Inside the Magic Castle
Few experiences in Los Angeles are more iconic that a visit to the world famous members-only Magic Castle. This Victorian Mansion above Hollywood Boulevard houses the Academy of Magic Arts, an organization devoted to the advancement of magic. For an evening of evening of entertainment and magic, members and their guests must follow the strict dress code: coat and ties for the men, eveningwear for the women. No casual clothing. The castle is 21 and over, with the exception of Sunday brunch which is open to families. The magicians and members believe that following the rules as well classy and respectful behavior helps make an evening at the Magic Castle truly special.
Photo by Julie Wolfson
Once inside the castle, bartenders man several bars to order drinks. Visit Irma, the invisible piano playing ghost, and be sure to ask her about the odd painting of a baby over the fireplace. Head upstairs to one of the five dining rooms for dinner. To see the magic shows, explore the castle to find stage magic and grand illusions in the Palace of Mystery, cabaret style magic in the Parlour of Prestidigitation, and sleight of hand close up miracles in the 22 seat Close-Up Gallery. The Magic Castle offers that special experience that brings out the child-like wonder in everyone from the staff and magicians to the members and guests.
On a recent night at the castle, one magician found himself stranded on stage in shredded clothes after a fight with an invisible tiger, while another made a bubble float and bounce in mid air. Magic feats are performed, jokes are told, members of the audience often find themselves being pulled into the act on stage.
For the people who think they can guess how the magicain performs each trick should be sure to catch a show in the Close-Up Gallery. Once inside the audience sits so close, that during tricks by magicians like the award-winning David Minkin, the audience can not stop gasping and shaking their heads in disbelief.
David Minkin has been performing at the castle for many years. According to Minkin, "The Castle is unique in that it is generally considered the home of the world's magic community. It is an extraordinary venue, and every week it features some of the most talented magicians from around the world. It is invitation-only, so you need an invitation from a member or a magician to attend."
When asked about performing in the Close-Up Gallery, Minkin replied, "The Close-Up Gallery is a special room for many reasons. Not only is it the most intimate room at the castle with only 22 seats, but it is also the most sought after place for magicians to perform. It has a rich history in terms of the names of prominent magicians who have performed in it. And this room, with its elegant decor and tiered seating, showcases close-up magic in a very classy way.
In the past, I've enjoyed working there with guys like David Acer, John Carney, and Richard Turner. It's always fun passing each other in the green room and talking about the shows, and the guests, and performing in general."
When asked to divulge how he performs his tricks Minkin, isn't likely to share his secrets, but he is willing to offer advice on how to visit this members-only club. "Write a nice letter or email to a Magic Castle magician letting them know how much it would mean to you to visit. If you demonstrate that you are going to be respectful of the club you have a good chance of getting in."
For accommodations close by, stay at the Magic Castle Hotel. Local attractions include the Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Madame Tussaud's Hollywood, Hollywood Bowl, and Yamashiro restaurant which has the some of the most spectacular city views of LA as well as a Thursday open air Farmer's Market in the spring and summer.
In 2009, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Magic Castle mansion, Jim Bentley recreated one of Harry Houdini's famous straightjacket escapes while suspended by a crane high over the rooftop. With any luck and a little magic, illusions will be performed at The Magic Castle for the next 100 years and beyond.