Young magician and sleight of hand specialist Sebastian Walton continues to impress his peers and, perhaps more importantly, his audiences. When we last caught up with young Sebastian he had just won the Magic Circle Stage Magician of the Year. He was the youngest, at just 20 years of age (we don’t know what 20 years is in metric so we’re using American data). That was way back in 2016. We met him and took in his Parlor show at the Magic Castle three times coming off that big win.
He recently returned to the Magic Castle and slayed lay and magic audience members alike.
As Yogi Berra said about pitcher Don Sutton’s perfect game, “this kid is good.” Almost any praise for Mr. Walton will seem an understatement. He takes real risks in his performance with effects that could go horribly wrong. We don’t know why he does it but it is a pleasure to watch someone with real skills in the sleight of hand department work in front of a real crowd.
We’ll continue to do our Sucker Sliding Die Box and Hippity Hop Bunnies even though the effects do not have the same impact on audiences, we feel safe with store-bought, EZ Magic. We are saving our lunch money for a Milk Pitcher – soon to be introduced into our act. But that’s just us and that’s the reason we haven’t won any awards from The Magic Circle or even our family members, for that matter.
His act is not just daring, entertaining, and different from anything we had seen, it was truly mystifying. Mr. Walton is certainly deserving of the praise heaped upon him by our British cousins.
If you don’t believe us, you can read our review of Mr. Walton’s show on Inside Magic here. We wouldn’t lie, twice.
We just learned that a couple of weeks ago he won Yorkshire’s Own Talent.
The latest news from Mr. Walton is that he has a new website up and running. We also have it on very good authority that he will be returning to the Magic Castle in 2019. We will be there, front and center, to watch and review for this well established and esteemed magic news website.
Magicians, as a whole, are prideful. We worry about our image, practice sleights to perfect them before presenting, write and rehearse patter, and of course comb our little remaining hair and clip or appropriately decorate our nails.
So our admission is hard to make. We are shaking at the keyboard as we type – likely attributable to the unsteady shocks in the Los Angeles Metro Bus – but still we’re shaking so that means something.
The person reading this post next to us on the bus – and that is very nosey and they should be looking forward and not correcting our prose – says we should just get to it and stop being so dramatic. Further, he says it doesn’t look like we remembered to take pains to improve our image before leaving for work today and why would a famous magician be riding a bus along Santa Monica Boulevard instead of traveling by limo or at least Uber?
We hope he gets off soon.
Okay, here’s the admission: we cannot do a perfect pressure fan. We can do all sorts of fans but not a proper pressure fan. There, it is out in the open now. You can judge us. Our fellow rider said if he knew what a “pressure fan” was he would judge us. He is laughing now. Probably at his own joke or maybe he is laughing at us.
We have been trying to do a proper pressure fan since we were twelve-years-old. We can do a one-handed shuffle with either hand and lifts that would impress anyone except they’re so good they can’t be detected. The fellow rider has stopped reading and is now eating Fritos very loudly.
We’ve read the technique, we’ve watched young children do perfect pressure fans with cards bigger than their cherubic faces. We fail.
He is now drinking something from what looks to be an adult sippy cup but because he hasn’t opened to top properly, it is making a thunk-pop noise with every suck of liquid. We wish he would go back to the Fritos but fear this will be a constant part of the ride for a while. He’ll eat the Fritos, loudly, get thirsty, drink from the sippy cup and then back to the Fritos.
At The Magic Castle we watch with envy as magicians perform their wonderfully practiced routines but become irrationally jealous, insecure and diminished when they perform a pressure fan with such a smooth handling that it appears the cards perfectly align about their fingers with ease. If only, we say silently, we had such skills.
We have thought of asking the more talented members at The Magic Castle, to teach us how to do a perfect pressure fan but we feel so much shame for not knowing at this point in our career. We feel we are an impostor, a fraud; in an art that relishes impostors and frauds — so there is that philosophical, logic puzzle to work through.
He is back reading and corrected our characterization of his chocolate milk container as a “sippy cup” and does not think it should be our concern about his eating and drinking habits.
Perhaps that is the key. Maybe we should not jealously covet the skills of other magicians, accept that we are at this time, unable to do a pressure fan and even though we haven’t for the last 90-years, we may one day develop the skill. Just as we should not be concerned about others’ drinking and eating routines, we should be focused on what we can do and not what others are doing.
Our fellow rider has pulled the stop cord and is gathering his full meal and drink to depart. He read the last part of this post and disagrees. “You shouldn’t care what other folks are eating and drinking but you should at least know how to do a pressure fan if you’re going to call yourself a magician.”
We are pierced.
Our seatmate has left the bus now and we have a vacant seat next to us. It is time to close the computer before we encounter another critic/editor for our long ride.
We first met Nick Lewin through Pop Haydn when Mr. Lewin was performing on the same bill with Mr. Haydn. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. Mr. Lewin took the stage with a befuddled look on his face and seemed to be overly relaxed in his approach to the magic. Yet, he blew us away.
His Slow Motion Torn and Restored Newspaper was a thing of beauty, his Linking Finger Ring was a thing of beauty as well but also a thing of mystery. We know or thought we knew how the routine should be done to achieve the effect but Mr. Lewin was doing something slightly different and yet achieving the same effect plus.
