Rough and tumble guerrilla travel videos are where it’s at! Though if I really wanted to be guerrilla about it, I would’ve sneaked a camera into The Magic Castle and gotten some footage. But that would have been wrong.
Besides, I respect the places I visit. While I do, in part, travel for you, to inform you of some fabulous geeky places to visit (and help you steer clear of the not-so-fabulous ones), I – more importantly – travel for me, and I’m not about to get kicked out of somewhere fun just to get you some video footage. So there.
Magic must to be a West Coast thing. I remember when I used to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was on television back when I was living in New York, and one of the major locations for the Scoobies was, of course, Sunnydale’s The Magic Box, the magic shop eventually owned by Giles where the gang would meet up in Seasons 5 and 6. I remember watching and thinking, “Um, do magic shops actually exist anymore?” It seemed so old-timey. Then I became a fan of Neil Patrick Harris, and as I started reading interviews with him, he would talk about magic and magic shows and being a magician all the time. I was all, “Wha?” Magic certainly isn’t a New York thing at all. I mean, obviously big-name magicians play New York all the time. And, of course, there are children’s parties. Aaand, that’s it. It’s not a particularly popular hobby. Then I moved to California, and it seems like you can’t swing a cat without hitting a magic shop, or some kind of magic performance establishment. When I lived in Santa Monica for the first three weeks I was here, I would always pass by Magicopolis whenever I was walking around near the 3rd Street Promenade. I remember passing it and thinking, “Wait, so people actually do magic seriously here?”
Well, last night, I had the opportunity to visit the Los Angeles mecca for the magical arts, The Magic Castle. It’s an exclusive, members-only club, and in order to get in you need to either be a member magician, or attend as the guest of a member magician. (In my case, I was the guest of a guest of a member magician) The dress code is strictly swank, and upon entering the Castle, it feels a bit like stepping back in time. Though it opened in 1963, The Magic Castle feels much older, seeming more like a Victorian-era social club than a modern magic school. Yet, that’s exactly what it is. In addition to being a world-renowned clubhouse for 5,000 member magicians, it’s also the home of the Academy of Magical Arts, a non-profit organization devoted to teaching and furthering the art of magic.
As I walked around the jovially jumbled Castle, photos and caricatures of magicians past and present graced the walls. Magical memorabilia (ventriloquist dummies, various magical props, a pool table used by W.C. Fields, etc) sat in glass cases, and dapper gentlemen at tables scattered throughout the establishment entertained those waiting for magic acts in one of the Castle’s four performance spaces with slights of hand. There’s a feeling of history there; a history I had never thought to explore before, but was fascinating once I was immersed in it.
Sadly, due to a fire at the Castle this past Halloween, most of the Castle was closed for renovations, so I only got to see a small portion of the place. While I didn’t get to see the large dining room, the library, the ballroom, or Irma, the Castle’s resident ghost who plays any song you request on piano, I did get to see a show in the intimate Parlour of Prestidigitation (where I also enjoyed a drink, thanks to waitress service!), enjoy a drink at the bar, and get scared by a skeleton in a phone booth. Yeah, that happened.
My group and I were there to see Dave Cox, who is not only an excellent magician, but a funny one! He’s so good, he can have random people do his magic for him with nothing but the help of an Evil Hypnotist (Stuffed) Monkey. Seriously, he threw his deck to a random person in the audience, chose another random person from the audience to come up on stage, and had the woman on stage guess the card that the guy in the audience randomly selected from the deck. No, they weren’t audience plants. I mean, obviously there’s a trick to it, but that wasn’t it. That would be too easy… 🙂 His whole act was pretty damned incredible.
So it was a treat for my group and I to sit with him at one of the tables out in the lobby and have him do card tricks just for us. For one, he had one of my party holding her hand over what she thought was the 6 of hearts through another trick entirely, only to come back to her and reveal that someone else’s card had found its way under her hand and it was now the 7 of diamonds. That one kind of blew our minds a little. The other was when he and my friend, Alex, split the deck and shuffled, shuffled, shuffled them only to have the cards Dave dealt come up all Kings and the cards Alex dealt come up all Aces. WHAT?! But….HUH?! 🙂
I can’t really do the tricks justice in print, so you’ll just have to go to Dave’s website for some quality video of his work.
If you find yourself in Los Angeles, and have any sort of an in to The Magic Castle, I highly recommend you take it. It’s an excuse to get gussied up, and it’s a truly unique, fun night out. I plan on trying to go back in January once the Castle is fully renovated. If I see Irma, I’ll tell her you say hello!
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