It’s Always Magic with Milt Larsen

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Milt Larsen and Randy Pitchford at Cardini exhibit.

Milt Larsen and Randy Pitchford at Cardini exhibit.

Christmas came early to the Magic Castle in Hollywood. The legendary bastion of the magical arts unwrapped a special present when the only North American exhibit of items from the career of the great Cardini was unveiled. Milt Larsen, founder of the Magic Castle with his late brother Bill, greeted friends and fellow magicians at the occasion, saying, “This is a wonderful reason to celebrate.”

Those in the magic world have great admiration for the late master magician Cardini, who was said to be the most imitated performer, creating signature moves that magicians still use today. The simple act of fanning out a deck of cards was started by Cardini and copied ever since. Cardini’s career started during the time of Houdini and spanned almost half a century.

The dedication of the exhibit at the Inner Circle of the Magic Castle turned into a family affair for the Pitchford family, Cardini’s real last name. Randy Pitchford, grand-nephew of Cardini, outbid David Copperfield for the priceless artifacts of his historic relative. Now on permanent display at the Castle are Cardini’s original costumes, along with his monocle (a trademark of his act), his specially made cards, his gold topped cane, and other magical items. And there is a recurring video showing highlights of his signature act. Other family members on hand were Carole Pitchford (Cardini’s daughter) and Peter Pitchford (Cardini’s nephew), Randy Pitchford’s wife Kristi, and son Randall.

Representatives from the Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees of the Academy of Magical Arts were also at the dedication with many members including the beloved “Princess Irene” Larsen, Erika Larsen, Arlene Larsen, and Dale Hindman. Plus Tippi Hedren, JoAnne Worley, Bernie Shaw, and the impressive design team that created the exhibit.

There’s even more magic coming this weekend. Milt Larsen told me he has another edition of America’s longest-running all-star magic revue “It’s Magic!” The show is presented by Milt Larsen and Terry Hill, and it will be returning to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza next Saturday, Nov. 30. It is a live stage show with top professional magicians from all over the world, and it has been delighting generations of fans for more than 50 years. This edition features Christopher Hart, Jay Johnson, Adam Trent, Rick Thomas, and a rare performance by Milt Larsen, ready to mesmerize magic enthusiasts of all ages.

The tradition of an all-star magic show started in 1956 when two young entrepreneurs, Milt Larsen and Oliver Berliner, produced a show called “Hocus Pocus” at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles. The following year, the show was renamed “It’s Magic!” and moved to the bigger Wilshire Ebell Theater. At first, the shows played for a very limited time only. However, as the number of fans grew, the number of performances was expanded. The success of “It’s Magic!” proved there was a genuine interest in the ancient art form of magic and sparked the idea of forming a full-time private club for magicians and magic enthusiasts. Thus was born the Magic Castle, which opened its doors in 1963, and is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. Many credit the “It’s Magic!” show for rekindling the resurgence of the art of magic in America.

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