Since that experience, we have seen Mr. Lewin perform in various locals and he is the same. Always smiling, slightly befuddled, easy-going, and amazing. He has the classics of magic finely tuned from years of practice and actual performances in his hands and is in no rush to perform them.
He is not being chased and so there is no need to run. His jokes and humorous approach to the effects do not overwhelm or take away from the magic, they fit in the routines because there is time for them to fit. He is going to amaze and there is no reason to rush to what will be a wonderful conclusion – he is a friend of the audience and we are all looking at it together.
We have bought several of Mr. Lewin’s routines and we will have reviews in the future but we received one just the other day that seemed perfect for our act – at least according to the advertisement. The Ultimate Color Changing Deck is an effect that would be the right ending for our card routine as performed in the basement of the Magic Castle. We currently end with the emotional equivalent of “Yeah, that’s about it. No need to stick around, there ain’t no more. Skat! Get!”
We order the effect and received delivery within a very few days. We watched his DVD, checked out the props and smiled with the gleeful look of a very satisfied magician or someone in need of further attention by trained professionals. It would work, it would work really good. (When we become gleeful, annoyingly gleeful (“AG”), we lose our ability to think in proper English. The effect could even be transferred to our pet deck and we already could do the relatively easy sleights to accomplish the apparently impossible.
There are other color changing decks on the market. Some of them might be good. We have seen many of them in person either being performed or explained in lectures but none of them come up to this standard. Mr. Lewin credits Ken Brooke for the idea and effect and even provides an interlude that may or may not fit your style. The last sentence makes sense once you receive and review the effect.
The cost for the pre-release is $65.00 and it is well-worth it. This is a color changing deck that will really work in real situations for real magicians in front of real audiences and leave them really amazed.
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.
We love magic and people who love magic. Therefore we love Ted Baker the famous clothier.
So, we’re walking through the new Century City Mall, in the ritzy section of Los Angeles, next to Beverly Hills; where people drive Mercedes and Rolls Royce manufactured vehicles not even to show off but because their more expensive, nicer car is in the shop – or so they’ve been told by their household staff. And we walk by Ted Baker’s clothing store.
We are not clothing horses. We’re not even people who know where our clothes came from. We don’t know if we bought them first hand, were lent them and forgot to return them, or found them in the laundromat (Suds-n-Suds on Wilshire where you can have a beer (hence suds) whilst your clothes clean (hence the other suds)).
But we stopped in front of the window of Ted Baker’s storefront and fell in love. He had rabbits coming out of old opera hats – the kind that really collapse and open with a snap – much like our pants. He had different exotic decks of cards shown and even had a portrait of a magician that had a 3-D image emerging from it.
But there was something about the shingles. First of all we are talking about the shingles he used to cover the front of his boutique and not the type we contracted and have never had such pain without relief since our days in that special club we joined by accident when first arriving in Hollywood – “Crunch and Pain” sounds like an exercise club and so we excuse ourselves and never associate with the members of what was decidedly not an exercise club – evident by the lack of movement by the members.
The shingles, we learned, were from The Magic Castle. After the fire, Mr. Ted Baker purchased the remnants of the saved pieces removed from the burnt structure. His store has the shingles from the roof on the outside and inside of his store and the front counter has wooden cabinets from the Castle. It is wonderful.
We were told by the very friendly and helpful staff that Mr. Ted Baker has different stores around the world and chooses different themes for each. We were lucky that he chose magic as the theme for this store. We have it on great authority – an employee at the Castle – that Mr. Ted Baker is actually a magician and a member of the Castle.
We’ve never bought clothes for ourselves – not even at Crunch and Pain – but if we were to do so, we would do so at Mr. Ted Baker’s store. If you are in the Century City / Beverly Hills area of California, please do stop by his shop and see all of the wonderful things he has saved from our art’s history. By all means feel the shingles both inside and outside the store. They are loose but they withstand even the most amorous caress.
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!
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.
Unlike eating an entire pint of ice cream whilst binge watching previously unseen How It’s Made episodes, we are not left feeling too guilty or dotted with chocolate stains when we watch the master perform.
Recently we attended a private party at The Magic Castle and saw the incredible Pop Haydn own the crowds gathered in the Peller Theatre for four performances. We legitimately attended the first show of the evening and then snuck in again for a later show. It was wonderful.
Pop f/k/a Whit Haydn works a room better than anyone we have ever seen. He interacts with the audience effortlessly and handles volunteers so well that each outing was like a lesson in advanced magic techniques.
He performed his iconic The Six Card Trick, Color Changing Silk, Mongolian Pop Knot and finished with his world-famous Four Ring Routine.
Magicians know that Pop has been performing these effects for many years but he brought each alive for his enthusiastic lay crowds last night as if it was the first time. He has a tremendous ability to take what the audience gives him and work it to the further betterment of his routine. He never drops his character or varies from the spirit of his persona.
We checked with our friends who attended the shows last night and to a one, each thought Pop was absolutely incredible, the highlight of the evening. That is saying a lot considering they had the entire Magic Castle filled with performers with whom to compare.
If we could have, we would have watched all four of his performances. Some would say that is obsessive and they would usually be correct but not in this case. Unlike fattening ice cream, excessive watching of Pop Haydn cannot clog one’s arteries, stain clothing or rot teeth. It can lead to bewilderment and disorientation but we are willing to take those risks for the benefits received.
Inside Magic Review: Five Out of Five – Our Highest!
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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