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Jewish Journal

Magic Jews

by Naomi Pfefferman

February 11, 1999 | 7:00 pm

Steve Spill's father was one of the first managers of the Magic Castle. Not surprisingly, growing up around the Castle cast its spell on Spill, who went on to forge a 20-year career as a professional magician.

Last September saw the debut of his new venture, the Magicopolis Theater of Illusion.

Located near the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Magicopolis materialized after Spill conjured up visions of a different kind of magic venue: "I wanted to establish a beachhead for family-oriented shows that are clean and fun."

The 44-year-old Spill, who co-owns the theater with his wife, Bozena Wrobel, recently divulged some tricks of his trade with Up Front:

Up Front: What separates Magicopolis from other magic establishments?

Steve Spill: We're really a theater. We're not a restaurant or a club or a dinner theater...we're all about the show. We have the highest-quality performers anywhere. We're not Vegas-y and nightclubish. People like Danny DeVito, John Malkovich and Jamie Lee Curtis are bringing their kids.

UF: From Harry Houdini (born Ehrich Weiss) to David Copperfield (nee David Kotkin), Jews have made a tradition of practicing magic. What's the connection?

SS: I think that probably Harry Houdini doing his escape act...was a metaphor for Jews escaping tyranny. Jews inherently are dreamers; that's maybe the connection you might have with David Copperfield.

UF: Have acts such as Penn & Teller and the Masked Magician helped or hurt the magic industry by revealing their tricks?

SS: Penn & Teller are very clever. They're themed around the idea of exposing magic, when, in fact, the secrets they've devised are phony. Although many magic acts feel that they were damaged by the Masked Magician, these are generally tricks that fall into the public domain. If you go to your public library, you can probably find the secrets of these tricks. Fox was clever in producing a lot of hype. Both cases get people more interested in magic, and I think that's OK.

UF: Which TV show possesses more magic: "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" or "Charmed?"

SS: I like "Penn & Teller Sin City Spectacular" on FX. Of course, I'm a little bit partial on that one because I worked [as a consultant] on the first eight episodes.

Magicopolis Theater of Illusion is located at 1418 Fourth Street, Santa Monica. For more information, call (310) 451-2241 -- Michael Aushenker, Community Editor

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