A congressman, a clown-turned-mayor and a Las Vegas superstar tried to conjure a legislative spell in Washington this week. In a deft sleight of hand, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) slipped a rather unusual bill before his congressional colleagues: a formal resolution “recognizing magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure.”
Whereas magic is an art form with the unique power and potential to impact the lives of all people . . . Whereas magic is used to inspire and bring wonder and happiness to others . . .
And if it passes? Presto! Legitimacy.
But what exactly is meant by “magic,” here? Are we talking bunnies in hats? Voodoo dolls? Admission to Hogwarts?
“Anything from the simple card trick or a coin trick to David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear,” said Eric Hogue, the mayor of Wylie, Tex., and a proud member of the Dallas Magic Club who worked his way through college moonlighting as Clinky the Clown. Hogue worked with Sessions and none other than Copperfield himself, the famous near-billionaire illusionist, to craft the resolution.
Mind you, “We’re not talking about black magic, we’re not talking about Wicca,” Hogue said. “We’re talking good, family-fun magic. It’s about the entertainment part of magic.”
Whereas magic, like the great art forms of dance, literature, theater, film, and the visual arts, allows people to experience something that transcends the written word . . .
The resolution, co-signed by six other Republican congressman, was greeted by the predictable snickers. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) took the opportunity to tweet that the House GOP “believes in magic but not climate change.”
But the men behind the resolution were steadfast. There is a robust, global community of magicians, Sessions’s office noted, and they happen to have strong representation in North Texas. These hard-working practitioners of magic want the same respect — and the same intellectual property rights — that painters and filmmakers and screenwriters enjoy, Hogue said. Ultimately, they want to be able to be considered for grants awarded to artists.
They demand to be taken seriously.
“Magic has been around for 500 years, so I think it’s probably a good time to get this confirmed,” Copperfield said. “This will give [magic] gravitas and just remind people how important magic is as an art.”
Whereas magic enables people to experience the impossible . . .
To be clear, this resolution wouldn’t actually change any laws. It wouldn’t necessarily make it easier for magicians to sue over stolen tricks, and it wouldn’t mean that grant-giving foundations must acknowledge magicians as artists. Still, it’s progress in the right direction, Copperfield said.
“I have won various cases when people have been taking my illusions without permission,” he said. “But it would help me even more to have the government acknowledge that it is a true art form.”
Copperfield and Hogue, who struck up a friendship after the mayor attended one of the magician’s shows a few years ago, decided to take the issue to Sessions, whose district includes Wylie.
“Pete said he could push a resolution forward, but he needed to know what it needed to say,” Hogue said. “So David and I went back and forth coming up with ideas of what should be in the resolution. Then we sent that to Pete’s staff.”
They made their case in 33 whereases, a detailed list of pixie-dusted cliches, historical references and eyebrow-raising assertions.
Whereas magic is timeless in appeal and requires only the capacity to dream . . .
Copperfield’s hardworking stage crew might beg to differ about that last part.
Whereas the American magicians Harry Houdini and David Copperfield have been the most successful magicians of the past two centuries . . .
Sorry, Criss Angel.
Whereas David Copperfield, with 21 Emmy Awards, 11 Guinness World Records, and over four billion dollars in ticket sales, has impacted every aspect of the global entertainment industry . . .
“They’re not my words, obviously,” Copperfield said, “though some of the examples are very flattering to what I’ve done.”
Whereas magic has not been properly recognized as a great American art form, nor has it been accorded the institutional status on a national level commensurate with its value and importance . . .
Because if Damien Hirst can put a dead cow in a glass box and call it art, surely a living magician in a glass box counts for something.
Whereas many technological advances can be directly traced to the influential work of magicians . . .
Really? The resolution cites magician and theater director George Méliès, who is credited with developing stunning motion picture effects that launched cinema as an art and industry. “The movies, at first, was a magic effect,” Copperfield said. Other examples? Well, any radical new invention certainly feels magical, he said — consider the microwave: “You can transform food that is not cooked and then it’s cooked, magically!” Copperfield promised that someday, “things in my show will be in your house or your kid’s house.” Okay, so long as it’s not the Death Saw.
. . . therefore be it Resolved, that the House of Representatives recognizes magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure; and supports efforts to make certain that magic is preserved, understood and promulgated.
Yes, Hogue knows plenty of people will dismiss the resolution as silly. But he hopes they’ll consider the children who are truly helped by magic therapy, the magicians who deserve artistic grants, the illusionists who want to protect their creations.
And yes, Copperfield knows that magic isn’t exactly the top issue on America’s mind at the moment. But can’t magic be a salve for our societal angst?
“Our attention is very much elsewhere — including mine — with what’s going on in the world,” he said. “But art is still very, very important to us. It’s needed. We need escape, we need to be transported, we need to be inspired.”