Magic Megs is Magic Circle Officer and Female!

Megan Knowles-BaconMegan Knowles-Bacon is 22-years-old and a female and, according to the UK Telegraph, is the only “female magician to be elected to the upper echelons of The Magic Circle.”

The Magic Circle just began accepting female members 23 years ago and has less than 100 total (compared with 1400 total membership).  But the 109-year-old magic organization has made huge strides towards gender parity by electing Ms. Knowles-Bacon to Secretary.  She is used to the gender ratio being so skewed.  She was elected on November 7th.

“When I was first into magic I didn’t realise girls didn’t do it. It was normal for me. It was only when I joined the Young Magician’s Club aged 10 and there were about 70 boys, it was this sudden realisation of: ‘Where are all the girls?'”

Ironically, we had exactly the same “realization” when we joined magic clubs in junior high school.  We wondered where all the girls were and if we had chosen the right hobby to pursue.  We spelled “realization” differently than Ms. Knowles-Bacon though.

Ms. Knowles-Bacon sounds like our kind of enthusiast:

“I can talk about it for hours and hours,” she cries. “I just love entertaining people and giving them happiness. It’s watching their faces light up in shock, or wonder. Magic shows you can create the impossible.”

Her pals call her “Magic Megs” and she adopted the name for her web presence: magicmegs.com.

“There’s quite a few tricks that I wouldn’t be able to do,” explains Knowles-Bacon. “Like the ‘card on tie’ or wallet tricks, because they’re designed for men. If there were more women in magic, maybe they’d make more women’s parts.

“But it makes you more creative. Women can bring a different character. I demonstrate that with my ballet. I used to do tricks with make-up as well. I really played on being a girl and it went down well. You get some real comedy out of it, like asking a man [in the audience] to unscrew an eye shadow lid.”

Read the rest of the profile at The Telegraph.   We were very impressed and wish her the best of luck!

Magicians Laura London and Boris Wild Hurt Our Brain But in a Good Way

Laura LondonMagicians 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.

The Incredible Boris WildWe 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.

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.

Magician Ariann Black Profiled

Inside Magic Image of Ariann BlackMagician Ariann Black received a great write-up and interview in today’s Westword in advance of her upcoming shows this weekend at Theatre of Dreams in Castle Rock, Colorado.

Ms. Black is well-known to Vegas audiences and is now taking the craft she began at the age of four to Colorado.  She took inspiration from Doug Henning and his non-traditional appearance.

“At four, you don’t realize that there is more than one magic trick out there. I was fascinated with the idea that there was more than one magic trick and you could do all sorts of things. When I was twelve, I saw Doug Henning on television, and prior to that I had been told that girls couldn’t be magicians. But when I saw Doug Henning and I saw him with his look — he didn’t look like that stereotypical magician — I thought, yeah, I can be a magician, too. He really inspired me.”

The road has not been easy and she points out that within our predominantly male ranks, “women are just an oddity.” She has a small group of female magicians with whom she attends conventions and share.  Ms. Black is “always on the lookout for female magicians, especially the younger ones, to make sure that they know that kind of behavior (toward them) is not okay, it’s not acceptable and that they need to stand up for who they are and be respected. It doesn’t just happen in magic — it happens everywhere.”

Be sure to check out the full interview for her thoughts on animal acts, David Copperfield, Criss Angel and why magic still works with today’s modern audiences.

Ariann Black performs this Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Theatre of Dreams in Castle Rock. For more information on the shows and to buy tickets, visit the Theatre of Dreams website. Check out Ms. Black’s website here.

New Magic Prison Drama Close to Reality

Inside Magic Image of CellmateWe are very excited to announce that we are close to wrapping a new deal with an online video service for our series about magicians stuck in a women’s prison.  Black is the New Black will follow the life behind bars of four, formally dressed magicians who are housed in a medium security prison for crimes they likely committed but did for good reasons.

Like Orange is the New Black, Black is the New Black will feature a varied cast of characters designed to touch on the many personalities one can expect to encounter in a women’s prison.  There will be humor, drama and great close-up card routines.

