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My Magic Castle Debut

I’ve been performing magic since the age of 9 and I’m now 33 so that is, err, ages. My early obsession with magic was initially fired by a Haven Holiday Bluecoat by the name of Malcolm Norton. I met him on a family holiday, a really top chap who now runs a great magic shop down in Plymouth www.topsecretmagic.co.uk.

After I returned home to the West Midlands, Malcolm and I continued to correspond as pen pals. He was kind enough to send me old props like dove pans and card in balloon to keep me interested and old copies of the Magigram would turn up; This I seem to remember was the first time I read about the Magic Castle, I think there was a column based around it?

Reading about this curious ‘Magic Venue’ was quite intriguing. I heard about some amazing curiosities that had to be seen to be believed. Apparently you had to say ‘Open Sesame’ to an owl, which was sat on a bookshelf in the lobby to gain entrance. This amused me greatly. Names like Vernon, Miller and Jennings were banded about alongside the ‘new young guys’ like Ammar, Curzon and Dingle with the owl presiding over them all. I vividly remember reading about Erma’s room. Erma is the ghost pianist in residence at the Magic Castle and she ‘haunts’ her room playing any request named.

Growing up as a kid magician I didn’t pay much more thought to the Magic Castle as it seemed a million miles away from the one in Dudley. I was more concerned with how the Paul Daniels magic kettle worked and the advent of the Trick-a-Tape.

Fast forward September 1996, the internet was blossoming, little girls believed that Margaret Thatcher was the catalyst of ‘Girl Power’ and the time had come for my first pilgrimage to the Castle. This was the culmination of my 3-month magic road trip tour, which took place after my graduation. I visited New York, Aspen (Tower Bar), Chicago and LA. In Los Angeles I met up with Dan Harlan and Cyril Takiyama and along the road trip I also had the pleasure of meeting with greats like Billy Mc Comb and Ron Wilson.

I visited the Magic Castle several more times in the years to follow but never to perform. Sometimes I was accompanied by my friend Dan Harlan, occasionally alone and another time with Peter Wardell and Alan Shaxon (during The Magic Circle Centenary year).? During that visit I met ‘Handsome Jack’ aka John Lovick who gave me an invite to perform at a later date.

March 2007 was set as my Castle debut! I put together a brand new eclectic act and was ready to take on the world. I make my living performing close up magic and never really get nervous but because of the history of the Magic Castle I was a little freaked out before my first performance.

I laid awake, trying to sleep in the run up to opening night, going over and over the act in my mind. All the lines, the nuances, the vanishes, sleight of hand and then I’d jolt bolt upright thinking crazy Jon from the L&L DVD shoots might come and ‘burn’ my hands before destroying my act!

The main thing for me was that I didn’t want to let myself down or even worse look like a ‘dumbass’ doing a brand new act!

All the greats have worked the hallowed ground where I am about to and this is a very sobering thought. Overseeing proceedings are 3 paintings of Dai Vernon, Jay Ose and Charlie Miller; this alone could make most magicians shake like Pete Docherty on an Amish reservation.

During my week at the Castle I compiled a diary. Here are a few exerts from that tome.

Monday: The first night I arrived early as I had to set up 5pm… Got past the Owl by saying the magic words ‘Open Sesame’, the bookcase opened and I entered the close-up gallery to set up. Took the time to look around and psyche out Vernon, Miller and Ose.

Went through a dry run and everything was in order so no worries and I was feeling confident (kinda). My first show was attended by the Head of Entertainment Todd Carr who sat at the back with his notebook. He seemed like a nice guy but what was he writing? He had lots of positive feedback on the act (good news), however I over run to 25mins on the first show so had to cut my coin routine. My feature card routine ‘Starsky and Hutch’ and my closer ‘The Big Cheese’ routines are going well. Audiences were getting into the show and enjoying the quirky humour as expected. Other magicians to attend that night were ‘Handsome Jack’ and Derek Delguardio.

My only other observation from opening day was that Hollywood is a hybrid of Leicester Square and Camden Lock in summer.

Tuesday: I headed down to Hollywood magic but didn’t buy much exciting. Act went well again and I spoke to Milt Larsen (owner of the Castle) he gave me a pat on the back, what a nice man.

Wednesday: Today to pass the time I took a celebrity tour of Hollywood. The guide Marco was an Italian fella who had a great accent and played it up very well. He was a very entertaining chap and had the bus and me in stitches. Spotted Samuel L Jackson in a car and Mick Jagger was a passenger in a brown Bentley. Homes featured on the tour were Paris Hilton, Ozzy and Colombo.

