Remembering Milt’s Magic

By Montecito Journal   |   June 20, 2023

More than just a “Magic Man,” Milt Larsen was a kind and generous person. It’s inevitable that he and Arlene should marry, because they’re both the same – so friendly and giving.

Milt and I first met when I joined the Magic Castle. Over our 50+ year friendship, he was always generous with his time, advice, and opportunity. (And not a few cocktails.)

My wife and I first became acquainted with Montecito when Milt would lend us his beachfront apartment for weekend getaways. When we mentioned that we wished we could find a house of our own in Montecito, Milt kept a lookout, and finally pointed us to an available house he thought would please us. It did, and we joined the Montecito community in 1996.

We spent many happy hours sitting with Milt and Arlene on their patios, first on Edgecliff Lane, and later at their home on the Mesa.

When I mentioned to him that I loved vintage radio, he freely lent me some of the original radio transcriptions in his collection. It was the genesis of my own archive and my start of preserving radio history. When he opened the Variety Arts Center in downtown Los Angeles, he provided us the opportunity to create the Variety Arts Radio Theatre stage show, which ran for 10 years.

When my wife and I worked to put performers in the Rose Parade, Arlene opened her costume closet to us, and Milt loaned me a prized raccoon coat for a 1920s-themed float.

Milt was also generous with his friendships. Over the years, he and Arlene would invite us to share good times with the likes of Stan Freberg, Milton Berle, Mel Blanc, Buddy Ebsen, and more. Most particularly, it was through Milt’s generosity that I got to work with his good friends Richard M. Sherman and Frank Bresee.

Our son and Milt shared the same birthday, and Milt would always reciprocate when we wished him happy birthday. One of our son’s favorite memories is us having lunch with Stan Freberg at Milt and Arlene’s invitation.

There’s so much more to my memory of Milt. But I know that he was just as open and generous with many, many people. So I’m sure our friendship was not unique. It’s just the way he was. Milt was a unique part of our lives. While he’s no longer with us, his memory and his particular kind of magic live on for us and so many others.

Roger Rittner

Life at the Casa

I am shocked! The letter from Renée Templeraud is hardly a true or full picture of living at Casa Dorinda. 

Her “highlights” were truly personal and unfortunate, but for many of the rest of us here, life is extra satisfying in many ways. 

When I think of life at Casa Dorinda, I think of the community of spirit. Life here really revolves around social and creative activities. Lectures and Art shows by residents followed by receptions are delightful social gathering opportunities. The beautiful jewelry, paintings, and quiltings created by residents are often sold at a Christmas Bazaar, which benefits scholarships and emergency funds for the staff. 

The high quality of maintenance and housekeeping is also something I value and appreciate about Casa Dorinda. The lush landscape surroundings are well maintained and provide immense satisfaction when walking around the property. Housekeeping provides an excellent staff and service. ln the years that I have lived here, I have seen nothing but respect and caring for my personal belongings. 

Another outstanding joy at Casa Dorinda is the food. The variety and quality is truly remarkable. What a challenge to serve 360 plus people three times a day and with every known kind of dietary need! It is glorious to have healthy offerings provided. Along with well-prepared food, the presentation is detailed and artistic. 

These are just a few of the many positive and pleasant things to say regarding Casa Dorinda. 

Judith Smith, Casa Dorinda resident Landscaping on the Lamb

I hike regularly in and near this space and I have observed the Montecito Fire Department’s project using sheep to reduce wildfire risk. This is a worthy project, but I question two features of the project. First, the electrified fencing does not seem high enough to deter predators, especially coyotes. Second, if such animals do get inside the perimeter, the lone guard dog that I have seen would be no match for a pack of coyotes or a mountain lion. I hope that these issues can be addressed to ensure further the success of the initiative. 

Geoff Hasler

Montecito Distracted Driving

Robert makes excellent points about the distractions caused by alcohol and cellphone use (whether or not hands free).

There is a larger distraction going on in the automobile itself. The majority of newer cars now have large “entertainment” screens that are not only a distraction from the task of driving, but also cause the driver to look away from the road. As a bicycle commuter I regularly look in the cars near me and see the driver engaged with the touch screen (or texting) and not the road. This is on local roads at low speeds. At high speeds the accident potential is exponentially greater. 

People are no longer accustomed to doing one thing at a time. In this modern world the ability to multitask is usually seen as a positive skill. The automotive industry’s answer is to create self-driving cars so people do not have to pay attention. 


Dan Diamond, Santa Barbara  


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