Magic Castle Revisited. Part Three.

Get ready to explore the ’70s era Magic Castle a little further!

In the mid ‘70s the Castle was a demonstrably smaller space and contained just two show rooms: The Close-Up Gallery, and the Castle Cabaret. The Cabaret was a tiny theatre located in what had begun its life as the basement of the original building. It seated about 40 people in comfortable red velvet movie house chairs, and then another 15 or so people stood at the rear of the room. It was always referred to as the Big Room!

In my first week performing in the Castle Cabaret, sharing a bill with the delightfully enigmatic Kuda Bux, I had what remains to this day one of my headiest performing experiences. Prior to introducing the show, Don Lawton popped into my dressing room and with a twinkle in his eye casually informed me that Cary Grant was sitting with David Niven in the audience, and seated at the rear of the room were Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn. Was I nervous? Oh yes…

After concluding a show in the Cabaret I would often make my way up to the Castle library to see what was happening there. There were two ways to navigate this particular journey; one was via the grand central staircase with its imposing grandfather clock. The clock was widely rumored to have stopped at the exact minute Jay Ose had shuffled off this mortal coil; actually I heard several names mentioned in this connection, but most frequently it was Mr. Ose. However, generally my preferred route upstairs was a detour that involved a short cut through the kitchen that allowed me a brief sojourn in the little room that housed Prof. Dave Bourne. Bourne was the genial bearded ragtime pianist who brought Irma to life on most nights. Dave was a Kenny Rogers look alike and the kind of man who improved any day just by spending a few minutes in his company. I spent many happy hours in Dave’s anonymous little hideaway eavesdropping on guests as they requested their favorite tunes.

Dave and I had become firm friends dating back to the period when he had accompanied the acts at Milt Larsen’s Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica. One evening while performing at the Mayfair my Zombie Ball had dropped to the ground in mid routine, and Bourne had been deeply impressed with the nonchalant manner in which I continued the routine using just the gimmick. I’m not sure if the audience saw me sweat during the incident but they certainly heard plenty of laughter emanating from the orchestra pit.



Next post we will explore the upstairs of the Castle!


~ by Nick Lewin on June 12, 2017.

2 Responses to “Magic Castle Revisited. Part Three.”

  1. I remember visiting in 1974 and meeting Bruce Cervon,& Clarke Crandall,
    who had recently lost a large collection of playing cards. there was a note in Abra about it. I sent some over and it was he who got me into the castle. He was funny. Scary but funny!
    Cervon was young and very clever and I thought, a trifle arrogant but I had a great time. Eric Lewis took me for the guided tour. Vernon was in residence on ‘the chair’ and with cigar. Wonderful!

  2. Sounds like a great visit!

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