Category Archives: Arts Travel & Culture Features
Sirk TV Exclusive Print Interview: Milt Larsen (Of Magic Castle) For “It’s Magic” [Lobero Theatre - Santa Barbara, CA]
There is nothing more magical and real than looking in the star-like eyes of your kid mesmerized by a magic show. This was the scene at the Lobero Theatre for “It’s Magic”, the longest running all star magic revue produced by the famous Milt Larsen, the founding spirit of the Los Angeles landmark Magic Castle. Since 1965 the talented and mysterious magicians behind this mind challenging event have been transporting families to a land where the impossible seems easily reachable and the dreams full of possibilities.
This year one could be amazed by the talents of Dan Birch and his dove appearing tricks, Chuck Jones, Ray Pierce (who is one of the top performers at The Magic Castle), Eric Buss and his legendary magical humor and finally host Matt Marcy, a unique magician with over 3,000 shows under his belt. This truly is a fantastic line up of one man more amazing than the next.
What very few people know is that this show is the magical child of one amazing mind and gentle soul: Milt Larsen.
Milt’s life is truly magic because indeed he knows how to capture the moment and pull it out of his magic hat like a white dove going through the mirror mirror of existence.
He is an inspiration for all of us because he shows that with perseverance, hard work and lots of pure fun you can really transform a bunny into a beautiful girl, oil into gold and perhaps prolong life and trick death until another day comes…
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon Milt shared a brief moment of relaxation with us as he is embarking, at 82, on a life full of wonder to come and magical apparitions to take your breath away:
STV: What’s different and unique with the show this time around?
Milt Larsen: I think we have been faithful to our vaudeville format with a little bit of magic and lots of humor. Mainly what I think is unique is the personality of each magician and how they can connect with the audience to make it a more personal experience.
STV: Is it a sign of the times that one needs to rachet up the humor and make people laugh even with magic involved?
ML: It’s very important to make people laugh. That has been true with magic since the beginning of time. 100 years ago you could see magicians who were trying to transport people into another dimension with dreams. The key to all magic is the total escape art: to step into a world where everything is unreal…like “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s all about going to the other side. The big difference (in comparison) to movies for example is that magic can be as real as possible. It’s not about big digital effects. It’s not about blowing things up. With magicians you can sit next to them and see things appear and disappear. It’s not a camera trick. You know if for real. You can feel it. It’s not about the technical. I’m a great fan of living theater…and “It’s Magic” is about that: about performance.
STV: How do you explain that your magic show is the “longest running show” going as far back as 1965?
ML: Actually we go back to 1955! We provide good clean family entertainment with lots of variety. And you’re happy to take your kids or your grandparents. I think that is the success of this recipe: to truly put together a family oriented experience. We love touring from Palm Desert to Palm Springs on the West Coast. We put on 7 or 8 shows, always trying to offer a top quality show with lots of different type of magicians. [From my perspective] as long as you do your best and offer the best you will be successful.
STV: Do you see differences between magic being done here on the West Coast, the East Coast, Europe or the elsewhere…or is it now just One Magic World?
ML: I think Magic is Magic! It is a One Magic World. Before they were a little bit of differences with Europe but now magic is mainly done in casinos so it’s very similar everywhere. Cruise ships also have big magic shows. Magic is very visual and therefore magicians don’t need necessarily to speak that much. Someone not speaking English can still perform in front of an English speaking crowd. For example, we provide (through The Magic Castle) magicians to Japan and most of them don’t speak Japanese. Their acts speak for themselves.
STV: What’s going with the movie based on “The Magic Castle”. Is the director McG going to be doing it?
ML: The film is being produced by Radar Pictures. 20th Century Fox will release it. Indeed McG ,who is famous for the “Charlie’s Angels” movies will direct. It is starting production pretty soon. The concept is in the tradition of a grand house on the hill with a magic family but it will also be action driven. We hope it will be released by the end of the year. The Magic Castle has been in many movies but it’s really a new concept to make a complete movie around this amazing place.
