Last December, I traveled to Los Angeles for a week of meetings, and I was fortunate to make it to the Magic Castle for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. When I arrived home a few days later, I was delighted to see that not only had my January 2003 Genii arrived, but it featured several articles about the Magic Castle. What perfect timing.
The articles were great and made me wish that I could immediately take another trip to the Magic Castle so that I could see all of the aspects of the building that I had missed on this trip. Ah well, perhaps next time.
However, I dont think the articles provided a sense of what a visit to the Magic Castle is like. For those of us that have been there, it may not be necessary. But I suspect that many magicians have never been to the Magic Castle. I thought I would describe a little about my visit there. Perhaps some of you can add some descriptions of what your visits to the Magic Castle have been like.
I was fortunate to get tickets to the Magic Castle from a magician that I know online. I wont post his name so that he doesnt get asked for tickets by everyone traveling to LA, but I want him to know that I really enjoyed my visit there.
One Tuesday evening last December, shortly after some torrential rains stopped failing in LA, we left our meetings a little early and caught a cab from Marina del Ray to Hollywood. I sure am glad I dont have to drive in the gridlock that is LA. Fortunately, we arrived in plenty of time to make the shows, but we were a bit hungry because I had made our reservations at the last minute, and our dinner reservation wasnt until 9:30pm. Because we had guest passes (as opposed to being members), we had to eat dinner at the Castle in order to get tickets to the stage show, and we also had to pay a cover charge of $15 per person. There are also VIP passes that dont require a cover charge, but I think they still require dinner to see the stage show.
One of the difficulties at the magic castle is that you really have to work hard to see all of the shows. There isnt much time to dilly-dally looking at all of the fantastic decorations and surprises in the Castle. The Close-Up Gallery only seats twenty people, and on a busy night you have to line up quite early in order to get into a show. The night we were there, they seemed unable to give us exact times for the close-up shows, and crowds were aggressive in lining up early. That meant less time wandering around, finding the cool gags that are everywhere.
You are never more than a few steps from a drink in the Castle, and drinking is heavily promoted. I suspect it is a good money-maker for the Castle, but perhaps it also loosens people up for the shows. People are let into the shows five minutes before they begin, and pretty women come by an offer to fetch drinks from the bar. Sometimes they are even pushy about it. Note to teetotalers: water and soft drinks are available from the bar, and the water is free.
We managed to see four official shows and two unofficial shows while at the Castle. We saw both performances in the close-up gallery, both in the parlor, one visiting magician who set up shop downstairs, and one magician in line. I also was able to just see some utterly fabulous mind-bending coin work for about a minute while standing in line. It looked like it may have been Shoot Ogawa, but I wasnt sure, and he was some distance from me. I also wasnt about to give up my spot in line, and Im too shy to introduce myself to magicians I dont know.
Our close-up shows were pretty good. The first was by someone who loudly proclaimed his skill at sleight-of-hand, but I saw most of his moves, and one of my friends saw several as well. But he was pretty good. The second close-up show was Jonathan Levitt, the guy who was doing magic on the X-Files a while ago. He was really funny, although I felt a little bad for the slightly embarrassed women who was assisting him. He skates a thin line between outrageously funny and rude, but I think he succeeded pretty well. Im not sure my wife would have agreed, could she have seen the show.
In the parlor, I saw a mentalism show and a "grown-up kids show". This was the second mentalism show Ive seen, and my conclusion after both of them is that mentalism is really hard to pull off successfully. Neither were that interesting to either me or my non-magician friends. The "grown-up kids show" was Woody Pittman, who was really funny. He acted like a grown-up kid who was a bit shy, but most of his magic was done really well. His linking rings routine, which he used to close his show, was phenomenal.
Downstairs, a magician set up and showed off his stuff. He wasnt on the billing, so I dont know how official it was, but they were sort of formal shows, in a small room set up for the purpose. Does the Magic Castle let anyone do this sort of thing? It seems like a great way to get experience. He was pretty good, too, though he used a few too many decks of cards. Later, we saw someone perform in line, and he did a pretty good job. I think one of the thrills of the Magic Castle is that you may get to see more magic than is on the billing. People often seemed to be thrilled by apparently impromptu close-up magic, and there are few places you can count on seeing it, unless you have a magician as a friend.
One impression I had after all of the close-up magic I saw: people really do pick a card tricks A LOT, dont they? I saw some fabulous effects of that sort, but I was tired of them by the end of the evening. Food for thought
We didnt make it to the stage show, so I cant comment on it. Its really hard to see all five magic shows in the Castle. When I saw the picture in Genii that showed by Dai Vernon and Slydini on the billing for one night my first thought was Wow, I wish I could have been there, and my second thought was, "What is the chance that I could have seen both of those shows?"
Dinner at the Magic Castle is not so great. Its overpriced for the quality of what you get. Its not bad food, mind you, just not nearly as good as the price we paid for it. Fortunately, it comes fairly quickly so that you can scoot off to the next show.
If you have time, definitely walk around the Castle. Check out the downstairs, where it may be quiet if there are no unofficial shows happening down there. There is still a lot to see. There are tons of posters and other memorabilia, as well as many funny things to see.
I highly recommend going to the Magic Castle if you get a chance. There is a lot of magic, both on and off the billing, and there is plenty to keep you occupied for several hours. It is worth the trip.
Is anyone else interested in describing their positive experiences at the Castle?