Category: Magic Castle News

Magic Castle General Manager Wins Global Award

Joe Furlow - GM - Academy of Magical ArtsJoe 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.

Magic Castle Gets 12 Year Lease – Breaking

The Magic CastleThis 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 & Neil Patrick Harris at AMA 50th Anniversary Event (1-2-2013)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.

Very Sad News: Irene Larsen Passes

Inside Magic Image of Irene LarsenWe 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.

The McBrides and Magic and Mystery

Jeff McBride

Last night, the place to be was The Magic Castle at the corner of Franklin and Orange in Hollywood, California.  We squeaked in (we are on the waiting list for a hip replacement or a good oiling) just before they closed the parking lot.   Phew, we said to no one.

We were dressed in our finest and even polished one of our two shoes (the right – and we always walk with it going first) and wore a tie inherited from our late uncle.  Like all families, we had to fight to recover the tie he promised us.  Our aunt said he never intended us to have it.  Our cousins claimed they were entitled to it.  The funeral director said we couldn’t open the casket without a court order.  But we have it – most of it – and we were wearing it with the pride of a person who knows how to wear a snap on tie.

Steve Valentine is more than a great magician, he is also a world-famous actor and great guy.  When his name is on the bill, there are going to be crowds.  Well, last night, his name was on the bill and there were crowds.  QED.

Mr. Valentine was hosting a special Castle Perk for members on Street Magic in the beautifully appointed Peller Theatre.  Unfortunately, the Peller Theatre seats around 40 guests and there were far more than that looking to learn the ins and outs of performing on boulevards and byways.

We stood solemnly by the door, gazing in with hope and expectation but to no avail.  We couldn’t hear a thing.  We saw mouths moving and props being displayed but without the language track, the visual was insufficient for us.  Dejectedly, we gathered our street performing props and funny hat, and walked away.

After a wonderful meal in the dining room, we were able to see Jeff McBride and Abigail Spinner-McBride in the Palace of Mystery.  What a treat.  Because of our late arrival and dubious hygiene, we were given a choice seat with lots of room near the front.  We have seen Mr. McBride several times and were once again delighted by his creativity and skill.  He is a man of many talents and masks.  He uses both resources to make for a fantastic show.

We have never seen Ms. Spinner-McBride perform and were equally delighted to see her work.  She has a wonderful sense of poise and grace on stage.  Her performance of Max Maven’s Brainwave was beautifully done.

The McBrides will be at The Magic Castle through Sunday as part of the Magic and Mystery School Week.  If you haven’t seen their show or haven’t seen it in a while, make plans to get there.

Woody Allen Disgruntled with Chicken at Magic Castle

Sad BunnyThe National Enquirer spills the fava beans with a story about Woody Allen being disgruntled at The Magic Castle.

We have always said that if some cannot be gruntled at the Magic Castle, there is no place they will not be disgruntled.  This just proves our point.

According to The Enquirer’s Mike Walker, Mr. Allen ordered a “plain broiled chicken” for his entrée.  Unfortunately, the chef did not serve him just a plain piece of poultry but provided a portion with a “special sauce.”

According to Mr. Walker’s sources, Mr. Allen became “really upset.  All he’d wanted was plain broiled chicken, so he barely touched the meal.”

He complained about it later when a strolling magician asked how he was enjoying the evening.  “So far, nobody’s made my hunger disappear!”

See what he did there?  Hunger, disappear, magic trick, dinner disgruntlement.

Mr. Allen participated in a trick where the magician caused his $100.00 bill to vanish.   He couldn’t let go of his chicken issues, though.

He apparently rolled his eyes and commented “I’ll be happy if it reappears as a plain broiled chicken!’”

Oh, dear.  He must be thinking of that old U.F. Grant parlor trick, Bill to Chicken Supreme.  We used to perform it back in the late 1960s and early 1970s before the animal rights folks became so insistent.  It was a great trick and depended on a pull to hook onto the chicken’s feet with a little Velcro harness that could be difficult to work.

Jimmy King later came out with a much more effective harness system for the chicken vanish but by then audiences had come to disapprove of tricks involving freshly cooked birds.

It’s Magic! Coming to Sacramento

When wIt's Magice visit the Magic Castle, we notice the great posters advertising It’s Magic! through the years.  They line the Parlor of Prestidigitation boasting amazing performers.

Imagine our excitement — unless you have other things you wish to imagine — to read that It’s Magic! is alive and has announced its dates for the Harris Center for the Arts in the Sacramento area.

We read this press release and pass it along for all of our loyal reader(s).

