We pulled up the short winding road that lead to The Magic Castle that sits on a hill in the middle of Los Angeles. From the outside the castle look like an old multi story house that someone decided to build a city around. The parking is at the bottom of the hill. Guests pull up to the house and are greeted by parking attendants who park your car at the bottom of the hill.
On this day, Easter, people were dressed in their best clothes, waiting in line to get in. Someone wore an Easter bunny costume and took pictures with the families that were waiting. Since there is no photography allowed inside, this was the only picture that we took of our time there.
Once inside, you find yourself in a small room with a gift shop attached to it. There are no doors other then the one that we just came through. Once you have confirmed either your membership or your guest pass (The Magic Castle is “members only”) you are presented with a book case where, if you say the magic words “Open sesame”, the book case slides to the side, and a narrow hallway appears about 7 feet long with a suit of armor standing to the right. At the end of the hallway is a large foyer with a bar on the far wall ahead of you. People were milling around, ordering drinks or trying to simply usher their children somewhere else.
To the left of the bar is a small waiting area with a small table and 4 chairs. The chairs are old, as is everything in this mansion, and the table is worn with the drinks of millions of patronages before it. Facing the tables there are two hallways to the left and right, each leading to a small “theater” where close up magic shows are provided hourly for small crowds of around 20-40 people depending on which room.
On this visit we chose the larger room to see a young magician around 18 years old who was still in high school. An “apprentice” of sorts, this young man was under the tutelage of seasoned magicians and was presenting his routine this afternoon as a means of practicing his art. We were all brought into this small room where the children were all given front row seats. About 8 kids in total, all under the age of ten. I sat with my girlfriend directly behind them as their parents found seats or stood in the back to watch the show. The children talked to each other excitedly, showing off, trying to be funny, amusing each other as children often do.
Then a woman came to the front, welcomed everyone to the room they were in, and introduced our young magician. He came out, and began his show. His patter although well rehearsed had a touch of nervous energy that could only come from inexperience. The children, to young to follow the quick nervous pace of his routine, could barely keep up. To his credit, he tried to include them by having to do things like “shuffle this deck” or “flip through the cards and stop at any time” but to the children’s discredit, they were all a bit overwhelmed by the experience, needing prompting from their parents behind them more then a few times.
The show lasted about 20 minutes and was entertaining, even though the children created some hiccups along the way. My girlfriend and I left the room the way we came and headed bay to the foyer where the bar was, and headed up the stairs.
At the top of the stairs is the dinning area. Today a brunch buffet was being served and people were either trying to get their food, or were trying to get to one of the many rooms around it. We were seated and then shown to the buffet. There were many choices from salad, to shrimp cocktails, bacon, eggs, and an omelet station just to name a few things. (I even pocketed a few chocolate chip cookies in my pocket for later.)
The food was delightful. Better then a lot of buffets I’ve been to. The service, while rushed from the holiday crowd, was prompt and courteous. We felt bad for the servers. Having so many children around was obviously unusual and obstacles were at their feet left and right. We made sure to leave a good tip when we were done.
While we were eating, an older gentleman was going from table to table making all sorts of things from balloons. He stopped and asked us if we wanted something. Of course we couldn’t turn down the opportunity so we said yes and he quickly took a seat next to us.
Then he pulls out a single long balloon and starts to tell us a whimsical story of how he had challenged the worlds greatest balloon artist to make a teddy bear on a scooter. The story involves the size of the balloons and the egos of the combatants and finally resolves in the end by the fact that our story teller had used a shorter balloon to do what his foe could not do with a longer one. “Proving…” as he said “that it’s not the size of your balloon that matters, but how you use it.”. We laughed at his obvious allusion and thanked him as he wished us well and went on to the next table. (Later we would find that he was one of the chairmen of the Magic Castle and had helped to run it for over 30 years.)
After our meal we headed to the big afternoon show in the large theater. We went to the end of the dinning room to a long hallway that sloped down towards a much larger foyer then when we first entered the castle. Inside was a bar and a waiting area that lead into another room that held a stage with about 150 seats.
As we waited outside of the theater, I talked to a nice woman who was sitting next to me on a bench with her two children and her husband. I asked her if she had been here before, to which she told me that this was their first time and that she had been offered some guest passes by someone in a “mom group” and that this day was the last day she could use them before they expired. She told me how much they were enjoying everything and asked if I had been there before? I told her that this was my third time and she quickly asked me if it was always this chaotic and busy?
“No and yes.” I explained to her. “The children make it chaotic, but there’s usually not this many here. It is however always this busy.”
She laughed in an understanding way and said that she had just come from a previous room where a show had been presented and one of the children kept interrupting and trying to spoil the magicians tricks, much to the chagrin of the magician. She went on to tell me that the parents of the child said nothing while everyone else tried to hush the child.
“I felt so bad for the magician” she said. “I couldn’t understand why the kids parents did nothing???”
I agreed and as I did, a host came to the front of the line to allow everyone entry into the theater. We quickly found our seats and as in the previous performance, the children were allowed the front two rows. We waited for ten minutes when the lights dimmed and a voice came over the speakers to announce the beginning of the show.
Soon the lights came up on the stage and a man came out from the side of the curtain. He introduced himself as our M.C. and wowed the audience with a few tricks. Witty and obviously skilled you could tell that he had probably done this hundred if not thousands of times before. After his skills had been demonstrated he introduced another young man who had graduated high school and was currently touring his act all around the state. The young man came ridding in on an electric skateboard and proceeded to amaze the audience with a routine involving a sea shell and an amazing amount of sand that kept pouring out of his hand. He spoke no words as a soundtrack played in the back ground and he went thru his routine. He was charismatic and poised and you could tell that he would have a good future doing what he obviously loved.
As he finished and the curtains closed once more, our M.C. came to the front of the stage to preform a few more tricks and then introduced the last act. A tall man came out dressed as one would see an old magician from the 1920’s. He carried a cane and as the music played, he proceeded to do slight of hand with 4 white tennis balls. Expressive and silent he produced the balls swimmingly out of thin air. You could hear gasps come from the audience as he turned one ball in to two. Two into three. Then three into 4 without ever once reaching in to his pockets. Once he had the audience amazed he pulled out three large metal rings and began to arrange them in ways that defied explanation. Again you could hear the quick inhalation of air as the audience once again gasped at his skill.
He ends with a big finale to which the crowd gives him a thunderous applause. The curtain closes once more as our M.C. emerges for the last time and wishes the audience a happy Easter and thanks them for coming to their show.
MY girlfriend and I sit and wait for the majority of the people to leave, and once gone, begin our exit. We are done for the day. It’s time to leave.
We walk to the front of the building and push open a door with an exit sign that leads to the front foyer. This door is also hidden to those in the entrance and I can see the look of surprise on a little girls face as the wall opens up and we exit. “Look mom!” she squeals as she pulls on her mothers arm and points.
After we exit the building we give out tickets to the parking attendants who rush down the hill to get our car. Moments later we are in our car, headed home.
Every time I’ve gone to The Magic Castle I’ve enjoyed myself. The place is full of little things to amuse and delight. The customer service is always good and the atmosphere is always one of amazement. It was for me, the most time I’ve spent outside of my house for a long time. Although the standing and walking were painful because of the arthritis in my knees, the skill of the staff and talent helped me to forget my pain for a moment, and feel like I was one of the kids running around the castle floors.