18 June 2012


I don't know if you know this but in the hills of Hollywood, there exists an actual castle of magic. "Wait, but The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in Florida," you say. Indeed it is. Newsflash: Harry Potter and Hogwarts aren't real, but this magic castle is. Constructed in 1909, the Magic Castle is a place where working magicians go to train, socialize, and perform. It's an exclusive place where only those with an accredited magician friend gain entrance.* Basically you need one of the Weasleys to get you in.

Ten years ago, I went to the Magic Castle for a friend's birthday. Since then I've never stopped talking about it and have patiently been waiting to go again. A few weekends ago, I finally got that chance. Accompanied by five of my fellow magic lovers, we RSVPed a month in advance and my sister even flew down from San Francisco for this momentous occasion.

For the record, George and I are serious magic fans. Being twins, everyone always used to ask us if we could read each other's minds. The answer: Of course we can, duh. Most of our mind reading involved ESP card tricks -- very impressive to middle schoolers based upon our performances -- and we accumulated a small repertoire. Also, when we were young, we idolized David Copperfield, aka the greatest magician in the world ever, and once saw him transmute a chicken into a half duck / half chicken hybrid. Plus we shook his hand after the show and got signed photos.

Yes, David Copperfield transferred his magic skills directly to us via touch. It's true.

Anyway, basically you go to the Magic Castle to have a mandatory (overpriced) dinner and then you line up to watch a series of magic shows. There are different performers each week so it's a toss up who you end up seeing. Most of the shows we attended involved card tricks but there was some sleight of hand and a lady who did illusion-y things with metal rings and scarves. Last time I saw some incredible close up work with foam balls and bubbles.

There's also Irma the ghost pianist, who takes requests and has an impressive song list at her phantom disposal. That last sentence is a disservice to how freaking cool it was in actuality. From Lady Gaga to classic standards, Irma knew them all. For awhile we were trying to figure out how Irma worked but as is the case with all magicians, especially the ghost kind, it's better to just go with it.

The Magic Castle is also all about old school glamour so you have to dress up heavy. I hate having to wear fancy shoes and throwing on a suit but for this occasion, there was no choice. So the sneakers came off, the shirt and tie went on. If you have a mini-cape or an elegant walking stick laying around, this is the place to bust them out. If you're a guy rocking a small ponytail, you will gain respect here as an obvious magician type. Eye liner, also not a bad idea.

Since all the shows are in pretty intimate venues, you're sitting right in front of the magicians and in some cases we were right in the front row. One thing I didn't realize about magicians is that they're basically stand up comedians with extra special skills. Everyone was hilarious and engaging and total performers. They picked on the audience and also picked volunteers from the audience.

Now I never volunteer for anything because I hate participation but since I looked fast -- and also because "you look like you're good at math," direct quote -- I was tasked to be involved in a show stopper that involved marked playing cards, a locked cigar box, running into a dark alley to hide the box, mystical mumbo jumbo, and a Polaroid. (Clearly these magicians were big supporters of The Impossible Project.) Everything then reappeared when they were supposed to and the audience clapped heartily. Basically I made their entire act worth watching. Yes, I was totally the star of the show in a peripheral way. Copperfield's powers clearly have not waned in the twenty years since I touched him.

In conclusion, I think everyone should go to the Magic Castle at least once in their lives. It's not Hogwarts but it's not a bad substitute either. And if anyone figures out how to actually cast a Wingardium Leviosa or Accio spell, I'll pay good money to come watch that too.

*= This is actually not really the case anymore. You can become an associate member and gain admittance, or just get a room at the Magic Castle Hotel next door and gain entry that way. But saying that the only way to gain entrance is to know a magician is so much more exclusive and mysterious. And you know how I feel about faux-exclusivity.