I first met Milt Larsen, co-founder of the Magic Castle with his brother, Bill, when I was just starting magic as a teenager. I met him through my then boyfriend and later husband (and happily still my husband) who was working backstage on Milt Larsen’s annual It’s Magic! show. It was one of the greatest annual magic shows in the world. I caught a lucky break when they needed someone to run follow spot and I ended up working for years on It’s Magic!. This was my earliest magic training, getting to watch and hang out with some of the best magicians in the world, and seeing their acts every time throughout the run. It was a great training ground, and was very inspiring. Without that exposure, I might not have gone into magic professionally, so standing next to him, I realized that Milt actually played a very important role in my becoming a magician. (Besides being such a funny, sweet guy.)
There was a big turnout for this special Inner Circle members only event at the Magic Castle where we got to ask him anything except the questions he always gets. I think even Milt was surprised by how many showed up to hear him talk.
Everyone loves Milt, and he is a great storyteller, so spending a couple of hours getting to ask the 88 year-old questions and just let him go was a real treat. The thing to know about his stories, though, is that there are at least two contradictory versions of each one. Over the years I have had the chance to hear many of his hilarious stories, so I was very excited to hear more this evening. I was not disappointed. He can spend fifteen minutes answering a yes or no question, and that’s the way we like it.
In my husband’s new book, The Greatest Adventure, he tells a lot of stories about It’s Magic! and the Variety Arts Theater (which Milt also founded) and the Magic Castle and the Mayfair Music Hall (yet another of Milt’s venues). Most of the stories were based on our experiences, but we also included things we had heard from Milt over the years. Speaking of books, the woman standing next to Milt and me in the picture is Carol Marie, who has been writing books with Milt for years. She worked with him on many books including Milt Larsen’s Magic Castle Tour, Magic Castle: Beyond the Smoke and Mirrors, and the book on It’s Magic! (which sold out before I could snag a copy and get it signed.)
Carol also worked on Milt’s Hockmann, The Great – Exposes Himself, a comedy book illustrated by Paul Butler. Paul also illustrated some of my husband’s original effects for Genii magazine, and in the Greatest Adventure book he tells a little about Paul, and explains why both of us have such great admiration for him. Funny, talented and kind, he is just the best of all worlds.
It was a great night with great stories from a man who has accomplished so much and is still going strong. He recently opened a small magic theater in Santa Barbara (where he and his wife live) called the Magic Castle Cabaret. There you get to see longer format magic, as at the Magic Castle performers are limited to 20 minutes each, while at the Cabaret they have a 45 minute show done by a single performer. I’m looking forward to going there soon!