Magic Castle Launches Milt Larsen’s Book and Fond Memories

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Photo by Margie Barron

From l, the Magic Castle’s king Milt Larsen and Frank Barron.

The world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood has seen many impressive performers and guests over the decades, but none as important as an author who had a book launch recently. The reason? The book called My Magical Journey: The First 30,000 Days, was written by Milt Larsen, and without Milt there would be no Castle.

In January the Magic Castle will celebrate its 50th anniversary of the mystical and mysterious club for magicians founded by Milt and his brother Bill Larsen. And the book My Magical Journey chronicles the creation of the Castle, along with telling the story of the Larsen family and their love for magic.

My Magical Journey is Milt’s fourth book, available at the Castle, via Amazon, and other sources. It features many stories, both amazing and amusing. There are scores of Hollywood stories, history, and even a little gossip about some legends.

A celebrity crowd gathered in the Castle’s Inner Circle for the book event, and Milt gladly wrote personal messages for each. Among his guests were Tippi Hedren, Ruta Lee, Kate Linder, Alison Arngrim, Barbara Van Orden, Jeraldine Saunders, Tracy Weisert (The Neighbors), Erin Murphy (Tabitha on Bewitched), and Hollywood PR wizard Harlan Boll. Plus comic Geri Jewell reported that she’s now writing her own book. All were chatting away about their favorite Magic Castle experiences over the years.

There’s a lot of humor in his book, and Milt starts off his magical literary journey by noting, “I was born bald and overweight! On top of that my parents were magicians!” Magic was a family affair for the Larsens. All dabbled in magic, even to putting on private shows in their own theater they built at their Wilshire home. That’s where the seeds for the idea of a Magic Castle were planted.

The book dedication is to Milt’s magic-loving criminal attorney dad, William Larsen Sr., magician-mother Geri, Brother Bill, and the “dedicated members of the Academy of Magical Arts who helped make the dream of a private magic club become a reality.” Carol Marie was on hand, and deserves credit for the Magical Journey book she carefully designed and edited.

One special person missing all the fun was Arlene Larsen, Milt’s terrific wife who just had knee surgery. Of course the book reports how they met, when the ultra-creative Arlene was a veteran in the theater, film, and television costume design business and was Milt’s costume designer and coordinator for various events. In addition to being a fine producer (behind Pazzazz!), she still plans the best parties at the Castle.

In addition to the Magic Castle, decades ago Milt had the popular Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica. It was a British-styled theater that featured singing, dancing, magic, and novelty acts, with Bernard Fox as “the chairman” who presided over the entertainment. There was a time when Mae West had her own private box seat at the Music Hall to enjoy the shows. And the Variety Arts Center in downtown L.A. also featured Milt’s “It’s Magic” productions.

Early in his career, Milt was a TV writer, writing for the popular Truth or Consequences show, while “Brother Bill,” eventually became a TV producer. Milt also wrote for numerous TV comedy shows. But magic was his first love.

On a personal note, the history of the Magic Castle is familiar to me, since Milt Larsen and I go back more than half a century, when both of us were TV comedy writers and I visited the Larsen’s Wilshire home many times, where many magicians gathered and greeted you with “pick a card.” I also saw Milt, a fine carpenter, build much of the Castle himself with the fine woodwork done by the magical master craftsman.

Milt Larsen certainly has taken a magical journey, and I’ve been around to see a lot of it. When I got his book, I stayed up past midnight to read it. I couldn’t put it down because of all the wonderful stories that are pure Hollywood, pure nostalgia, pure memories of such good times. For the man who wrote My Magical Journey: The First 30,000 Days, I’m wishing Milt Larsen 30,000 more.

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