August 9, 2022

behind the curtain

“The most honest and insightful book about the magic community in years!”

Intrigue at the palace of Prestidigitation

One man’s determined efforts to reveal the truth behind the illusion of a well-run entertainment enterprise.

about behind the curtain

Industry veteran Joe Furlow brings you a tale of the rise of the Magic Castle under his leadership and the endless “palace intrigue” that brought the organization to its knees just eight short years later. Set against the backdrop of some of the world’s most wondrous magic, Behind the Curtain takes readers through sixty action-packed years of the Academy of Magical Arts’ and Magic Castle’s colorful, somewhat eccentric, history, and provides a significant backdrop of the American magic scene in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

A lifelong fan of magic, Joe Furlow fulfilled a dream when he was hired as General Manager of the Academy of Magical Arts in 2012. Layered atop a career path littered with countless phenomenal successes within the private club industry, Joe was perfectly positioned to triple the club’s revenues in less than 100 months. He did this while handicapped by a sloppy organization whose Boards of Directors and Trustees did increasingly little to halt the slide of the Castle’s faltering reputation, despite widespread inside knowledge that there were significant problems.

These issues notwithstanding, Joe was able to position this formerly illustrious establishment at the pinnacle of both the entertainment and club management communities.

Joe Furlow, Magic Castle General Manager, 2012-2020

Joe spent a total of eight years cleaning up after countless messes while laying the groundwork for financial resurrection. He investigated numerous allegations of sexual harassment made by guests and employees, while overseeing teams examining employee theft, member racism, and on-site drug use.

His efforts bore fruit as he took the Academy from $7.5 million in annual revenues to $22 million with a waiting list of 500+ prospective members. By any yardstick it was an impressive “rise from the ashes” that featured a long-running string of performances at the fabled Magic Castle by the world’s finest magicians and illusionists. Joe’s actions and professionalism allowed him to re-establish the Academy as the world’s premiere magical association, continuing the vision set by founders Bill and Milt Larsen when they opened the facility in 1963.

Recognition from his peers soon followed as Joe Furlow was awarded the Excellence in Club Management Award by the McMahon Group and Club and Resort magazine. He was selected to speak at world conferences for the Club Management Association of America for two years running. There he was given the honor of educating hospitality students, as well as participating on a panel of General Managers addressing the pros and cons of working within the private club industry.

Joe was rewarded for this string of successes by being scapegoated by internal petty jealousies and politics. Charges were made against him and his office, and at every turn he was proven to not be guilty of anything more than doing an excellent job as General Manager.

The lack of effort by weak, ineffectual boards, and their refusal to take any responsibility for events at times caused by their own members, led to extensive finger-pointing and sharing of half-truths blaming Joe. Two poorly researched articles in the Los Angeles Times were fed by those trying to shift focus and blame, even as they tried prevailing upon Joe to continue representing them and providing them with someone to blame for their failures. 

Joe’s leaving this toxic environment provided the clean break needed to allow him to move on with his life. In addition to his ongoing communications with friends within the Academy of Magical Arts community, Joe has been able to again expand his track record of successes at private clubs throughout the Western United States.

He now brings you this true, sometimes heartbreaking, and always entertaining story of the Magic Castle, the Academy of Magical Arts, and what’s going on behind the curtain. As he reveals the truth behind the Academy’s sleights of hand, he’ll also share tales of inappropriate sex, on-site drug use, and a suicide. Join him to explore the secret schemes and power struggles, charges and countercharges — and COVID-19 — that brought it all to a screeching halt for him in 2020.

Ever a class act, Joe holds no ill will towards the magical community he represented for so long. Yet, even as the Magic Castle comes under new ownership, anyone who’s been paying attention recognizes that unless the organization’s leadership is actually willing to lead and take responsibility for what goes on within their walls, the days of the Academy of Magical Arts may still be numbered.

you wont find anything else like it!

At any time, you can send him questions, reviews, or feedback about his experiences at the Palace of Prestidigitation.

Here’s how you can reach Joe Furlow:

By email:

By mail: PO Box 1681 Carlsbad California, 92018