Thursday, August 27, 2009


Well after living almost sixty-two years, I am finally getting the opportunity to visit "The Magic Castle". John's friend, Bonnie Gordon is performing in a production of "The Fantasticks" at one of their larger stages there tonight and John's mother, Mary (God love her) is providing the money to go there to see the show. My cousin (the late James Aubrey Crabe) was a member there before his untimely demise in 1990. I was always (and still am) so proud of my cousin, Jim, the son of my Aunt Carrie and Uncle Lyall. He was always such a gentleman. I remember his gentle sweet spirit and amazing good heart. Jim was always more interested in you than he ever was in himself. He was a master magician and knew Milt Larsen, the Magic Castle's founder. Larsen used to stage a great show called "It's Magic" at the old Variety Arts Club Theatre that my uncle and cousin used to always participate in. My cousin went on to become a world famous Hollywood motion picture cinematographer on such movies as "Rocky". "The Karate Kid", "Save The Tiger", "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman" and of "The China Syndrome". Cousin Jim invented the process for filming inside of a meat freezer. Do you remember how wonderful those scenes in Rocky were when Stalone is punching the sides of beef? Someday I would love to build a tribute to him in a theatre type complex. I can say forthwith that my cousins have all been amazing. As for the castle itself the building is an authentic Chateau-style mansion built in 1909 as a near duplicate of the Kimberly Crest House and Gardens in Redlands, California. It was taken over in 1963 by Milt Larsen, who began converting it to its present state.The Magic Castle houses the Academy of Magical Arts.The mission statement of the Academy of Magical Arts reads:"The Academy of Magical Arts, Inc. has been and will continue to be the premier organization in the world dedicated to the art of MAGIC. We are an organization which promotes the art of magic, encourages fellowship and maintains the highest ethical standards. We provide a friendly environment where members and their guests can enjoy the art and each other's company. Our goals and objectives are to advance the art and promote a positive image of magic and magicians worldwide."The Castle, located in the hills above Hollywood, is a popular destination for local and visiting magicians. Its first and largest illusion is its size -- the building appears much larger inside than it does from the outside. However, not everyone will have the opportunity to observe this, as the Magic Castle is a private club and only members and their guests are admitted. (Members can sponsor groups for special events as well.) A strict dress code (coat and tie for men, cocktail attire for women) is enforced, but the atmosphere inside among magicians is not formal.
One of the Castle's most famous members was the late Dai Vernon, an expert in sleight of hand, who often sat in the bar area entertaining and teaching. Vernon was the Magician-in-Residence at the Castle for many years, up until his death in 1992. Other famous magicians who have been regular performers at the Magic Castle include Mark Wilson, Jay Ose, Senator Crandall, Johnny Platt, Kuda Bux, and Billy McComb. Many "celebrity magic hobbyists" have also performed at the Magic Castle, including Cary Grant, Steve Martin, Johnny Carson, and recently Jason Alexander of Seinfeld. The top magicians in the world perform in several different formats, including an intimate close-up room, a larger parlour, and a grand stage. Informal performances around the 5 bars give magicians the opportunity to learn from and impress peers. Magician members interested in magical research have access to a substantial library of resources. The Magic Castle is also known for its Junior Program (the Magic Castle Junior Group). The Junior Group comprises highly skilled young magicians, many of whom have gone on to be well-known performers and professionals.The Junior Group consists of many members, some of which are: Edsel Chiu, Michael Stern, Aaron Rabkin, Kyle Eschen, Sean Trinh, Nathan Gibson, Mike Jacobson, Ben Jackson, Rmax Goodwin, Thomas Neal, Miles Santoro and there are also 2 auditions a year where magicians from around the world come and try out to be admitted to the program.
At the Castle, visiting non-magicians can see the best of magic being performed close up. The lobby of the Castle has no visible doors to the interior, and one must say a secret phrase to an owl to gain access, exposing the entrance to the club. Once inside, visitors can go to any of the five different shows, each of which changes weekly, where magicians exhibit their skills, and can listen to Irma, a piano-playing ghost that takes requests.
Magicians must audition to join the Academy of Magical Art and the Castle. Non-magicians can join, but only as associate members.