Author: Inside Magic

Editor of InsideMagic.com - Magic News Updated Daily for the Professional Magician.

What We Did on Our Summer Vacation

Magic Student on Magic BooksWhat did we do over our summer vacation at Inside Magic?

We didn’t perform except for our poor family members who watched and noted each time our second deal was obvious.  We also had them watch the Twisting the Aces over and over.  They feigned interest for a couple of weeks and then found reasons to not be in the same room with us and any four cards – aces or not.

We read wonderful books on magic and our favorite topics, late 1800 through early 1900s spiritualism and magicians of the same era.

The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost by Peter Manseau is one heck of a good book if you are into spirit photography; and we certainly are.  He takes his time and provides background on the man that brought spirit photography into its own at the very start of Spiritualism and photography.

Lisa Morton’s Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances is similarly captivating.  It asks, “Why do we need Seances” especially in light of the reality that they are very often (if not always) fraud.  Sometimes the fraud is practiced by those who genuinely believe they are reaching through this mortal veil; and sometimes by those who are looking to take from the believing.  She is thoughtful in her exposition of the phenomenon, its followers, its victims, the hope and devastation felt by those for whom the experiment has failed.

Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man is not so much about Spiritualism as it is about the victims of confidence men (or a single man – no spoiler here) who plied their / his craft on a riverboat.  The writing is so wonderful and the scenes are so real.  There is no magic or swindle mechanisms explained but the notion of a person who can have a victim put confidence in a perfect stranger is explored completely.

Christine Garwood’s Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea provides a riveting history of individuals who believe against all science to the contrary that the earth, a globe, is flat.  Their belief is true to them although not true.  We don’t want to spoil the ending, but the earth is, in fact, round.

Finally, Ching Ling Foo: America’s First Chinese Superstar by Samuel Porteous is a different kind of book.  It takes the reader through the history of Ching Ling Foo’s well-deserved ascension to superstar status in US theaters.  He and his troupe made more money in a week than entire villages did in a year.  But the book takes you through every stop along the way.  Literally.  The reader is treated to virtually every theater engagement, the songs sung by his young phenomenon, Chee Tai.  She could mimic fellow vaudeville acts with perfection and soon became a star separate from the troupe.  There are great posters, images, letters and headlines included in the book.  It is at time longish but worth the read if you are a fan of this incredibly inventive magician.

We love reading and so while our performance opportunities were limited to non-existent, we filled our mind with the magic of wonderfully written books.

That’s what we did on our summer vacation here at Inside Magic.

Beyond Snake Oil – Magicians and Physicians

Image of Magician Performing a TrickClose-up Magician and Lecturer in Medical Ethics and Law, Daniel Sokol’s article “Medicine as Performance: What Can Magicians Teach Doctors?” got us thinking — a rare experience for us during these quarantine days.

We normally read the prestigious Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine for the pictures but the title of this article from 2008 stood out.

Our brain is hardwired to immediately focus on certain key words, such a “Magic,” “Magician(s),” “Card Tricks,” and “Magic Magicians doing Card Tricks.”  We know there are surgeries and/or medical therapies that would release us from this focus anomaly but we have found it a pleasant enough brain defect and so we choose to live with it.  We are very thankful that those are the words to which we are immediately attracted and not something more untoward or socially unacceptable.

We have a friend who focuses like a laser on the word “______,” and the phrase “_____ on ______, _____.”  Our friend’s life is not relaxing and pleasant like ours and reading just about anything posted on the worldwide web becomes a struggle for attention.  We haven’t identified the actual words or phrase here in an effort to retain our family-friendly certification.  But a good cryptographer — good meaning “talented in his or her field of cryptology” and not in a moral sense — could decipher the blank lines above to figure it out.

But back to the Royal Society of Medicine’s article’s point, magicians can and do intentionally distract their audience to accomplish what appears to be magic.

The article references Darwin Ortiz advice on the best practices for magicians, “Always say the same thing at the same point in each trick you do.”  So when advising patients on diagnosis and treatment, there would likely be different non-verbal signs given by the physician.

The article is fascinating and well worth your review.

You can read Mr. Sokol’s article here: Sokol D. K. (2008). Medicine as performance: what can magicians teach doctors? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101(9), 443–446. https://doi.org/10.1258/jrsm.2008.080133

Sideshow Gelato Brings Magic and Gelato Together

Image of Sideshow Gelato PosterThere are those who ask, “why isn’t there a gelato themed magic event?”

