June 5th 2017, 10:15 pm. I took the stage for the first time at the Magic Castle, in Hollywood, California. Jack Goldfinger, Jeff and Tessa Evason and Tom Ogden were in the audience. Arguably some of the best working acts we have today. They’re friends, but doesn’t make it less stressful. They’re clearly in attendance to see if I really deserve the gig. I’ll never forget that night, and indeed that week, for the rest of my life. All ego aside, (if that’s even possible), I think I proved booking me was not a bad decision.
If you don’t know what the Magic Castle is, at its core its the mecca for magicians, where the best in the world go to perform. Its smack in the middle of Hollywood California, in the hollywood hills, a block up from where the Oscars awards are held. I’ve heard it described this way “The magic castle is where lay audiences come to see great magic, and where magicians go to be great”. I think that’s probably true.
I have tremendous respect for the Castle and what it represents. I don’t think you should be allowed to perform unless you do. As an act, you better be in awe of that place when you walk in the door or you just don’t “get it” enough to be hired. The Castle breathes magic. Posters, ephemera, magicians everywhere, various shows, the art fills the place. Its has a world class magic library. I’m a fan of magic history and its is chalk full of that, but it also ushers in the new acts in a specific way.
I’d wanted to be a Castle act since I was very young. The TV special about the castle and its performers came on in the late 80’s or 1990, and after watching it I proudly proclaimed to my parents that “I will one day perform at that fine establishment”, trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I refused to even GO to the Castle until I was hired to perform. Seriously. That was the silent deal I had with myself when I was in high school and started to perform for money. In almost 3 decades of performing full time, I NEVER went to the Castle. I would honour that deal. Never go to the Castle until you’re asked to perform. I will struggle towards that goal, and one day perform there. That took nearly 30 years. Finally, it happened.
Acts from outside Hollywood aren’t IN Hollywood and not as easily on the radar of the people who book The Magic Castle. To that end I think its harder for out of town talent to get hired. The talent coordinator told me 3500 acts a year apply to work the stage and only about 300 get in. The competition, especially for the stage spots, is pretty epic.
When I think about all the brilliant magicians who’ve performed there from the 50’s onward and the regular performers who I grew up idolizing, I’m still in a bit of shock I got to play the same venue as these people. Billy McComb, Caveney, Shimada, Lance Burton, Kevin James, Rudy Coby, Vernon, Miller the list is endless. I’m not saying I even approximate their level of genius, but its pretty cool that I’m working the same place as they did. I think a lot of acts forget the history and who came before them. You should have some reverence for that. It should always be with you when you perform in that place. It SHOULD make you nervous. Who are you to be working on their stage when so many greats were at the Castle first, they likely did much better work. That should be something that reminds you to step up your game.
Its a long story and I’m sure no one wants to hear it, but at the end of the day its a thrill to perform at the best magic venue in the world. Unforgettable really. The showroom, the audiences, the atmosphere, the apartment they put me up in…. all of it outstanding. Consider this. I’ve performed across the globe in theatres, on cruise ships, at private events and in casinos. I’m telling you the Magic Castle offers the best audiences in the world, and the best acts in the world, its the best magic venue in the world and its set up in the best possible way to see great magicians work. There really is nothing like performing at the Castle. I’d heard it said for many years. It can’t be explained, it can only be experienced. A thank you to the Magic Castle and the AMA doesn’t even cover it.
If you’re a regular performer at the magic castle I’m sure its easy to get complacent about it, and treat it like just another gig. There’s 21 shows in a week, and the pay isn’t that great. Still, it bears repeating, this is a special place where only the best get to work. You are special because you work there. Just my 2 cents.
When you arrive at the Magic Castle, the doorman greets everyone. However, he says the same thing to every act, each time they walk in. Its meant to remind you that you’re in the place of magic, where it lives and grows and its a particular place FOR magicians. Its where you’re comfortable, special and always wanted. The doorman’s greeting is simple but profound, and says what you need to hear. You walk up, he opens the door and says