First published in 2018 but still accurate. Matt is amazing.
How is magician Matt Vizio different than other magicians?
We watched him tonight at the Peller Theatre at the Magic Castle and sensed something was different than others we had seen in the same venue over the years. Somehow, he was different, better than those we have seen before.
We learned more about what made him different after the show when we discovered the front row consisted of people who did not speak English all that well. Actually, it appeared they did not speak English beyond a few polite phrases.
Mr. Vizio is an accomplished magician and stand-up comedian and one of those two talent sets require the ability to communicate effectively with the audience generally and with the volunteers specifically. So what would he do? How do you do a Confabulation routine if your volunteer doesn’t speak the language of the routine?
If it had been us, we would have just plowed along hoping to get some words we could use. But then again, we are not Mr. Vizio.
He was able to change his act immediately and present a parlor show using volunteers from the audience (2 out of 3) who didn’t use English as a primary language. He did it with class and kindness and though he knew they could not understand him, he performed with them as perfect partners in a very entertaining act.
It was an act different in content than what he had planned but no one noticed. Not even our trained eyes saw that he was changing his presentation to meet the situation.
We supposed that all true professionals of our Art could do the same. But the fact that we have seen it so rarely happen demonstrated how few true professionals there are in our Art.
We have seen alleged professionals lose their temper, curse, and call the audience volunteer a liar as a trick goes wrong. And these performers are the putative top of our pack.
But Mr. Vizio didn’t need to attack the volunteers. He worked with them, silently when necessary, to perform effects he thought or hoped might work in that situation. And last night, at one particular show, he was correct. It is a small sample size – one show – but we bet he would succeed in a similar situation virtually every time. He is focused, polite and clearly involved with his audience.
Mr. Vizio is professional to the core, never embarrassing his volunteers specifically or the audience generally, but always ready to craft the show to meet the audience on their terms.
We could talk about the tricks he performed but they may be different from those you see when you visit the Peller Theatre this week. The magic you will see is all Mr. Vizio.
Inside Magic Rating: Five out of Five. Our Highest.
One of the questions we are almost never asked is, “Is there really such a person as Matt Vizio?”
We are reluctant to answer questions about true legends for fear that we will leave out a detail or embellish unfairly. (For an example of this tendency and the reason for our trepidation see our horribly reviewed book Wyatt Earp: The World’s Best Short-Order Cook in the West (1978 Simon and Schuster) – although it was made into a very successful movie franchise (or so we and our lawyers currently claim in a soon to be filed lawsuit) called Guardians of the Galaxy.
We have known Mr. Vizio for going on a long time and have even had the honor of performing with him in a stand-up setting. He is what we hope to become one day: young, handsome, funny and talented. Actually, we don’t care about the talented as much as the first three qualities. The ladies love him, the men want to be like him, the dogs sniff him and wonder where he has been.
Mr. Vizio used to perform one or two tricks in his set downstairs in the amateur room wherein performers of our ilk are allowed to work. But he graduated to upstairs at the Castle – ironically, the “Upstairs at the Castle” was the name of our least successful BBC melodrama Series not featuring human actors. He has been seen in the Close-Up Gallery and this week will be in the Peller. His act has expanded dramatically and he performs effects the way they should be performed. For instance, his Cups and Balls is one of the best we have seen in years. It is in keeping with Dai Vernon’s school of making all actions appear normal, relaxed and fair.
Matt is not just a great magician in all of the classical realms of Close-Up, Parlor and Stage; but he is also a talented stand-up comedian with the adlib instincts of a veteran.
He was responsible for introducing us to performing stand-up comedy and audiences across the San Fernando Valley damn him daily for this. Interestingly, “Damn Him Daily” was the name of our 1960s daily puppet show that we pitched to PBS – they went with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood because of some reason we don’t recall because we were in tears explaining it to the puppets and formed a mental block surrounding that time.