We don’t know these people but assume they exist otherwise how could one (maybe you or me) explain the upcoming Sideshow Gelato Spectacular?  We love gelato and we love magic so we are sure we will love the Sideshow Gelato Spectacular — that’s simple math.

Matt Donnelly from Penn & Teller’s Fool Us and Penn’s Sunday School will be performing along with Professor Pinkerton’s Dead Man’s Carnival.  The latter promising “Astonishing Feats! Incredible People!”

The event will be at [blnk]Haus Gallery on Armitage Avenue in Chicago, adjacent to where North Kedzie Avenue and Armitage intersect – down the street from Walgreens.

The event will be in two parts: First, a come and go General Admission that runs from 1pm to 6pm. Each ticket will include gelato tastings, sideshow, juggling and magic; Second, a peak into The Museum of the Transmundane, a dime museum of strange and unusual objects giving the history of the sideshow.

General admission tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for kids 12 and under.

The event is to introduce those who love (or have yet to taste the loveable) gelato.  Sideshow Gelato, a gelato shop with sideshow theme is set to open in May of 2022.

From the event’s press release, “the shop will offer authentically made gelato in a carnival sideshow setting. The flavors range from the strange and unusual named after famous performers (ie. Koo Koo the Birdgirl – a Nutella gelato with pretzels and marshmallow Peeps) to standard flavors for the less adventurous (Chump Chocolate, Rube Vanilla).”

The store will include a dime museum featuring “oddities and gaffs as well as a history of the sideshow” and all proceeds from the museum will go to, entirely, to a different charity each month.

The shop has the backing of Penn Jillette, so you know it will be fun and very interesting.

Check out the event’s website for videos and more information here.

Magic Clickbait – What Magicians Don’t Want You to Know – Number 15 is Horrifying!

Inside Magic Image of IT StaffIn an effort to launch InsideMagic.com to the top of the charts, we have tried to copy or serve an homage to those captains of industry in the internet world.  We found the clickbait method of asking a question and then directing users to a page with answers seems to be working for some.

Here are some of the questions posed we have noticed:

Remember [Actress] in the 1980s? You should take a deep breath and see how she looks now.

Scientists won’t tell you when the end of the world is coming, here is the info they’ve been hiding.

How to spot a liar in one second – warning, this is a devastating power.

Remember [Thelma] from [Scoobie Doo]? Wait until you see her now, she’s beautiful.

Pain in your wrist? Learn the seven signs of [Illness] before it’s too late.

For each of these examples, we’ve corrected the spelling and omitted the real gross ones, like creatures that take up home in your body while you’re sleeping or how to tell if your child has rabies.  No need for that type of extreme.

Here is our tentative list of clickbait questions to drive readers to InsideMagic.com.

[We realize we don’t have advertisers on InsideMagic.com but that is more a function of our choosiness.  Daily, we receive offers to post ads from sources other than magicians or magic suppliers.  Just this morning we received two: BlitzDate – Faster than Tinder! and, FungiGone – to permanently remove nail fungus forever.  Both offered to pay us a percentage of the users derived from InsideMagic.com but we felt it would let our readers down.]

  1. What Magicians don’t want you to know (Number 7 will make you rethink your moral compass!)
  2. Magicians in Ancient Egypt – What did they know that can cure [Illness] even today! [Note: this will not include anything about fungi encrusted nails]
  3. What Nostradamus Predicted about Mentalists Performing B Wave – You’ll be shocked!
  4. How Magicians use Pheromones to Deceive Audiences with Smell – This explains so much!
  5. The Classic Pass is Possible says Noted Magician – but will not help securing dates!
  6. What David Copperfield, Criss Angel, David Blaine and Your Uncle All Have in Common – It’s not what you think!
  7. Why Starbucks Won’t Let Magician’s in their Stores – Seems unfair but makes sense!
  8. The Bullet Catch Trick – How Magicians practice this most dangerous trick without injury, usually.
  9. Is the Bill in Lemon Trick a Violation of US Currency Laws? – The answer will surprise you!
  10. Rabbits from Hats – You’ll be surprised at the type of animals pulled from hats over the last 200 years – Number four will have you gripped in fear.

Following the link to any of these bait lines would direct you to a microsite chocked full of ads for different approaches to: dating, fungus removal, disease detection, dating with an emphasis on finding the perfect magician match, colorized versions of war footage, colorized versions of fungal infections, and, IHop / Arbys.  IHop would be shown in the morning and Arbys for the rest of the day.

