Thursday, January 30, 2014

There's Magic in the Air

I'm a pretty lucky Mistress of History because I have some of the most interesting and diverse friends around. Thanks to one such friend, your intrepid leader 'o the blog got to set foot in the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA.
Now I know some of you are squee-ing like some sort of teenage girl in heat and others are rushing to Google to figure out what the heck I'm talking about. Don't touch that dial - or trackball - or mouse - or touchpad - or whatever because I'm going to tell you right....now.
The Magic Castle is a showplace for some of the world's greatest magicians. It is also a place they can hang out, have drinks, or dinner with each other and watch each other perform. You have to be a member to get inside this illusive, secret club of prestidigitation (I'm really excited to have a reason to use that word, just saying) or know a member who is willing to put you on the VIP list so you can watch him perform.
The Castle was built in 1908 and was a private home to real estate mogul Rollin Lane until the 1940s when the Lane family moved away. At that time it was divided into multi-family apartments. Ultimately it was turned into a home for the elderly. In 1961, Milt Larsen - a writer for 'Truth or Consequences' bought the mansion with the express plan of turning into it a private club for magicians. Milt's dad was a world famous magician and this was a bit of an homage to him.
The Magic Castle opened it's newly refurbished doors in 1962 and has since been a place for magic and friendship.
The walls are filled with posters and props from some of the masters of the fields. People like Houdini, Copperfield, Blackstone (He was on Reading Rainbow), and Doug Henning.
We saw my friend perform in a smaller space on the bottom floor of the Castle called The Parlour of Prestidigitation. It gives you the feeling that you're in a Victorian parlor. Pretty neat. You have to pass down winding hallways, steep staircases, and across richly carpeted floors to get to it. The sense of history simply permeates the walls. You can't help but drink it in.
The usher announced my friend's act with flourish and a final comment about no picture taking. He teased the audience by dropping Cary Grant's name and said to come ask him after the show if you wanted to know why. Being the Mistress of History that I am of course I asked him. What a great story followed!
Cary Grant was on the Board for the Castle back in the Golden Age of Hollywood. He wanted to have one place in Hollywood where he could go without threat of cameras and reporters. So, he had the board implement the no-picture taking rule. Of course Cary being Cary he would stand outside and greet people as they came to visit the Castle...all the while denying who he was. Apparently people would call the next day or two and tell the staff what a wonderful Cary Grant 'impersonator' they had manning the door. Oh to be a fly on the wall for those nights!
There you have it. The Magic Castle in Hollywood has stood for over 50 years and contains a history the likes of which can not be rivaled. For the record, you have to speak into an owl and walk through a staircase when you enter the Magic Castle. It's the little things, maninis.
Neil Patrick Harris is the current president of the Castle. He is an amateur magician having learned tricks in his downtime during the filming of Doogie Houser.



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