Abracadabra! The Magic Castle

Yes, you’re in the right place!

I’ve just slogged through re-designing my blog and web sites with the help of my brilliant, app designer and UX designer son, Matthew. I probably wasn’t his easiest client so hopefully he will consider it another creative rite of passage and a growth experience rather than one which caused him to slap the palm of his hand to his forehead. We’re not done yet. There may be a few glitches, but I wanted to get this out there. So, here we go…

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Magicians work their whole lives to fool our eyes and our minds.  And it works. Especially for me. I am absolutely the perfect audience for prestidigitation.  I want to believe with every fiber of my being.

So, I was beside myself with excitement when a few weeks ago a friend of our son’s came to Los Angeles to attend the Emmy’s. He graciously invited us to join him afterwards at the world-renowned  Magic Castle in Hollywood. It’s a private club for magicians and for those who adore the miracles of sorcery and wizardry.

When we arrived at the Castle, there was a notice prohibiting taking any photos inside but thoughtfully, a special backdrop was provided for those, like us, who want to immortalize their visit to this citadel of conjuring. So here I am with my husband and son, all dressed up for an evening of legerdemain.

 Matthew, Sandra and Bob in front of The Magic Castle

We entered the Castle by stepping into the foyer which was really a library, every wall filled with shelves of books about magic. 

 The library of books at the entrance to The Magic Castle

Peeking out from amongst the hundreds of volumes of books is a miniature owl with brightly lit eyes. 

 Here is the owl in the bookcase of The Magic Castle. You must say “Open Sesame.” to open the door.

I stared unflinchingly into its glowing orbs and uttered, “Open Sesame!”  Voila, the door opened and we had gained access to the Inner Sanctum. 

 One of the bars at The Magic Castle in Hollywood California

Suddenly we were in a another world, a Victorian mansion with a large bar where magicians were performing. Soon, we were led upstairs to a lovely restaurant where we enjoyed a flavorful meal served by a charming, tuxedo-clad waiter.

Then we were off to explore the mysterious chambers of the Castle and its prestidigenators.

 A g=magicians holding a hand of cards. Notice some are high and some are lower in his hands.

Later, we carefully navigated a narrow stairway down to the basement which contained several bars with magicians performing at each of them or in nooks nearby.

Nestled here and there are mini-theaters for more traditional magic performances. During one of them, the magician asked me to come up onto the stage to assist in his performance. Never one to miss a moment in the spotlight, I eagerly dashed to the stage.

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My ulterior motive was to get close enough to try to figure out the secrets of this sorcerer’s tricks. As I stood there, I witnessed bunnies suddenly appearing out of a tiny flat bag and single birds evolving into multiple birds. I watched intently as he guessed numbers and suits of cards I held concealed. But I deduced nothing as he continued to amaze me with his slight of hand. I returned to my seat bewildered but having loved every magical moment.

Magicians at this level of professionalism usually begin studying and practicing the art when they are very young. They are often tutored by more accomplished practitioners and visit magic shops where various tricks and illusions are sold.

Their agility and skill is also the result of amazing dexterity. A glance at any magician’s hands will reveal extraordinarily fine motor skills. I also noticed that their hands are always kept slightly cupped.(I wonder why?) They also have beautiful fingers. It’s as if their fingers regularly attended an LA Fitness gym for digits.

  Neil Patrick Harris with Irene Larsen, sister of Magic Castle founder, Milt Larsen

Neil Patrick Harris with Irene Larsen, sister of Magic Castle founder, Milt Larsen

Many famous people have also been intrigued by the magic at the Castle. People like Cary Grant, Orson Welles, Johnny Carson and Neal Patrick Harris were regular visitors. In fact Neil Patrick Harris used to be the club’s President and actually performed magic there. He was called the “Ambassador of Magic.” Katy Perry once rented the entire Castle for an evening to celebrate her birthday. Now, that’s something I would adore.

At the end of our spellbinding evening, when we were among the last guests, Georges Robert, a master of deception famous for his sleight-of-hand agreed to perform his amazing trick of bending spoons and forks in front of our eyes. He’s truly astonishing. Just click on the link Close-up Magic Highlights with George-Robert. See if you can figure it out. We certainly couldn’t!

You can enjoy some of the fun of this unique place by going to YouTube.com, search for The Magic Castle and watch videos of some of the other magicians and their tricks. Here’s one to get you started: Michael O’Brien Live at the Magic Castle

  Milt Larsen performing card tricks.

Milt Larsen performing card tricks.

A bit of magical coincidence is that my husband, Bob went to high school with Milt Larsen, who created the Castle. In 1947, Bob and his family moved to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enrolled in Los Angeles High School to begin his junior year.

Among his earliest friends was a funny and highly creative boy, Milt Larsen. Over the years, Milt became a writer, actor, performer, lyricist, magician, entrepreneur, speaker and the creator of The Magic Castle. Milt’s father, William Larsen, Sr. was a performing magician and Los Angeles defense attorney. Their mother, Geraldine, was an early TV pioneer children's entertainer known as The Magic Lady. Clearly, a lot of now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t going on in that family!

After school, Bob and Milt often walked to Milt’s home which was on a lovely section of Longwood Avenue, not far from Wilshire Boulevard on the Miracle Mile. In 1929, before the Larsens acquired the property, it was the home of magic manufacturer, Floyd Thayer. He named it “Brookledge,” a tribute to a brook that runs through the property. In 1933, he built a showroom, workshop, and theatre adjacent to his home to showcase his high quality props. It was later transformed into a private gathering place for the finest magicians from all over the world. They would often stage shows in the theater, demonstrating their latest and greatest effects to their peers.

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Today, it is still a magical place, with the restored theatre, an exotic secret garden and that wonderful bridge-covered brook which still runs through the property. It is currently occupied by Milt’s niece who stages invitation-only evenings for select and fortunate aficianados.

Do you believe in magic? Have you ever been to The Magic Castle? Seen any marvelous magic shows?

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The Magic Castle, when sometimes we need a little magic in our lives.