Saturday, November 30, 2013

Magic Castle

When I was making plans to go to California for the Thanksgiving holiday, my friend who lives in L.A. really wanted to take us all to the Magic Castle in Hollywood, a pretty fancy place where you watch different magicians all night. I was skeptical at first (sometimes I think magic can be kind of corny, unless you're Criss Angel of course), but I was up for the adventure.

The castle itself is beautiful, and this is their 50th year in business! When you get inside, the atmosphere is amazing, with burgundy walls and low lighting, and the rooms are decorated throughout with old books, mirrors, portraits of magicians, and Magic Castle posters from the past. And the guests themselves looked great (there is a strict dress code), with ties and gowns and jewelry everywhere. We were lookin' pretty good ourselves!

We made our way to the Hat and Hare Pub downstairs to start. We were the only ones watching this man who called himself "Fitzgerald." He did a couple of card tricks, but he wasn't much of a showman, so we moved on quickly. Next, we saw Jon Armstrong, who already had a crowd with him when we arrived. He did card tricks, memorizing the order of the cards in the deck or dividing the deck into red and black suits after shuffling them. He also did several tricks with his "tiny plunger," a miniature plunger that could pick up the deck of cards; he made some members of the audience hold it, talk to it, or even have it plastered onto their foreheads (particularly a sweaty man named Ted). Random note, there were four Nicholes/Nikkis in that room, and we brought one of them! Anyway, then it was time for dinner (I'll talk about that later), and onto the main show in the "Palace of Mystery" (i.e. the big room). We saw David Kovac (the MC who looked like a handsomer version of Mr. Bean), who told jokes as well as did magic; we all agreed that his best trick was cutting open a lemon and finding a signed dollar bill from a member of the audience. Then there was Michael Rayner, who balanced shoes on his nose and spun a cheeseburger on top of a spinning umbrella, and had to do so with several VERY annoying members of the audience (it still amazes me how many adults don't know their limits and are perfectly content to make complete fools of themselves in public). Lastly we saw Arthur Trace, who said nothing but rather made magic art to the sound of music; his was the easiest magic to figure out: behind his easel were definitely some hidden levers/etc. After the main act, we knew there would be a rush to the valet, so we thought we'd stick around for one more show. The last act we saw was Ran'D Shine, and he was very good! He pulled eggs out of thin air, made coins disappear, and somehow got a $20 bill that someone had signed into a sealed cookie package! He brought up audience volunteers, and they actually helped make the show so great! He called upon a man in the front row who was very skeptical of magic and turned him into a believer. Taleen, a women in her late 20's (and quite drunk) was next, and whenever he asked her a question, she would give him two answers. "Do you know how I did that trick?" "Yes!" "You do?" "Um...I don't know..." or "Is the card in your hand black?" "Yes!" "It is?" "Oh, I mean no!" She was so silly that you almost wanted him to keep her on stage the whole time. He was our favorite act, so we're so happy we stuck around! The magicians were very talented, and I'm glad to see a venue like this just for magicians and fans of magic.

My only complaint about the Magic Castle would be that they require everyone to order an entrée in their restaurant (i.e. nothing under $28 per person) to see the main magic show. You only have to pay $25 at the door to get in, so let's do the math for the minimum a person would pay. You pay $25 and the door, don't get any drinks, and  pay $30 for dinner (you get the cheapest entrée, but then there's tax); that totals $55. I think from what I've described here, they're really low-balling themselves at $25 to get in. I would easily pay $50 just for the experience: the atmosphere, the magic shows, the idea that I probably won't have that chance to do this again, etc. So let's say they now charge $50 at the door, and you can choose whether you want dinner/drinks or not. If someone doesn't eat or drink anything, then yes, the Magic Castle has lost $5. But let's be honest: most people are going to get at least one drink (all of which cost more than $5), and I think a lot of people would want to try the restaurant. Even if someone only orders an appetizer for $8, the Magic Castle has still made $3 more than they would have originally. The food was good, but not incredible, so I felt silly paying over $30 for food that wasn't amazingly delicious. PLUS, if we could have just ordered what we wanted, no food would have gone to waste. We were a group of four petite girls, and none of us were able to finish our gargantuan entrées. It's such a waste: there are millions of people starving around the world, and here we were tossing out half of our salmon filets and lobster tails because we had to order entrées. The kitchen would save money if it didn't have to buy all of this fish and filet mignon that people don't even eat. In the end, I would much rather pay more at the door for this once-in-a-lifetime experience than pay extra on average-tasting food (with no presentation, might I add) that's just going to end up in the trash.  

Final thought: I had a lot of fun that night, but the Magic Castle needs to rethink their revenue plan, big time.

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