5.07.2011

The Magic Castle




The brilliant but ill-fated show Arrested Development helped shed some light on the world of magicians. Back in Houdini's day they may have been shrouded in mystery, but these days, it's pure cheese. Tuxedos and bunnies? Seriously?

One of my goals upon moving to Hollywood was getting into the Magic Castle, only because I couldn't. It was invitation-only. Their marketing scheme was very clever - make it seem exclusive, with invitation-only guests, mandatory black tie dress code, and touting a "secret society." It also helps to have an old mansion perched on a grassy knoll in the Hollywood Hills.

I'm not saying it wasn't a good time because it was. But with all the history surrounding the place, (Copperfield and others got their big start there), I would expect it to have an air of spookiness or intrigue. And even though the place was awash with red velvet curtains and stone walls, it had the generic magic kitsch that you'd find at a Chuck-E-Cheese show.
  • The front entrance is actually a gift shop, selling branded mugs and plastic magic wands for kids.
  • The magic word to get the secret library wall to spin open and grant you entry? "Open Sesame." Creative.
  • Instead of having photos on the walls of magicians past, they framed toy-like silver holograms. If changing your angle, smiling faces would turn to skulls and eyes would follow you. When I was kid collecting Lazer Blazer stickers, they did he same thing too.
  • Amateur magicians in jeans making mistakes and dripping sweat all over their deck of cards
  • Tuxedos, top hats, white gloves, bunnies, and girls getting sawed in half galore.
In a recent and desperate effort to make money in this economy, the Magic Castle has resorted to refusing entry for anyone who has not made reservations at their overpriced, in-house restaurant. It doesn't matter if you drop hundreds on cocktails at their various bars; eat you must. And if you don't get a ticket from the restaurant proving that you plopped down on a meal, the all-new "ticket checkers" will not allow you to take in the main magic show.

But just as I was about to write the place off as classless, a lady approached my friend Gina, who had broken the heel of her shoe. "Please come this way, Miss," she says. Filled with trepidation, we followed her, wondering if we were about to be cited for "drunk in public," as no doubt cash-strapped California would provide a kick-back to the Magic Castle for a scheme like that. Instead, she says to my friend, "What size shoe do you wear Ma'am?" Gina replied "Nine," and out of a shoebox the lady pulled out a brand new pair of designer shoes in just her size.

"Oh my gosh, do you guys have these in every size, just in case?"

"But of course."

"That's amazing."

"This is an exclusive club, Ma'am."

My friend promised to return the shoes and we headed back to join our party. Just as I was about to tell my friends that the place wasn't so bad after all, the lady stopped us and said, "Ma'am, please give us your credit card for collateral, in case you leave with our shoes."

...aaaaand we're back.

No comments: