We 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.