We say we are close to wrapping up the deal because we have a friend who does independent contracting work for one of the big on-line video businesses who said our idea has the interest of some of the people he knows from that company.  Yes, we still need to work out the contractual details but that is the lawyer’s problem.  We are busy working on the pilot episode of what we hope will be a 13 episode purchase.

We need to work out minor concept details such as why four tuxedo-wearing magicians would be imprisoned in a correctional facility that exclusively houses female prisoners who wear prison uniforms.  We also need to develop all of the characters but here is a sneak preview of what we have so far:

The Magicians:

Lord Magique – the putative leader of the four magicians.  Always proper and slightly British with a wry smile and mischievous eye.  He has a rejoinder for every comment and is a master of card tricks.  We see the pilot opening with him enduring the 21-Card Trick as performed by one of the female cellmates and then establishing his dominant role on the prison wing with a devastating Ace Assembly into an Omni Deck.  The Omni Deck will be a bar of soap because glass bricks are forbidden in prisons according to our extensive research.  We’re keeping it real.

Deedle – Lord Magique’s former assistant and now a performer in his own right.  He is subservient but wily.  On the outside, he worked as a street performer and gained internet cred by escaping from dry cleaning bags that were certified as being unsafe for children.  He is a small man with big dreams.

Tray Langston – a descendent of magic royalty.  The fifth in a long-line of great, globe-trotting magicians.  He performs as silent act and maintains his silence even in prison.  His work with doves brings joy, amazement and nourishment to his fellow cellmates.

Vingus the Dingus – on the outside he was a con-artist and on the inside he is no better.  He keeps the crew stocked in the essential supplies that are tough to get in prison; such as cigarettes, thimbles, dice, billiard balls, playing cards, balloons and Oxycontin.  He is the one to know but so tough to know well.

The Guards:

Teresa “The Hun” Hunsucker – tough enough to chew nails and spit the nails made smaller and sharper by her razor sharp teeth.  She is not bright but makes up for it in her no-nonsense spirit.  Her motto, “Take No Prisoners” is both ironic and prophetic.

Wilhelmina “Mena” Schultz – is petite but potent.  She knows what convicts think because she was one herself – for 20 years.  Through a quirk in her work-release, she now guards the women (and magic men) she once lived among.  Nothing gets past her.  She exemplifies Tough Love but without much love.

Flora Fontana – the new girl on the guard’s team.  Flora is fresh out of an ivy-league college with a heart full of hope and a head full of crazy notions.  She had to decide between working with her father’s Wall Street hedge fund or becoming a guard – she choose to follow her dreams.  She falls for some of the oldest tricks in the book – literally – but shows the kind of naïve innocence that is sadly lacking in most modern-day depictions of female prison guards.

Warden P. Neal – to be played by a Paul Lynde type, Warden Neal will be a perfect example of why our prison system is broken.  Vain, egoistic and socially challenged, he will also serve as the perfect comic foil for inmate and wise-cracking guards alike.  Will probably have a really bad toupee too!

Inmates:

Darla Jean – former swimsuit model and now serving time for making illegal copies of Sports Illustrated to send to her extended family.  She is the girl next door if you lived next to the Playboy Mansion.  Not a stereotypical “dumb blonde” because, as she notes, “I am a brunette.”

Wilma Rubble – a former (?) gang member being held as much for her own protection as society’s.  She ratted out her gang’s leader and now she needs to hide among the general population while she does her time.  Each tattooed tear drop on her otherwise angelic face tells a story – some of them hilarious!

Vivian “The Viv” Vandersleet – a debutante with a weakness for formally dressed men and Oxycontin.  She has more in common with Flora than she cares to admit and envies her freedom.  She makes escape attempts each week that would put Houdini to shame.  Need to resolve costuming issues related to her preference for the “preppy perp” look.

Maggie O’Hara – salt of the earth girl with a smile for everyone she meets – likely because of her head injury in a botched prison escape attempt.  She is clumsy, awkward and could come into enormous money upon her release thanks to the life insurance policy she took out on her recently departed husband.

We will, of course, keep you up to date on the progress we make on this sure thing.  It is going to be big and we will be incredibly wealthy, powerful and bejeweled.  We cannot wait.