Thursday, July 15, 2010
The Magic Castle
Once, I went on a date with a much older guy who asked me out after hearing me sing one of his grandfather's songs. On the date he brought along HIS MOTHER, who glared at me all night with pursed coral lips, and smoked like a chimney. At the end of the night when this bespectacled Dana Carveyesque man asked me on another date, I almost said yes. I almost said yes because he lured me with his membership to THE MAGIC CASTLE.
The Magic Castle is legendary in LA lore. It really is a castle where an association of magicians perform and there are shows all throughout the night. The rules for admission are strict. You have to be a member or invited guest, men must wear jackets and women must wear cocktail dresses or "fancy pants suits". No photography or cell phones are allowed. So when Maureen hooked it up that we could all go, let's just say I was titillated beyond measure. It's always nice to feel part of the in crowd.
Once you enter the castle and pay a $20 cover, you are directed to a bookshelf. "Open sesame" you say to the bookshelf and the thing opens, and you enter a strange Victorian labyrinth filled with gilded bars, artistic curiosities, card tables and hidden seance rooms fashioned in heavy wood. Older, strange looking people (late in life Orson Welles..), some with long white beards, many fat and all dressed in their raggedy finest, sit at tables teaching each other card tricks while younger folk gawk with their mouths hanging open and a drink firmly in hand . There is a lot to gawk at- a restaurant, several bars, a museum filled with Edgar Bergen's and other ventriloquist dummies and a locked library containing all the secrets of the trade. Turn the wrong corner and you will be all alone staring at yourself in an upside-down mirror, or hearing a ghostly woman's voice ask you for a drink.
There are several shows going on at all times in different areas of the castle. As a guest you can go to them all, although dinner guests get preferential seating and I HIGHLY suggest you get a dinner reservation- if not you may end up feeling like a second class citizen because the employees at the castle all act like snobby butlers protecting the family silver. Since it feels like you are in a Miss Marple miniseries, or at least an episode of Scooby-Doo, all the guests are polite to each other and sociable and put on their elegant faces and voices. There is nothing better than seeing so many of my friends who I usually see wearing jeans and slouching on the couch, poised like ballerinas in their chairs and flowers in their hair. And of course, there is nothing better than men in suits.
And then there are the shows. I have always thought magicians were weirdos and placed them at the end of the show-biz food chain just above stand up prop comics. But lord was I wrong. The shows are amazing, particularly the main show which starred the very handsome and punnily named Justin Kredible. A woman danced with glow sticks and hula hooped at dizzying speed, a man turned cards into metallic flowers with lightning quick grace, and Mr. Kredible did all sorts of fancy tricks including making a woman's wedding ring somehow go from an envelope her husband was holding to being pressed in her bra. "I still can't figure it out!" the husband told us later. "I felt the ring!".
I was awestruck like a little girl and kept letting out an involuntary "WHAT?" throughout the show. And I think that's the true magic of the Magic Castle. In this city of dreams and illusions, one doesn't feel very much wonder at all. Not with the endless concrete, the flat temperature and cynical career moves. I was sincerely delighted and amazed multiple times, no more so than when the player-less piano (supposedly manned by a ghost named Irma) in the downstairs bar played every song I asked for with a whimsical sense of humor. The first song I requested was "The Way We Were." First it teased me with "Memory" from Cats and then launched into a rendition of my song. I could have stayed there all night, pretending to be someone lovelier, requesting songs and shaking off all the stark realities of the everyday.
Directions:7001 Franklin Blvd. One block north of Hollywood Blvd. Between La Brea and Highland.
Hours: 5pm-1am and Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Price:$8 for valet, $20 cover, and whatever you spend on dinner and drinks.