Friday, May 28, 2021

Merlin McFly's stained glass Houdini window

In the 1980s there was a popular "singles bar" in Venice Beach, California, called Merlin McFly's. The decor was magic themed and included nine large stained glass widows featuring images of famous magicians, including Houdini! I lived right down the road in neighboring Marina del Rey, but somehow I never went inside and never got a photo. Then one day the windows were gone.

My memory of what the Houdini window looked like has dimmed, so I was excited to find this photo on the website of custom finisher Pat Barrow, who did the woodwork for Merlin McFly's. It's even better than I remember!

The windows were created in 1979 by the Bonny Doon Studio in Santa Cruz, CA. Along with Houdini there was Harry Kellar, Blackstone, Merlin, Aladdin, a fire eater and more. According to the Los Angeles Times, McFly's became not just "a magnet for Westside singles, soon also began drawing stained glass enthusiasts from throughout the country."

When the bar closed in 1992 (a casualty of the AIDS epidemic), the windows were offered for sale for $325,000. According to the blog Gourmet Ghosts, Steve Spill at the nearby Magicopolis magic theater bought them. Two years later he sold them to a collector who put them in a stained glass museum in Washington, D.C. So, presumably, the Houdini stained glass window survives today.

Here's a little side note. The 1977 movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar is about a woman's odyssey in the world of singles bars, much like Merlin McFly's. In one scene she's in a bar that has a Houdini poster on the wall. In fact, it's the same poster that the stained glass window was partially modeled on. The movie was made before the window so this can only be a coincidence. But I guess Harry is conducive to hooking up!

Below are links to some other bars and eateries with Houdini decor.


  1. Thanks for this post. It brought back great memories. This was the first bar I ever worked at as a young magician when Brian Gillis sent me in to cover shifts for him in 1982.I went on to performing there a few nights a week The stained glass windows were stunning. There was a stained gkass Merlin over the main bar that shot lasers from its eyes which bounced around above our customers heads with small strategically placed mirrors. They reacted to smoke which came from the mouth of a karge wood carved griffin at the end of the bar Yes it was very much asc fantastic as it reads and made for an epic card on ceiling.

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories Bruce! I actually didn't know there was magic performed inside.

  2. I know that Merlyn and two intact griffins + another tower and partial griffin are now housed in Stober's Bar on Michigan Ave in Lansing MI.