Our Non-Magic Pursuits

Inside Magic Image of Salvador DaliOne of the questions we get from those who would ask us questions is, “Why isn’t Inside Magic updated on an hourly, daily, weekly or even monthly basis?”

At first we deny that we are associated with the journal but there are images of us floating around the internet and people find us out.

For instance, we used to do a bunch of TikTok videos.  They weren’t magic oriented, per se.  We would show different comb-over techniques for men of our advanced age.  We’d do the front to back, the side parts and even the split down the middle from ear to ear so that when people would whisper to us, they would be whispering into our nose.

We tried to integrate some magic into our TikToks with a vanishing card routine where the card would appear to dance to music and dance up stairs before turning around and dance down.  It took 20 hours to film and necessitated the hiring of a crew of 15 people.  Granted, the craft services table made things bearable and our director was a specialist in such videos.  He was also 15 years old and his manager was a pain to deal with.

We tried to go it alone and filmed videos showing why men of our advanced age shouldn’t wear eye-make-up or not trim our eye-brows or forget to trim our nose hair.  Those failed miserably.

We then did some research and learned the best TikTok response came from wearing different tennis shoes and making them magically change as one is dancing up and down stairs. We tripped often in the tennis shoes because they were borrowed from neighbors.  Some were too large and looked clownish.  One of our neighbors is a clown so that made for even more trips and falls.  Some were too small and pretty beat-up.  Those also led to falls.

We finished the shoe series and then released what we thought was a hysterical behind the scenes TikTok showing our attempts to dance up and down carpeted stairs.  The behind the scenes video drew less than the original video and even that was in the low 6 or 7 views.

TikTok is a tough scene.

We then tried reading books in 15 second increments.  We started with Moby Dick and viewership dropped off when we started doing the accents we imagined the characters would use.  The entire book reading was submitted for a Mono Award for best video reading of a classic book.  We didn’t win.  We think the accents were not accepted by the judges.  Whatever.  Artists are always disrespected whilst they live.  Just look at Picasso.  While he was alive, his TikTok videos must have been so badly received that you can’t find a single one on the platform.

Then we hit upon a genius idea that we think will skyrocket us to fame among Tik-Tokkers.  It was quite by accident.  Being of our special heritage, we come from a long line of people with lousy teeth.  In fact, the next time you meet with us, you can inspect them and we can challenge you to find the one real tooth left.

Anyway, we went to the dentist and got as much work as our insurance would allow.  We finished up and went to our favorite soup restaurant here in WeHo.  Our mouth was numb and our lips were too.  Each spoonful of tomato soup thus divided neatly between some in our mouth and some pouring down our numb lips and on to our freshly pressed white t-shirt.  We filmed it and put it up on the platform.  The response was tremendous.  For three days, we were in the top 900 videos.  Then some others did their versions and we couldn’t keep up.  They ate spaghetti with meat sauce, cheese pizzas, and a handful of chickpeas, and even smoothies of different colors.

The originator of the numb lips challenge was forgotten and we moved on with our life.

Inside Magic Letters to the Editor

Picture of Inside Magic EditorIt is the policy of Inside Magic – a company unrelated to Magic Inside (a pseudo-Twinkie manufacturer now defunct) or Magic Outside (a well-established camping equipment rental for witches) or Magic Inside Out (a surgical practice specializing in removing things from people with “exceptional skill and knowledge of modern medicine combined with medical waste management) – to publish responses to emails received on a quarterly basis or earlier if required by a court of appropriate jurisdiction.  If you have a question or letter to the editor, please feel free to write to editor@insidemagic.com.

 

Q:           In one of your stories you said that a man in some country did a really amazing trick with some kind of animal.  Can you tell me what that article was and where I can find it? 

A:            From your detailed question, we were able to find the exact article, “Man Does Amazing Trick with an Animal.”  We have sent you a PDF version of the article but as you likely know, it was removed from the InsideMagic.com website in response to adverse reaction not to performing magic tricks with animals, but, in the words of Professor of English Literature at the London Community College, “intentionally or reckless vagueness of subject and object in a headline.”  Our lawyer said the chances of losing the case was low but because we only had about $4.78 in petty cash at the time – and all of that went to the lawyer – we decided we could not afford the risk.  We removed the article and apologized to readers.  See, “We’re Sorry We Had a Vague Headline on an Article We Published a While Ago.”

