“I have initiated a movement and is going to be expressed in much of the Western world in the months to come. It’s a very simple message which is rapidly being forgotten and lost in modern society. Namely, it is the interest and action of touching other people. By touching I mean speaking to them, glancing at them, smiling at them. This is becoming rapidly lost in our society. Show me a person who has 200 friends on the internet and I will show you a very lonely person. It is all the more concern since in surveys done in the past 2 years, it is learned that more and more young people, high school, college aged, and a little older, when asked one of their greater problems, or losses, many of them have said they don’t have any friends. Friendship is not really accomplished over the phone, or the internet or on a mechanical piece, it needs to be shared and experienced and that will become, since my life deals with tuning into the thoughts of others, sharing feelings will be one of my greatest messages. If I could use one word to sum it up it is one of the most powerful words in our culture, the word is Empathy.”
I had the pleasure to interview The Amazing Kreskin. Kreskin, born George Joseph Kresge is an American mentalist who was a popular television star in the 1970’s
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your back story?
A major turning point in my career took place when I was nine years old, in the third grade. It was raining outside, so my teacher, Miss Curtis said we are not going outside to play today, I am going to teach you a game. She had one of our classmates leave the classroom and wait in the hall, and we hide a bean bag in the classroom, it was in someone’s desk. When Miss Curtis called Jane back in, she said, you walk around, we hid a bean bag, your classmates will tell you if you are near it by saying you’re getting warm or if you are not near it you are cold, if you’re real close you’re hot. It’s a game called hot and cold. Jane was finally lead to the bean bag. I never got to play that game, it obsessed me, so when I walked home from school, my brother, who is 3 years younger was home. I said lets go over to grandma and grandpa’s house. They lived 10 minutes away, they were from Sicily. When we arrived at their house, I told my brother, while I waited outside the hour to go upstairs, because that’s where they lived, they rented the downstairs, in order to make ends meet. Green stamps were not known in those days, so people had to earn a living to live. My brother went upstairs and as I instructed him, hid a penny, anywhere upstairs. He called me a few minutes later, and I walked upstairs, my grandmother who did not speak English, only Italian, was sitting at the kitchen table wondering what was going on and I found myself slowly meandering into my Uncle’s bedroom, he was at work. I climbed on a chair, after all I was only 9 years old, and short. I found myself reaching behind the curtain rod and low and behold touching the penny and then it dawned on me, I never asked my brother to talk to me or tell me anything, he just sat in the kitchen and watched. Somehow I picked up the thought pattern of what he had done. That was the first most important event in my childhood and carved a pattern that I wished to follow, in the future, as a thought reader.
Q: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your performing career?
A: One of the most dramatic events throughout my career is a feature in most of my concerts around the world. I gather from the audience a committee of strangers, 5 or 6 people, hand them my check and I am then escorted from the theater, guarded by others who make certain while I am out of the building I can’t see or hear what is happening. During the period, the committee hides my check anywhere in the entire theater/auditorium, so long as there is access to it, by normal means, there is nothing dangerous, they can hide it anywhere within the theater/auditorium. The committee returns to the stage, and I am brought back in by the ushers. I turn to the committee, point out to them that they are not to speak to me. I decide on one of them, who I instruct to think about the check and where it has been hidden. The bottom line is, if I fail to find my fee, I forfeit it and it is returned to the organization who hired me for that show, and the program is for free. I have failed 11 times which is not many out of 6,000. Although in New Zealand, at one venue, a failure ended up my losing almost $51,000. One of the dramatic findings took place at a university in Texas, in a gymnasium that was filled to capacity. I kept walking up to this elderly gentleman and at one point I asked him to open his mouth, but I did not see a check. I apologized and walked away. Minutes later with a few thousand in the audience, you could hear a pin drop, I wandered through the auditorium and came up to the gentleman again and said would you open your mouth, which he did. I then asked him, does it have to do with the roof of your mouth? He reached in, took out his upper plate and handed me my check.
Q: What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
A: I am completing my 21st book. No, I don’t write fiction but the reason there is continual interest as I’m told by publishers and readers is that so much continuously happens to me in my career as I travel and having flown according to the airline industry a little over 3 ½ million miles, there are further stories and experiences that I intend to share with my public.
Q: Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
A: In the 83 years of my life, I have performed with thousands of celebrities. It’s always intrigued me the different shadings, outlooks that they reflected in their thinking. With 88 appearances with Johnny Carson, there are behind the scene stories, known by very few people that I’ve not shared as yet. 118 TV shows with Mike Douglas, more than anyone else in the history of the series. The shows had me reading the thoughts of everyone from Phyllis Diller, Sonny & Cher, Bob Hope, and yes, Carol Burnette. One of the unexplained moments in my career was when Mike Douglas called her on the phone while we were on the TV. She was in another part of the country, and we could not see her as she was not on camera, she as well could not see us since it was a phone conversation. I asked her to think of something and wrote on a large slate what I believed she had in mind. When we asked her on the phone, she said she was looking outside at trees, she was in her agent’s office. I showed quite the disappointment as I asked Mike to reveal what I had written and it was in effect a phrase about a bronze statue. Carol Burnette screamed out loud. She pointed out that she did not tell me during our phone conversation that she was in her agent’s office and not at home. Don’t you know that during the interview she was holding a paperweight in her hand, which was a bronze statue.
Q: If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A: It is one that I have initiated and is going to be expressed in much of the Western world in the months to come. It’s a very simple message which is rapidly being forgotten and lost in modern society. Namely, it is the interest and action of touching other people. By touching I mean speaking to them, glancing at them, smiling at them. This is becoming rapidly lost in our society. Show me a person who has 200 friends on the internet and I will show you a very lonely person. It is all the more concern since in surveys done in the past 2 years, it is learned that more and more young people, high school, college aged, and a little older, when asked one of their greater problems, or losses, many of them have said they don’t have any friends. Friendship is not really accomplished over the phone, or the internet or on a mechanical piece, it needs to be shared and experienced and that will become, since my life deals with tuning into the thoughts of others, sharing feelings will be one of my greatest messages. If I could use one word to sum it up it is one of the most powerful words in our culture, the word is Empathy.
Q: What are your “6 Top Lessons to Become a Great Magician/Mentalist? Can you give an example for each?
A: That is a lengthy story in itself, since by the time I was in my late teens one of the great ambitions in my life, which I’ve seen a fulfillment of, is not to be thought of as a magician and not to be associated with such. It took great effort and skill to achieve such. Indeed, the late Dr. Margaret Meed, did not even want me to call myself a Mentalist. She wanted me to describe myself a Sensitive. Since she was one of the greatest anthropologists of all time, that message was very meaningful to me. Although I do not use the term Sensitive, since people would not know quite what it means. I describe myself as a thought reader.
My great message to those who wish to go into any form of show business, is one that makes me think of Bob Hope when he said “Kreskin, I have never heard such an honest, eloquent answer for those who want to go into show business”. My answer is this: If you have talent, really want to be successful in the business of show business, talent is not sufficient, it’s going to have to be extraordinary talent, but that in itself is not sufficient. You must take advantage of every opportunity that you can. Forget about the money, minimum wage means nothing if you’re in show business. If you think it does, you’re destined to become a loser. Take advantage of every opportunity that you can, whether it’s difficult or otherwise, if you think you might be able to handle it, do your best. The other factor that is important is luck, no question, there have to be opportunities that come to you and you can’t find them all totally on your own, some will pop up spontaneously. If you follow all of these opportunities, with great talent, willing to work your ass off…..then you have a minuscule chance of ever making it in show business, but the truly ambitious showman will not let that stand in their way because the true pro knows the accuracy of my remark, and their career, whether they are poor or making a lot of money would not change. That’s how important the business of show business is to them. That’s my answer and it’s the best answer I could come up with.
Q: An individual who played an important part in my life?
A: Yes, there are 3 people. Actually there are a score of people, but I can target in on 3 right now. The first was my 4th grade teacher who use to set aside Friday’s during Show and Tell and during that period I would attempt in the 10 minutes or so that she gave me I would read the thoughts of my class. She was also my teacher in 6th grade, Miss Galloway, and unbeknownst to me, during the time after finishing 6th grade, and going onto Jr High, where I was already performing in public, getting big money $5 a show, then onto High School and College where I was doing major performances around the country and the world, Miss Galloway, unbeknownst to be, quietly wrote letters to teachers I had all through school, to my senior year in High School. She wrote personal notes suggesting, that while she did not understand what I did that they must be supportive of me, so by the time I was at Seton Hall University getting my degree in Psychology and traveling all over the world, that person had played a major role in my life and I didn’t even know the extend in which she had.
Another person I hardly got to know, but I watched and listen to him on the radio and television. Historically he’d been forgotten, Steve Allen the famous humorist years ago wanted me to do his life story, but he on the air made everyone feel like he was talking to them individually and personally. He took the formality out of broadcasting. His name was Arthur Godfrey, and became the most powerful broadcaster in the history of this country. Had President Eisenhower, and the Vice President been assassinated during Godfrey’s time on radio and TV, it was quietly decided that Godrey would immediately go on a live microphone and guide the nation, and this is not a theory of yours truly. The discs that the stations had put into a player if an assassination took place had the voice of Arthur Godfrey. He capsulized the word empathy and redefined it in his work in broadcasting.
The final person, I only go to know that last years of his life, one of the most inspiring individuals I’ve ever known. He was on TV on Tuesday nights for a ½ hour and broke Milton Burles ratings for the #1 Tuesday night show. That man who only came on camera to talk, was the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. One of the most powerful speaking communicators I have ever seen or heard.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?:
A: There is one quote which has been heard in many parts of the world and has been associated with me for decades since I end every public concert with the phrase, and people continuously want to know that background on it. At the end of a program which deals with my tuning into people’s thoughts, revealing their ideas, mentally influencing them, I simple say “to those who believe no explanation is necessary, to those who do not believe, no explanation is possible”. That quote came from a movie I saw when I was a youngster, in my pre-teens. The movie starred Jennifer Jones, and was called the Song of Bernadette. In the opening of the movie, before dialog takes place, in a print out background of the story, this quote was made, and it’s become the closing signature in my appearances.
Q: Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
A: I can pick a number of people, there are a handful however that I would offer a special invitation to. One of them would be Hilary Clinton. I’d like to meet with her, only for 10 minutes, the most 15, and this is true of the other people on my list. One thing I would want to agree with, for the entire time she is with me, she would not speak a single word, except for the word hello and good-bye. I would have this condition for the other 3 or 4 people I have in mind, because all I will do when I’m with each of these persons, including Mrs. Clinton, is to bring up one or two questions, admonishing her not to answer me out loud. The person is not to say a single word, but I want to have the right, after all is said and done, and after I break up with the person I am meeting with, to make public exactly the thoughts and impressions I receive mentally, and I mean exact thoughts. I think this would be fascinating and quite the revelation. Already a political figure in the State of NJ has agreed to such a meeting. Ironically I did not invite the person for such and I have not made up my mind yet as to accepting or not.
Regarding my career, the bottom line is that it has been and continues to be an adventure.
Originally published at medium.com