William W. Larsen Sr. was a very successful Criminal Attorney based in
Pasadena California. His great love was the art of magic and he, and his partner T.
Page Wright, were prolific contributors to the Sphinx Magazine in the late
twenties. In 1936 he and his wife Gerrie published an independent magazine of
magic. Genii, the Conjurer’s Magazine that became one of the world’s most
respected journals. His love of magic made him decide to give up the practice of law
and take the family, Gerrie and his two sons, Bill Jr. and Milt on the road
as "The Larsen Family of Magicians."
During World War Two travel was restricted
so Bill Larsen Sr., bought the Thayer Magic Company and operated the Thayer
Studio of Magic in the Wilshire area of Los Angeles. In the April 1951 issue
of Genii Larsen announced the formation of the Academy of Magic Arts and
Sciences. All subscribers to the magazine became instant members and he made it
very clear that the Academy would be an organization the advance the art of
magic in America and would bring recognition to the magicians of the world. Over
the next three years the Academy awarded fellowships and bestowed various
awards. Bill Larsen Sr. passed away at the age of 48 in 1955. His wife and older
son, Bill Jr. carried on publishing Genii but the Academy, as an organization,
slowly became a memory.
In 1961 Bill Larsen’s younger son, Milt, was a writer for Bob Barker’s Truth
or Consequences TV show on NBC. Ralph Edwards Productions had the top three
floors of the high-rise office building that was then at the corner of
Hollywood and Highland. Milt’s office window overlooked the residential property on
Franklin Avenue that included a grand old mansion left over from the turn of
the century, built in 1908 by banker Rollin B. Lane and later sold to land
developer Thomas O. Glover. Milt was fascinated by the building and day dreamed
about the idea of turning it into some sort of club for magicians. One day he
met the owner and convinced him that his idea had merit.
Milt’s grandfather was a master carpenter and Milt inherited his love for
woodworking; the rundown old mansion was a huge challenge and he and a partner
Don Gotschall started working on the physical plant now known as "The Magic
Milt was creating a clubhouse for magicians but there was no club. He
convinced his brother Bill that this would be the time to resurrect the Academy of
Magical Arts. At the time Bill Jr. was a full time producer at CBS Television,
working on many of the biggest shows at that network, and also publishing
Genii Magazine. He was a top administrator and immediately formed a new not for
profit organization, The Academy of Magical Arts, Inc. The first members were
Genii subscribers and old friends in magic and our co-workers in the
television industry. The late Bill Larsen Jr. became its President For Life.
The AMA was incorporated in 1961 and "The Castle" opened its doors on January
2nd, 1963. Since then it has become known as "The Mecca for Magicians"
throughout the world. Its membership has grown to roughly 5,000 active magicians
and non-magician members.
The Magic Castle® and the Academy of Magical Arts are unique in the world.