Apr 7, 2012
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Hollywood, CA Spot of Interest – The Magic Castle

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“Open Sesame” and the bookcase slides to reveal a hidden entrance into one of Hollywood’s most exclusive clubs, The Magic Castle. No pictures are allowed past this point. You need only your imagination to capture the series of events that are about to occur. Even the most skeptical will be tested. Is it a slight of hand? Is there a hidden trap door? Where are the invisible strings? These are all questions that are likely to cross your mind as you watch the ten plus different acts presented throughout the evening. If you are lucky, you might run into the Magic Castle’s president Neil Patrick Harris, better known for his character Barney in the hit TV series ‘How I Met Your Mother’. No one could put it any better than Barney does when he says, the evening is “gonna be legen…wait for it…dary.”

With everyone dressed to impress and ready to start our evening, we encountered our first act in a part of the castle known as The Museum. After each prop had been examined by a member of the audience, we watched a magician turn five ropes into one and link no-slit metal rings together seamlessly, in a matter of seconds. The act was short, but was only an introduction to what was to come. Eager to see more, we headed to The Close-Up Gallery for the next show. Of course, we made a quick stop at the W.C. Fields Bar, one of the several bars along the way, to grab a drink. We knew once we were in line, we would not be permitted to leave, unless we wanted to risk losing a seat for the upcoming act. 

As Italian magician Ferdinando Buscema appeared from behind the curtain, two of my friends were selected to participate and took seats at a table in the front of the room. L.A. on a Budget’s Golda Criddle picked the top line quote from a random page in a 400 + page book which Ferdinando was able to guess and repeat, within moments, after the selection was made. Then he put out an envelope with an unknown item enclosed that he would not touch throughout the entire progression of the next trick. He laid out six different items and told Golda to go on instinct with handing him, one-by-one, the items she did not want to keep. When only one item remained, a rubber heart, Ferdinando opened the envelope and pulled out a duplicate rubber heart. The question on our minds, how did he know she would end up with that exact item? Next, he turned to my friend Joan Dalumpines and told her to face a die up with a chosen number and cover it with her hands so he couldn’t see. He laid out six cards, each numbered, and was able to select the card instantly that reflected the number Joan chose on the die. I kept trying to logically boil the tricks down to good memory or high probability factors. 

If you only have a short amount of time before your dinner reservation, I recommend exploring the castle, as we did. Seeing the Victorian theme mixed with a Haunted Mansion feel as you roam through the galleries and parlors, will take you away to another time. As you wander, you notice puppets hanging from strings, pictures of celebrities, and random card tricks taking place at different gambling tables. I must admit that I was expecting a bit more entertainment appeal, aside from the magical acts, throughout the castle. The layout online definitely makes the castle appear larger than it actually is and I felt we were done with the tour rather quickly. We stopped for a bit at the Owl Bar, before finally heading into the dining hall. Due to the timing of the different shows, we knew that we probably would only get to see three or four during the evening. Looking back, I would have rather skipped the dinner and seen more performances. Plan ahead!

I have heard the dining hall, that we were now entering, being compared to a Buca Di Beppo like setting. At any event, my fellow bloggers and myself usually try to vary what we order on the menu, as to get an overall view of the food quality and service. Joan had the New York strip steak (not including the optional lobster tail). She found the steak to be tender and well-seasoned. Her mashed potatoes and asparagus were both pretty good, as well, so she gave her meal a 4 out of 5 ( 5 being awesome). On the other hand, Golda, Steven Wong, and myself had the shrimp pasta with a tomato sauce. I wasn’t fond of the sauce, although Steven felt it was good they used more cream to lessen the sour taste, and I think it would have tasted better with alfredo sauce and more shrimp. Steven and myself felt it was overpriced, given the mediocre quality. Salad was included with each meal. For Steven’s salad, he got blue cheese dressing and was worried, since no grated blue cheese was on top, that it may have not been as fresh. Most of us felt the service was not particularly good, because the waiter seemed annoyed and looked like he didn’t want to be there. Everyone was in consensus that the bread and butter, which seemed to have a slight cinnamon taste to it, was one of the better parts of the meal. The dinner was quite filling, so none of us had room for dessert. 

After dinner, we made sure to visit the Palace of Mystery. Considered one of the main shows of the evening, you will see three performers take the stage. First up was Tom Burgoon. What I enjoyed about Tom is that he gave us a little “how-to” tutorial on some basic tricks we can perform ourselves like how to imitate a buzzing sound to make people believe there is a bee flying around or how to psych people out with a fake rip in their wallpaper. “Timmy Toilet Paper” was one of my favorite parts of the show. A member of the audience pulled out two strips of eight squares of toilet paper. Tom took one strip for himself to rip up into smaller pieces, wad into a ball, and chew. Then he had the audience member pull the end of the tiny wad of paper he had just chewed and almost a whole roll of toilet paper came out of his mouth. Tom would sometimes act like he was about to do a magic trick and laugh at us for being so entranced as an audience when it turned out THAT was the trick. His ability to mix stand-up comedy humor with magic made the act very entertaining. 

The next magician, David Sandy, offered a little personalized storytelling to lead up to his levitation of a member of the audience. The last time I saw anyone be levitated was at a David Copperfield performance when I was about six years old, so I was pretty excited to see it done. The last performance of the evening, was a comedic obnoxiously over-the-top act of no shame with Les Arnold & Dazzle. From making a duck appear out of an empty bucket, Dazzle’s head turning a complete 90 degrees while the rest of her body stayed still, to the exaggeration on stereotypes along with campy vintage music and a 1930s-40s vibe, made the performance thoroughly enjoyable for all. Although, it was the last show of the evening, it definitely left everyone feeling glad they had come out for the experience.

READERS QUESTION: For those of you who have been to the Magic Castle, which act did you like the best?

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