Monday, March 14, 2011

Meredith Visits The Library of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle!

Abracadabra - you’re hired! Yeah, I wish it were that easy to get a library job because I would be the first person to go out and buy a magic wand (I already own the hat, gloves, and cape.) Well, if there were one place that I could learn such tricks to employment, it would be Hollywood’s legendary Magic Castle, which is a private clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts, “an organization devoted to the advancement of the ancient art of magic, with the mission to encourage and promote public interest in the art of magic.”

The Castle was originally built as a private home in 1909 and later taken over in 1960 by “Truth or Consequences” writer Milt Larsen to honor his late father, William W. Larsen, Sr, a renowned magician who had long dreamed of building an elegant private club for magicians. On January 2, 1963 at precisely 5pm, Larsen’s dream would come true as the doors to the Magic Castle officially opened, and now, some four decades later, has become the official home to the 5,000 members of the Academy of Magical Arts and their invited guests.

And tonight, I would be one of them!

Exploring the William W. Larsen Memorial Library of Magical Arts, a collection devoted exclusively to magic, is typically off-limits to non-magicians...until now. With Librarian Bill Goodwin as my magical guide, I was instantly levitated into the stacks and found sections of the library devoted to illusion, card tricks, close-up magic, gambling, and my personal favorite, comedy/patter! What about balloon animals, you say? Yes, there is even a section devoted exclusively to just that! According to Goodwin, who does not hold a Masters degree in Library Studies, but is a magician with vast knowledge of the collection, there are about 16,000 books and DVDs total, in addition to several display cases featuring memorabilia from Johnny Carson to the legendary Dante the Magician.

While there is no Dewey Decimal system utilized to organize the library, it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to this library, as anything you could possibly want magically appears with the help of Goodwin’s sorcery and that incredible database and online catalogue. For example, a book on Houdini, I ask? Like a rabbit out of a hat, a key emerges, and Goodwin is unlocking a secret door to items only special visitors get to see. And there it is, Miracle Mongers and Their Methods – A Complete Expose by Houdini, and inside the cover? His signature from 1921, now that is pretty cool.

Now back to making that job appear, I ask, using what little charm I can muster without being a card-carrying member of the magic community. Could there be a secret contained within the stacks, a spell perhaps, that would enable me the powers to conjure up a job and be hirable in a tough economy? Goodwin smiles, puts his finger to his lips as he escorts me to the door. To this day I have no idea if he was using misdirection to avoid my question, being secretive, or simply shushing me. Ah the trickery of those Magician Librarians!!!

Complete with a strict dress code and invite only status, the Magic Castle is truly a one-of-a-kind experience, hosting five different magic shows in three showrooms, including: the Close-up Gallery, presenting masters of the art of close-up magic in the smallest of the Castle theaters (seating only 22 guests); the Parlour of Prestidigitation, which recreates the Victorian experience of the "parlour" (living room) magician; and finally, the Palace of Mystery, which hosts grand illusion and other stage performers.

In addition to the shows themselves, guests can also enjoy dinner or brunch, cocktails at any of the various bars found in the many hidden corridors of the Castle (I prefer the Owl Bar, where a certain owl will answer questions regarding your future, even if Magician Librarians cannot!), or you can listen to Irma the ghost play your requests on the piano. I like “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police since I may be unemployed but by some miracle I haven’t given up hope that maybe all of these little things I do will one day result in something miraculous!

Now if I could just find that gold coin in my ear I could pay my rent!

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