 

Q:           Why don’t you have Mandrake the Magician comics anymore?

A:            It’s true we used to run the Mandrake comic each day.  We ran out of money and so we had to end our license with King Features Syndicate — publisher of Mandrake.  We tried to replace the very popular feature – indeed, readers told us it was the only reason they read InsideMagic.com – with JoJo the Magic Clown comics.  While not as well-known as Mandrake, the JoJo series featured a magician who investigated crimes he himself committed.  The series ended after a week due to this unfortunate plot design.  We then went with Ranger Steve comics.  These strips lasted longer than JoJo but had nothing to do with magic.  They were daily exploration of the animal world.  No one read Ranger Steve; not even the editors of the comic.  There were constant errors such as “the rabbit is the only flower that can create seeds without birds.”  We reported the strip to the London Community College English Literature department.

 

Q:           Every ad for a trick says, “It’s the best ever” or “I was fooled constantly by this one” or “This is a trick that wows audiences and slays magicians.”  Which one should I buy?

A:            You’re right that many advertisers make claims that an effect is unique and the best thing to ever come down the pike.  In fact, we received an email today that said just that, “this effect is unique and the best thing to ever come down the pike.”  In our opinion, the best trick is the InsideMagic.com “Incredi-deck.”  It is the only combination of a marked deck where every card is the same.  The possibilities are endless.  You’ll know immediately whether the person took the card you handed them because it will have the name of the card written in ink visible only to those wearing the Incredi-glasses or Incredi-contact lenses (sold separately).  We printed up about 1,000 decks and still have just over 900 left (if you consider “just over” to mean, 987).  We sold out of the Incredi-glasses and Incredi-contact lenses to a spy organization that we think works for either the U.S. or some other country.  The reviews on the deck and vision methods were fantastic – but only from the spy organization and even then only in coded messages visible only whilst wearing the Incredi-glasses or Incredi-contacts.  We would re-print them here but we’re not sure about international spy regulations when it comes to copyright law.

 

Q:           At that party at the convention before Covid-19, you left early and forgot to pay for your ticket.  We’ll wave the penalty fee and interest but insist you pay for the ticket.  If we do not hear back from you with payment, we may be forced to pursue legal action.

A:            We weren’t at that party and we didn’t leave early, it was just running so long with the constant music, free-flowing drinks, wonderful, mini-wieners on toothpicks (by the way, you should warn guests that there is a toothpick in the mini-wieners before they eat a handful), that we would have been well-within our right to leave early; if we had been there but we weren’t.  We should send you the hospital bill for the removal of tooth picks lodged at various points in our digestive system.  We used Magic Inside and Out and they did a great job.  The best version of wood removal from a digestive track to come down the pike.

Inside Magic Review: Spectacle of Illusion

 

Cover of Book Spectacle of Illusion The Spectacle of Illusion: Deception, Magic and the Paranormal by Matthew L. Tompkins is a book right up our alley.  It travels effortlessly right up our alley, in fact.

This book moves past the garbage cans, feral cats that protect the cans they call home or cafeterias, around the now less-important yellow police tape and chalk outlines of fallen individuals (likely victims of the mean-spirited cats), under the poorly functioning but profusely dripping air conditioning units perched precariously on rotten wooden window sills, up the darkened stairway and to our screen door.

The book was published in association with the exhibition “Smoke and Mirrors: The Psychology of Magic” held at Wellcome Collection in London between April and September 2019.  It looks like it would have been a great exhibition to attend.  Check out the link to see some of the great offerings.

Here’s our checklist for an entertaining magic-related history book:

  1. Mentions the Fox Sisters, Maggie and Kate. We don’t care if the work includes mention of their older and more exploitive sister, Leah.
  2. Has dramatic images of both séances and the expose of séances.
  3. Mentions Houdini’s importance in the stemming of Spiritualism.
  4. Mentions Ectoplasm – we don’t need to see pictures of it being manifested during or after séances – those make us gag.
  5. Posters, news clippings of either séances or their exposures.

As a bonus, if there is mention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Daniel Dunglas Home, the book is a must for us.

This wonderful book hits all the essential points and the bonus targets.

