Who knows — what secrets — lurk in the hearts of men?
The Amazing Kreskin knows.
He makes his deductions without the spooky laugh, dark cape and twin pistols usually associated with the power to cloud the minds of men and women. The entertainer will bring his cerebral routines to the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls on Friday. Show time is 7:30 p.m.
At 77, Kreskin is still making major mental moves. He made 261 appearances on stage and in media outlets in 2011, and was a regular on both Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and different programs starring old pal Regis Philbin. He’s visited cable news stations and bunches of other entertainment programs, often making predictions and offering clever commentary.
Kreskin — born George Joseph Kresge Jr. — explained why people still enjoy his shows.
Q: Mr. Kreskin — how can you describe your career?
A: I’ve got to tell you, first of all, my life has been an adventure. I’ve been performing professionally, I started getting paid when I was 12 years old. That was big money, $5 a show. Show business, like many other areas, you have to kind of prove yourself. But I’ll tell you, and I’ve been interviewed quite seriously about this in the past few years, with a lot of performers not working much, the demand for my work is as much as ever before. I’m not a fortune teller, I’m not a prophet, I don’t consider myself a psychic, I consider myself a thought reader, that I can, under conditions, perceive people’s thoughts.
It’s a remarkable phenomenon and people in the theater, last night the theater it was sold out the day it opened, I don’t mean this egotistically, but it’s the tremendous interest that there is now. Who would have ever dreamed four years ago that Tom Hanks would do a movie called “The Great Buck Howard” in which John Malkovich plays me in the movie? The man who wrote the movie was road manager, Sean McGinly. The off-stage story is not my life, I’m not visible with the ladies, all my friends say its perfect type-casting. But on stage, every incident in the movie did take place. That Malkovich is some actor.
Q: So a film like that is kind of a compliment? How about the CBS TV show “The Mentalist,” which is also about a smart guy who knows how to use his mind?
A: He plays almost a kind of Sherlock Holmes character rather than a mentalist. But as in the new book I have coming out, wait until you hear about the amount of contact there was from CBS from people who worked with me, they were trying to understand investigating crime, so it’s been an interesting career . . . if I couldn’t do my work for a living, I’d probably be on the street doing it for free. But I try to collect some money.
Q: That’s a nice set-up for this question — one of your most famous bits is challenging the audience to hide your performance paycheck at the end of the show. If you don’t find it, you lose the dough. How do you pull this off, and what odd places has your check turned up?
A: I will, at one point in the program at the Wood Theater, a committee will be picked from the audience and they will be total strangers to me and to each other, if that’s possible. I will hand them my check and after I do that, a couple of the committee members will escort me from the theater. While I’m out of it, the other committee members will hide my check and then have me called back in. I don’t converse with anybody, there’s no questions, the committee has to focus on what they’ve done. If I don’t find my fee . . . it will go back to the people who booked me, and that’s a hell of a way to make a living, I’ll tell you.
Some of the places have been bizarre. I’ve done over 2,000 university shows, one at the University of Illinois, the show was not in a theater, it was in a gymnasium and there was about 8,000 people, students and their parents. So I’m walking through this heavily crowded gymnasium and I stopped in front of this one gentleman and I asked him to stand and I really was in a very embarrassing situation. I said, “Sir, if you don’t want to do this, don’t, but would you open your mouth?” Well, there was no check and I felt like a fool. I started to turn away from him, but something made me turn around toward him again, and I said, “Sir, does this have anything to do with the roof of your mouth?” He reached in his mouth, took out his upper plate and handed me the check.
If the committee doesn’t concentrate on what I’m doing, there’s really nothing on earth that I can do. I’ve failed nine times. That doesn’t sound like many out of 6,000 times.
Q: You’ve mentioned that the old “Mandrake the Magician” comic strip was one of your inspirations. How did that happen?
A: I was given the comic when I was 5 years old. He wasn’t a magician; he read people’s thoughts, had hypnotic powers. One of the great moments of my life came when they were honoring Lee Falk, who created “Mandrake” and “The Phantom,” at Sardi’s in New York. They asked me to be there because they knew about the influence, and during the commentary, Lee Falk said, “Since I created this comic in 1935, the one person who has come closest to this person in real life has been Kreskin.” You can imagine what that meant to me.
Q: What about Lamont Cranston, the man with the “power to cloud men’s minds?”
A: he Shadow! Of course, he had hypnotic powers and guess what? The man who created “The Shadow” was Walter Gibson, who wrote a lot about psychic phenomena, but he also knew Houdini and he was a great authority on great magicians. He got to know me and we became very close friends. Of course, the Shadow was invisible in the stories, and don’t you know there was one performance I did where I had subjects on stage and I created in their minds that a certain person wasn’t there.
Q: I’ve seen that clip, the 1994 piece on Regis and Kathie Lee’s Halloween show. How did you swing that one?
A: I want to tell you something, that has gotten thousands of views on YouTube. The producers were extraordinarily excited about the thing. Did you see how concerned some of the people were, because it looked like objects were floating toward them? They were very much convinced. I was very honored when I was one of the guests on Regis’s last show (in November). I did 104 shows with Regis, we started on the Joey Bishop Show where he was the announcer.
Q: What are your audiences likes these days?
A: All ages. At Carnegie Hall, I had 118 people volunteer on stage. One hundred and eighteen people! Of course, I had to send half of them back to their seats. Something I’ve learned over the past five, seven, eight years, people coming to my shows, they’re not coming to watch a show, they’re coming to be part of a show. The theaters tell me the front of the theater sells out before the back part because people think if they’re closer, they’re going to have a better chance of participating. The chairman of the board of Sara Lee had me at his home outside of Chicago, 18 people in this gigantic living room. I said, “Get your asses right in front of me, because you’re all going to be part of this show.”
Q: Did people ever mix you up with “The Amazing Criswell,” the psychic famous for his association with film director Ed Wood?
A: Yes, yes, years ago. They did all the time. Carson started kidding me, because he didn’t use Criswell. What people don’t realize is the character of “Carnac the Magnificent” is based on yours truly.
Q: What’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened to The Amazing Kreskin?
A: Many things have happened that have been very dramatic. But after Robin Leach came to my home years ago for the “Lifestyles” show, I gave him a premise and he said, “Are you serious?” I said “Yes.” Cindy Adams wrote about it when “The Great Buck Howard” came out . . . I met her in New York, got into a limousine, never spoke to her, I was only allowed to talk to the driver. The challenge was simply this — I had to find Robin Leach, who was hiding somewhere in the entire city of New York, the traffic, the congestion, the noise. Some time later, in this old, beat-up building that should have been condemned, I led Cindy Adams up in an elevator to the 12th floor. It just didn’t seem right, we went up another elevator and we found this sports club that was closed, it was 9 or 10 in the morning, nobody was there. We walked through this empty place, went to the end where there was a door, opened the door and there was a bar. People were on the floor cleaning and there was a man draped over the bar, he looked like he was soused. I put my hand on his shoulder and I said, “I think the search ends here.” Robin Leach slowly sits up and says, “Break out the champagne.” I found him in 46 minutes.