The Legend Of The Night The Magic Castle Moved Into The Parking Structure.

The older you get, the more you tend to repeat stories over and over again. Sometimes you know you are doing it, and sometimes you don’t. This is not a state of affairs that I see changing greatly for me in the near future. It really doesn’t worry me too much but must be pretty irritating for everyone else. Let me meditate on it for a moment and see if I can locate a major offender in the “to often told” story department. If I write it down maybe I can give it a rest for a while!

I suspect my go-to story would be one of my favorite Magic Castle stories, and believe me Castle stories are a major category all on their own in this particular area! Probably the number one story I tell and retell is about one particular week when I was performing at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. It was a cold, wet, and  wild Tuesday Night- well OK, it was a Tuesday night (it may not have been cold wet or wild, but you do tend to add color and unimportant  details when you tell a story enough times.) I was 22 years old and I was working in the Magic Cabaret, which was a small showroom in the basement of the Magic Castle. The performance area had been painstakingly converted from the mansion’s old wine cellars. The theater had about 40 delightful red plushy theater seats that almost filled the main floor of the auditorium. There was a small platform at the rear of the room where another 10 or 15 people could stand. Of course you wouldn’t want them standing if anyone from the fire department was present. There in lies the crux of the story……

That Tuesday night a fire department official visited the Magic Castle and the next day the Ax fell. I am actually not sure that this is exactly what happened, but it is the way it goes in my personal version of the story. Whatever the actual chain of events, at about mid-day on Wednesday the word came out that the Castle was going to have to be closed that night until various safety codes were updated, and other violations corrected. The Castle’s dining room was fully booked and Wednesday was a busy night in those days. Of course it might not actually have been a Wednesday night, but that is the way I remember it. No-one wanted the Castle to close its doors for the night so a plan was hatched that became a legendary and iconic event.

Our fearless leader, and President, Bill Larsen (or it could have been his brother Milt) decided to move the entire Castle proceedings into the parking structure behind the Magic Castle. A large semi circle of tables and chairs were assembled on the concrete floored structure. Potted palms, and service centers from the dining room were transported to the garage.  A variety of performers from the showrooms arrived dressed in their tuxedos ready to ply their trade in the new makeshift environment. Eventually the Castle’s guest for the evening arrived dressed in the Castle’s signature suit and tie/cocktail dress dresscode. As soon as the tables in the garage started to fill up a steady stream of service began to bring trays of drinks, and plates of food from the kitchen and bars within the Castle. It was business certainly NOT as usual. The air crackled with the urgency of the unexpected.

At a chosen moment, Bill Larsen stepped forward, in his elegant tuxedo, and introduced the various performers who comprised the show extrordinaire that had been assembled for the occasion.   It was a great show because not only did it feature performers like myself who had been scheduled to entertain, but also some big name guest stars who wanted to be part of the unique event. Marvyn “Mr. Electric” Roy was there, as was the great Harry Houdini or perhaps Houdini’s presence was an unfounded rumor thatwas later added to the collective memory of the event. The evening was a huge and triumphant success.

By the next day, the necessary safety changes had been implemented in the Magic Castle, and all the dining, drinking, and entertainment elements were moved back inside the four walls of the actual building . However, a new legend had been added to the unlikely success story that is our venerable magic clubhouse. On a more practical level within a few years that same parking structure had been converted into a seamless extention of the Castle and now it houses the new Palace of Mystery, Parlor of Prestidigitation, Peller Theater, library, and Inner Circle Bar. I was there and that is (pretty much) exactly the way it was.

As you may have noticed my post was as much about the fuzzy memories as the actual facts of the stories we treasure. I was delighted to receive a Facebook post from Dale Hindman who added greatly to the historic events in question. Here it is….

There is some additions to this story. Milt got the call that they had could not open up that night. He got the idea to move things to the parking structure. He called John Shrum, who as the Art Director at NBC for The Tonight Show. John was repsonsible for many of the changes and artistic touches already. John sent over trucks from NBC with the palms, chairs, tables, portable bars, etc. There was a big party already booked for that night, and they didn’t want to cancel them. Bill called Marvyn, as he and Carol were living practically next door. They packed the “act”, came over and performed along with some others. It’s all in Milt’s book as well. Thanks for the rememberance Nick.

~ by Nick Lewin on October 29, 2020.

2 Responses to “The Legend Of The Night The Magic Castle Moved Into The Parking Structure.”

  1. A beautiful recollection of those Golden times at the Magic Castle. Many stories of truuMagig indeed.

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