If you have a chance, check out Mr. Vizio this evening through the weekend at the Peller Theatre at the Magic Castle. He will be performing with Tom Frank. We have not seen Tom Frank perform before but we know that if he is performing with Mr. Vizio, you will be entertained, amazed and leave laughing.
Mr. Vizio and Mr. Frank will have shows at 8:00, 10:00 and 11:30 Wednesday through Sunday.
These famous words were uttered by Winston Churchill but they were about an actual crutch and his lack of need for them after a car crash whilst touring America. But it still fits.
We love the Magic Castle and we love reporting on the latest acts that appear in the various rooms but we also fear that we may bore audiences of Inside Magic by reporting only on magic seen there.
Our solution is to talk about the food we had and then work our way into the magic on stage.
We went with a delicious Beef Wellington (speaking of Churchill) and our beloved had the manicotti. Both meals were expertly cooked and good enough to eat – as we proved.
We performed downstairs in the amateur rooms as permitted by the Man, Matt Vizio. He runs the joint and if he says you can perform, you’re good to go. He let us do two shows and we are in his debt for the honor of performing for such wonderful audiences.
The beauty of performing at the Magic Castle is that people are coming to see magic. They are not hoping for a tribute to Queen or a demonstration of weaving from indigenous folk. Although, ironically, we do wear a Freddy Mercury leotard woven by indigenous weavers from Scotland. We chafe and we sweat but we feel we do both sources justice. We no longer sing because of requests from virtually everyone we have ever met. The New York Times said of our act, “It makes you long for Freddy Mercury in his prime or at any age and true indigenous weavers.” Notably, the review got our name wrong; calling us Tom Quinine, so the review has not hurt our career.
Dana Daniels and Richard Allen brought their world-famous “The No Show” to the Palace of Mystery. We laughed so hard that we feared we would pass-out. Seriously. We could not stop laughing as Mr. Daniels did his escape routine that the air was not getting to our lungs, brain or heart. We tried to think of unfunny things but it would not work. We tried to breathe deeply, but our lungs were laughing too hard. It was a funny situation for our body and we didn’t mind.
Audiences had a chance to see the new Luigi. His predecessor worked with Mr. Daniels for almost three decades before passing on. The new Luigi is just as beautiful parrot with a penchant for cheating at mentalism.
The No Show should not be missed. Let’s assume you have something else to do for some reason, you should not do it. You should go see The No Show instead. Water skiing, mountain climbing, any form of fungal removal? None are sufficient reasons to miss The No Show. Although if the fungal removal has been delayed for, say, years, it might be a good time to see a specialist and avoid crowds. Nay, not a single reason can justify missing this show.
Well, except for one reason.
In the Close-Up Gallery, the lovely Ms. Joan DuKore is performing the early shows (7:00 • 7:45 • 8:30 • 9:15) and puts on a great show. If we had talent, grace and could perform, we would be Ms. DuKore. She hails from Las Vegas and relates much of her performance to Sin City. Her card handling is great, she works with bunnies and she performs effects that you have likely never seen before in your sheltered, protected life – but in a good way, not like you were in prison.
The bottom line: Eat the Beef Wellington, Watch The No Show and enjoy Joan DuKore. Don’t worry about passing out due to hypoxia, it’s a myth.
Magicians Jade and Jonathan Levit take over Pellar Theatre at the Magic Castle this weekend. They have been friends and colleagues for 30 years – so that means, Mr. Levit first became aware of Jade while she was in utero – and that’s fine by us.
It is no secret that Jade is not only an Inside Magic Favorite but also one of our personal favorite performers. We have watched her perform in venues across the United States and have always hoped that one day we would be selected to assist in one of her fantastic routines. Our hope was not rewarded this evening but again, that is fine by us.
In fact there is virtually nothing Jade could do that would not be fine by us. We consider her three ring routine one of the best we have seen – and we have seen a bunch. It is truly magic to watch. Her grace and poise match the beauty of this historical effect. We also saw a side of Jade we haven’t seen before. She was working with Mr. Levit to perform “Simultaneous Mentalism™.” We just made up that term and may seek trademark protection so do not go throwing it around too loosely.
