The Magic Castle…..now and then.

My alarm over the news of the fire tonight at the Magic Castle is greatly abated by the news that they are scheduled to be open again by friday. It takes me back to another time but the same place in history…….

My second home in Los Angeles during the seventies (as readers of my columns will be well aware) was the Magic Castle. I have no idea how many weeks I worked in the various showrooms but I can honestly say that one night stands above all others in my memory when it comes to the weird and wonderful department.

I was ready to perform in the Palace of Mysteries when I pulled up in my car to the parking attendant. However I was instantly aware that something was in the air. The lobby and entryway to the Castle was filled with people and a buzz of excitement filled the air. The parking valet quickly filled me in on what all the excitement was about. There had been a surprise visit by the Los Angeles Fire Department and they had put down their official foot. The Castle had been deemed unsafe for visitors until various changes had been implemented.

This couldn’t have been a huge surprise to anybody as I am pretty sure the Castle must have been teetering on the very edge of official approval for many years. Even if the Fire Department

hadn’t caught a glimpse of McComb scattering burning embers from his pipe onto the carpet there must have been many causes for alarm.

To most clubs the fact that their members and guest were not allowed in the clubhouse might have curtailed the evening’s events there and then. This was definitely and defiantly not the case for the Castle and quick thinking saved the day and created a unique event.

The entire activities had been relocated from the Castle into their adjacent parking structure! Tables, chairs, lights, bar service, shows and guests were now to be found in a garage. Best of all the Castle guests were milling around formally dressed to the nines in this outrageously informal setting. Not a single guest removed their jacket or ties, in fact with a splendid sense of sartorial elegance Bill Larsen had donned a tuxedo for the occasion as, scotch in hand, while he directed the proceedings.

I performed my show as planned in the new location and had an additional sense of joy at the absurdity of the situation. It was the first and last time I dressed up and pulled money from a lemon in a garage! Fortunately I was not unfamiliar with the parking structure and had in fact spent a little time in it with Channing Pollack the previous evening reflecting on life and what not. I still treasure memories of both events.

This entire scenario was repeated for several more nights until the necessary changes had been completed. It was a glorious demonstration of the quirky and indomitable spirit that made the Castle what it was.

~ by Nick Lewin on October 31, 2011.

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