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.

Pop Haydn is a Guilty Pleasure

Pop Haydn - Photo by Billy BaqueWatching Pop Haydn is a guilty pleasure for us.

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!

Photo Credit: Billy Baque

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.

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.