As a gathering point for some of the most talented performers in the business, the Magic Castle can lay claim to being the world's most famous private magic club. It is also the home of the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc., an organization dedicated "to the advancement of the ancient art of magic.''
The mansion that houses the Magic Castle was built in 1908 and originally served as the private residence of banker and real estate developer Rollin B. Lane. He owned orange groves, farms and ranches, much of which was developed into the area now called Hollywood. In the 1940s, the mansion became a multi-family home, and then a home for the elderly. Later, it was reconfigured into small apartments.
In 1961, an NBC television writer named Milt Larsen obtained the mansion and set about renovating it to fulfill the lifelong dream of his magician father, creating an elegant private club for magicians. The sadly neglected apartment building was restored to its Victorian elegance and reopened in January 1963 as the Magic Castle.
Today, admission to the Magic Castle is strictly limited to members and invited guests. There are five different magic shows offered in three showrooms each week, following either a complete dinner service or the special brunch held on weekends. Reservations are required, typically one week in advance, and a dress code is strictly enforced.
Dinner seatings are at 6pm, 8pm and 9:30pm. The entryes range from pastas to New York steak, seafood and vegetarian fare. A full bar service is available, along with a well-stocked wine cellar. Brunch seatings are at 11am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm and limited to no more than 115 persons per seating. Menu items include prime rib, turkey, eggs/omelets, pasta, chicken, bacon/sausage, shrimp cocktails, fruit, and various beverages.
After enjoying a meal, guests can take in some of the best magic acts available anywhere. The club's Close-up Gallery features two masters of close-up magic performing for no more than 22 persons, first come first seated, in the smallest of the Castle theaters. One magician takes the stage at 7pm and the other at 10pm. Lines start forming 30 minutes before each show.
In the Parlour of Prestidigitation, a "parlour'' or living room is the venue for traditional Victorian-style magic. The parlour tricks begin at 7:30pm, 8:45pm, 9:30pm, 10:30pm, 11:30pm and 12am. Meanwhile, the Palace of Mystery provides the stage for grand illusions and larger performances. One show is presented three times a day, at 8:30pm, 10pm, and 11:15pm. Preferential seating is offered to dinner guests in the Palace of Mystery.
In the cellar of the old mansion, the Hat and Hare Pub provides an intimate setting for relaxation, much like a traditional English pub, where local and visiting international magic notables can rub elbows. The adjacent Pub Lounge has continuous magic performances on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Weekend guests may receive the assistance of volunteers called the Castle Knights, who provide tours, anecdotes and information about the Magic Castle, including ghost stories. When a Castle Knight is on duty, the guided tours of the mansion start at 5pm from the Grand Salon.
Magicians and patrons can become members of the Magic Castle by joining the Academy of Magical Arts. It offers basic magic classes for adult beginners and prepares students to audition for full AMA Magician membership. The Academy has become a worldwide fraternal organization with a membership of some 5,000.
The Magic Castle / Academy of Magical Arts is located one block north of Hollywood Boulevard, between LaBrea and Highland. If taking the Hollywood Freeway (I-101), exit at Highland and travel south from the Hollywood Bowl. Nearby landmarks are Mann's Chinese Theater and the El Capitan Theater to the south. The address is 7001 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90028-8600. Valet parking is provided at the Magic Castle for $8 per vehicle. Guests may arrive as early as 5pm; the club closes at 1am.