The PPB’s Diamond Circle Welcomes Magical Milt Larsen

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Photo by Margie Barron

From l, Jo Anne Worley, Dale Hindman, Elizabeth and Richard Sherman, Milt and Arlene Larsen.

The Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters needed a little magic, so Milt Larsen was welcomed into the PPB’s Diamond Circle. It is a special honor reserved for industry veterans of a certain age (60-plus) who have made a significant contribution to broadcasting. “It’s bragging rights to be in the circle, and he deserves to be there,” said PPB chair Jeanne DeVivier Brown. Larsen had lots of friends and colleagues gather, among them his wife Arlene Larsen, co-producer of their Pazzazz! musical; Oscar-winning composer Richard Sherman; great friend and funny actress Jo Anne Worley; Dale Hindman, former head of the Academy of Magical Arts; Terry Hill, who co-produces the “It’s Magic!” shows; and Michael Horn, president of the Cable Radio Network. All were cheering at Milt’s induction at the last PPB luncheon, which also honored his music-loving friend Michael Feinstein. Milt told the story about young Feinstein playing piano at the old Variety Arts Theatre for tips, “so I got him his first ‘paying’ job.”

A true Renaissance man, Larsen, 82, is the co-founder (with his late brother Bill) of the legendary Magic Castle, now celebrating its 50th anniversary. But it’s because of his TV and radio history that Milt was given the Diamond honor. “I started in broadcasting as a teenager doing shows with veterans and other things on radio. And the legacy continues to this day doing shows for CRN.”

The PPB’s first vice president Larry Vanderveen was pleased to make the presentation for the organization. And after listening to Vanderveen’s lavish introduction, Milt gratefully gushed, “That was fantastic. I didn’t know I was that important.”

Vanderveen said Milt “has brought his magic to broadcasting for decades. But he first learned about entertainment as a young boy performing around the country with his successful magic family. He and his father Bill Sr., his mother Geri, and his younger brother Bill Jr., brought the mystery of magic to thousands in a vaudeville style act that was a hit everywhere it played.” Getting Milt interested in broadcasting in the late ’40s was his mom Geri, who was the very first female magician to have a weekly TV show in L.A. on KTLA.

Milt caught the TV bug too, and decided he wanted to be a TV gag writer. Vanderveen explained that Milt “found novel ways to study this new craft — like searching for old TV scripts in dumpsters behind studios — talking people into letting him write gags for nothing. And it paid off! His talent and his perseverance landed him a job as a staff writer, and sometimes on camera bit player for Ralph Edwards’ Truth or Consequences hosted by Bob Barker. He did well, because that job continued for 19 years.” Milt also had a key writing role for many other TV shows including The Jim Nabors Show. On top of all that, Milt has written and produced magic specials for the three major networks, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Nowadays, among his many projects, Larsen is back creating unique entertainment for radio. For the past six years he has been producing and hosting two weekly programs for the Cable Radio Network. One show, “Hear Them Again—For the First Time,” celebrates the fabled Tin Pan Alley era of American Music. The other CRN show is “Hit Parade Cavalcade,” with hit songs from the ’20s and ’30s. Composer Richard M. Sherman co-hosts “Cavalcade” with him. Milt is a song writer too, and he and Richard have written a number of songs together.

On Milt’s “Magical Journey” (the title of his recent autobiography), he was able to make his father’s dream come true when he created the Magic Castle in Hollywood. An excellent carpenter, Milt did much of the work himself restoring the ornately styled 1909 Hollywood mansion and turning it into the magnificent Castle visitors seen today. The latest news from Milt is that 20th Century Fox is producing a movie based on his world renowned private club for magicians.

And now — Abracadabra! Milt Larsen is now in the PPB’s Diamond Circle.

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