That evening’s shows went well except for the first show where I almost threw someone out for being a little bit drunk and raucous. Chatted to Terry Seabrooke and Greg Wilson amongst others and also met two other regulars Brian and Howar Hamburg, both real gentlemen! Howar told me loads of great stories about the Professor, Jennings, Ose and Miller.

Thursday: Chatted with Terry Seabrooke and he was good enough to go through the Slydini paper tear with me, what a gent. I spent some time chilling out by the pool reading a Marlo book. Got to the Castle and did my three shows. Chris Korn came along as did Lou Serrano and my main man Tony Picasso, they all liked the show.

Friday: Woke to a call from John Lovick informing me that I had to perform an extra lunch show for the senior members of the Castle including Pete Biro and Milt Larsen amongst others and they liked the show a lot! I also got the chance to meet Richard Sherman who wrote the scores for Mary Poppin’s amongst others.

One quick change into a pair of combat shorts later and I headed down to the Hollywood Boulevard for some shopping and decided to walk back a different route to the Castle because of lots of heavy traffic. I was waiting to cross the street; traffic had come to a stand still. I look to my right where I see a really nice shiny black convertible Mercedes just to my side…then I notice it was being driven by Mr Brad Pitt! I stop like a deer in the head lights in a cliche double take…we both make eye contact; we both smile with amusement at the situation… I tip my trilby then walk on. Man, only in Hollywood!! (3 spots so far)

Off now to the Castle to meet Mr Picasso and what turned out to be the busiest night so far.

I’ve just got back to the hotel and had quite honestly the best shows that I’ve EVER done! The audience in the close-up gallery were hanging on my every word and following every bit of misdirection. Unknown to me, Billy McComb’s former assistant was in the audience (who was incidentally best friends with Charlie Miller) She came to me after the show to tell me, “You have great shades of Billy’s persona mixed with wonderful sleight of hand equal to that of Charlie Miller”! Then went on to say that Billy and Charlie would have REALLY loved my show and that I was one of her favourite performers she has seen at the Castle over the past few years. What an amazing compliment!!!!

Today I really felt comfortable with my show, it’s really clicked…my timing and lines are almost perfect! I can’t wait to perform tomorrow for St Patrick’s Day. In the basement diamond geezer Tony Picasso was on top form, the guy is a proverbial genius with a deck of pasteboards; his business is cheating at cards to perfection. Later he gave me some invaluable advice which helped a lot. So, thanks Mr. P if you ever read this! (now, piss off) lol.

Saturday: St. Paddy’s day! Saw a huge War Rally (20,000 people) in Hollywood and I ended up at the magic shop to get some supplies. Got to Castle on time, shows where a little bit flatter today maybe the Guinness was taking an effect on my audience. Even the host Marty was pretty flat at introducing my act! I like Matt and the other guy much better…. Anyhow I did extra show because tonnes of extra people wanted to see magic tonight. Later spoke to Greg Wilson about his brilliant credit card to sock / metal detector routine.

On the ego front I had lots of fans again LOL… at the end of the night Howard told me the story of the missing (d) talk about the Vernon touch.

Sunday: Went sight seeing to Huntington gardens, it’s quiet and chilled for L.A. Went back to the Castle for my last night. First show was attended be Greg Wilson and Todd Robbins. Both enjoyed the show and Greg told me that my card work was seamless. Todd laughed out loud at some jokes which is a good thing.

Also my old pal Dan Harlan showed up, he enjoyed my act too and liked the cheese bit, he even bought me a few gifts. What a nice man! Mindy, Billy’s old magic assistant came to see my last show and gave me a gift of some old footage of her and McComb performing an audition. Spoke with card men Howar(d), Brian, Bill Goodwin (Amazing) and Tony Picasso again. They all made me feel at home over the last week so thanks guys.

Quite tired…headed back around 2am.

Monday: Packed my case, checked out and bumped into Gazzo and Billy Kid in the lobby and had coffee with them. I forgot how much Gazzo makes you laugh. He is bit like the Ricky Gervais of the magic world, spot on dead pan humour.

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Control freak

Hahaha, top man. Billy was cool too. I’ve got some great magic mates, Gazzo is one of those where you pick up where you left off – having a great time.

The week just flew by and I look forward to returning again some day soon.


About the author Sav Deceptionist is an international close up magician working at corporate events, private parties and celeb hang outs in London.