Milt Larsen, 87
COMPANY: Founder, president, Magic Castles Inc., Hollywood
At 87 years old, Milt Larsen is still a magician at heart.
The founder of Magic Castles Inc. in Hollywood, a private club for magicians and illusionists and their friends and fans, Larsen has spent a lifetime in the magic industry, producing magic-oriented and musical variety shows in and around Los Angeles and in Las Vegas. Since its debut in 1963, the Magic Castle venue has evolved into a local and international hotspot for celebrity magicians such as David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy and the late Doug Henning after Larsen purchased and renovated a run-down, 1909 Victorian mansion.
“We grew up as the Larsen Family of Magicians,” Larsen said, referring to himself and his late brother, Bill, and his magic-performing parents. His mother, Larsen said, was the first female magician to perform on television.
Now, Larsen is about to reveal more magic from up his sleeve.
The entrepreneur is poised to debut his latest venture, the Magic Castle Cabaret, in Santa Barbara in an old restaurant he bought and is renovating into a small theater. His vision is to bring back the variety show of bygone eras but with a magical twist.
“We’re doing it mainly because we like doing things,” Larsen said. “It will host magic variety shows, and be our fun playhouse.”
More significant – and a departure from his traditional business model both geographically and conceptually – is a new venture in China, now underway.
Larsen and Magic Castles have licensed the Magic Castle name to Chinese technology and entertainment company, Novaex Group, for use in Novaex’s The Circle, a theme park of sorts. The park will include a hotel/resort, recreation, catering, shopping, natural scenery and immersive entertainment, such as virtual and artificial reality, and 3D hologram projections, in Greater China, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Novaex will also use the Magic Castle name for a magic school that trains young people in creative education.
“For the first time, we’ve agreed to lend our copyrights and concept to an outfit other than one in Hollywood because they have the idea of marrying the historic magic of China, which goes back thousands of years, with the modern technology of Hollywood,” Larsen said. It will showcase the blending of the two cultures, he added, but particularly “the magic of the future and not the past.”
Both ventures are the latest in perpetual creative acts that Larsen says keep him happy, active and far from retiring.