A visit to the Magic Castle. Thoughts and Musings.

I cut my eye-teeth performing at the Magic Castle but haven’t worked there in 25 years. I will be visiting the Castle three times within five days this week. That is about as many times as I’ve visited in the last two years! Today is the memorial for Glenn Falkenstein and on Tuesday I plan to visit just to spend time with Ron Wilson and Steve Mitchell. I can’t wait to see the final copy of Ron’s book.

Visiting the Castle as infrequently as I have in the 20 odd years since I left Los Angeles, it is always interesting to observe the changes. I really get sick of hearing the inevitable, “It’s not like it used to be.” Of course, it isn’t like it used to be; nothing is. There is a definitely commercial element that has snuck in, however the gloriously casual ‘Let’s try this!’ approach that made the Castle so special in earlier years might not cut it now. Everything costs more.

It was interesting to see the Castle packed out on a Friday night was my first surprise, then I realized that Friday and Saturday nights were no longer members only night. I didn’t eat at the Castle (I have heard so many times about how the food has improved, only to find that it is overpriced and mediocre) so Susan and I had to wait in the non ticket holders line for the Palace show. You certainly do feel a little second class citizen vibe, however  I can see the point. In the ‘Old Days’ I would just nip through the back door of the Palace and catch the act I wanted to see. That privilege of having a membership in the 2000’s has dissapeared.

The show was three quarters good. How’s that for tact! The highlight of the show (and the reason for my visit) was comedy magician Adam London who destroyed the lay crowd with his high energy and slightly abrasive sense of humor. His initial shows were in comedy clubs and it shows, has really got a sense of timing and pacing that make him outstanding. Look out for him to quickly become a first class contender in the performance world.

It must have been a couple of decades since I had seen John Carney work. Wow, this guy really sets the bar very high for close up performers who want to be as commercial as they are skilled. I loved the material and I loved the way John performed it. He was performing in the Parlor, and it was refreshing to see that he had actually chosen ‘parlor’ tricks for his performance. He looked so comfortable and at ease that his skilled sleight of hand just looked like a natural part of him.

Of course, a huge part of the enjoyment of a visit to the Castle is bumping into old friends. It was as always a joy to spend some time with Jack Goldfinger and Dove. Jack is doing a wonderful job with his booking at the Castle and he realizes that part of the job of a booker is to be cheerleader and coach for his performers. I remember that Jack’s old business card read, “Jack Goldfinger; Creative Thinker.” The Castle is very lucky to have his creative thoughts working for them.

So was the Castle as much fun as it used to be? How could it be without the chance to gossip with Jules Lenier, Billy McComb, Dai Vernon, and all the other great characters who have left us. Is it still fun to visit, “You Betcha.” The faults many of ‘old timers’ find are directly related to the way the Castle has been redirected towards a non-magician crowd and a commercial approach. As Frank Sinatra used to say so authoritively “That’s Life!”

~ by Nick Lewin on July 11, 2010.

2 Responses to “A visit to the Magic Castle. Thoughts and Musings.”

  1. We had a great time at the Castle on Friday night watching Adam London in the Palace.
    John Carney really baffled me and I must repeat “coconut.” Guess I know more about magic than I care to think, but the coconut was a total surprise. Nick and I discussed the moves in detail on Saturday, but we NEVER saw it coming. WOW.

  2. Thanks for your kind words.

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