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The Amazing Johnathan pretends to have lost his arm in an accident, during a magic trick at the 50th anniversary celebration for the Magic Castle in Hollywood on Jan. 2, 2013. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)
It was the late 1940s and a wealthy banker's home was falling into disrepair.

Then poof!

The Victorian house turned into an entertainment hub dubbed the Magic Castle that has become beloved in Los Angeles for its magic, mystery and memorable members.

"Today the Magic Castle turns 50, which is the new 40, which in Hollywood is the new 20," cracked actor/magician and academy member Steve Valentine, who served as master of ceremonies at the 50th birthday celebration of the Magic Castle.

The mansion on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood is the official private clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts, a nonprofit organization that aims to promote the magic arts. It's still an exclusive club - with dinners and shows open only to members or guests of members.

Niel Patrick Harris was among the celebrites on hand Jan 2, 2013, for the 50th anniversary of Hollywood’s Magic Castle. (John McCoy/Staff
Niel Patrick Harris was among the celebrites on hand Jan 2, 2013, for the 50th anniversary of Hollywood's Magic Castle. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

The academy and the Magic Castle were founded by writer, actor, magician and entrepreneur Milt Larsen and his late brother William Larsen Jr. in 1963.

What started with a handful of magicians, illusionists and enthusiasts like Cary Grant and Johnny Carson now boasts more than 5,000 members during the year.

But as the newly unveiled plaque from the brotherhood of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E. Clampus Vitus reads: "It wasn't as easy as abracadabra."

Just a year ago, the Magic Castle was damaged by a fire on Halloween that tested the academy's resilience.

"It's a wonderful day for everyone. No one expects a club to last 50 years," said academy president Neil Patrick Harris, an Emmy Award-winning actor who is also a performing magician. "Most things don't last 50 years, and magic is still thriving and going strong."

As part of the celebration, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge presented a proclamation to the academy, designating Wednesday "Academy of Magical Arts & Magic Castle Day" before dozens of attendees at the star-studded event including Siegfried Fischbacher of the famous wild cat entertainment duo Siegfried & Roy.

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LaBonge said as the magicians and celebrities associated with the exclusive magic club are just as important to Hollywood's glitz and glamour as the stars of the silver screen.

"The reason why we're still here is because of love. It's the love of magic," said Irene Larsen, founder and widow of William Larsen Jr., who added that her late husband would have been proud to mark the milestone for the academy and Magic Castle.

His daughter, Erika Larsen, added, however, that the celebration was also a party to ring in the new year for the academy.

"While we're here to celebrate the history of this incredible milestone, we're also here to celebrate the future of the Academy of Magical Arts.

"Some of the best and brightest magic minds are with us on a weekly basis, on a nightly basis," she told the crowd of magicians and entertainers.

"This is the hub of magic right now. The scene is very much alive and it is exciting."


mariecar.mendoza@dailynews.com
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Master of Ceremonies Steve Valentine speaks at the Jan. 2, 2013 50th anniversary celebration at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. (John McCoy/Staff
Master of Ceremonies Steve Valentine speaks at the Jan. 2, 2013 50th anniversary celebration at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)