The Magic Castle hits another milestone Saturday when the venerable showcase turns 30.
“We first opened on Jan. 2, 1963, in an old mansion with a six-stool bar,” said founder/owner Milt Larson.
“But we just keep on growing.”
In fact, the Castle recently opened an additional 5,000-square-foot area housing a museum, library and 50-seat theater. The area was created to house many of the artifacts that used to be displayed at the Variety Arts Center in downtown Los Angeles.
When VAC went bankrupt in 1989, Larson — who had personally collected the lion’s share of the thousands of pieces of magic props, books and scripts — packed up his belongings and took them back to the Castle.
Now Castle visitors can see such things as Charlie McCarthy’s hats, Jimmy Durante’s “Break-a-away” piano and any number of other odds and ends that have been part of the entertainment industry’s more mystical history.
The Castle, which is a private club, currently has some 5,000 active members, many of whom are performing magicians. Among the roster of its more famous members are David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy and Harry Blackstone, who will perform at the Castle this New Year’s Eve.
In order for magicians to become Castle members, they have to perform in front of a committee of magicians. Larson said new prospective magicians are auditioning every week.
“When we opened this club, we did it because there really was no place to go and see professional magic,” Larson said. “Most people thought it was for kiddie shows with clowns.”
Yet the Castle, over the years, has provided a performance ground for many of today’s current stars of magic.
“When people come here, they come expecting to see the best magicians in the world,” he said. “And that is what they get.”