Kreskin, still amazing, June 2008

Posted by kreskin On July - 9 - 2008

National Post, Published: Saturday, June 07, 2008

COBOURG – …A former road manager for The Amazing Kreskin wrote a movie script called The Great Buck Howard, about a celebrity mentalist who got his big break on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, but whose life later sank into bitter anonymity. From the oversized glasses to the corny catchphrases, the character played by John Malkovitch is Kreskin to a tee, except spiteful, mean and a drunk. Both have flirted with celebrity greatness…although only the real one has a habit of offering his mentalist services to the police.

The Times of London, in its review of the premiere at Sundance in January, said the movie tells the tale of an “ageing ‘sacred monster’ with pretensions and demands far in advance of his current status,” and that Mr. Malkovitch “ladles on the cheese to entertaining effect…” Lesser men might have been angry, but when it opens later this year, The Amazing Kreskin will be The Great Buck Howard’s primary booster. “Who would have ever dreamt it in one lifetime?” Mr. Kreskin, 72, said in an interview before a show this week on his tour of southern Ontario. The interview began with the famously vigorous handshake, in which he squats to protect his back and delivers a half-dozen solid pumps from knee to chest, but very soon became calm and serious, so much so that it was unclear where the schtick ends and the man begins.

“Something’s happened to conjuring, or the art of magic,” he said. “It’s very, very sad, and Carson — whom of course I knew well because I did 88 shows with him, which is more than any guest — would have been despondent. He used to say to me, ‘Kreskin, if this ever happens it’ll become movie making.’ Who’d have ever dreamt that magic on TV now would be replete with trick photography, use of stooges, altered situations, and groups watching the magic that are actually paid actors and actresses? I have not seen a magic show on television in the last one year that did not have trick photography involved. It’s going to ruin it for the public. You know what the feeling is, behind the scenes in Hollywood now? That they are really betraying the public. Because you have never had Carson doing that, or Letterman doing that, or Ed Sullivan doing that…. And I warn people. I warn everybody going into the field: Don’t stoop to that level, because you could jeopardize your future…”

He had already guessed people’s birthdays and wedding dates…inconceivably pulled a glass of water from an empty sack, and was halfway through the “hidden cheque” trick, in which he invites a select group of audience members to hide his paycheque for the show anywhere in the auditorium, and he then finds it by reading the thoughts of a person he chooses to guide him around, whom he leads by a handkerchief they are both holding…

“All through the years, only those who know me well have the remotest idea what I go through doing the cheque test. I mask how I feel about it. When it’s over, it’s not that I need an intermission, but if I were drinking, I’d be an alcoholic…”

How does he do it? Who knows? He obviously did not see where they put it; he was backstage with three others as witnesses. It is not inconceivable that the audience contained an associate, but he has a standing offer of $50,000 for proof of such — a promise that was even once unsuccessfully tested by a civil court. Maybe he can sense the location from the body language of his chosen subjects. Or maybe he is watching the audience, studying their eyes, although surely everyone is trying to be discreet.

Whichever way, it is pretty cool to see, and perhaps the mechanics do not matter. As he puts it: “For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.”

jbrean@nationalpost.com

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