The ‘Magic Castle Lite’ and plenty busy!
Everyone in the magic world has been worried and concerned over the extent and scope of the damage to the Magic Castle in Hollywood that occurred recently. While the fire damage was considerably less than it could have been, as is so often the case, the water damage was a very real problem and has been causing the greatest concern.
I took the opportunity to visit the Castle last week and see how things were working out during what is being referred to as the ‘Magic Castle Lite’ phase of our beloved clubhouse’s refurbishing and eventual full scale re-opening. I am glad to say that while business was far from ‘as usual’ it was very functional and very, very busy.
My visit was on a Sunday night and the place was as packed as it possible could have been. In fact I’m guessing any visiting fire department official might have had an instant desire to start counting heads and exits! Maybe the reduced 10 Dollar cover and 20 Dollar buffet could have helped. In fact the buffet looked great and I might eat there a little more often at those prices! A couple of well drinks at 22 Dollars are pretty pricey additions to any evening and should help defray any losses in a regular reduction in the food prices.
The guests were checked in at the front desk but then entered the Castle through the side entrance to the lower area next to the library. The line for the buffet was long and seating limited and lots of guests were perched at weird spots, eating what looked like great food. The shows were confined to the Peller Theatre, the Parlour and the Palace and they ran very smoothly.
It was a delight to see Jamy Ian Swiss perform in the Peller Theatre, I was very impressed by his recent television appearance on ‘The Craig Ferguson Show,’ and watching him do 30 minutes of highly skilled, smoothly presented and deceptively relaxed looking card magic was a real highlight for me. This is the kind of specialized performance that you can really enjoy and admire based on its true magical skills. I thoroughly enjoyed watching, watching for and sometimes failing to see sleight-of-hand moves that I knew must have happened during the seamlessly constructed routines. Bravo, this was pure magic, presented in a slick and skilled manner that would bring a glow to any lover of ‘real close-up.’
Jamy’s show might have been slightly better served if his appearance had proceeded as scheduled in the Close-Up Gallery, however his sophisticated and polished performance skills made his highly specialized show a winner with everyone in the room, even if their viewing was slightly less optimal than the Close-Up Gallery would have allowed. If you love good card magic don’t miss this guy!
I sadly had to miss the appearance of my long-term friend Paul Green in the Parlour due to scheduling problems, but heard enough raves from visitors to know that he delivered the goods in his normal immaculate and heavy hitting manner. This guy is pure-pro all the way and always a credit to the magic world. Paul is one of the busiest pros in Los Angeles and achieves this by knowing his craft inside out.
The Palace was a quirkier affair. I was delighted to see the legendary Jim Steinmeyer perform two rare and arcane magic illusions. His scholarly and professorial presentation of these gems was the kind of thing that reminds you that the Castle really is a club for magicians. Frankly, I would have enjoyed a longer set as his segment was over all to briefly for my taste. When you entice one of the greatest minds in magic to give a rare public performance, I could use more of the show dedicated to the unique opportunity.
Performing the major portion of the show in the Palace was the relentlessly upbeat and smiling Alex Ramon. The crowd really enjoyed Ramon’s show and his experience with Ringling Brothers and the Disney touring magic show was highly evident. One tiny quibble, why follow Steinmeyer performing a re-creation of the still mindboggling Jarrett’s ‘Sawing Mystery’ with a similar box illusion that looked big enough in size to be the packing case for the tiny cabinet that made the Jarrett illusion so astonishing?
Other effects featured by Ramon were an update to the Die Box, involving an iPad, which rather overplayed the Lie Detector App involved, again proving that less really can be more. Much more effective was his introduction of a cute twist involving an iPhone into a rather standard Crystal Casket illusion. The highlight of Ramon’s act was a very effective sequence of magic involving a light bulb and a paper bag. It was a delightful routine that showed a great deal of originality and audience pleasing power. However, I would have gladly traded a little of his performance time for one more ‘forgotten gem’ from the mind of Jim Steinmeyer.
Over all, the entire evening proved that even functioning as ‘Castle Lite’ there was enough of everything needed to present the punters with a highly enjoyable experience. On a personal level, one of my highlights was standing at Valet parking after the show with ‘Card Guru’ Howard Hamburg discussing the exact quantity, quality and variety of passes used by Jamy Ian Swiss! Hey, sometimes a double undercut really just doesn’t do the job as well……….