For those of us obsessed with this part of American and European history, much of the story told in the book is familiar. There were no new bits of information about the characters or their efforts to deceive or to uncover the deception.  In fact, one (probably us) could argue there is a relative dearth of depth in the research revealed here.  We have no doubt the author knows the history but because the book is to accompany an exhibition, it wasn’t intended to be a scholarly journal article.

The lack of depth is acceptable to us considering our knowledge about the history and the inclusion of images we have not before seen.

The book is replete with images – every page has fantastic illustration of the individuals involved – and is broken into five “Acts” and the segmentation fits well with the information provided.  The penultimate chapter tells the story of parapsychological investigators and includes coverage of The Amazing Randi’s work along with Penn & Teller and Banachek, to debunk claims by folks like Uri Geller and Daryl Bem.

The final chapter looks at the psychology of illusion and, unfortunately, reveals some magic secrets that we thought should be kept in the Magic Fraternity’s vest pocket.  How concerned are we about these reveals?  So concerned that we won’t even tell you the tricks involved, lest someone finds them too easily.

Here’s the strange thing, though.  We didn’t order this book or purchase it at a store.  We didn’t even know of its existence.  It showed up in our mail one day.  Spooky, no?  We receive things from magicians looking for reviews but they are usually sent after we at least provide our address (we’re above the shop that makes cakes and biscuits for dogs on Santa Monica Blvd., in West Hollywood but usually the Post Office requires more address information.  Also there are two bakeries for dogs on Santa Monica in WeHo so the need for an address is even more profound.)

So, was it some evidence of spiritual forces that we received this book?  Probably.  We can imagine no other explanation, therefore it must be the spirits.

Inside Magic Review: Five out of Five!

Magicians Fool or Entertain?

Inside Magic Image of Penn & Teller's Fool UsWe were thinking about the television show “Fool Us,” starring Penn & Teller.  It is a great show and has taken off with magician and non-magician viewers alike.  But we continued our thought.

Isn’t Fool Us the last thing we want to do as magicians?

We eschew two types of tricks: ones that make the audience volunteer look foolish; the brunt of a gotcha trick.  You know the ones – the magician is smart and the volunteer looks  stupid.  We’ve been on the receiving end of such a trick and even with our comfort on stage generally, being a volunteer is a stress-inducing situation.   The last thing we wanted was to look like an idiot in front of a crowd.  We would much prefer to do that on our own – that didn’t come out  right but you know what we mean.  We did Sucker Sliding Die Box for more the 20 years and have no place to issue such a blanket statement but we just did so sue us.

The second type of tricks we don’t care to see or perform are effects that are really just puzzles.  This category seems related to the one above.  We have important exceptions to this rule though for Magic Squares and sophisticated “memory” effects.

So back to Penn & Teller’s show.  While it is titled “Fool Us” it could be titled “Entertain Us.”

This is what audiences seek.  We don’t go to the orchestra to see how well the cellist fingers and applies her bow to the strings.  First of all, we wouldn’t know what to look for; second of all, we’re there for the music.  We have done a complete search of all posters ever generated for orchestral performances (in English, French and German – we could find none in Esperanto) and not one of those posters invited audiences to attend the show to watch individual musicians play their instruments.  We did find one reference to Dizzy Gillespie with enlarged cheeks whilst blowing his horn as no one else has or will.   But that was a one-off.

We know a magician who begins his close-up performance with about five minutes of banter and introduction to the audience before a single card is shuffled (it is philosophical idea, we know a single card cannot be shuffled).  There is entertainment and later in the act the audience and the magician appear amazed at the effect performed.  They have shared a relationship that began with introductions, communications and a short-lived bind.  But it wouldn’t make the first cut for “Fool Us.”

All of this is just our random thought as we looked up the next showing of “Fool Us” because we find the show so entertaining.

Magic Castle Bucket List to be Fulfilled

Ticket to the Magic Event of the YearWe thought our Bucket List was complete when we were admitted as a Magician Member of the Academy of Magical Arts and their wonderful clubhouse, The Magic Castle.

But we found more to add to the list we would like to do before we kick the bucket; or, more likely stumble over the bucket in our sleep.

How about a virtual tour of the Historic, L.A. Estate, Brookledge, featuring Penn & Teller, David Copperfield, Neil Patrick Harris, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Reubens & More?

The event is being presented by the the Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie Charitable Foundation on May 10th to benefit the Dai Vernon Foundation.

