Magician's death by hanging in Hollywood ruled accidental by coroner

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The death of a world-class magician found hanged in his dressing room at a popular Hollywood nightclub called the Magic Castle was ruled an accident on Saturday by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's Department, an agency official said.

Daryl Easton, 61, touted on his website as a card-trick specialist known internationally as "The Magician's Magician," was found by employees of the club hanged on Friday in a death that police said they were investigating as an apparent suicide.

But the coroner who performed the autopsy on Saturday ruled the death an accidental hanging, said Lieutenant David Smith, the medical examiner's watch commander for the day. He said the finding was that the hanging was self-inflicted, though it was not ruled a suicide, Smith added.

"Our doctor closed it as an accident," Smith told Reuters. Adding to the mystery of the case, he said he was not at liberty to furnish further details about the circumstances of Easton's death or to explain the basis of the coroner's ruling.

Easton's body was found fully clothed with a bag over his head, said Vicki Greenleaf, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Magical Arts, which owns the Magic Castle. She disputed as untrue media reports indicating Easton was found in his underwear.

He died in a dressing space separated from the parlor performance area by a curtain, Greenleaf said.

Greenleaf said Easton was known as a "really, really good close-up magician," adding, "He didn't perform illusions. He was known as a card guy."

Her description seemed to discount the notion that Easton may have hanged himself in the course of practicing an illusion that went awry, a scenario that the medical examiner's office declined to address.

Easton had performed on Thursday night at the Magic Castle's parlor stage and was scheduled to appear there again on Friday and Saturday. The venue was closed for the night after his body was found on Friday but reopened on Saturday, Greenleaf said.

The Magic Castle, a landmark Chateauesque mansion located in the heart of Los Angeles' Hollywood district, opened in 1963 and operates as a private club offering performances by several magicians each evening to an audience consisting of members and invited guests.

Easton, a veteran headliner at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, is a world-champion "close-up" magician with over 40 years of experience in performing and selling his magic around the globe, the academy said in a statement.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Andrew Hay)