His name is synonymous with mind reading. Heâ€™s a master of the power of suggestion. He was a favorite guest of Johnny Carson. Heâ€™s a pop culture icon. He has used a pendulum as both a lie detector and predictor of the future.
Heâ€™s The Amazing Kreskin, and this weekend heâ€™s coming to downtown Worcester.
â€œUnder certain conditions, if people will concentrate on what they have in mind, I believe that I can pick up thoughts,â€ Kreskin explained from his New Jersey home. â€œI am not a fortuneteller. I am not a prophet. I really base all that on intuitiveness, the fact that I spend such an incredible amount of time with audiences and how they think. I very rarely look at statistics and what have you because that doesnâ€™t really tell the real state of affairs. But, the bottom line is, Iâ€™m a thought reader.â€
The 77-year-old mentalist, who jokes that he plans to retire 10 days after he passes away (but, stresses, donâ€™t hold him to that), said he is only home four days a month. Last year alone, Kreskin â€” who will be performing two shows this Saturday at Viva Bene Ristorante, 144 Commercial St., Worcester â€” made 261 appearances around the world.
And, not only has The Amazing Kreskin made a lucrative career out of reading other peopleâ€™s thoughts, the master mentalist and Johnny Carson mainstay might have accidentally found the next weight-loss fad, but it does have its share of side-effects.
â€œI usually lose two and a half pounds a program because of the energy that I expend during a show,â€ Kreskin said. â€œI couldnâ€™t be doing this all the time. I would be a nervous wreck, and I would be exhausted.â€
Born in Montclair, N.J., to a Polish father and Italian mother, Kreskin said he showed the first signs of being a thought-reader in third grade. He was intrigued by a game of hot and cold, which was being played in the classroom because it was raining outside.
â€œAnd I didnâ€™t get picked to play,â€ Kreskin interjected. â€œI was so disappointed,â€
After school, Kreskin told his younger brother to hide a penny upstairs in their grandmotherâ€™s house and he would find it.
â€œI found myself climbing up on a chair and reaching behind the curtain rod. Then I finally found myself touching the penny,â€ Kreskin recalled. â€œThen it dawned on us, I forgot to tell my brother to talk to me. There was no conversation. My grandmother was watching. She was Italian. She must have thought it was the evil eye.â€
Although he established the one-name stage moniker Kreskin early in his career, he can thank Carson for the â€œAmazingâ€ part.
â€œI never intended to use the term â€˜Amazing,â€™ â€ Kreskin said. â€œJohnny Carson would say to Ed McMahon, â€˜You know, Kreskin is on tomorrow. The last time he was on he was 90 percent amazing.â€™ And Ed McMahon would say, â€˜No, Johnny, he was 92 percent amazing.â€™ And they made a routine out of this. And, suddenly, people started calling me Amazing. I would be going through airports and people coming off planes would be saying, â€˜Hi Amazingâ€™ and â€˜How is it going Amazing?â€™ â€
Kreskin made 88 â€œTonight Showâ€ appearances. Although itâ€™s hard for him to pick his favorite one, he fondly recalls the time when NBC brass got word of what he was planning to do to Johnny and they banned him from doing it. That is, until Carson got wind of it and told Kreskin to proceed, all in an effort to ruffle some peacock feathers.
Kreskin put Carson in a trance and told Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen to lift him and stretch him in between two chairs, with his head and shoulders on one chair and his feet on the other.
Then, Kreskin told the showâ€™s previous guest, an up-and-coming singer named Bette Midler, to sit in the middle of Carson. After repeated protests and the fear that she would never be invited back to â€œThe Tonight Show,â€ she reluctantly agreed.
Carsonâ€™s body was so rigid from the trance, that not only was he able to hold Midler without buckling, when Carson came out of the trance, he said it felt like a little baby was on his stomach, according to Kreskin.
A regular part of his routine involves Kreskin asking audience members to hide his check after he has been escorted out of the room.
And, if Kreskin canâ€™t find the check with his intuitive mental skills, then he doesnâ€™t get paid for the performance and goes home with not even a penny for his troubles. As for his track record, Kreskin has forfeited his fee only nine times out of 6,000 tries, with the biggest loss being $51,000.
â€œI donâ€™t ask any questions. Itâ€™s not a guessing game. They just have to focus on what they have done,â€ Kreskin said. â€œAnd if I donâ€™t find my fee, I donâ€™t get paid. And, I got to tell you, itâ€™s a hell of a way to make a living.â€