What is Brookledge?  Why it is only the forerunner of the Magic Castle.  The cost is $10 per ticket and that money will go to a very worthy cause in the Dai Vernon Foundation.  The foundation is dedicated to providing financial aid to those pursuing an education; launching ambitious performances, researching or undertaking historical projects; and supporting those in difficult circumstances or suffering hardships. It also conducts community outreach via performances at hospitals and other charitable organizations. Over the years, the foundation has provided grants to hundreds of magicians, performers and employees in need, including 165 COVID relief grants over the past year.

As a former member of the Dai Vernon Foundation Board, we can testify that it is a worthy and incredibly dedicated organization that typifies the best in our Magical Arts.

The  star-studded, virtual fundraiser, Brookledge Cares, will be held by the historic Brookledge estate, May 8 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.

This benefit will feature a who’s who of magic and Hollywood, including Neil Patrick Harris, Dick & Arlene Van Dyke, David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Paul Reubens, Larry Wilmore, Jason Alexander, Michael Carbonaro & Peter Stickles, Puddles Pity Party and Moby.  Special appearances by Rob Zabrecky, Marawa Wamp, Basil Twist & Ken Ard, Shoot Ogawa, Steven Banks, Aaron Grooves, Armen Ksajikian and more.  Hosted by Two-Headed Dog (Jim Turner & Mark Fite) and Liberty Larsen.

The event will also offer a personal tour by Liberty Larsen, a rare glimpse into the location considered the “forerunner” to the AMA’s world-famous clubhouse, The Magic Castle, the historic Brookledge estate, owned by the Larsen family, founders of the Magic Castle.

You can both donate & buy tickets at:  http://www.DaiVernonFoundation.org/Brookledge

Although on hiatus during the pandemic, The Brookledge Follies, an invitation-only, “contemporary Vaudeville,” variety-and-magic show, is performed once a month (April-November) in the estate’s small theater. The free show has become one of the hottest tickets in town and is frequently attended by such Hollywood elite as Sophia Vergara, Joe Manganiello, Ryan Gosling, Jason Alexander, Christina Hendricks, Jason Sudukis, Danny Elfman, Matthew Gubler, Randy Newman, Paul Reubens and director John Landis, to name a few.

That is precisely why it is on our Bucket List.  We long to see it.

Launched with a bequest from the estate of renowned close-up magician Dai Vernon—the only magician to ever fool Harry Houdini—upon his death in 1992, the Dai Vernon Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, aides, elevates and recognizes practitioners and supporters of the art of magic at all levels and in all walks of life.

More information about the famous Brookledge estate:

The Magic Castle was founded by writer, actor, magician and entrepreneur Milt Larsen (formerly a writer for the 1956-77 television show Truth or Consequences); his late brother, Bill Larsen, Jr. (a former producer of the Danny Kaye and Jonathan Winters variety shows); and Bill’s wife, Irene, who remained the Castle’s ever-gracious hostess until her death in February 2016.

Members of the Larsen family have been performing magic continuously since the mid ’20s, with the fourth generation now on stage. Milt and Bill’s parents, Geraldine (“Geri”) and William Larsen, Sr., both performed as professional magicians and are noted pioneers in the art. Beginning during the Depression in the late ’30s (the Vaudeville era), the family—now including Bill, Jr., and Milt—began touring as the “Larsen Family of Magicians,” playing upscale, resort hotels in southern California.

A stage constructed at their historic Brookledge estate—built in 1933 in L.A.’s Hancock Park and purchased by the Larsens in 1942 from the founder of the Thayer Magic Company, which they also acquired—became an informal gathering place for the magic community of the day. Virtually every famous name in illusion visited and performed at the estate, often referred to as the “forerunner to the Magic Castle.” Retired from life on the road and managing the magic apparatus company, Bill, Sr., dreamed of opening an elegant, private clubhouse for magicians, but died at just 48.

In 2009, Erika Larsen (Bill, Jr.’s daughter), who resides at the estate, created The Brookledge Follies, a “contemporary Vaudeville” variety-and-magic show performed once a month (April-November) in the small theater, which holds just 60 people. Although currently on hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, attendance is by invitation only, but the free show has become one of the hottest tickets in town and is frequently attended by a who’s who of Hollywood like Moby, Sophia Vergara, Joe Manganiello, Ryan Gosling, Jason Alexander, Christina Hendricks, Matthew Gubler, Randy Newman, Paul Reubens and director John Landis, to name a few.