It’s Magic! is in its 59th year; each season presenting the world’s top magic and variety performers in a production designed for the entire family. Stars from all corners of the globe including Las Vegas, Europe, Asia and Hollywood’s Magic Castle dazzle audiences with their amazing acts. The Los Angeles Times calls It’s Magic! “…a must for magic buffs of all ages!”

It’s Magic! has two performances on Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 2 pm and 6 pm. Tickets are priced at $21-$34; Premium $45. Tickets are available online at http://www.harriscenter.net or from the Harris Center Ticket Office at 916-608-6888 from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Parking is included in the price of the ticket. Harris Center is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, CA, facing East Bidwell Street.

This live stage show is unique in that it features many of the top professional magicians worldwide, with each act carefully selected to represent the variety of the art of magic. Many of these performers are internationally recognized award-winners, direct from exotic showrooms around the world as well as Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle. Parents who came to see It’s Magic! as youngsters are now bringing their children and grand­children to see this amazing line-up of famous magicians.

The tradition of an all-star magic show started in 1956 when two young entrepreneurs, Milt Larsen and Oliver Berliner, produced a show called Hocus Pocus ’56 at the magnificent (now demolished) Carthay Circle Theater in West Los Angeles. The following year, the show was renamed It’s Magic! and moved to the 1300 seat Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles’ swank Hancock Park area.

At first, the shows played for a very limited time only. However, as the number of fans grew, the number of performances was expanded. The success of It’s Magic! proved there was a genuine interest in the ancient art form of magic. This, in turn, gave Larsen the idea of forming a full-time private club for magicians and magic enthusiasts. Thus was born the Magic Castle, which opened its doors in 1963. Many credit this show as the spark that rekindled the resurgence of the art of magic in America.

In 1965 Milt produced It’s Magic! as a solo venture with his brother Bill as Associate Producer. It’s Magic! then moved to the Variety Arts Theater in downtown Los Angeles in 1977 and played annually until the mid­eighties. Since its inception, Southern California audiences were treated to such legendary magicians as Harry Blackstone (senior and junior), John Calvert, Senor Wences, Richiardi, Chang, Mark Wilson, Frakson, Tenkai and Dai Vernon. The show also provided the springboard for newcomers like Lance Burton, Mark Kalin, Shimada, The Pendragons and Harry Anderson, all of whom have since become stars.

This year’s lineup features magicians Danny Cole, who was named the Rising Star of Magic by World Magic Awards (1999), Mystina, a British magician who incorporates dancing and gymnatics in her breathtaking illusions, and Tom Ogden, a family friendly magician who has performed for celebrities and politicians from Johnny Depp to President Ronald Reagan. Also featured are Alex Ramon, the first magician to grace The Greatest Show on Earth Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents Zing Zang Zoom, juggling extraordinaire Dan Raspyni, and more – each carefully selected to show the many nuances and artfulness of magic.

 

Brian Gillis, Magic Castle and Honor

The Magic CastleThe obscure philosopher and scion of the Hardy magic family, Thomas “Big Tom” Hardy, wrote, “we take our honor where we find it.”

We never understood what he meant by that and think it may have been used in the closing argument in one of the many trespassing prosecutions he faced over his life.  But, it resonated with us Friday as we ventured back into the Magic Castle after too long a time away.

Hollywood was inflamed with Oscar preparations.  The streets were crowded with famous, nearly famous and gawkers walking at a virtually identical pace with the vehicular traffic coursing along Sunset and Hollywood boulevards.   No one was moving quickly but all seemed to be enjoying their journeys.

We have been away from the Castle for about three weeks for unimportant reasons – none of which have to do with anything you may have read on certain Chinese-language blogs published out of Hong Kong.  Plus, if you look carefully at the video those blogs tout, you can see we were at least an unwilling participant in what may or may not have been an unfortunate turn of events, at worst, or a miscommunication with fellow travelers stuck in a chilly airport terminal facing a lengthy flight delay.  We should note that the goat was not ours but was part of the Chinese New Year’s celebration and was certainly well-behaved until the 11:02 mark of the video when all heck broke loose.

Regardless, that is, as the investigating officer said ironically, behind us.

We went back to the Castle Friday night.  Did we say that already?

It was so nice to see old friends and even meet some new people with whom we hope to establish friendships.  Dinner was wonderful as always and the entertainment offerings were befitting a star-studded awards weekend.  Bruce Gold was in the Palace of Mystery, Derek Hughes was in the Parlor of Prestidigitation and Pop Haydn was working the Close-Up Gallery like the boss he is.