We do not want to spoil the effect and may have already done so by saying the words “simultaneous” and “mentalism” so forget we said those words. Our point is, Jade and Mr. Levit performed at the same time and did an effect that was truly startling and exciting.
Mr. Levit has a wonderful on-stage personality. We assume his off-stage is just as wonderful but we did not have a chance to talk to him post-performance. He is likeable and talented and nimble in thought, words, and deeds. His twist – see what we did there? – on the now very popular Rubik’s Cube effect was truly original and so well done. He told a wonderful story to surround what in the hands of other performers is merely a stunt and a short stunt at that. A stunted stunt.
Jade and Mr. Levit work together so well on stage that it appears they have been doing just that for years. And yet, we learned this was their first time working together.
The Peller Theatre is always a wonderful venue for great magic just due to the sightlines and proximity to the performers but when the performers are as wonderful as Jade and Mr. Levit, it is truly a magic venue. If you have a chance to visit the Magic Castle this weekend, be sure to check out the Peller.
But it is late now and time for us to start our night job. We’ll tell you more about that in later entries. It’s like Uber or Lyft but with a bicycle.
Inside Magic Review – Five out of Five – Our Highest!
Magicians Laura London and Boris Wild are at The Magic Castle this week and are not to be missed. They both play the Close-Up Gallery (although not at the same time which is easier to understand because they both have beautiful accents, the subtlety and pure lilt of which would be missed if they were shouting over each other). Some of us old folks recall the close-up rooms of yesteryear’s’ conventions where there would be four or five close-up performers circulating among crowds to perform. The quiet performers were overwhelmed by the naturally loud and the naturally loud were even more unnaturally louder for fear they would be difficult to hear in the hallow expanse of the local gymnasium library.
Yet, digress we do.
Let us start with Laura London.
She is a daring woman who takes risks in front of crowds not seen since the days of Harry Houdini or any bullet catcher. We are not saying “darling” woman – although we are quite confident she is. We are saying “daring” woman.
Like the Honey Badger, she don’t care. By the way, there is allegedly a video on the YouTube showing a honey badger dealing thirds and middles from a volunteer’s deck. It don’t care. We haven’t seen it but can imagine it.
We had the distinct pleasure of sitting in the front of the newly refurbished and filled to the rafters Close-Up Gallery. Because of our vantage point, we could see some of the backstage work that goes into Ms. London’s act and it betrayed no secrets. We were so close to the action that we thought for sure we could see her work but because her performance is based on turn of the 20th century (the 1900s) card cheats, it made sense that even being close enough to worry about the expiration of our counterfeit breath strips, we saw nothing. Because of our almost passing understanding of how magic works – especially card magic and especially card magic with a Bee deck, we thought we would be able to pick up something. Pero, nada, siempre nada.
Ms. London is from England and has appeared on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us. She is calm, educational and mystifying. She reads wonderful excerpts from a diary of a female card sharp as she performs. Understand, she his performing very difficult card magic with both left and right hands; whilst reading a diary. We can do one of those things at once and it is only the diary part. Her Ace Location is something to see and puzzle over for days – we know.
Her effects were beautiful to watch for magicians and non-magicians alike. We cannot wait to see her perform again. We were hoping the show would last longer but, alas, like all good things, it needed to end so others could see how great a truly imaginative card performance could be.
We began our review with Ms. London under the theory that “Ladies First.” But also because she performs the first part of the evening and then comes Boris Wild.
We need to come clean about Mr. Wild. We have read his books, bought his tricks, performed with his decks on a regular basis and yet, truthfully, have almost no idea how he performed his magic. It is not as if we had an inkling. It is not like we would guess the Kentucky Derby has something to do with horses and betting. We know there were cards involved in some way but we don’t know nothing more than that. He used cards in ways we have not seen done as effectively.