About her childhood, Erika recalls magic’s most famed faces around the Larsen home and laughs, “We did see the best of the best in magic, but I grew up in a bubble. My siblings and I just thought that’s what people did—Make things disappear and carry a deck of cards everywhere.”

The elder Larsens launched Genii magazine in 1952 (its circulation considered a loose affiliation of magicians that later became the AMA’s initial membership), which is the longest, continually published magic magazine in the world.

The Magic Castle was originally constructed as the Rollin B. Lane residence (a wealthy banker and his socialite wife), built among Los Angeles’ orange groves in 1909-10. Externally, the Gothic Renaissance chateau is the mirror image of the Kimberly Crest house and gardens in Redlands, Calif. The Hollywood mansion had fallen into disrepair by the late ’40s (even serving for a time as a boarding house).  In 1962, Milt Larsen approached his brother about reviving their father’s dream of a private club for magicians and, after securing a lease from the owner of Hollywood’s Yamashiro restaurant (next door) with a handshake, began restoring the landmark mansion to its former opulence.

The Magic Castle intertwines illusion and mystery with the history of the Los Angeles area. Much of the ornate décor was rescued from the wrecking ball on construction sites or from Hollywood studio sets before being dumped into the trash (long before the practice of salvaging became chic). John Shrum, former art director for NBC and The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, was also an avid Castle enthusiast. (Look for the famous talk show’s original “cityscape” backdrop in the Owl Bar.)  Many other AMA members, also well positioned within the entertainment industry, have left their personal imprints on the Magic Castle as well.

We don’t know the order of your bucket list and are pretty sure we don’t want to know some of the must-do activities you’ve scheduled — that’s your business — but this evening should already be on it.  This is truly an once in a lifetime chance to see a seldom seen birthplace of our beloved Magic Castle and help the incredible Dai Vernon Foundation.

World-Famous Magic Castle to Reopen on May 21st

Exterior Image of the Magic CastleExcited? Heck yeah we are!

We just received news from the Academy of Magical Arts (“AMA”) that the world-famous home for all who love magic, The Magic Castle, will re-open on May 21st.  It has been closed since the ides of March last year.  We have been in audience withdrawals since.

According to the AMA, the very private club will initially operate at reduced capacity—open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings—welcoming its members and their invited guests for fine dining and entertainment, strictly observing COVID-19 compliant guidelines. To allow members adequate opportunity to access the Magic Castle, guest passes will not be accepted during the initial phase of this reopening.

Magic shows will initially be broadcast in showrooms via recorded video broadcast, with plans to expand to live entertainment options outdoors and an eventual return to live entertainment indoors as quickly as COVID-19 guidelines permit.

The popular Dine & Delight to-go dining program—launched during pandemic restrictions—will continue to operate for the time being on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Orders may be placed at www.MagicCastle.com

Randy Sinnott, Jr., president of the AMA’s Board of Directors, said, “We are thrilled to take the initial step of re-opening our doors and welcoming our members back to their magical clubhouse. As COVID restrictions decrease in the coming weeks and months, the club will continue to carefully and responsibly expand operations to the extent possible and begin to accept guest passes as we bring magic back to the lives of Angelenos.”

During the pandemic, the AMA continued to strive to share its magic with its members and the community, hosting dozens of virtual shows, each attracting hundreds of viewers; offering attractively priced meals from Executive Chef Alex Arrietta thru the Dine & Delight program; hosting outdoor dinners for members; teaching magic classes online; sponsoring virtual lectures and events for members; and lending its parking lot for Magic Asphalt, in-car comedy performances/dining.

About the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc.

The Academy of Magical Arts (AMA) is a unique non-profit. The AMA’s membership – including the world’s most pre-eminent and celebrated magicians and illusionists – lives by the “Magic First” creed, devoted to the advancement of the art of magic and preserving its history.  Its headquarters and private clubhouse, the Magic Castle, has been an internationally revered gathering place for the magic brotherhood since opening its doors in 1963. Located in historic Hollywood in an elegant, Victorian-era mansion, the Castle is an experience within itself—a remarkable meeting spot that captures a lost era and is timeless in its appeal, having hosted generations of magic enthusiasts from around the globe, as well as show biz elite from Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Johnny Carson, Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Alexander (all performing members) to Katy Perry and Johnny Depp. The Magic Castle was founded by writer, actor, magician and entrepreneur Milt Larsen and his late brother, Bill Larsen, Jr.  Visit us online at: www.MagicCastle.com