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Magician Milt Larsen Dies at 92

Milt was perhaps best known for his life-long role in the world of magic and illusion, and grew up in a family of magicians.  

By: May. 30, 2023
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Milt Larsen has died at 12:28pm on Sunday, May 28th, in Los Angeles of Natural Causes at 92.

The patriarch of magic, Milt was perhaps best known for his life-long role in the world of magic and illusion, and grew up in a family of magicians.  His father, William W. Larsen Sr., was a performing magician and Los Angeles defense attorney and his mother, Geraldine, was an early TV pioneer children's entertainer known as The Magic Lady. In 1936, Larsen's parents began publishing Genii, The Conjurors Magazine, which is still in publication. In 1999, Magic magazine selected the Larsen Family as one of the 100 most influential magicians in the 20th century.  

AS A MAGICIAN, in 1963 he founded the world-famous private club for magicians, the Magic Castle in Hollywood. And was the President of Magic Castles, Inc, until his death.   In the year 2000 Magic Magazine polled their international readership and voted Milt Larsen as one of the 100 most influential individuals in the history of magic.  He is a true renaissance man in that his career encompasses writing, producing and performing.  In September 2006 he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his annual stage show It’s Magic!  The event was commemorated with an all-star show at Hollywood’s famed Kodak Theater.  At that time Milt and his late brother Bill were honored with a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.

AS A WRITER, he is best known in the field of audience participation having written Truth or Consequences starring Bob Barker for an incredible run of eighteen years!  Working as a writer for Ralph Edwards TV Productions he was often called upon to keep subjects of his “This Is Your Life” TV show occupied while the production team set up their surprise for the subject.  Edwards knew his young writer respected the older stars and enjoyed talking to them.  Thus Milt entertained legends like Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Ed Wynn, Mack Sennett, George Burns, Jack Benny and many others.   While still in High School he worked as a record archivist for Eddie Cantor.  Veteran stars Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Buddy Ebsen and Steve Allen often called upon Larsen for his consultation on songs and variety acts. Milt authored five joke books and three books involving Magic Castle.  He writes a weekly column for members of the club as well as editing their monthly newsletter. 

AS A SONGWRITER, the team of Sherman and Larsen had a cult comedy following for their outrageous songs (for their time) that can be heard currently on CD’s “Bon Voyage Titanic – Smash Flops” and “Banned Barbershop Ballads.  His credits include having written many stage revues and musicals.  A musical, “Pazzazz” Music and Lyrics by collaborator and two-time Academy Award winning composer, Richard M. Sherman. and Milt Larsen, had its world premiere at Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theater March 27-30, 2008, where Milt maintained a residence.

AS A PRODUCER, in addition to The Magic Castle and It’s Magic! Larsen owned and operated to Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica producing live stage revues for 10 years and the Variety Arts Theater, a 1200 seat variety theater in downtown Los Angeles for 12 years.  He produced TV special for ABC, CBS and NBC.  He was the creator and consultant for the fifty-million-dollar Caesars Magic Empire at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

AS A PERFORMER, he was an active member of SAG and AFTRA and has been seen yanking tablecloths in films and commercials, as well as TV setires such as “Bewitched.” He was the opening act for The Amazing Johnathan in Las Vegas and has been a lecturer at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. as well as magic conventions in America, Mexico, Europe and Japan.

AS A RADIO PERSONALITY, his first job as a professional writer was with the ABC Radio network. It was a daytime audience participation show with variety acts and a 25-piece house orchestra.  While still a teenager he was the weekly guest with radio personality Jim Hawthorne on a CBS radio program that featured milt’s old records and commentary by CBS founder Andrew White. For several years Larsen was the Monday morning guest on Ron “The Baron” Herrons popular KZBN 1290 AM Breakfast Club Show in Santa Barbara.   This led to his creating a weekly radio feature “HEAR THEM AGAIN – for the first time,” featuring recordings from the first half of the twentieth century.  The show was heard on CRN the Digital Cable Network coast to coast Saturday morning at 6-7 AM and Sunday at 4-5 P.M., TV Channel 946 and The show was also heard worldwide Saturday afternoons at 4:30-5:30 on Satellite radio

AS A HISTORIAN, Milt was a well-known and respected theatre historian and record collector.  Many consider the closing of the famed Palace Theater in New York in 1932 as the final curtain for vaudeville.  At that time Milt was only one year old.  Often claiming that he was born when Vaudeville died, he became the keeper of the vaudeville era legacy. As a kid and loved talking to as many of the “old-timers” still around at the time.   He was an aspiring comedy writer and was fascinated by the comedians of the past.  He started collecting recordings of showbusiness personalities as a teenager.  His hobby grew into a passion and his collection of thousands of vintage 78’s and LP’s is a treasure trove of variety history. His entire Vaudeville collection has been donated to UCSB in Santa Barbara.

Milt Larsen is survived by his wife, Arlene Larsen, his nephew, Dante Larsen, niece Erika Larsen, and great-nieces Jessica Hopkins and Liberty Larsen. No services have been scheduled at this time.

Photo Courtesy of the Larsen Family Archives


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