May 14, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Nicolas Cage and Kirstie Alley are card-carrying members. Kato Kaelin, Raquel Welch, and Jason Alexander have stopped by to check out the card tricks. And three weeks ago the Arquette sisters — Rosanna and Patricia — and future sister-in-law Courteney Cox took part in a seance in the red velvet Houdini Room.

Welcome to the Magic Castle, a four-decades-old L.A. house of cards that’s turned charming again thanks to a boom in all things abracadabra. This exclusive members-only club (Cary Grant and Fred Astaire were in it) is attracting a new generation of Hollywood-ites whose devotion to the top-hat-and-cape craft may help establish magic as the next ”lounge.”

Inside the six-level castle (you have to intone ”Open Sesame” before a sliding door lets you enter), here’s what you won’t find: dorky guys in ill-fitting tuxes attempting to impress eye-rolling birthday-party victims with a ”How’d that nickel get behind your ear?” trick. Instead, women in heels and skirts and nattily garbed men (there’s a dress code) sip martinis and enjoy the antics of magicians like Steve Valentine (also an actor, appearing in The Muse) who packs ’em in with card tricks and funny asides.

But magic isn’t just cool within the confines of this nightclub. Along with an explosion in magic-themed websites, Hollywood is pulling magical projects out of the air. And live acts are thriving. On any given night in Las Vegas, you can catch four or five different magic shows (six years ago it was Siegfried & Roy, and that’s about it). Magic festivals are becoming as commonplace as film confabs: more than 27 this year in such far-flung locales as Buenos Aires and Leadville, Colo. Even the QE2 has gotten into the act, with its annual Mediterranean ”Magic Cruise” setting sail later this month. ”There was a time when all we could hope for was a David Copperfield special once a year,” says Stan Allen, editor of Magic, a Las Vegas-based magazine for magicians that’s seen its circulation double in the last four years. ”[But we now] seem to be riding high. There’s credibility where there was once geekiness.”

The sorcerer most responsible for making those stereotypes do a disappearing act? David Blaine, of course. Just a few years ago, this 25-year-old FOL (Friend of Leo) was performing impromptu tricks for pals (and then-girlfriend Fiona Apple) at hot spots like the Viper Room. But in early April, when he buried himself alive in a Plexiglas coffin on Manhattan’s West Side, he hypnotized the entire Big Apple — and suddenly made magic seem a lot hipper. During the week Blaine was entombed, Drew Barrymore and Edward Norton made the pilgrimage — as did Regis, Rosie, and the Today show — and helped levitate him into supernova star status.

Learning a trick or two from DiCaprio about overexposure, Blaine, says his flack, is currently lying low. But it’s no secret that he hopes to parlay his popular TV specials (his April 14 ABC extravaganza, David Blaine: Magic Man, drew an impressive 12.9 million viewers) into a feature film. He is currently working on an autobiographical movie, Trick Monkey (scripted by Fight Club scribe Jim Uhls), which he describes as ”the Rocky of magic. It’s about a young magician fighting his way up.”

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