Borrowed Time LA

Anoth­er sug­ges­tion of Siegfried’s from his mag­ic show at the LA Ath­let­ics Club was to check out his friend Helder Guimarães’s show, Bor­rowed Time LA. The show gar­nered some rave reviews, but the lim­it­ed run has end­ed, so I will be post­ing some spoil­ers!

Borrowed Time

Unlike most mag­ic shows, Bor­rowed Time was not set in a the­ater — this was more of a “pop-up” per­for­mance. When you reserve your tick­ets online, you are only told the gen­er­al neigh­bor­hood where the event will be held. The night before, you get a mys­te­ri­ous note giv­ing you the exact address and some help­ful tips regard­ing logis­tics.

I showed up may­be 15 min­utes ear­ly and park down the street at a free meter, then wan­der on foot to find that the address given is… a lit­tle bode­ga? Con­fused, I ask the shop­keeps for help. They told me that I had the wrong address, I was on East 2nd Street when I want­ed West 2nd Street. I was pret­ty sure I had punched in the address cor­rect­ly into my GPS, but start­ed to dou­ble-check. They asked that since I was already there, may­be I would con­sid­er buy­ing a soda from their bro­ken fridge or tak­ing a pic­ture in their pho­to booth again­st the back wall to help them out since the store was not doing too well. I oblig­ed, and stepped into the pho­to booth.

Just as the final flash went off, a pan­el on the wall pulled away, and a young man in a tuxe­do

Borrowed Time Host

invit­ed me into a hid­den pho­to-pro­cess­ing dark room. He was com­plete­ly mute, but used silent-movie era dia­logue cards to prompt me to turn off my phone and inquire if I would like to check my coat. I com­plied with the request and declined the offer, since I had no coat any­way.

He then walked me back into a cham­ber which is impos­si­ble for me to paint an ade­quate word pic­ture for. If you have been to any Hendrick’s Gin events with me, that is what the décor was like… some­thing along the lines of a Vic­to­ri­an muse­um of curiosi­ties set inside of a botan­i­cal gar­den. There was a dis­play case of neat­ly indexed mag­i­cal arti­facts, a pro­jec­tor play­ing a silent sepia-tone film of a masked man explain­ing a card trick, a detailed mod­el train set, a dresser with hun­dreds of tiny pull-draw­ers, and more.

As I stood there dumb­found­ed, the love­ly (but also mute) hostess, dressed in very fash­ion­able steam­punk (com­plete with gog­gles!), slipped me a piece of paper with a rid­dle on it. I found out that there were small cards hid­den around the entire room with one word answers, and endeav­ored to find the answer to my par­tic­u­lar rid­dle. I com­pared notes with a few oth­er guests who had arrived before me, and appar­ent­ly we all had dif­fer­ent ques­tions! My sense of won­der grew as I saw more and more detail through­out the room on my quest. When I found what I thought was an appro­pri­ate answer card, I brought it and the ques­tion back to the hostess, who seemed to be busy writ­ing more at her impromp­tu stand made of stacked steam­er trunks and a hur­ri­cane lamp.

She took my ques­tion and my answer, quick­ly checked for accu­ra­cy, and then filed them away and hand­ed me a new rid­dle. After a few cycles of this, instead of get­ting a new rid­dle, she hand­ed me a tiny wood­en puz­zle box. When I man­aged to solve that, she hand­ed me an old-fash­ioned skele­ton key. I eager­ly looked around the room for an appro­pri­ate lock, but the young host came back and spoke! He ush­ered us through a hid­den door in a wall of plants to a new room with a large round table, and that is where Helder made his appear­ance and the main show began!

Helder Guimarães

I do not want to give away too much about this por­tion of things just in case Helder does this show again in the future, but for me, one of the most mem­o­rable moments was when he asked for an audi­ence mem­ber to let him bor­row a wed­ding ring. A young lady’s hand shot up, and Helder told us how shocked he was because it was always men vol­un­teer­ing, and asked if she want­ed to recon­sid­er. She turned to her hus­band and asked him if it was OK, but the hus­band deferred to her. She hand­ed the ring over to Helder, who prompt­ly put it into a tiny mani­la envelope and ran it through a hand-cranked shred­der!

The entire show was, to use a term per­haps overused for mag­ic, “mind-blow­ing.” And the pro­duc­tion val­ue was off the charts, as I inad­e­quate­ly tried to con­vey to you here. I would high­ly rec­om­mend Bor­rowed Time or any fol­low-up show by Helder. Oh, and as we left, the shop­keeps gave us our pho­to booth pic­tures as a memen­to of the show.

Borrowed Time Photobooth

Harry Houdini Birthday Séance

After his mag­ic show at the LA Ath­let­ics Club, Siegfried told us about some oth­er events to check out. One of them was a guid­ed tour through the Mag­ic Castle, but sad­ly tick­ets for that event sold out before I could reserve one. Short­ly there­after, anoth­er event for the Mag­ic Castle came up, though: the Har­ry Hou­dini Birth­day Séance!

Houdini Seance

While I con­sid­er myself curi­ous about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an after­life, I would not call myself super­sti­tious.

Superstitious

I was not expect­ing a real talk with the great beyond, but I was open to it, espe­cial­ly since Houdini’s birth­day also hap­pened to be my grandfather’s death anniver­sary. Hou­dini him­self was famous for dis­cred­it­ing fake psy­chics and medi­ums, so I was not sure how the séance would go.

