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.

Magic Castle to Open Second Location

Casa Del Sol - Montecito Events CenterLA Magazine reports 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.

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.