In between shows, we ventured downstairs to the amateur rooms and performed a couple of sets.  We had two new effects on which we have been working.  You may be different but we find that no matter how much we rehearse – and we do rehearse a lot – we really have no feel for the pacing of the effect until we actually perform for real people.  By our third set, we had some comfort with the tricks, their presentation and the swelling seemed to abate.

We were getting ready to perform another set – undeterred by the fact that we did not have an audience, not a soul – when who should enter the room but Brian Gillis.  We find it hard to shake the star-struck wonder when we meet celebrities or heroes.  For instance, we are still unable to speak in coherent sentences when we talk with Pop Haydn or Mark Wilson.

Mr. Gillis asked if we were going to do a set and we may have nodded and giggled and twirled our hair (which at our advanced age is not only embarrassing but also tough to do).  He noted that there was not an audience for whom to perform.  We likely nodded again.  At some point, we volunteered to get him an audience.  He said he did not want to impose.  He offered to wait until after we performed.  We declined his generous offer and set about inviting folks downstairs to watch Mr. Gillis.

Within minutes the room was packed.  We do not credit our audience-wrangling skills – the crowd came because we told everyone we met that Brian Gillis would be performing shortly.

Mr. Gillis was on and on fire.  He had people cussing with disbelief at his ability to make the impossible happen so naturally, so easily.  His signed bill to a volunteer-selected sugar packet evoked screams from the packed room.  It was an honor to be in the same room with such an amazing performer.

We were then ready to start our set but saw Handsome Jack enter the room.  He asked if we were going to perform and we again deferred to the better magician and said we would love to watch – which, ironically, was precisely what we intended to say in the Hong Kong airport video.  Mr. Lovick performed a bit of the routine he will do this week in the Close-Up Gallery at the Castle.  It was fantastic.  The audience loved it and we were genuinely fooled by his work.  He, like Mr. Gillis, works so smoothly and so naturally.

Again, it was an honor to be able to tell our grandchildren – one day – that we performed after such amazing magicians.  We finally did our last set of the night and the crowds were pretty well dissipated.  That was okay by us.  We weren’t anxious to provide such a stark contrast between our plebeian skills and those of the two previous masters.  We felt no shame in our lesser abilities but basked in the honor they unknowingly bestowed on a true fan of great magic.

We caught Pop Haydn’s final show of the night and were again in awe of how well magic can be presented.  He is the complete package.  A master of difficult sleights, audiences and entertaining performance.  There is much to be learned and we feel blessed that we are always ready to learn.  We may be star-struck but at least we are always open to the lessons.

School for Scoundrels Class this Weekend

Pop_Haydn_the_Shell_GameThis weekend, we will be at the feet of the masters, Pop Haydn, Bob Sheets and Chef Anton together teaching the ways of the Scoundrel at The Magic Castle here in Hollywood.  It is a two-day class in the essentials of scoundreling with special attention paid to Three-Card Monte, The Shell Game and Fast and Loose.

The esteemed professors note that the course is “perfect for the historian, steampunker, gambler, lawyer or police officer as well as the magician, this course gives you the inside information.”  We are at least two or three of those types of people so the course should be a perfect fit.

We understand there were only 20 seats available and they may have already been sold out by the time this article posts.

We will report back on what we have learned both in the classroom and in any wayward attempts to scoundrel on the mean streets of Hollywood or Beverly Hills.

We are thinking of getting a specially made cardboard box on which to perform our soon to be acquired Three-Card Monte skills just outside the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset.

We could make it look like it was a shipping container for Louis Vuitton handbags or Christian Louboutin shoes so it would not arouse suspicion amongst the throngs we expect will encircle us with cash money in their hands and dreams of big winnings in their hearts.

Check out the School for Scoundrels site for more information and peruse their great offerings here.

Do Magicians Need Manicures?

Inside Magic Image of Clean Fingers and FingernailsWe got our first manicure ever the other day.  It will be our last – at least our last voluntarily received.

It was inevitable, we presume.  We were in Hollywood, performing on the weekends in the amateur rooms at The Magic Castle and all the other guys had manicures and, well, we just gave into it.

We have been performing magic since we were seven and have tried to take good care of our hands and fingernails ever since we started working as a demonstrator at Paul Diamonds Magic and Fun Wagon at the Palm Beach Mall.  Barry Gibbs – our mentor and boss – explained the need to have clean hands and neat fingernails.  He never mentioned getting a manicure.

When big-time magicians would tour through our local clubs, we noticed that some of them would have shiny fingernails but assumed it was a Hollywood or New York City thing.  We did not recall seeing any of the Chicago pros with shiny, smooth fingernails.  Maybe they had them and we just did not notice.

But then we hit Hollywood.  Everyone had manicures.

