GERI LARSEN – A Pioneer for Women in Local and Syndicated Daytime Television

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There are unsung heroes who laid the groundwork for future daytime endeavors. Among them is GERI LARSEN, who in a male dominated field was the first female magician to perform in her own weekly TV show, being dubbed “The First Lady of Illusion.”

Her son, Milt Larsen (founder of The Magic Castle,) recalls, “In the thirties our family was billed as the ‘Larsen Family of Magicians.’  We played the finest resort hotels with our full evening magic shows.  Mother (Geri Larsen) had the distinction of being the first woman ever to perform
magic on television for a demonstration of the ‘new medium’ at the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco.  She was a pioneer in local Los Angeles television. Klaus Landsburg gave her one of the first morning TV spots and she played the part of a magical fairy princess along the lines of the good witch Glinda in MGM’s classic ‘Wizard of Oz.’ She performed solo with the assistance of her impish magic elf Boko played by one of Hollywood’s best known ‘little people’ Jerry Marin, who at 94 years of age is the last surviving Munchkin.”

In Milt’s recent autobiography “My Magical Journey (the first 30,000 days),” Milt recalls, “Television was very primitive in those days.  I remember the excitement of going to the studio to watch the show.  The studio was in a converted auto repair garage just outside of the Paramount Studio’s main gate.  It was kind of a shock seeing her in her dark green lipstick! (She looked beautiful on the tube since in early black and white TV green photographed as dark red.)  She remained on KTLA for a couple of seasons, she then had her own filmed syndicated show “The Magic Lady,” when the first shows were being filmed in ‘glorious color,’ but the television audiences still enjoyed it in black and white because CBS and NBC were arguing about whose color system was going to be used. ‘The Magic Lady’ sets were very impressive. Her primary set was the Magical Garden of the Moon with a rocky moonscape, crescent moon, stars and a bubble machine worthy of Lawrence Welk. Dressed in her “Gone With The Wind” flowing white gown and sparkling star tiara, she performed magic and sang original songs to organ accompaniment.”

Geri Larsen was an amazing person and a true pioneer in television and in the world of magic at a time when women had been relegated to the role of assistant.  While men were being referred to as magicians or wizards, their female counterparts were trying to escape the moniker of sorceress or witch. She opened the doors for the many women to follow, and proved that women could hold an audience’s attention just as well as their male competitors.

In Magic, the Larsen name is legendary. William Larsen Sr. and his wife, Geraldine Larsen published “Genii” magazine in 1936. They had two sons, Bill Larsen Jr. and Milton Larsen.  Bill founded the now famous Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood and Milt created its unique clubhouse, now known worldwide as “THE MAGIC CASTLE.”

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