With the addition of the 12,000 members of the Indian Magic Circle to it’s ranks, the 37,000 member International Magicians Society dramatically out distances all other magic clubs in the world in regard to the size of their membership. “People join for a lifetime. We only loose members when they die,” observed IMS founder and President Tony Hassini during a recent interview with MagicTimes.
“I began the IMS. in 1968 as an alternative to the established magical organizations. I felt that there should be a club open to anyone who wanted to learn magic.” Some of the like-minded early members were Lou Tannen, Frank Garcia and Ed Mishell. Mishell, an attorney as well as an illustrator and magician, did the necessary legal work to get the society started.
Hassini’s own magic career began in the back room of Tony Corinda’s magic shop in London. (Corinda is perhaps best remembered for his book, “Thirteen Steps to Mentalism”). Hassini learned the mechanics of magic from 1960 to 1964 assembling items to be sold in Corinda’s shop and at magic counters Corinda operated at several department stores. Upon coming to the U.S.A. Hassini studied with Frank Garcia and George Schindler at their School of Magic in New York City.
“The idea behind the founding of the IMS was to give people the opportunity to learn. I love magic. I wanted to promote magic,” explains Hassini. “Our real growth began in the 1970’s as videotapes and VCR’s began to become commonplace.” The IMS uses videotapes to promote the society and the society to promote videotapes. It is pointed out by some people that the IMS has no clubhouse, mounts no annual convention and does not publish a journal. They dismiss the IMS as merely a tape club whose sole function is to sell videos. Hassini acknowledges this as the symbiosis that the clubs’ marketing and membership efforts are based on. Today, the IMS videotape range, Magic Academy, makes available 50 volumes to its members. These include tutorials by such respected and knowledgeable magicians as Patrick Page, Harry Lorayne, Derek Dingle and Johnny Thompson. The sale of videotapes is without a doubt key to the operation and survival of the IMS Hassini’s expertise as a cameraman, director and producer (his company was responsible for the well known Mystical Magical Burger King promotions some years back) is a cornerstone to this vital element of the IMS.
“The 2001 Guinness’ Book of Records, on page 84, credits us with 23,000 members, making us the world’s largest magic club. By the time the book actually came out, we had 25,000 members. Then, P.C. Sorcar, Jr., president of the IMS for India proposed that the membership of the Indian Magic Circle, founded by his father Sorcar, Sr., be merged with the IMS to create a super magic club.” Hassini flew to India to meet with Sorcar, Jr. They then combined the clubs, bringing total membership to 37,000.
In addition to the videotapes and a web site, the IMS undertakes the annual recognition of great stars of the magic world by the presentation of the Merlin Awards. “The winners of the Merlin are selected by the Board of Directors of the IMS. The Board of Directors consists of the presidents of the IMS in each country. Each president tailors the organization to their country. There are always local favorites among the nominations. Winning candidates are selected from recommendations. The purpose of the Merlin Award is to promote the recipient entertainer and the IMS. It’s also not just a piece of paper or a plaque. It is meant to really look like an award and has gone through three design changes.”
This year’s winner is Peter Marvey who will receive his Merlin at a ceremony at the Blackpool Magicians Club Convention at the end of February in Great Britain. “Peter Marvey is a great illusionist, a great talent and a fine artist.” Adds Hassini,” Later in 2002 there will be a party in Hong Kong for presentation of additional awards.”
And beyond? Tony Hassini still dreams of presenting a televised gala awards special to highlight the greatest artists and entertainers in the field of magic. Those who know him say that this has been his wish from the commencement of the IMS. As a leading apostle of abracadabra, Hassini may yet see his vision realized. Tony Hassini’s love and fascination with conjuring have carried him and the IMS quite a distance from Corinda’s back room; the Garcia/Schindler School of Magic and the founding of the society in 1968. Concluding his interview with MagicTimes, Hassini shared with us one of his fundamental secrets in shepherding the IMS from its modest beginnings to its huge membership today: “Persistence.”
For more information about the International Magicians Society visit their website by clicking: HERE.
—Richard Steven Cohn
Richard Steven Cohn has written for Genii, Magicol, M.U.M., The Yankee Collector, MAGIC, as well as magic themed articles for Brooklyn Bridge Magazine and Stagebill. He is a magical consultant for television and theater and performs both as a single and with his wife Alexandra.