Making Magic at the Castle……
I recently had the pleasure of performing for three nights in the Peller Theatre at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. I thought this might be a perfect opportunity to make a few first hand observations about the ways in which our beloved clubhouse has changed since I first performed there over forty years ago.
First and foremost the Castle is a very, very successful nightclub destination now! It was packed each of the nights I appeared there and the clientele were for the most part young, attractive and spending a bunch of money! The Castle is an expensive evening out for an average couple, but the novelty it supplies seems to make it a huge hit with everyone attending.
While watching magic is certainly one of the pleasures for first time visitors, I strongly suspect that the reason for the recent spectacular upswing in the Castle’s fortunes has more to do with it’s unique structure. It is a perfect “first date,” or “group venue” and everyone attending seemed to be having fun navigating their way through the many exciting treats that the building offers.
The AMA seems to have finally really got the food thing down! Everyone seemed delighted with the dining options, and this was certainly not always the case. While working I didn’t sample other than the bar food and it was great. I could dine on their burgers and truffle fries anytime, and the garlic bread is as good as “The Smokehouse” in Burbank— high praise indeed!
The drink prices are certainly no bargain, maybe I am out of touch with Los Angeles prices, but it certainly didn’t in any way deter the visitors from drinking a LOT of alcohol. In those early ‘70s days we always semi-jokingly referred to the Castle as a “Disneyland for Drunks,” but it now seems like the hippest theme club in town. I really think this is a great testimony to the careful shaping and revisionism that has been lavished on the club. In many ways it might be highly appropriate to refer to it as “The New Castle,” and maybe that is a part of the somewhat controversial rebranding that is going on there.
One of the qualities we loved about those early Castle years was the quirky and amateurish way in which it not only survived but also seemed to thrive—seemingly in spite of itself. The Castle is now very slick indeed and those “bumble bee flying in the face of all odds” days are long gone. Maybe I am just showing my age when I mention that I miss them. However, that original “crazy dream” has an amazing longevity and I sincerely hope that the new Castle doesn’t have the problem of becoming yesterday’s hot spot in the mind of it’s trendy new patrons. Of course the Castle does have the benefit of dues paying members who also hand out the guest cards that fill the club.
As a performer I was knocked out by the professional manner in which I was treated by the club, it has gone to great lengths to plan what you need and give it to you. A lot of this thoughtful and careful consideration is evident in the detailed and precise manner in which entertainment director Jack Goldfinger communicates with his performers. Not only is his written work “spot on” but he was there every night to make sure things went smoothly. Bravo Jack.
There was plenty of great magic going on in the various showrooms last week but due to the pressures of doing three shows a night I hardly got to see any of it. However I could tell by the overwhelming approval from members and guests alike that I was missing some treats. I am particularly sorry to have missed Danny Orleans and Jan Rose, who were blowing minds left and right with their two-person mindreading set in the Parlour.
I had the huge pleasure of working in the Peller with the great Jon Stetson presenting his dazzling comedy and mindreading show. Jon is the ultimate pro and quite simply one of the finest performers on the contemporary scene. I added my, rather uncharacteristically serious, sleight of hand into the mix and we delivered an interesting and unusual 40-minute show for the tiny audience in the little jewel box showroom. The last time my old buddy Jon and I worked together was at the fabulous Mystery Lounge in Boston, and we turned the energy down a little in the Peller from that gig or we might well have caused the room to implode!
What would the Castle be without the chance to mix with some of your favorite magicians and it was a special delight to get to spend some quality time with Andrew Goldenhersh, Steve Mitchell and the legendary Piet Paulo. Each night the magic conversation and reminisces ran to 4.00 in the morning and left us wishing we had the ability to keep our eyes open longer!
It was a fun filled three days and I enjoyed it immensely. As a long term Magic Castle member I would be lying if I didn’t say there are things I miss from the “Good Old Days…” but in honesty most of the changes are for the better and it certainly does one a power of good to see magic presented so successfully to so many people. Viva La Castle…