Gift shop opens at Magic Castle Cabaret
Nestled in a corner right off Highway 101 is a magical, mesmerizing and merry marvel.
The Magic Castle Cabaret Gift Shop is all but an ordinary gift shop — it’s a unique experience for all who enter.
Located at the Magic Castle Cabaret at 30 Los Patos Way in Montecito, the building may look average from the outside, but the inside takes members to a different world, one full of magic, glitz and glamor.
And it’s owned and stocked by none other than Arlene Larsen, a costume designer who has been featured in a number of TV shows and hosted countless parties, galas and society events throughout the state.
Her husband, Milt Larsen, and his late brother, Bill, co-founded the world-renowned Magic Castle in Hollywood in the early 1960s, and the Larsens together founded Magic Castle Cabaret in Montecito a few years ago, decking it out to the nines for each holiday.
Arlene’s Gift Shop boasts ornate jewelry, gleaming party gowns, candles, furs and of course, bedazzled face coverings as a sign of the times. She also creates seasonal decor, right now featuring one-of-a-kind yard ghosts and skeleton candle sets.
Mrs. Larsen, donning a black face mask with luminescent rhinestones spelling out “BOSS” and sparkling spider broaches herself, said that if she had a choice, she’d wear a different, stylish mask every day.
“I love making the things for the gift shop and buying the things for the gift shop,” she told the News-Press. “It’s not your typical gift shop — it’s a glitzy, fancy playroom.”
While the shop is still early on in its opening stages, Mrs. Larsen said she plans to have private shopping parties for members of the club, where women can come in groups of five or six, sip champagne and get first looks at the new inventory before anyone else.
Her ideal customer base? Local celebrities, both for the shop and the cabaret. She aims to host television personality Carol Burnett, Santa Barbara International Film Festival executive director Roger Durling and Prince Harry, “because he loves magic and members of the Polo Club come here.”
“We want people to come in here, relax and not worry about paparazzi and cameras,” the crafty costume designer continued. “We (Santa Barbara) have a lot of private clubs, but none like this one.”
Mr. Larsen said of his wife, “She just naturally loves this kind of stuff. This is more than just a hobby of hers; it’s a love of hers. No matter where you go in the world, you won’t find what you find over there.”
He told the News-Press that the pandemic, aka a life without parties and gatherings to enjoy live entertainment, has limited a lot of his and his wife’s livelihood.
“We specialize in entertainment… jazz bands, magicians… variety acts, all kinds of musicians… That’s what we’re all about. If you can’t have that, I don’t know what you do,” Mr. Larsen said.
The couple decided to reopen slowly and safely, so as not to put themselves and others at risk. Even at ages 75 (Mrs. Larsen) and 89 (Mr. Larsen), they still want to have fun and throw fabulous parties.
Robert Hays, an actor best known for his role in the movie “Airplane!” (1980) as the pilot, Ted Striker, attended the cabaret on Wednesday as a member of the Magic Castle. He told the News-Press he came to support the Larsens as old friends of his.
“Every time they do stuff, it’s just fun,” he said. “This is like a mini Magic Castle. You come in here and sit down, and it’s just a feast for your eyes and senses.”
The actor is partial to magic tricks, and egged on the magician at cabernet, Gene Urban, as he casually flexed quick card tricks and flawlessly pulled random items from behind guest’s ears.
“I wish I could do it (magic),” Mr. Hays said. “I love it. The sleight of hand is my favorite. Gene did this crazy thing with that little mirror …”
With the sole intention of entertaining, making members laugh and just having a good time, the Larsens bring together holiday spirit and love for the finer things in life for all members to enjoy.
While the private club is still closed because of COVID-19, the gift shop will be open to the public starting today through Oct. 31. The shop is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Members get a 10% discount on everything in the shop as well.
For general information about the Magic Castle Cabaret, call 805-869-2700.