STV: Stan Lee from Marvel Comics always puts himself as a cameo in his films based on his comics. Will you do the same and do a cameo in the movie based on your Magic Castle?
ML: That’s funny. If they ask me of course I will do it but it’s not part of the planning right now. There will be lots of cameos from many famous magicians for sure.
STV: What new is going on with The Magic Castle?
ML: The only difference is that we have been expanding quite a lot. We’ve been doing lots of remodeling and trying to keep up with the times. That’s why we have been there for over 50 years because it’s such a unique place.
STV: Let’s talk about your book which is coming out soon.
ML: It’s mainly an autobiography. The whole concept behind it is that I was born in a magic family and all my life I have been involved with things dealing with magic. I have produced shows. I’ve had 3 theaters. All of my journey has been magic. I’ve had ups and downs for sure but overall I have had such a great life. The subtitle of the book is “My First 30,000 days”! I’m 80 years old! I’m still far from retiring and I have plenty of projects. The book is full of hopes and humors which is why I think people will enjoy it.
STV: What do you think has been the most important thing you have learned in life?
ML: You need to enjoy life…not in the sense of a pure whoopee existence but truly to try to appreciate and smile at life. You need to be able to share and appreciate your time with your family and appreciate and enjoy what you’re doing with your life.
By Emmanuel Itier
The cold winds of St. Paul, Minnesota ring true with the essence of the texture spread before the cliffs and the frozen Mississippi straddling its banks. But beneath the tenedency of the ice lurks an energy waiting to pounce though the merth of brews and culinary definitely highlight the structure.
Hovering in on the far side of the river near Harriett Island, the Covington Inn sits like a barrel of old treasure. The heat pumps from the city on the land side of the entrance bubbles with a dexterity of calm. Below in the den quarters where the top of bed to the crux of the fireplace shows a nearly 7 foot drop, the ice angles up to nearly the porthole as the sway of the current keeps the crushing ice at bay.
The main steer of the ship, aptly integrated by its bed and breakfast charm, offers up a light texture, fires blazing, with scrambled eggs, sausage and strawberries galore.
Blocks away lurks the Wabasha Street Caves, once home to the gangster clubs of the 30s. History imbues the place. The morning quiet is enhanced by stories of Dillinger at the Castle Royal Club sweeping ladies off their feet with tales of danger and lust. By interesting irony, Swing Dancing at Wabasha on Thursday night lures an interesting crossection but none so instigating as the impulse of late teen and early college age students sans their smartphones in specific era tennis shoes throwing each other to and fro. Some simply do not get the steps but the essence is that they are trying in an age where hand on skin is becoming more of a rarity.
Energy starts with breakfast and St. Paul is definitely an early community it seems, snow or not. Mickey’s Dining Car, mere blocks away from the Central location of the St. Paul Hotel, just off Kellogg Street, doesn’t skimp on its interaction. The rough stretches of sliced potatoes for hash browns piles high on the griddle jockeying for position with ham, sausages, pancakes and various other early morning items just hoping for a little bit of attention. The “All Day Meal”, as it is called, fries its eggs any way you want in butter with a quarter pound of ground beef and hash browns intermixed so your colon doesn’t know which way is up.
The Downtowner Woodfire Grill, located on the visage way out of town towards the airports, offers a little more creature comfort structure with no less tendency towards the hearty. While the intention of whole milk does help the body adjust, the Mac Cajun Breakfast does little to dispel it. Integrating two eggs over easy with green peppers, onions, cajun sausage, hash browns and a hollandaise sauce, the taste is intensive to say the least keeping you warm for the trip.
