Milt Larsen, the magician and TV writer who co-founded Hollywood’s famed Magic Castle night spot, died May 28 in Los Angeles. He was 92.
Larsen had deep roots in the world of magic and in Los Angeles. His father, William Larsen Sr., was a prominent local defense attorney and a performing magician. His mother, Geraldine, made early appearances on TV as “The Magic Lady.” Milt Larsen worked as a writer for TV game shows including “Truth or Consequences” during 18 years of Bob Barker’s tenure as host in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s.
Larsen teamed with his older brother, William Larsen Jr., and William’s wife, Irene, in the early 1960s to transform a Gothic renaissance mansion on Franklin Avenue in the heart of Hollywood into a clubhouse designed to cater to working magicians. The trio created the Academy of Magical Arts, but the venue became known as the Magic Castle. The club opened its doors in 1963 and has become a world-renowed destination, despite its ups and downs over the past 60 years. The Larsen family leased the property from owned Thomas Glover until last year, when the site was acquired by videogame magnate Randy Pitchford, founder of Gearbox Entertainment.
“The Magic Castle is like bedrock — the center point of magic,” Pitchford said in a statement at the time. 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 club house grows and thrives for decades to come.”
Magic Castle co-founder William Larsen Jr. died in 1993 at age 64. Irene Larsen died in 2016 at age 79.
Milt Larsen and his brother were saluted with the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006.
Larsen got his start as a writer in radio, working on audience participation shows for ABC Radio. In addition to “Truth or Consequences,” Larsen worked with Ralph Edwards Prods. on its signature unscripted series “This Is Your Life.” That gave Larsen exposure to legendary performers such as Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Ed Wynn, Mack Sennett, George Burns and Jack Benny. Those relationships spurred his passion as a showbiz historian and collector of memorabilia from the days of vaudeville as well as 78 RPM records produced in the 1920s through the early 1950s.
Larsen stayed active as a performer himself, producing the stage show “It’s Magic” for more than 50 years in the Los Angeles area. Larsen owned and operated the Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica, where he produced stage shows for 10 years. He also once owned downtown L.A.’s Variety Arts Theater.
Milt Larsen’s survivors include his wife, Arlene Larsen; nephew Dante Larsen, niece Erika Larsen, and great-nieces Jessica Hopkins and Liberty Larsen.