Saratoga County

For Wilton memory whiz, it was in the cards

Brad Zupp says he has just an average to decent memory.

Brad Zupp says he has just an average to decent memory.

If you’ve ever struggled with remembering something as simple as a phone number or address, you may disagree.

Zupp can memorize incredibly long lists of things: numbers, playing cards, words. His skills won him two bronze medals at the USA Memory Championship last month in New York City.

Zupp, 43, who lives in Wilton, taught himself to remember things using some time-tested techniques.

“Anyone can learn these feats of memory,” Zupp said. It takes time and persistence but can be done, he said.

“The brain remembers pictures really well. Translate something you want to remember into a vivid picture,” Zupp said.

It worked for him in New York.

Zupp memorized a 52-card deck of shuffled cards in two minutes and six seconds at the 15th USA Memory Championship held March 25 at the Con Edison headquarters building in Manhattan. For this, he won a bronze medal in the speed card event.

He won another bronze in the speed numbers event, one in which contestants are given a computer-generated list of 500 digits, 20 digits on a line. He memorized the first 120 digits, perfectly, in five minutes.

Zupp placed fifth overall in the national competition. His friend, Nelson Dellis of Miami, Fla., won the overall competition, beating the 50 other contestants. Dellis, 28, was able to memorize a record 303 digits during the speed numbers event.

Professional entertainer

Zupp is a financial planner turned entertainer, giving humor-based educational presentations at schools from Loudonville to Long Island as well as comedy performances at places such as the Rocking Horse Ranch in the Catskills.

He juggles during his variety act.

Zupp is a graduate of the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Clown College. He traveled with the famous circus when he was younger, performing as a circus clown.

“He has an excellent memory. It’s a pain,” joked his mother-in-law, Millie Lawrence of Greenwich, Washington County.

“He’s also very observant,” Lawrence said.

Zupp is married to Beth Lawrence. They moved back to the greater Capital Region from Arizona a few years ago. Beth Lawrence, who keeps her maiden name, grew up in Greenwich.

After working as a financial adviser for some years, he said he wanted to get back into performing again and devised his educational presentations so he could follow his dream.

He has a presentation for students in grades kindergarten to grade six on personal finance. He also has a new memory training program for students in grades 4 through 8.

“One of my biggest compliments is when people ask me: “Were you ever a clown?,” he said. His Web page is:

He became involved in the national memory competitions four years ago and has moved up in the annual competitions from 29th to 5th this year.

Memory and fitness

One key to having a good memory is being physically fit, he said. He said a scientist gave a presentation at the competition this year, saying that maintaining physical fitness helps a person remember things. “The entire body is one system,” Zupp said.

Being physically active helps the brain keep from shrinking after age 50. “Anybody who is a couch potato can start walking,” Zupp said.

In addition to walking, Zupp recommends that people read the newspaper more carefully, do a crossword puzzle regularly, and even try to memorize your grocery list after writing it down.

Zupp remembers playing cards by associating the cards with other vivid things. For example, for the king of spades he imagines Elvis Presley hanging up some of his costumes in Zupp’s closet and singing at the same time.

He memorizes the order of a 52-card deck as if he were going around a pathway with 52 stops. Some of these stops might be the YMCA in Saratoga Springs or Saratoga Springs Public Library. “The crazier, the sillier, the more active you can make it, the easier it is to remember,” Zupp said.

The USA National Memory Championship was introduced by Tony Dottino, president of Dottino Consulting group, in 1997. While applying neuroscience into pragmatic applications in the business world, Dottino was amazed that most people are unaware of “the amazing potential of their own brain,” according to a statement from the championship website

There is no money awarded in the competition, which is described as “an Olympiad for thinking games, a sporting event for mental athletes.”

Zupp is trying to decide if he wants to enter the world memory championship to be held in October in China. He said it takes a great deal of work and preparation for such an event. It means a lot of things to remember.

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