A degree of rest sometimes is needed, especially with festivals happening all the time in the city. An easy walk from the St. Paul Hotel to the Science Museum Of Minnesota across from the Xcel Energy Center reveals a long “in-the-making” OmnIMAX movie. Situated on a curved screen, the element of “Tornado Alley” which shows the big screen movie that storm chaser Sean Casey has been trying to make for years truly brings to mind the real life “Twister” with no less than Bill Paxton of that same movie providing the narration.
After a small respite, lunch calls with undeniable balance. A local favorite, Zamboni’s, interesting enough a Southern California transplant, serves up “Rosemary: The Italian Blonde” which aptly enough blends italian sausage, roasted red peppers, garlic and the requisite spice with a white cheese foreboding.
For more particular palette, W.A. Frost offers old school dining structures. The glistening glass gives way to an early 20s demeanor reflected in the porcelain dynamics of the progression, not unusual for a replete of its early 20th Century lore. Intermingling with a vivid mushroom soup, subtly thick enough to ratify its vegetable underpinings, the main interlude of truffle goat cheese risotto serenaded in beet marmalade and radish sprouts proceeded with a tenderness that allowed for a fulfilled stomach.
An in-betweener element, also indicative because of its nearby liquor store component where such local spirits as Prairie Vodka and the requisite Ice Hole (both distilled by the Ed Phillips Company) are found, give way to Casper & Runyon’s Nook, where the discerned vibrancy of the Juicy Lucy comes into view. As an old school bowling alley strikes the pins beneath our feet, the creamy tartness of a Guinness Shake starts the festivities as a Guys Big Bite stuffed with pepperjack cheese and bacon rides the wave as fried cheese curds finish the job.
Before the antecedent of brews overtakes the progression, the old style coolness of Mancini’s Char House speaks from the hip with undeniable presence. While the imbibement of an Indeed IPA began the understanding leading to a classic Manhattan cocktail, the interspaced element of luxurious tomatoes and full-flavored olives gave way to a plate of broiled chicken wings and homemade meatballs which melted in the mouth. The coup de grace rested within the 13 ounce New York Strip steak, crispy to perfection with a tenderness on the inside that raptured which the addition of a loaded baked potato.
The brewing industry in St. Paul has always had its stalwarts with the old school elements of the Schmidt Brewery as well as Hamms still offering their overwhelming gaze, even in the cold of winter.
Two breweries, one established, one moving its way up, continue to show the wares from which they have been dealt. Summit Brewery, built from the ground up in 1984 by a former psychiatrist turned beer maker, has found its way from a smaller set up on University to a large compound with an undeniable tasting room.
As Tiki Tim’s Food Truck lurks outside with its tasty talapia tacos leading the way, the essence of an unfiltered Summit Mai Bock with its 10% intensity perfectly integrates with the stalwart Oatmeal Stout, crisp and thick in its countenace.
Across town within a smaller operation looking to take their next big leap, Flat Earth Brewery is angling to make their jump into the old Hamm’s Brewery site. Renowned for part of its gangster history, the location move is definitely an interesting development which will open up the brewing process in terms of distribution. An interesting progression in the current arena is the graduation of volume from growlers to beyond which takes on a whole new legal structure. Watching the delivery of two new fermenters while drinking the essence of a cold brew in the nearly 10% Winter Warlock, the die is cast with the ideal firmly within the mindset for expansion.
To expand the horizons, during the St. Paul Winter Carnival, the essence of stamina comes in the form of the expansive Beer Dabbler event where both large scale distributors and local micro-breweries show off their wares. Heading down into the dark alley towards the bridge and river, the Minnesota essence of the arena takes on light. Necklaces of Twix, pretzels and sourdough fill the sight as the small taste glasses quickly empty in supreme succession where it be the aptly named Midnight Styker from Third Street Brewhouse or Boom Island with their Hoodoo Dubbel.
St. Paul, in its secret proportions, shows the interesting chicanery waiting just below the surface with its hearty foods, gangster lore and expanding brews galore just waiting for the discovery of a traveler just around the corner.