening remarks are by the foundation chair, William Rauscher, followed by my acceptance speech.
Now we come to our Masters Award, and we are especially pleased about this award. The man we honor is just exceptional, and besides that he’s a real nice guy. He’s truly a master of magic, an impeccable performer who has achieved what you could call true fame, and we are delighted that he is here tonight. Of course I’m speaking of Steve Cohen. With him this evening is the co-creator of his show Chamber Magic, Mark Levy.
Chamber Magic is now the longest-running one-person show in New York. On the occasion of Steve’s five thousandth performance of Chamber Magic, Mayor de Blasio issued a proclamation naming it “Chamber Magic Day” in the city of New York. Probably the best proclamation he ever made! [laughter] His performances have drawn the elite of the country, and notables that you couldn’t begin to list, there are so many – Warren Buffett, the Queen of Morocco, it just goes on with people from every corner of society. That includes heads of state, politics, athletics, business people, the world of literature, the world of music, television, radio, movies, theater, actors, science, artists, and of course a long list of magicians from around the world.
Steve established his reputation as “The Millionaires’ Magician.” What an interesting title. He has mystified and delighted what we call society’s elite. If you want to see a list of all these people, go to the website and you’ll be quite amazed.
He has recreated the elegant parlor magic that characterized Manhattan in the early twentieth century and I think of him when I look at some of the old etchings such as the “Christmas Conjurer” or “The Parlor Magician,” where the performer is in a large room of a house, everyone is dressed up, and he’s doing tricks for a small group of transfixed observers.
Steve’s early shows took place in a residency situation in a fine suite at the Waldorf Astoria, each week for 17 years, and now at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel. Reviewers all say it is one of New York’s must-see theatrical events.
I hope I am not embarrassing you, but it’s the truth, Steve.
Steve has received a number of awards, the latest is the Allan Slaight award in Canada. We’d like to think we beat them to it. As an early student Steve earned a psychology degree from Cornell. He studied at Waseda University in Tokyo. He lived in Tokyo for five years, and for some twenty years he’s worked as the official Japanese language translator for the well-known Tenyo magic tricks. Somebody has to write them!
His appearances on TV, and his articles in the New York Times and Forbes magazine are enormous achievements in themselves. As an author, his book Win The Crowd has been published in seven languages. His latest books are entitled Evergreen and The Millionaires’ Magician, the latter in graphic novel format. He’s achieved countless endorsements from famous magicians. His success is incredible, and one could profile him for hours, about the evolution of a career.
He was born in Yonkers. When he was six years old his uncle Nat showed him a close-up trick and he did his first act at age ten. The magic was there when he was born, as far as I’m concerned!
And now, his salon-style performances are unique in every respect. He’s very natural in his presentation. The best word – can we use the word ‘sophisticated?’ Yeah, I guess we can. It’s like the word ‘first-class.’ That word has disappeared. Now it’s ‘world-class.’ His show is ninety minutes. It’s elegant. It’s entertaining. It’s mystifying. Steve Cohen: you are really a credit to the magic community, but you’re also a credit to yourself, and it’s amazing what you have done. We wish you all good things, and good things to come, and a happy life.
Our Masters Award is for Steve Cohen.
Well thank you very much – I don’t have anything left to say! You’ve covered everything, haven’t you. Thank you very much for this incredible honor of a lifetime. I feel like I’m too young to be receiving the Masters Award at the age of 48, but this is a wonderful opportunity to share with you a few things.
One of the tricks I’m most known for is Any Drink Called For – “Think a Drink” – in which any drink you ask for is poured out of a teapot. The news I’m about to share with you has not yet been announced, so you are the first to hear it.
I am now the new owner of David Devant’s original tea kettle. This is considered to be a priceless holy grail of magic. It was originally built at the turn of the last century for David Devant’s performances in the UK. After his death it was passed on to Cecil Lyle. After passing through several other hands, the kettle remained in the collection of Paul Daniels. When Paul died, the kettle went to John Fisher. And just last month, John Fisher named me the new “Keeper of the Kettle.” I can tell you that it is in excellent hands.
One of the reasons I’m able to be here tonight is because of the United Nations. At the end of September each year, the United Nations holds their General Assembly meeting. I can’t perform my shows in New York during those weeks because all of the midtown luxury hotels, and the blocks surrounding the United Nations, are blocked off by the police. There are metal detectors at every entrance to my hotel, and snipers with rifles on the rooftops.
So it was a great blessing that we were able to hold this award ceremony on this date. It planned perfectly around my schedule. It was kismet, and I think it was meant to be.
I want to thank one particular person, and that person is here with us tonight. It’s my best friend Mark Levy. Without his great encouragement, without his brilliant ideas, and his daily challenges, I would not be standing before you today. We began brainstorming my show Chamber Magic over twenty years ago, and we haven’t stopped ever since. Even after all this time, we’re still trying to refine it, and tweak it. You know, it’s always a work in progress. Even though I’ve performed the show nearly 6000 times, I am still trying to find that little moment, that one line, or one word, that can make a difference. I think that’s the joy of it, and this probably will keep me going for the next 48 years.
Once again, I want to thank Mark Levy for his incredible inspiration. He is a magician not only with magic techniques, but a magician of ideas. Mark, you’ve given me such a launch to my career, and I want to personally say thank you for that.
Finally, I did have some prepared remarks. Everyone else seems to be speaking off-the-cuff, but there is one thing I’d like to say. If you’ll indulge me, I will read them to you because I think they might mean a lot to everyone here.
“In our modern world of spectacles, the only thing that can catch people’s attention is the spectacular. My agenda has been the opposite: slow down. Go smaller. Attempt to impact people one to one. This award confirms that other people in our field feel similarly, and as the proud recipient, I will earnestly continue my work with renewed passion.”
Thank you for this award of a lifetime. Thank you very much.