The Milt Larsen variety theater collection consists of a mix of materials and formats related to all aspects of variety theater from roughly the 1890s forward. The collection documents the development of the variety arts in the United States from stage to radio and film, and finally, television. The collection is especially strong in materials related to vaudeville, Broadway stage, film, television and radio stars Eddie Cantor, Ed Wynn, Billy House, Harold Peary, and Earl Carroll, as well as very early and rare materials related to lesser known vaudevillians. Materials include performer files containing correspondence, clippings, manuscripts, ephemera, and personal/biographical items; scripts, comedy sketches, jokes, gags; photographs; theater programs and playbills, and theater record and performer scrapbooks.

Writer, comedian, lyricist, theater historian, magician and entrepreneur Milt Larsen was born in Pasadena, California (1931) to William W. Larsen Sr. and Giselle Larsen, both performing magicians and publishers of Genii, the Conjuror's Magazine. Larsen wrote for the audience participation shows Truth or Consequences (1956-1977) and Malibu U (1967). As a lyricist, Larsen collaborated with Richard Sherman in the satirical albums Smash Flops and Banned Barbershop Ballads. Larsen also collaborated with Sherman on the comedy musical Pazzazz! In 1956 Larsen produced the magic review "It's Magic!", which has run annually since that year. In 1963 Larsen founded the Magic Castle in Hollywood. A club for magicians, the Magic Castle is home to the Academy of Magical Arts. In addition to the Magic Castle, Larsen founded the Mayfair Music Hall (1973-1980), the Variety Arts Theatre in Los Angeles (1977-1990), and the Society for the Preservation of Variety Arts (1975-1990). Larsen has also served as a consultant and actor in Hollywood films, has written joke books and books on magic. In 2007 Milt and his late brother, Bill, received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. 


For a description of the collection, consult the finding guide in the Online Archive of California (OAC).

For more information on the collection or assistance in using the materials, please contact Special Collections staff at