Magic and Mixed Drinks
An ATOD Excursion to The Magic Castle
The Magic Castle | 7001 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles CA 90028
After a long week of event planning and coordinating, Dawn and I decided we needed a fun “ladies night out” as a reward for our hard work. Two of our favorite magic men, Chris Korn and Ben Seidman, were scheduled to perform at The Magic Castle, and since Dawn and I had only seen their magic briefly in the studio during their A Taste Of Dawn’s Radio appearances, and on the Travel Channel’s “Magic Outlaws”, we decided this would be the perfect opportunity to pay them a visit.
Barely enduring the exercise in futility that is Hollywood Boulevard (an unfortunate torture of my navigation’s doing), we arrive at the Victorian mansion antsy to get in. Both wearing dresses in the dreamy 1950s pastel pallet, Dawn hopped out of the car in a turquoise body-hugging wiggle dress from PinUp Girl Clothing and grey slingbacks, while I shimmied my pink and white fishtail flounce into place and slipped into blue suede pumps, the valets making my dirty car disappear.
We impatiently shifted from one heel to the other behind the business men leisurely checking in at the front desk. Dawn introduced us as guests of Chris Korn, we snagged a “performing this week” pamphlet, and “Open Sesame”-ed our way into the main bar area.
Chris was performing in the Close Up Gallery, right off the main bar, but because of our traffic run in, just missed the start of his first performance at 7pm. But, luckily for us, there were a few other opportunities to catch him, so we hustled up the stairs, wove through rows of diners, to the Parlor of Presdigitation to watch Ben Seidman. The intelligent design of The Magic Castle is that regardless of what show you are lined up to see, there is always a bar close at hand to quench your thirst or boredom. Dawn orders a glass of wine and brings me a Mojito (which was so tasty Dawn ended up getting one for herself). Leaning against the wall, chit-chatting in line, we saw the flash of Ben Seidman’s bright smile as he was greeting guests a few feet down from where we stood. We tried to catch his attention to say hello, but he had vanished as fast as he arrived.
Inside the Parlor of Presdigitation, we were seated on the end of the back row, Dawn striking up a conversation with the waitress, swapping service-industry horror stories until the show was about to begin. The Parlor of Presdigitaion is meant to harken back to the Victorian era, where magicians would actually perform in people’s “parlors” or living rooms, and although most people’s living rooms probably don’t have rows of theater seats meant to accommodate 50+ guests, Ben’s inviting stage presence certainly projects that intimate feeling. Even from afar, his demeanor is friendly and genuine, refreshing from other performers who seem to take themselves too seriously. There is a playful mischievousness apparent from the beginning, the slight smirk following sarcastic wit, telling humorous anecdotes while sipping a beer; watches, wallets and rings disappearing and reappearing before our eyes. The audience is smitten. Dawn and I look at each other, wide-eyed, giggle and clap along with the crowd. For being relatively young in the business, his timing and technique, not to mention his colorful resume, are hugely impressive. He then poses a question of “fate”, whether or not there is such a thing as destiny (which happens to be one the concepts I’m most interested in), and says that he is going to try and “force a coincidence”. This starts a chain reaction, multiple audience members chosen at random, each contributing a small piece to a larger puzzle. I won’t describe the show itself, because it is worth seeing with an unbiased mind, but as we walked out, we were left with a feeling of giddy confusion, thoughts swirling around in an attempt to explain the seemingly impossible, yet satisfied in the unknown. We catch Ben in the hallway for compliments and hurried hugs, and promise to catch up with him later after his shows.
(Dawn Garcia: Ben’s comedic timing and ability to understand his audience through personality and warmth is uncanny. It was so fun to watch him live and the magic he performs really is deeper than the average show you’d see by any other magician. Like what Alexis pointed out, that instance of “coincidence” is something to behold. I can’t wait to see the next performance!)
Retracing our steps, we scamper back to the main bar where the line for Chris Korn’s next show is already full. Since it is the smallest of the performance areas, it seems to fill up almost immediately. Dawn pleads with the manager guarding the line, who doesn’t make any guarantees, despite us knowing Chris. Begrudgingly we wait at the back of the line, stomachs starting to growl longingly for truffle fries. A few moments before the 8:30 show is to begin, Chris pops out from a door obscured by gold wallpaper and mirrors, greets us with warm hugs and hurriedly ushers us into the empty room. The Close Up Gallery only seats 20, with limited standing room on the side, and two seats next to a half-moon green and yellow fringed table. Guests start trailing in from the opposite side of the room, some looking quizzically at Dawn and I already seated, others inebriated enough not to care. Chris Korn is introduced, and he takes his seat behind the table, and introduces himself to the two girls chosen from the audience to be his stage companions. A large part of the entertainment value is psychology, the interaction between magician and audience, the silly banter back and forth, and alcohol induced gasps and musings. Chris’ materials are fairly simple, money and cards, sleight of hand so cleanly executed, you can lean in as far as you want, eyes fixed on an object, yet still watch it vanish. Towards the end of the show, Chris notices one of the guests down front had sight problems, a woman whose friend had been describing the tricks throughout the performance, and was delighted by each in her imagination. Chris asked if she could switch spots with one of the girls seated at the front table, and with a bright and truly happy smile, the woman who is blind helps to complete the final two card tricks. The performance ends with an impromptu disco boogie by Chris while patrons filed out of the room smiling and laughing.
(Dawn Garcia: This moment was the moment that separates Chris from most. His ability to tap into compassion is remarkable. This woman in the audience, she relied solely on her senses and somehow Chris knows. She could feel the warmth and cold of the colors in the cards simply by brushing her hands above the cards. The joy exuding from her was pure and real. Chris is undeniably talented, yes, but his humanity is what makes him so unique.)
Overhearing about famous clients magicians have performed for, or even just walking the Magic Castle corridors, magicians’ lifestyles are envious: getting paid to do something you’re passionate about, meeting new and interesting people while traveling the world. But, as easy and carefree as they make it seem, you can tell how hard they have worked to get where they are now. Like any great art, it is those who make the extremely difficult seem effortless that are true masters, and as magicians, Ben Seidman and Chris Korn are great examples. In just 20 minutes each, they were able to perform multiple feats of illusion that seemed second nature, but probably took hours of practice to perfect each element. This precision complemented with humor and magnetic personality combine to create something familiar yet new, that taste you recognize but can’t put your finger on, the beauty of something mundane used for something extraordinary.
(Dawn Garcia: After becoming friends with Chris and Ben, I know the years they’ve put into their craft. It shows in every way and it is an absolute honor to witness. I encourage you to follow them and see a show as often as possible.)