In fact, even our taxi driver from the airport to our beautiful studio apartment next to the store that bakes dog food on Santa Monica Boulevard had shiny nails.

He was otherwise a gruff looking man with a very short fuse when it came to people driving slower, faster or different than he would like.  Nevertheless, if you were to examine only his nails, you would assume he was a member of a royal family.  We were going to ask him about his decision to get a manicure but he was very focused on driving very quickly and using his well-maintained middle finger to express his constant displeasure with our fellow travelers.

We debated taking the plunge.  What if someone saw us going into one of the hundreds of “manicure parlors” that line the boulevards crisscrossing Hollywood?  Fortunately, we don’t know many people out here yet and so the chances were low that we would be spotted.  Perhaps, even if we were spotted, the spotter would not care.  Maybe manicures are okay in this realm.

We tried a couple of sample runs; walking in to parlors with their specialized chairs and tables and tools with what must have appeared to be an awkward sense of nonchalance.  On the other hand, maybe we just looked addled, confused or weird.

Several times the kind Asian women attempted to get us seated to begin the process right away.  Several times we pulled away like a weirdo possessed by an infantile fear of having his nails cut.

We wanted to discuss the topic with friends in a safe environment.  One night, after performing a couple of sets in Hat & Hare room at The Magic Castle, we asked some of the other performers if they got manicures.  It took us a while to get to the point and we may have actually stammered.

We must have sounded self-conscious and/or creepy because we received no response.  The conversation broke shortly after we asked the question.  It was likely our paranoia but it seemed like they were avoiding having eye-contact with us for the rest of the night.

We read up on how to give oneself a manicure and immediately deleted our search history after determining that it was a specialty we did not possess.  We needed a pro.  We needed a non-judgmental pro who could keep secrets.

We found just such a pro just a few blocks from our apartment.  Hong Kong Nails and Spa was open until 11:00 pm and staffed with very friendly, caring people who did not view us as abnormal or deviant.  Or maybe they did but they did not let on.

Lisa – not her real name – was the manager on duty and ushered us into the big, elevated and comfortable chair.  She did not even ask why we were there.  It was as if she just knew.  Of course, there are probably few non-manicure related reasons a person walks into a nail parlor at 9:00 pm so maybe she did not need to have the deductive reasoning skills of Sherlock Holmes.

We say that “Lisa” was not her real name because it was not.  It was the name she gave us but said it was her “American” name.  Her real name was too difficult for most customers and so she adopted “Lisa” after seeing the Simpson’s cartoon show.  We told her our real name.  We were coming to terms with our trust issues in her caring hands and warm, soapy water.

Apparently, we have been blithely ignorant of just how repulsive cuticles can be.  We had no idea.  Lisa explained that part of the reason people come for manicures is to have their cuticles removed or pushed back.  The cuticles keep growing back and trained professionals like Lisa are on the front lines, cutting and pushing against their incessant creeping.

Who knew?

Even now that we know about cuticles, we still have a hard time seeing cuticles on others.  One’s observation skills must develop in this area.  Lisa could spot our cuticles from the moment we walked into the parlor.  Hers must be a tortured life: seeing so many cuticles every day.  If they are truly as disgusting as she described, we have no idea how she could ever eat from a fast-food counter.

We watched as she applied a special gel to the base of our fingernails and then used a cutting implement from the late 14th Century to carve away more than 50 years of cuticle growth.  We expected to feel lighter and more mobile after the process but the difference was not immediately evident.

The good news was there very little in the way of blood.  We bleed easily and once we start, we do not stop for hours.  It is not an attractive trait and seems to have very little benefit to us or our progeny in an evolutionary sense.

Lisa asked if we wanted to have clear polish put on our fingernails now that they were free of the unsightly (but to us, practically invisible) cuticles and all ridges were buffed away.

We thought about it but because we are so insecure in our masculinity and have a lot issues, we demurred.  We immediately regretted declining the offer and tried to explain our “issues” to Lisa but surprisingly, it was not that big a deal to her.  She was a total pro or she didn’t care.

We tried out our new fingers at the Castle last weekend.  We discerned no improvement in our audiences’ enjoyment or appreciation for our practiced efforts.  None.  We thought about drawing attention to the manicure by saying things about cuticles and ridges but could not work those words into our multi-reveal card routine.  We even intentionally rocked our hands in the spotlight to pick up the maximum glint and sparkle but to no avail.

Perhaps having a manicure is unnecessary to succeed at performing magic.  Perhaps it is not the lack of ridges or unsightly cuticles that brings audiences to their feet, wild with enthusiastic applause and demands for an encore.  Maybe we wasted $20.00.

Maybe we should look into getting our nose hair trimmed.