By Joe Furlow
Although I have served as the General Manager of the Academy of Magical Arts since early 2012, I was already familiar with the Academy’s world famous clubhouse “The Magic Castle. ” In 1981, I was fortunate enough to visit the Club to witness the taping of a commercial, which included my Magician Uncle Paul Fidler. Even though time has passed since that day, I still remember the sense of awe and wonder walking the halls as a seven-year-old child. Today, although I am much older, I still get that sense of awe and wonder.
Heritage of The Magic Castle
The Magic Castle began as a private family residence. Rollin B. Lane built the original mansion after falling in love with a similar residence in Riverside, California. The Kimberly Family, who was very acquainted with the Lane Family, had built their family home and graciously passed on the name of the architect and contractor to Mr. Lane. Mr. Lane hired both and built an exact replica starting in 1906 and completing work in 1908. Although the Lane family occupied the Castle until the late 1930’s, the Castle had fallen on tough times by the time The Magic Castle founders approached the owner in the early 1960’s. Bill and Milt Larsen, who were born into a magical family, wanted to fulfill their father’s lifelong dream of opening a private club for magicians, and provide an environment where magicians could thrive and network.
On January 2, 1963, the Larsen’s opened The Magic Castle after relaunching the Academy of Magical Arts in 1962. The Academy, which had 150 members at the time, has grown to over 5300 members worldwide and has established the Magic Castle as the “Mecca of Magic.”
Inside the Magic Mecca
The Magic Castle is 24,000 square feet of magical enjoyment. The mansion and adjacent former parking structure includes four permanent showrooms, five bars, a dining room for 138, three impromptu showrooms, a piano playing ghost named “Irma”, a museum, artifacts from both the world of magic and entertainment and a membership that includes both celebrities and celebrities of magic.
However, behind those red velvet curtains, the Academy and The Magic Castle includes more. With just under 200 employees, The Magic Castle is only open for 10 shifts per week. We wrestle daily with the Castle, which is a living, breathing entity that requires a lot of repair and upkeep. We have stumbled upon projects started decades ago, only to be abandoned for one reason or another.
As a youngster, I had the opportunity to roam the hallowed hallways of The Magic Castle and now, my ten year old twin boys, Jack and Noah, continued the tradition. They get to open and close the numerous doors (that sometimes lead to nowhere) as well as visit all of the numerous gags The Magic Castle had installed over the years. My children, similarly to our membership, get to introduce The Magic Castle and the art of magic to friends and family. I remember the first time a magician fooled me and every day on the job I get to relive that experience time and time again.
Despite our challenges, the Castle welcomes over 10,000 members and guests into our dining room on a monthly basis. We have grown from a $4.8 million food and beverage operation ($8.7 overall) to achieving $11.8 million ($18.7 overall) in 2017. We have added more magic, and now boast 32 shows per night, all fulfilling our mission statement drafted in 1962 that states: “We are an organization that encourages fellowship, promotes the art and maintains the highest ethical standards in our actions, and to advance the art and provide a positive image of magic and magicians worldwide.”