If you are unfa­mil­iar with the Mag­ic Castle, it is the world­wide mec­ca for magi­cians. Every­one in the mag­ic com­mu­ni­ty wants to come here to per­form or to see their idols per­form. The place is actu­al­ly a Hol­ly­wood man­sion that was slow­ly expand­ed to have sev­er­al show rooms, bars, and a for­mal din­ing area. For those not in the com­mu­ni­ty, the Mag­ic Castle has been com­pared to LA’s Hog­warts. Guests are only allowed admis­sion by invi­ta­tion from a mem­ber of the Acad­e­my of Mag­i­cal Arts, and must be dressed in for­mal wear. Also, all pho­tog­ra­phy is dis­al­lowed beyond the foy­er, for obvi­ous rea­sons. So here is a pic­ture of me in the foy­er:

Magic Castle

Since I came around East­er, they had themed dec­o­ra­tions up, includ­ing dress­ing the owl on the book­case in a bun­ny suit. There is no obvi­ous obvi­ous entrance to the main part of the castle, but when you say a code phrase a dis­creet­ly hid­den door reveals itself! Once inside, I checked in with Atlas Obscu­ra agents Erin and Sandi and got a drink from the main bar, the NPH-inspired Old Fash­ioned.

We shuf­fled up to the Hou­dini Room, and the show began. I am so sor­ry I for­got the Mag­ic Castle’s host’s name, but he The Mag­ic Castle’s host and res­i­dent medi­um, Leo Kostka, was fan­tas­tic! I do not want to give much away in case you have the chance to expe­ri­ence it your­self, but I will say that things moved on their own accord, oth­er things mys­te­ri­ous­ly appear­ing from nowhere, unex­plained voic­es, an inan­i­mate object read­ing a guest’s mind, psy­chic stig­mata left on anoth­er guest, and more! Plus the room was filled with Hou­dini arti­facts donat­ed to the Mag­ic Castle, because appar­ent­ly the founders knew him per­son­al­ly.

While I did not get to speak to my grand­fa­ther, I would high­ly rec­om­mend the Hou­dini Séance to any­one!

Magic, Music, & Libations at LA’s First Private Club

Los Angeles Athletics Club

My first Atlas Obscu­ra event in LA was a mag­ic show at the Los Ange­les Ath­let­ics Club, a his­toric build­ing in down­town LA. Steeped in his­to­ry and tra­di­tion, this gor­geous Beaux-Arts style club­house was once home to Char­lie Chap­lin and served as the meet­ing place of The Uplifters. The star-stud­ded mem­ber­ship of this invi­ta­tion-only social club includ­ed Clark Gable, Walt Dis­ney, and Will Rogers.

When I got there, I was treat­ed to Say Jay Hynes on the vio­lin and Siegfried Tieber was min­gling with the guests who had shown up before me. Erin, the host from Atlas Obscu­ra warm­ly greet­ed me and walked me through the check-in process, which involved me get­ting a envelope and a drink token.

The envelope opened into two parts — a small­er enveloped marked not to be opened until lat­er and a fan­cy hand­writ­ten note wel­com­ing me and telling me check out the var­i­ous parts of the room. There was a box where Siegfried had writ­ten a bunch of per­son­al secrets and offered to exchange one for one of yours if you chose to write one down. There were mul­ti­ple stacks of books on mag­ic, and we were invit­ed to peruse the “lit­tle-” “medi­um-” and “big- secret” piles, but warned to avoid the “for­bid­den secrets” pile. The books were appar­ent­ly from Siegfried’s per­son­al library and includ­ed lots of hand­writ­ten notes in the mar­gins, a very cool lit­tle peek behind the cur­tain.

After all the guests had arrived and got­ten our com­pli­men­ta­ry drinks, we set­tled down for the first half of the show. He has a very enter­tain­ing intro­duc­tion spiel:

How many of you have heard of Siegfried and Roy? My name is Siegfried, too. It’s my real name, I promise! My father is from Aus­tria, that explains the name. My moth­er is from Colom­bia, that explains the hair. I was born in Ecuador, that explains the accent.

This first part was set up in stage for­mat for Siegfried to per­form par­lor mag­ic, which is the form I think most of us are more famil­iar with. (This is the style we see when there are mag­ic spe­cials on tele­vi­sion. The magi­cian is at the front of an audi­ence and per­forms large-for­mat illu­sions, often with larg­er props.)

Then there was an inter­mis­sion where Say Jay played some more beau­ti­ful pieces and we all got to drink and min­gle more as the room was reset.

The sec­ond half of the show was in a cir­cle around a table as Siegfried did some amaz­ing close-up mag­ic, which is is his spe­cial­ty. This involves cards, coins, bills, and such, with much more audi­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion — in the form of ver­bal sug­ges­tions, shuf­fling of cards, hold­ing props, or check­ing his sleeves and pock­ets.

I do not want to give too much away, since they have a repeat per­for­mance com­ing up soon. If you are going to be in the area, I high­ly rec­om­mend you check it out! My only com­plaint is that I wish we could have seen more of the build­ing. The room was very nice, but I would wel­come a chance to do a more com­plete tour.