Milt Larsen, an illusionist and former TV game show writer best known as the co-founder of the Magic Castle, Los Angeles’ private club for magicians, died Sunday of natural causes, his family announced. He was 92.
Born in Pasadena in 1931, Larsen and his brother, Bill, both became writers for television in the 1950s. Both of their parents were practicing magicians, including mother Geraldine, who made television appearances as “The Magic Lady,” early in the medium’s rise.
Together with William and William’s wife Irene, they transformed a mansion on Franklin Avenue, just off of Highland in the very heart of Hollywood, into a place where working magicians could perform and play. They first leased the building in 1961 and opened it in 1963, billing the Magic Castle as “the most unusual private club in the world.” Over the years, the building has gone through several changes, allowing for more theaters, bars and other spaces. Curbed called the Magic Castle “one of the most LA places in LA.”
And it’s true – Magic Castle is one of those legendary places in Los Angeles that you’ve either been and had a truly incredible time or are still longing to go. There’s a whole roster of celebrities who have performed at the Magic Castle, including Orson Welles, Johnny Carson and Steve Martin (who famously got his start at the magic shop on Main Street in Disneyland) and the whole place has this aura of intrigue and glamour (two things in short supply in Los Angeles in 2023). In 2016 Disney held an afterparty for “Doctor Strange” at the Magic Castle, attended by executives and celebrities only.
Milt was the last surviving Magic Castle founder – William died in 1993 at age 64 and Irene died in 2016 at age 79. William never saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame star that he and Milt received in 2006.
Larsen got his start in radio and wrote for television series like “This Is Your Life” and “Truth or Consequences” for nearly 20 years (back when Bob Barker hosted the program in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s). And he performed for more than 50 years, not only at the Magic Castle but also at Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica and downtown L.A.’s Variety Arts Theater (both places that he once owned as well).