Milton Larsen, who as co-founder of the Magic Citadel remodeled a falling-down Hollywood mansion into an iconic personal membership that attracted high magicians and their followers from all over the world, died Sunday. He was 92.
Larsen handed away in his sleep in an residence a brief stroll from the Franklin Avenue landmark, in response to his niece, Erika. The reason for demise was not identified, she mentioned.
A gaming entrepreneur bought the property final yr, however Larsen continued to be a frequent and beloved presence on the clubhouse. After an awards present Thursday marking the sixtieth anniversary of the membership, he stayed on the bar “till the wee hours,” his niece mentioned.
Larsen spent many years in tv as what he referred to as “a gag author” for reveals together with “Fact or Penalties,” and it was from the window of a TV studio on Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue that he first noticed the turreted residence that might change into the Magic Citadel.
A financier had constructed the Edwardian-style manor home with French and Gothic parts in 1908, nevertheless it had fallen into disrepair by the Fifties, with shutters dangling and a yard overcome with weeds. Larsen tracked down the proprietor.
“I informed him about this loopy thought of turning it right into a membership for magicians,” he recalled in a 2017 interview with the Washington Occasions.
Larsen was born right into a household of magicians in Pasadena in 1931. His father, William, was an lawyer who as soon as represented Harry Houdini’s widow and left the regulation to observe magic. His mom, Geraldine, had a youngsters’s present on KTLA referred to as “The Magic Girl.”
“Everyone I knew after I was a child was within the enterprise,” Larsen recalled many years later.
The couple and their youngsters starred in a Vaudeville revue, “Larsen Household of Magicians,” and his father usually spoke of opening a membership for magicians. After his demise, Larsen, his brother, William Jr., and his sister-in-law, Irene, noticed an opportunity to appreciate that dream.
The membership they launched Jan. 2, 1963, provided free membership into what they referred to as the Academy of Magical Arts to subscribers to the magic journal Genii. The academy is now a nonprofit with its headquarters on the Magic Citadel and greater than 6,000 members from 40 international locations.
The membership attracted those that might carry out, those that most popular to observe and celebrities together with Cary Grant, Muhammad Ali, Johnny Depp and Ryan Gosling. All who visited have been handled to the property’s distinctive decor — stained glass home windows, secret passageways, urinals that talked — and strict gown code that required coats and ties for males.
“Yearly on the board assembly they’ve an opportunity to vary the foundations, however everyone likes the foundations,” Larsen informed The Occasions in 2013.
Change did come to the membership in recent times. After a 2020 Occasions investigation detailed allegations of sexual harassment, groping and racism on the Magic Citadel, the nonprofit overhauled its board. Online game mogul Randy Pitchford, a magic fanatic and membership member, purchased the membership in April 2022 and put in Erika Larsen as president.
On the awards ceremony final week, Milton Larsen “bought a thunderous standing ovation. …This was a person who had a life full as much as the final minute,” mentioned Michael Albright, the Magic Citadel’s artistic director.
Along with his niece, Larsen, a part-time resident of Montecito, is survived by his spouse, Arlene, and his nephew, Dante.
Larsen was steadily requested whether or not the kind of old school, small-audience stay reveals practiced at his membership might survive in an age of movie star performers with extremely produced tv specials. He was adamant.
“There’s one thing about seeing a magician stay,” he informed The Occasions, including: “So long as there are individuals to be fooled, there will likely be magicians to idiot them.”