Milt Larsen, co-founder of Magic Castle, dies

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Wave Wire Services

HOLLYWOOD — Milt Larsen, who co-founded Hollywood’s famed Magic Castle in the early 1960s, has died at the age of 92, club officials announced May 29.

“It is with heavy hearts that the Academy of Magical Arts shares the sad news that Magic Castle founder Milt Larsen has passed away,” Chuck Martinez, chair of the board of directors for the Castle’s Academy of Magical Arts, said in a statement provided to City News Service.

“For decades, he brought magic to so many lives and his legacy will continue to do so. We will miss him tremendously.”

Larsen died peacefully in his sleep, club officials said. ABC7’s George Pennacchio reported that Larsen died of natural causes.

Larsen was a magician himself and a writer for TV game shows including “Truth or Consequences.” He founded the Magic Castle in 1963 with his brother, William Larsen Jr., and William’s wife Irene.

Milt Larsen was the last living founder of the Magic Castle.

Members of the Larsen family have performed magic since the 1920s. Milt’s father William Larsen Sr. was a Los Angeles attorney who became disillusioned with law and left practice to pursue magic. His mother Geraldine was also a performer, who became the first female magician to appear on TV — as a children’s entertainer known as The Magic Lady on KTLA in the late 1940s.

The Larsen family has operated the Magic Castle for decades, leasing a gothic home on 7001 Franklin Ave. from owner Thomas O. Glover and turning it into an exclusive clubhouse for magicians, where members and their guests could dine and enjoy magic shows.

Larsen, his brother and his sister-in-law all performed magic themselves on Castle stages and at other venues.

In 2022, the Franklin Avenue manor was purchased by Randy Pitchford, founder of video-game maker Gearbox Entertainment.

An avid magician himself and longtime member of the Academy of Magical Arts and Magic Castle attendee, Pitchford said he was dedicated to the preservation of the 1908-vintage building.

“The Magic Castle is like bedrock — the center point of magic,” Pitchford said in a statement in 2022. “The people who think of the Castle as their home and the place itself seem to have magical properties that have created and inspired some of the world’s greatest entertainers. I’m proud to be trusted to both give back to the place that made me to become the custodian of the Magic Castle and to work with its members and the Larsen family to ensure our most incredible clubhouse grows and thrives for decades to come.”

Larsen said at the time that Pitchford “has done something extraordinary to protect our beloved Magic Castle and I could not be happier about our current situation as well as the prospects for the future. Randy really understands and appreciates my vision and the Larsen family vision and there is no one better to carry on what we started in 1963.”

Larsen also wrote stage revues and musicals, which were performed among other venues at the Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica and the Variety Arts Theater in downtown Los Angeles, both of which he owned and operated.

He produced TV specials for ABC, CBS and NBC and was the creative consultant for the $50 million Caesars Magic Empire at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Larsen also was a member of SAG-AFTRA who worked in radio, opened for The Amazing Johnathan in Las Vegas, and appeared on television in commercials and on the 1980s’ series “Hart to Hart.”

He authored five joke books and co-authored three books about The Magic Castle. He was also known for his collaborations with songwriter Richard M. Sherman on comedy albums.

Flowers were placed on Larsen’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame May 30 at 6933 Hollywood Blvd., according to Ana Martinez of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

“Bill Larsen was a mainstay in Hollywood,” Martinez said. “He was a community leader and the co-owner of the Magic Castle, a magical place that the Hollywood community loves so much.

“We are very proud to have Milt Larsen on our famed sidewalk and he will be missed very much.”

Milt Larsen and his late brother were honored with the star in 2006. 

A long-time resident of Montecito, Larsen divided his time between Los Angeles and the coastal town. In addition to his wife Arlene, he is survived by his niece Erika Larsen, president of Magic Castle Enterprises Inc.; his nephew Dante Larsen; and great-nieces Jessica Hopkins and Liberty Larsen.

No services have been scheduled at this time.

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