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Late last month, the magic world lost the influential Milt Larsen. Milt passed away at the age of 92 due to natural causes, and left behind a legacy few magicians have come close to achieving: he worked as a magic consultant for Disney, created hit TV Game Shows, staged Magic shows and experiences in Las Vegas and beyond, has penned the lyrics for Broadway musicals AND even has a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. However, his most notable accomplishment was founding the prestigious mecca for magicians that is The Magic Castle.
Milt grew up in a very magical family, with his parents, William and Geraldine, themselves being magicians and the co-founders of the still widely popular Genii Magazine. In fact, the four even toured their vaudevillian act, The Larsen Family of Magicians, during the late 1930s.
It was Milt’s father who conjured up the original concept of The Magic Castle, as he often longed for a place for magicians to hang out and share secrets. Though, his dream was never realised during his lifetime, as he passed away in 1953 when he was just 48 years old. In his memory, the Castle was eventually founded by Milt, his brother Bill, and Bill’s wife Irene, in 1962.
Once just a quirky looking house, The Magic Castle’s property was leased to the Larson Brothers in the 1960s, when it soon established itself as the world’s leading clubhouse for magicians. It’s now home to The Academy of Magical Arts and regularly hosts shows with some of the worlds greatest magicians, including celebrities such as Steve Martin and Neil Patrick Harris. It’s so prestigious in fact that the guest-list is strictly invite only!
Beyond The Magic Castle, Milt also leaves behind It’s Magic, billed as the longest running all star magic review show in America. Debuting in 1956, the show currently plays at performing arts centres around Los Angeles, annually.
One of Milt’s other notorious creations was Caesars Magical Empire. Opening in 1996 and closing 6 years later to make was for Celine Dion, the immersive attraction, which featured at Caesars Palace, combined a walkthrough tour, a dining experience, and state of the art stage illusions for an extremely entertaining evening meal like no other. It’s a shame it’s no longer open as, at least from the promotional video, it looked legendary.
And finally, perhaps Milt’s quirkiest credit was portraying Raul Julia’s hands as Gomez Addams, performing the tablecloth yank in the film Addams Family Values.
A lifetime dedicated to magic is one impressive feat. But what’s remarkable about Milt’s lifework, particularly establishing The Magic Castle, is that his creations are bound to live on for lifetimes to come.
Last year, I wrote about how the Castle was eventually sold to one of it’s own members, Randy Pitchford, whose purchase has allowed the venue to remain active after a difficult financial hit during the pandemic. Pitchford is actually the owner of Genii Magazine as well, so the man has a lot to thank for maintaining the legacies of both Milt and the Larsen family as a whole.