We loved being fooled – almost all the time, or at least when watching magic shows at The Magic Castle. Mr. Wild fooled us with tricks we own or know of. Howsabout that, now?!
My great, great-grandfather (allegedly – it is tough to tell through Ouija communications) once said, “It is what you know that fools.” So true. We think.
His Kiss routine is a classic and we have seen it before and loved it. We still love it. It is emotional – and we are not afraid to say that – and it is beautiful. His effect before the Kiss routine is one we cannot describe without ruining it. So we won’t. If you have a chance to see his act this week, take it. Get in line every early so you can see Laura London – a rising star in our book (an Inner Circle Member to boot) who should have her own show in Vegas immediately. We need more women in magicians as magicians. We need more magicians who love card sharping and so she is the perfect combination.
Now after Laura’s last show of the evening, get in line for Boris Wild. We leave with a smile on your face and a renewed faith in our wonderful craft.
God bless Ms. London and Mr. Wild. This is a wonderful time to be alive.
LA Magazinereports today that The Magic Castle will soon open a second location in beautiful Santa Barbara, California.
According to the magazine’s website, the second location will be called the Magic Castle Cabaret and overlook a lake and nature preserve in Montecito. The location was the former home of the Casa del Sol restaurant and events center.
“The structure is about a fifth the size of the Hollywood castle and will feature a 50-seat theater and a lounge. Milt Larsen co-founded the original private membership club for magicians in 1963 and spent decades shaping the building into a labyrinth of dining rooms, theaters, and exhibition spaces, incorporating architectural castoffs from historic L.A. mansions. He now splits his time between Hollywood and Santa Barbara and wanted a club for his friends up north.”
Mr. Larsen told the LA Magazine reporter, “I’m gonna make it look like a castle with a lot of stained glass and woodwork,” Larsen said. “It will strictly be devoted to close-up magic and variety arts. We might have an evening with Richard Sherman or a comedian. It’s a gorgeous little place with a lakefront view.”
Mr. Larsen purchased site in June 2016. At the time of the sale, the location at 30 Los Patos Way was listed for $2,350,000. It consists of just under 4,000 square-feet of restaurant space and sits on an almost 12,000 square-foot parcel of land adjacent to the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. The new location is within walking distance from Santa Barbara’s East Beach and Montecito’s Coast Village Road.
There is no word on the membership policies for the new club. We will keep you up-to-date as we learn more.
Joe Furlow, General Manager of the Academy of Magical Arts / Magic Castle has been named the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Mel Rex Award by the Club Managers Association of America. The Mel Rex Award recognizes extraordinary industry contributions and private club management by the experts in the country.
The AMA will honor Mr. Furlow at the Magic Castle and the Club Managers Association will fete him at their World Conference next month in Orlando.
The AMA Board nominated Mr. Furlow in recognition of his contributions over the past five years in club-wide improvements. The Magic Castle is no ordinary clubhouse and needed a professional able to learn quirks and charms of the organization and its very special members. Mr. Furlow has done that and more.
The AMA told Inside Magic, “This award recognizes the special qualities of the AMA, and the unique abilities of our General Manager, blending his expertise, techniques from the industry, with our unique world of magic, magicians and magic lovers around the world.
“Because we know that the AMA is such a special place, we’re proud that Joe’s professionalism has been recognized by the industry. There’s no question that his work has helped elevate the AMA and the Magic Castle to unprecedented heights of popularity and success, with record revenues (once again) in 2016 and more than 500 currently on a waiting list for membership.”
The Excellence in Club Management® Awards are sponsored by Club & Resort Business magazine and the McMahon Group, a private club consulting group that serves and evaluates private clubs in all aspects of their operations – including dining, facilities, employees and management – and has consulted with 1,900+ private clubs around the world in its 30+ year history.
This just in from the Magic Castle – Academy of Magical Arts. A wonderful holiday present for members and lovers of magic. The twelve-year lease for the Magic Castle as the official clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts gives a welcome relief from the perpetual concern that this wonderful landmark and mecca was living on borrowed time.
