Magic Castle co-founder Irene Larsen passed away this morning at her home near Hancock Park. Irene was treasured by generations of magicians and entertainers who came to know her through the Magic Castle and the Academy of Magical Arts. She was the very first member of the club built by her, her late husband Bill, and brother-in-law Milt in 1963. The trio transformed a dilapidated old mansion in Hollywood into an elegant restaurant, theater, and international center for the performance of magic that is more popular today than ever before. Irene and Bill (and later their daughter Erika) edited Genii: The Conjurers Magazine for many years, spreading interest in the art form around the globe.
I was so privileged to call Irene a friend. She was so affectionate, kind, and curious that every guest in her home became a member of the vast family she accumulated over the years. A constant stream of well wishers and entertainers visited her magnificent estate Brookledge turning it into a private clubhouse for the variety arts. Musicians, actors, and all manner of creative types (check out Puddles Pity Party, pictured) found a community there that spawned collaborations and friendships that could not have existed without her larger than life personality. For the past several years, her daughter Erika made these visits into glorious productions with her Brookledge Follies shows and Irene always sat in the front row.
Irene spent years creating a lush garden dreamscape (complete with a gnome forest!) around the historic-cultural monument, which sits on both sides of a natural brook. The animals that Irene loved and protected made themselves at home there and the ones she didn’t personally adopt she advocated for through non-profits like Last Chance for Animals, which the family asks friends to support in lieu of flowers. Irene’s daughter Erika is currently serving as president of the Magic Castle, and Irene’s granddaughter Liberty is the 4th generation of the family to perform at the club. Princess Irene leaves an extraordinary gap in the creative world of Los Angeles and I will miss her very much.