Both aficionados of tiki culture and anyone who has imbibed in tiki drinks know that the exotic, rum-based, fruity beverages are deceptively powerful potions. Also, there is a mystical quality about the aesthetic of Polynesian pop. Thus, it is very fitting that Stowaway, a charming tiki bar located in The District at Tustin Legacy, should host magic shows. A rotating cast of magicians takes the spotlight for two performances a night, on select evenings, for ticketholders of their intimate Enchanted Escape Magic & Cocktails shows. To get a glimpse behind the magic curtain, this reporter spoke with one of the event’s performing founders, Derek “Hubb” Irwin, and checked out his show.

As is the case with many magicians, Hubb’s journey started with being fascinated by magic from a young age, “I always liked it as a little kid. I had magic kits; I was watching all the Penn and Teller stuff; I watched everything on TV – even The Masked Magician stuff – I mean, I just loved it,” Hubb explained. “There was a magic shop that I would go to called Best Magic; it’s off of Magnolia and Orange, in Anaheim. I would go there all the time.”

Photo by Jeromy Estabillo Chan

However, it took a while before he was ready to perform. Hubb recalled, “I was always a little intimidated by doing the magic. I was never one for performing, and I kept it kind of a secret that I practiced magic for many years… Then, it started to get out that I could do card tricks and magic and stuff, so people started introducing me as, ‘Oh yeah, he’s a magician.’ And I would be like, ‘No, no, no. Don’t tell them! I’m not that confident yet!’”

Eventually, his wife helped him change his attitude. “My wife took me [to The Magic Castle] for my birthday,” he said. “I didn’t even bring a deck of cards. I was like, ‘Nope!’ But, talking to a bunch of magicians that I knew of – who now I’m fortunate enough to get to call friends – they were like, ‘You should try out; you’d [become] a member, no problem.’ So the second time I ever walked in that building was to audition, and it was the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever done, for sure. And I got accepted!”

After that, Hubb started visiting The Magic Castle on a weekly basis, where he quickly overcame his apprehension about performing and honed his skills. “I remember … I would sit behind the table waiting for a crowd, and if I heard somebody coming, I’d get up and run right away because I was so nervous,” he recalled. Before long, he was performing 20-minute sets, one after the other, to anyone who would sit down. Then he began winning competitions that were held there.

Now, when he holds court at the Enchanted Escape Magic & Cocktail show, he is a beacon of enchantment. He and the crew at Stowaway greet guests with smiles and joviality – instantly putting them at ease and getting them in the mood for a mystifying and funny show. Of course, the magic and humor of the performance comprise just the tip of the iceberg. As soon as guests enter Stowaway, they are transported far from the atmosphere of the industrial-chic market of The District’s collection of other restaurants, boutiques and food stalls. Exotic, island, lounge music permeates a colorfully lit environment comprised of bamboo and thatched paneling adorned with tikis, masks and other decorative elements that are standards of the Polynesian pop aesthetic.

Depending upon the date of the show, guests may experience the magic of Hubb or one of his fellow founding or guest performers. Hubb recalled how he and fellow Magic Castle performer Jeromy Chan started the Enchanted Escape Magic & Cocktails event.

“Jeromy Chan has a thing called Taste of Magic…and I know he did a show [at the castle] a couple times, and he does more parlor style, so he sets up the room totally different. He doesn’t work behind the bar like me or Lauro [Castillo, who also performs at the tiki bar]. … During COVID, I kind of reached out to [Jeromy], and was like, ‘Hey, I’ve always wanted to do something.’ And we went down to Stowaway, and met there, and talked. And I was like, ‘Dude, this spot would be perfect for bar magic,’ and he was open to it; the owners were open to it, so we set it up, and that’s how we got it…then I met one of their reps for Papa’s Pilar [Rum], who came out to the show. She loved it. She reached out to the brand manager out here and told her all about it. We had a conversation; she loved the idea. So they decided to sponsor us. So we’re moving forward with doing more with them.”

Photo by Jeromy Estabillo Chan

The sponsor’s influence is evident in the name of the event’s signature drink, Papa’s Pog, which is as delicious as it is potent. Other similarly delicious and powerful drinks on the event’s drink menu include the Wubba Lubba HUBB HUBB, Hurricane Ash, Mai Tai, Tide Pool, and Frog Grog. In total, the menu has 10 exotic drinks, which range from $12 – $15. Popcorn and mixed snack crackers are complimentary with the drinks, which are served for the first hour of the event – prior to the start of the magic show. While the event is fairly intimate, with about 12 seats per performance, the folks who get there early will snag the best seats, right upfront, at the bar.

Given the tense and contentious attitudes that have abounded throughout the world for the last several years – and as the country is gradually starting to open up as COVID cases dwindle [knock wood] – some elixirs, a little escapism, a little humor, and a little magic are just what the witchdoctor ordered.

Tickets for the Enchanted Escape Magic and Cocktails show are $35. For event dates and times, and to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/enchanted-escape-magic-cocktails-tickets-142047717547

Photo by Jeromy Estabillo Chan