The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that the Academy of Magical Arts has entered into a long-term lease with our landlord, Magic Castle Park, LLC, for our tenancy at the Magic Castle and exclusive use of the adjacent parking lot.
The lease is for a term of twelve years and includes a great majority of the terms in our prior lease, which was on a month-to-month basis. The modifications to the existing lease lengthen the term to twelve years; include new rent amounts and annual adjustments; and permit the AMA to deduct from the rent certain amounts for capital improvements to the building.
The Board believes that this long-term lease, the first of its kind in the AMA’s history, provides us with unprecedented security in our right to continue occupying the Magic Castle; a predictable and affordable rent schedule; and the opportunity to invest in the building by way of upgrades and capital improvements. During the lease period, the AMA will continue to build a capital fund that can be used at a future date toward a longer term real estate solution.
The Board would like to thank the management, staff and membership for 54 years of support for the club. As a result of the lease, all club members can now look forward to enjoying many more years at the Magic Castle. President Randy Sinnott will discuss this further at the Founders’ Day celebration on January 2, 2017.
Irene Larsen, Co-Founder of the Academy of Magical Arts & the Magic Castle, Dies at 79
Irene Larsen, 79, unexpectedly passed away Feb. 25 at her home in Los Angeles. Irene co-founded the Academy of Magical Arts (AMA) and its private clubhouse, the Magic Castle – one of Hollywood’s most iconic landmarks and one of the world’s most renowned nightclubs – along with her husband, the late William “Bill” Larsen, Jr., and his brother, Milton “Milt” Larsen. It was Irene’s graciousness and her dedication to the role of ambassador of magic that helped elevate the AMA to an internationally renowned and respected organization within the art’s community.
Irene was also an ardent and outspoken animal rights activist, who policed the wellbeing of animals in the acts of magicians and banned anyone who mistreated them from performing at the Magic Castle.
Members of the Larsen family have been performing magic continuously since the mid ’20s, with the fourth generation now on stage.
Born Irene Stolz in Stühlingen, Germany, on Sept. 25, 1936, to Ludwig and Meta Stolz, her career in magic began by chance when she attended a magic show in 1955 and was asked on stage by
American magician John Daniel, who became her husband two years later.
Joining her new husband in America, the couple owned a magic retail store in Pasadena and toured two “spook shows” – Dr. Doom’s Dungeon of Death and Daniel’s Magic Circus – late-night magic shows of a supernatural or eerie nature that preceded the showing of a horror film. The Daniels also purchased and ran Owen Magic Supreme, a renowned manufacturer of magic products. Irene was the first woman to perform the famed “Thin Model Sawing” illusion, which they developed and performed on a school show circuit across the country. They divorced amicably in the early ’60s.
Irene soon began dating Bill, Jr., a member of one of magic’s most famed family dynasties. Bill’s parents, William Larsen, Sr. (1904-1953), and Geraldine “Geri” Larsen (1906-1998), are revered as pioneers in the field of magic. Bill, Sr., gave up a successful Pasadena law practice as a criminal attorney to pursue his love of magic and to be an entertainer and Geri was one of the rare female magicians of the day, when women were magician’s assistants being sawed in half, not magicians themselves.
In 1936, the elder Larsens launched Genii magazine, now the longest, continually running magic magazine in the world (and the circulation of which later became the AMA/Magic Castle’s initial membership). 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 San Diego, Carmel and Palm Springs.
Irene assisted Bill, Jr., in his various magic acts and worked tirelessly to help launch the Magic Castle, which opened its doors in January 1963—marrying him in the fall of that year. In addition to appearing alongside her husband at their club, she also appeared on such popular series as the Dean Martin Show, assisting megastars like Orson Welles (a long-time magic fan and an early member of the AMA). From 1963-1999, Irene served as the editor or co-editor of Genii magazine
Although Bill, Jr., passed away in 1993, Irene lived the remainder of her life at the Brookledge estate in Hancock Park, which was purchased by her husband’s parents in 1942. The historic estate was built in 1933 by Floyd Thayer, a master woodworker who founded the Thayer Magic Company (which the senior Larsens also purchased), renowned for high-quality magic apparatus.
