Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Brookledge Theatre
The most exclusive theatre in Los Angeles happens to be the most famous address in Magic.  You can read more about the famous Brookledge theatre in an LA Times article which ran a couple weeks ago.
I was asked to perform at this month's presentation, of the Brookledge Follies last Friday,  September 24th. This happened to coincide with the birthday party of Irene Larson (Princess and landlord of the property) as well. There was no mention of age and no candles on the cake for the senior blond who speaks with Marlene Dietrich's accent.  
This is a picture of me and Mike Caveney on stage setting some props before the audience arrived.  Mike, friend and fellow member of the Left-Handed League, lent his talents to play Bill Toob the Master of Ceremonies.  Mike pointed out a couch in the back of the room where Orson Wells used to hold court and do slight of hand. 
Brookledge Theatre was the inspiration to the creation of the Magic Castle started by Irene Larson's husband Bill and his brother Milt who grew up in this magical mansion. Milt was in attendance and provided the champagne for the evening.  I wish I had recorded the stories he told about his memories of the old house.
Originally it was the demonstration studio of Floyd Thayer, famous magician and builder of magical effects and props. When a client wanted to see what the effect would look like on stage they merely had to look up to see Thayer perform it.  That was back in the 1910 and 20's. Today the theatre has been designated a State Historical site and was rarely used until Erika Larsen, grand daughter Bill Larsen senior who acquired the house from Thayer, decided to produce shows again once a month.
The Sept. Brookledge Follies show was great fun.  It was a vaudeville show in all its glory with magic, singing, comedy and ventriloquism. The "by invitation only" audience was a noted group of new performers like Brett.... the youngest sword swallower in the world, to veterans like Sigfried, the Sigfried half of Sigfried and Roy. Mike Lacey, owner of the Comedy and Magic Club, and wife Kathy were there.  Magic Castle board members and luminaries dotted the audience.The rumor is that Steve Martin wasn't there because the guest list was full by the time he expressed interest in coming.  I thought there was room for one more, but it really is an exclusive show and the theatre has less than 70 seats in its intimacy.
Outside the theatre the grounds include several levels of steps and bridges, with stone work, trees and lots of Gnomes and witches in effigy. A virgin section of the LA river runs through the grounds and literally under the theatre which gives the whole area an other worldly patina.  The river is the reason for the name.. Bookledge, since it does indeed occupy the ledge of the brook.  
All theatres are haunted and the older they are the more visceral the ghostly feelings.  This one is spook central and one day I hope to commune with these shades when there are no other humans around.
What a great honor and excitement to do this show and perform on this stage.
As you were,


P. Grecian said...

What a lovely, intimate theatre! And such history!
Thanks for sharing, Jay.

Bob Conrad said...