Okay, Dustin. Here are the three posts that I have put on the Magic Castle Forum. Some were in answer to questions, but I can only include here my own thoughts, and slightly differently constructed. I hope it makes sense in this way:
Well, there it is. A lot of discussion will be starting now, about how much control the Academy of Magical Arts should give up to the group led by Diana Zimmerman which is attempting a sort of "hostile takeover" of the Castle, taking a great deal of control from Milt Larsen and the AMA and putting it in the hands of this newly created "management" group.
Many things will have to be decided by the Board of Directors, some of which may have to be decided by the new incoming board, and some perhaps by the membership itself.
Some of the most important decisions will be in Milt's hands, as he owns the trademark "Magic Castle," the rights to "Irma" and the sinking stool, and many other key pieces of what we have come to love as the Castle. There is not much that any of us can do about these things, if we want to keep the Magic Castle as it now exists at the R.B. Lane mansion.
On the other hand, I think that the Board of Directors and the membership should seriously consider moving to a new location. We have outgrown the present space, and have been chafing under the difficulties of running such a large and popular clubhouse and restaurant in such a limited facility.
We can not generate much more income at the Castle, unless every night becomes like Friday and Saturday, and that would destroy the experience for our membership.
If we have to give up too much control to our landlords, in order to get a secure lease that will carry us into a successful and growing future, will the Castle be really worth preserving?
If we continue on as we have been without a lease, then our problems with the landlord will continue to grow. If our income grows, the landlord will continue to demand a larger share of it.
If our income shrinks, there will continue to be more pressure to push us out and put in something more profitable. Where will we be 10 years from now? I fear in the same boat we are now, or perhaps even a less powerful position.
Right now, we have the wherewithal and the leadership of Milt to move to a much larger and better facility here in the Los Angeles area. Ten years from now, it will be much more difficult. I say, let's move now. Let's create a newer and better Magic Castle that will take us into the 21st Century.
There are always those who fear change, and love the familiar. People who have grown up in an old church, for example, remember their baptisms, weddings, and funerals held there. They can't imagine tearing down the building, or moving to a new location.
But there is a moment in which a decision sometimes has to be made. Either they continue to grow, or they begin to die as a community. The new building must be built, the move must be taken. I think the Magic Castle has reached that point.
I don't think it matters now what kind of deal we might be able to wrangle out of the current landlords and their new management group. I think we should find a new location where we can have a secure future and more room to do more and bigger things.
I think we should start talking now about moving the Castle to a new location. The Magic Castle is not a building, no matter how many great memories and how much shared history we may have with this wonderful place. The Magic Castle is the Academy and its membership, and the idea of a place that honors, promotes, and celebrates the art of magic.
As much as I love this old building, I believe we should say goodbye and start a new and wonderful venture in a place that gives us room to dream and grow.
There are several very wealthy, important people involved with Diana on this, evidentally. The Glovers, including but not limited to Andy are solidly behind the new management group. They are apparently intent on "saving" the Magic Castle by forcing an unprecedented amount of control over the AMA, the Board of Directors, and the food and beverage concessions.
From what I have heard, which is of course only second hand, the Board, Milt, and the new management team come to a mutual understanding on these issues, which looks to be very difficult, or the AMA and Milt will lose the lease and be forced to move.
Another possibility, one that I could never support, is that the AMA can agree to the landlord's term and we part ways with Milt, thus losing the name Magic Castle, and many of the trademark items that are so much of the Castle experience, including the sinking stool, Irma, and many of those photos, paintings, collectables, and decorative items that belong to the Larsen family and not to the AMA.
I can't believe that Milt would ever allow his dream to be hi-jacked and put under the control of some outside, for-profit group whose responsibility and accountability was not to the members, or to the promotion and celebration of magic. Regardless of what high motives Diana and the others profess, they are coming in from the outside, without the support and knowledge and backing of the Board, Milt, or the membership, and they are helping to put the future direction of the club into the hands of our landlords, whose interests and those of the membership are bound to be very different.
I personally hope that he does not give in to this pressure, and that the board stands with him. No matter what disagreements I have had over the years with the way Milt and the board have run things, I believe that the integrity of our association is at stake here.
To allow those who are not elected and ultimately responsible to us to have the greater say in running the club is to give up our independence and become like guests in our own home.
I think that we should seriously consider the possiblity of a new place for the sake of our future as an organization, and to see if we can get the Board and Milt to lead the way. Milt is brilliant at just this sort of thing, and has certainly created something out of nothing many times before. If we can get him to rise to the challenge, I bet he and the board and the myriad supporters Milt has made along the way can create a new and even better Magic Castle here in the Los Angeles area.
After all, I don't think Milt has any more walls left in the Lane mansion he can hammer on anyway. Maybe he would enjoy starting over. I know I would love to be a part of creating a new, bigger, and better Magic Castle. I am afraid that if we don't do it now, we will not be as capable of pulling it off ten years down the road.
Milt, is it even possible to do such a thing? Would you be willing?
Diana is Diana Zimmerman. She is a very longtime member of the Magic Castle, and for many, many years has done a great job of running the Magic Castle Junior program. She was a very successful magician in her own right, and was married to well known magician and pianist Dick Zimmerman. She has for many years owned and run her very own, very successful company. There are several other people allied with her, including a very well-known and well-to-do magician, evidentally.
As I understand it, the Glover family and this consortium have formed a management company that is seeking to displace the one run by Milt Larsen which currently is the lease holder on the Magic Castle property. Evidentally, the new group professes to be only interested in "saving" the Magic Castle by taking over most of its operations, including the restaurant and bars.
The Glovers own most of the hill that the Magic Castle sits on, including the parking lot, the Magic Hotel, and everything up the hill including the Yamashira Restaurant. The value of this property is rising drastically, along with all the rest of the properties in this part of Hollywood. The Glovers would probably never consider selling the Magic Castle or any of its surrounding properties. As the value of the property increases, the cash flow from the Magic Castle seems to be less and less appropriate--a large hotel might make better sense as an investment, for example.
I believe that this rising expectation for the performance of the Castle is going to continue, whereas the actual ability of the Castle to increase its profitability has fairly peaked. This of course, is just my understanding of the situation, after years of talking with many different people both inside the Magic Castle and in the Hollywood community where I used to live. I am sure there are those on the board or more closely connected to the situation who could correct me, or shed more light on the situation.
It looks to me like a squeeze play that we can never win. That is why I am trying to argue that the future of our organization needs to be protected by finding a new situation where we can have more security and independence, but also so that we can have the room to continue to grow and create even better possibilities for the furtherance and celebration of magic.
I don't believe that the Milt or the Board should agree to any terms with the Castle Partners, LLC, since in my opinion any such deal will only prolong the wait for a day of reckoning which is bound to come, and which we should face now from a position of strength instead of years from now when such a move would be even more difficult. I think we should choose the future, and leave the current building.
Whit Haydnwhit@whithaydn.com www.whithaydn.com