Hollywood's mansion of magic celebrates 100 years

Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:18am EST
 
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - One hundred years ago, a wealthy couple built a mansion in Hollywood and installed a speaking tube allowing them to order a Scotch whisky from their servants -- a handy trick, but nothing compared to what the home's later occupants would conjure up.

Today under the name The Magic Castle, the mansion is a private club for magicians that has been around for 46 years, and is known by tricksters all over the world.

This month, the castle celebrated the 100th anniversary of the construction of the mansion that houses it. To mark the occasion, the club threw a gala party and had a magician wriggle out of a straight jacket while hanging from a crane.

The Magic Castle is a show business haunt, but it's not in the business of showing off. Instead of an open door policy, the club perched in the Hollywood Hills has more of a sliding bookcase policy, as visitors must carry an invitation from a member to get inside.

Over the years, celebrity members have included Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Johnny Carson and magicians Penn & Teller. Visitors find an opulent setting, where generations of magicians exchange secrets of their trade at lush bars when they're not performing at one of the mansion's six theaters.

"I often refer to this place as the Mecca of magic, people come in constantly from all over the world," said magician Andrew Goldenhersh, who moved to Los Angeles from St. Louis, Missouri, just to be near The Magic Castle.

The mansion was built for wealthy banker Rollin Lane and his wife Katherine, back when Hollywood was just a train stop, not an entertainment capital.

MAGICAL TRANSFORMATION   Continued...

 
<p>The Magic Castle is seen as preparations continue for the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 18, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>