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In an open letter to Magic Castle Members, President Neil Patrick Harris confirms what was reported as the cause of the fire at the home of the Academy of Magical Arts in our interviews with Milt Larsen, Erika Larsen,Irene Larsen & West McDonough:

Dear Members of the AMA:

I want to send a note to all of you, apologizing for a lack of information and explaining what has happened at the club since the unfortunate incident last month. Please understand that every day we are receiving more updates, more answers, more hurdles, more decisions. Those are all constantly affecting the timelines for completion, which has made it quite tricky to provide sound and reliable announcements to our members. It seems that as soon as we go to print, a new wrinkle changes things yet again. But here is the most up to date info, as I know it:

As you all know, a fire broke out at the Magic Castle on Halloween, October 31. The Los Angeles Fire Department was called immediately and did a fantastic job of putting out the fire and then putting down as much plastic as they could to prevent further water damage to the interior of the building. Investigations have revealed that the fire was started by a roofing contractor. While a worker was using a blowtorch to heat asphalt as part of the operation, part of the roof caught fire.

Of greatest concern to us all, our employees evacuated the building and none suffered any injuries. The fire damage was limited to the roof and adjoining area on the third floor where the offices are located. The greatest damage resulted from water, and is limited to the Rollin Lane mansion side of the Castle. The Cherub Room, Terrace, Dante Room, Main Bar, Irma’s room and Museum all suffered some degree of water damage. The annex area — home to the Palace of Mystery, Parlor of Prestidigitation, Inner Circle and library — was not affected by the fire.

Restoration and repair efforts began early the next day, and have continued at a frenetic pace since then. Every surface, every piece of furniture, and all of our other property is being inspected, dried, cleaned and marked for repair as needed. The landlord and AMA have both had representatives on-site to consult with and approve the contractors being used. Jim Bentley has recently volunteered, and been approved by the Board, to serve as the Interim Restoration Project Manager and act as our eyes and ears throughout this process. In addition, our insurer and the landlord’s insurer have had claim adjusters on-site to assess the damage and approve the contractors and other expenses necessary to bring our club back to its original condition.

The AMA has property insurance with limits that are more than high enough to reimburse all covered expenses resulting from the fire. Damage to our property and lost income as a result of the business interruption are both reimbursable from our insurer. Damage to the building itself is covered under the landlord’s policy. The terms and conditions of the policies define the exact scope of what damages and expenses are covered; some of our expenses will not be covered. The Treasurer and Controller have been working with our insurance representatives at all levels to maximize our insurance recovery and minimize our out of pocket expenses. Our insurers have also been in touch with the insurer for the roofing contractor.

The Board and the membership all have a common goal of keeping the club open to the extent possible during the restoration and repair process, and getting the club fully open at the earliest possible date. The staff has shown incredible creativity and adaptability to the new and changing circumstances we find ourselves in. As a result, we are able to open five nights a week, closing only on Mondays and Tuesdays. A buffet dinner is served with a menu that changes nightly. There are performers in the Palace and Parlor, and the Close-Up shows are taking place in the Peller Theater. The club is open to members and their guests, as well as visitors with guest passes. Check the web site for up-to-the-minute updates on our show and operating schedule.

At this point, we have only a general idea of when we will be able to fully reopen. We believe the restoration company will be done in less than a week. After that, repair contractors will begin fixing the damaged parts of the interior of the building — walls, paneling, electrical, etc. We are ordering carpet to replace the older floor covering that had to be ripped out. Even with the contractors working as quickly as they can, it will take a number of weeks for the repairs to be completed and inspected by the City agencies that need to sign off before we fully open. As soon as the schedule becomes more defined, I will update you.

Our staff in all departments has shown a fantastic willingness to work around the clock to adapt new procedures for maintaining our operations and serving the needs of our members. I personally would like to acknowledge the tireless work of our vice President Erika Larsen, who has been a constant presence on site, and has been extraordinary in her leadership and decision-making. Rich Cowley has been actively involved, as well, providing invaluable guidance. Our treasurer Randy Sinnott has worked tirelessly with our controller David Clement to make absolutely sure that all financial decisions are well thought through – a monumental feat when you are dealing with an insurance-based situation such as this. West McDonough has also been amazing, and everyone on her team representing the property deserves our thanks. They have even opened up The Magic Hotel to house our Events staff as a temporary office, have offered every resource available to them, and have done so with great positivity and encouragement.

Finally, I’d like to thank you, our members, for your continued interest in the Magic Castle and the AMA. The outpouring of offers of support and assistance has been truly incredible. The Inferno Fund has been embraced by our members as a way to help support the club during this time. I know it is inconvenient in many ways to have this sort of disruption – performers have to get rebooked, dinner reservations cancelled, perks rescheduled, etc. – but please bear with us. Even more than that, please continue to step up and support us. Hand out guest passes, come see shows, donate what you can, stay positive, stay flexible and we will weather this storm (if only there had been a storm on Halloween..!). I’m so proud of everyone, and I am anxious to have the Castle back up to 100% (even, dare I say 150%) very soon. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you soon.


Neil Patrick Harris
AMA Board of Directors, President