Virtually every famous name in magic visited the estate – often referred to as the “forerunner to the Magic Castle” – frequently performing on a small stage there. Retired from life on the road and managing the Thayer Magic Company, Bill, Sr. dreamed of opening an elegant, private clubhouse for magicians in Los Angeles, but died at just 48.
Six years ago, Irene’s daughter, Erika Larsen, who currently serves as president of the board of directors of the AMA, revived The Brookledge Follies, a “contemporary Vaudeville” variety-and-magic show performed once a month (April-November) in the small theater behind the home, which holds just 60 people.
Attendance is by invitation only, but the free show has become one of the hottest tickets in town – the wait list can be long – 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 (Pee Wee Herman) and director John Landis, to name a few.
Regarding her childhood, Erika recalls that famous magicians like Siegfried Fischbacher & Roy Horn, Doug Henning, Dai Vernon, Channing Pollock, Charlie Miller, The Shimadas, The Great Tomsoni & Co. and others were familiar faces around the Larsen home. “We did see the best of the best in magic, but I grew up in a bubble,” she says. “My siblings and I just thought that’s what people did—Make things disappear and carry a deck of cards everywhere.”
A frequent figure around the Magic Castle, Irene – affectionately known by magicians around the world as “Princess Irene,” a stage name she was given by her first husband – will remain best known as a beloved, ever-gracious hostess of the magic community, a role she actively continued until the time of her death.
In addition to Erika, who also lives on the Brookledge estate, Irene is survived by daughter Heidi Larsen, Los Angeles; her son with her first husband, Dante Larsen and his wife, Blaire, Los Angeles; and her stepdaughter Wendy Larsen-Olsen, Oregon (Bill, Jr.’s child from his first marriage). She is also survived by four grandchildren, Liberty, Lily and Liam Larsen and Jessica Hopkins.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Tippi Hedren’s Shambala Preserve or another animal welfare organization.
We learned the very sad news of Irene Larsen’s sudden passing. She was such a joy to see at The Magic Castle and will be missed. We are reposting a message from Facebook by Archimedes Noctua. You can also visit LA Magazine for a nice article about this treasure in our craft.
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved matriarch, international ambassador and co-founder of the Academy of Magical Arts, Irene Larsen. Princess Irene passed away peacefully this morning at her home at Brookledge.
Irene, AMA member #1, was the love and the light of the Academy and truly defined our mission statement, serving the Magic Castle in every aspect. A past President of the AMA Board of Directors and member of the Board of Trustees, she served on virtually every committee over the years. She devoted her life to the Magic Castle.
From the Castle’s earliest days, Irene and her husband, AMA President for Life, Bill Larsen Jr., spent each evening greeting guests as they walked through the doors … a practice she frequently continued, right up until her untimely death.
An ardent animal activist, Irene referred to herself as “The Animal Police” within the magic community, ensuring that all performers who included animals in their acts – at the Magic Castle and everywhere -treated them with dignity and respect. In Genii: The International Conjurers Magazine, the monthly publication that she co-edited for many years with Bill, Irene posted tips in nearly every issue on how to correctly care for animals in acts.
Irene was a driving force behind the AMA’s international reputation. She insisted that Genii be referred to as The International Conjurers Magazine to be inclusive of magicians worldwide and attended magic conventions around the globe to promote both the AMA and the magazine.
Irene will live on in our hearts forever. She loved this club and each and every one of us for supporting it.
Please keep Irene’s children in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days … Dante (Blaire), Heidi and Erika Larsen, as well as her four beautiful grandchildren, Liberty, Lily and Liam Larsen and Jessica Hopkins.
All Hail the Queen. We love you Irene.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Last Chance for Animals (LCA), or any animal welfare organization of your choice. Irene supported them all.
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