Magic Castle Revisited. Part Five.

Further explorations in our retro Magic Castle tour.

The maître d’ in the dining room was Monty, who was a very important figure to impecunious conjurers such as myself. During those years a group of diners could hire a magician to perform at their table for 30 dollars. Many months when it was creeping perilously close to rent time, Monty would save the day for me. If I could score three “dinner shows” during the final week of the month then our 80-dollar rent was covered while still leaving a ten spot to give to Monty. I once performed a show in the dining room for my childhood hero Tony Curtis (Houdini to me), and after a 40-minute show he stiffed me for most of my fee by slipping a single five-dollar bill into my pocket as I left the table. Still, this was Hollywood, so being stiffed by a movie star was so much better than being stiffed by a regular Joe.

Looking back from the current day to the sepia past, I am also amazed at how keenly I remember the blue pungent haze of smoke that surrounded and almost obscured the various bars in the Magic Castle; whether it was, the numerous cigarettes, occasional fragrant cigar, or that grand old pro Johnny Platt puffing away at his pipe. Sometimes it was difficult to see even such substantial bartenders as Jimmy Campbell or Lauren through the curtain of smoke. I seem to remember that some of the younger members smoking less salubrious substances in the parking structure that was later to become the new “wing” of the Castle. I don’t have any personal knowledge of this, or then again perhaps my memories are just hazy.

One memorable Magic Castle highlight was the night the Los Angeles Fire Department closed down the Castle from business as usual. Unperturbed the management and magicians moved the shows and action into the parking structure where the magic continued unabated and without missing a beat. I was performing that night and it became a great story to embellish and share over the years. That particular evening is how I best like to remember Bill Larsen. Our President donned a spiffy tuxedo and played the elegant host for the entire evening, while the drab parking structure was transformed into the Magic Castle al fresco. It was a splendid occasion as the potential disaster was somehow miraculously transformed into an improvised triumph. I have always assumed that it was on that extraordinary evening that the idea for the Palace of Mysteries and the subsequent expansion of the clubhouse was born.


~ by Nick Lewin on June 19, 2017.

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

  1. Hi NickI love these memoriesI remember performing for a week in the parlour, mid 80’si had long hair at the time.I was walking upstairs by a table where Dai Vernon, Bill Larsen, Bruce Cervon, and Jules Laneir (?) where sittingThey stopped me and said how much they liked my act , but that I need to cut my hair. I would never work with long forward to the next monday night, the first i am not working…i have no props and I am with my friend who just passed the bar exam – so i had a few glasses of champagne. well, all of a sudden, Bill Larsen Approaches me and asks i would be interested in doing a private tableside show. Now, Harry Anderson was working that week and all the regulars were there that they could have asked – but the show was for the Rolling Stones ( who were at the LA Colosseum the next day) – my point is the only reason they asked me was because I HAD LONG HAIR ! So much for their advice…Now to tie this story into yours – at the end of the show – after i burned a borrowed $100 bill from Keith Richards ( who looked 100 years old then and have a wad of hundreds in his pocket that was a few thousand dollars at least ) and found it in a dinner roll -THEY STIFFED ME ! No offer for tickets, No TIp. Nothing !oh well, i guess getting stiffed by rock stars is better than nobody. At least I got a good story…Miss yousteve

  2. Hi Steven, What a great story. We both got stiffed by celebrities—that’s LA for you! I remember when I did my punk magic act (Nick Costello) I had a great punk haircut from Attila (THE punk cutter in LA) and people HATED it. I mean HATED it! You did much better with your long hair. You were really there in the great days, I am so glad you are enjoying my little stories. I miss you too–either you have to come visit in Austin or I need to visit Nashville again. We have so many other stories to share! Nick

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