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Irene Larsen, Magic Castle Co-Founder, Dies At 79

Irene Larsen (left) and actress Tippi Hedren in 2004 (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
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Irene Larsen, co-founder of the Magic Castle and Academy of Magical Arts, has died at 79. Irene Larsen died yesterday morning while at 'Brookledge,' her Hancock Park home, according to a post on the Magic Castle's Facebook page.

According to the post:

Irene, AMA member #1, was the love and the light of the Academy and truly defined our mission statement, serving the Magic Castle in every aspect. A past President of the AMA Board of Directors and member of the Board of Trustees, she served on virtually every committee over the years. She devoted her life to the Magic Castle. From the Castle's earliest days, Irene and her husband, AMA President for Life, Bill Larsen Jr., spent each evening greeting guests as they walked through the doors … a practice she frequently continued, right up until her untimely death.

Larsen created the Magic Castle with her husband, Bill Larsen—who died in 1993—and her brother-in-law, Milt Larsen, according to Chris Nichols of L.A. Magazine. She also served with her husband as a co-editor of
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The former Hollywood mansion opened as The Magic Castle in 1963 and was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1989. There are almost 2,500 members today.

Larsen's daughter, Erika, is the current president produces vaudeville show The Brookledge Follies, which performs out of Brookledge.

Larsen's family has requested that those wishing to send flowers instead donate to Last Chance for Animals. Larsen was an avid animal lover who championed for animals rights, and according to the Magic Castle's Facebook post, was vigilant in ensuring that all performers who had animal assistants properly cared for them and treated them with both dignity and respect.