As the star of the syndicated television series The Amazing World of Kreskin — which premiered in 1970 — the Amazing Kreskin became the world’s most recognizable mentalist. By 1980, Kreskin had made 61 appearances on The Tonight Show, later becoming a staple on the talk shows of David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, and Howard Stern; he was the first guest on Fallon’s show to make three in-studio appearances.
Television aside, Kreskin has written almost two dozen published books — his 21st is currently in the works — and been the inspiration for a major motion picture, 2008’s The Great Buck Howard. All the while, Kreskin continues into his sixth decade as a live performer, regularly appearing all over the world.
On September 2, the Amazing Kreskin will bring his “Achieve Your Peak Performance” workshop to New York’s Lily Dale Auditorium. The full-day workshop encouraging attendees to bring out their “peak performance,” and the first hour of the workshop will reportedly “demonstrate the power of the human mind which you’ll find truly amazing.”
Other upcoming appearances for Kreskin include September 22 at Staten Island’s the Looney Bin, October 14 at New Hope’s The Razz Room, October 28 at Atlantic City’s The Golden Nugget Casino, and November 3 at New Jersey’s Union County Performing Arts Center.
I had the pleasure of conducting Q&A with the legendary Kreskin, hearing more insight into why he does what he does. His “last words for the kids” were especially insightful.
You are an entertainer, an author, a popular talk show guest, a mentalist… How do you like to be described?
The Amazing Kreskin: It’s always been a joy to be referred to as a “Mentalist, Entertainer,” although many of the reviewers have used the phrases “Mentalist, Humorist, Raconteur.” I find those references very flattering and pleasing.
When did you start running your own workshops? Where did the idea come from?
The Amazing Kreskin: Regarding running my own workshops, the idea came to me and reached fruition approximately 62 years ago. My career has been more like an adventure because it has gotten into so many divergent areas that much of the public is unaware of. In my late teens, I was of course already performing professionally as I started doing 90 minute and two-hour concerts in 9th grade. But the bottom line is that at 18 years old — while I was finishing high school, preparing for college, at which at Seton Hall University I was to major in psychology — a psychologist in New Jersey, very prominent, Dr. Harold Hanson from Denmark, came to me. He had seen one of my performances, and he was fascinated with my ability to tune in on people on the stage and said he wanted to hire me to give me an opportunity to work with some of his patients.
He was a clinical psychologist, who had worked in the CIA in the Second World War, and in intelligence after that. Remarkable, brilliant man. I agreed and in West Orange, New Jersey, where he had his office, I had a separate room in his office that was my room to see his patients. I couldn’t see them every day because already my career was beginning to become rather busy, so I would usually set certain days aside, starting early to spend one hour with each of the patients referred to me. There were some months when I was seeing as many as 30 patients a week, using my abilities to support the treatment that he was giving them.
In the latter days, it became too difficult because I was often seeing his patients starting at 7 a.m. Sunday morning and finishing at 11:00 p.m. in order to accommodate that many. It’s unheard of, an apprenticeship could take place, but aside from being a financial support to my career, it was a remarkable experience that I’ve never turned away from. I still have an office in my home, but can rarely spend the time to see patients anymore, and I’ve seen every kind you can imagine, from the most serious disturbances, to a loss in life, lonely in life, you name it. It would include amongst people those who came from broken homes, divorces, and people coming out of prison as I worked in a number of prisons with some of his patients. On and on the story could go…
— Golden Nugget AC (@goldennuggetac) August 4, 2017
What should be expected from someone who attends your event in Lily Dale? Is it just you on stage?
The Amazing Kreskin: The event in Lily Dale, of course, those who come to see my performance will see me in concert, tuning into the thoughts of the members of the audience. As far as my seminar, that is an interaction with my entire audience, whether it be 20, 100, or 500 people. They will be part of a classroom of individuals, who I will be training in how to use their thinking process to tap more deeply into their inner potential. In a sense, I will also be training them to get a second opinion. It’s an ability that is becoming lost in modern culture. That second opinion is their unconscious mind.
Some of the greatest entrepreneurs in history — and I’ve read over 1,000 biographies — found methods of zooming in on their inner thoughts, from JFK in the White House to Einstein when he was teaching in New Jersey. There are techniques to do this, and I am going to condition my audience so that when they leave, they have this tool without me. It’s not a magical formula, it’s not some dice or wheel they are going to spin and suddenly get results, and it’s a working tool which I will condition them so that the tool will be responding at a higher level. That tool being their unconscious mind.
Aside from this “Achieve Your Peak Performance” event, what else do you have coming up?
The Amazing Kreskin: People are using the training period and carrying away with them the experience so that they can function more effectively and achieve their peak performance. Needless to say, the early concert performance preceding the seminar, will include in it certain show pieces, that have become legendary in my career. Of course, a feature will be the legendary test that I’ve done all over the world, regarding my check. During the test, I will leave premises, while a committee from the audience who are strangers to me, will take my check and hide it anywhere in the entire stage, theater or auditorium. They will return to the stage, and I will be brought back in by the committee who escorted me, it will be verified that I did not see or hear what took place. No questions asked, it’s not a guessing game, aside from the committee’s concentration there is no communication in any way, and if I do not find my fee, that check, as I’ve agreed all over the world, I will forfeit my fee, return it to the organization bringing me to the program and the program will be for free.
Since I last appeared at Lily Dale, I have failed one more time, so the total in my career is 10 losses, which is not many out of 6,000 searches. The most famous loss took place in New Zealand, where in a coliseum, I forfeited my fee, one of the first nights appearing there, and lost a total of $51,000.
Is there a career accomplishment that you are most proud of?
The Amazing Kreskin: When I’m asked more and more in recent years about accomplishments through the decades of my career that I feel are special, I can look upon a vast panorama of adventurous experiences. An aspect of my career of which little has been made public is that is I have been involved in 86 crime cases. From murders to robberies and on and on it goes, but as far as my public accomplishments are concerned, certainly when Robin Leach came to my home to interview me for his series some years ago, and I ended up proposing a special test for his program. His accepting my challenge, I was going to attempt — even though he doubted it would be possible — has become legendary, since a few days after he came to my home I was driven to New York, to a famous restaurant called the Tavern On The Green. Outside there were eight or ten police cars, but I met Cindy Adams, a columnist from the New York Post who then escorted me to a limousine. She was not to speak to me anymore but just to concentrate, and I was only to speak to the driver.
— The Amazing Kreskin (@Kreskin) June 28, 2017
In this silent situation, with a camera in another car following us, my challenge was to find the host of Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous, Robin Leach, and the boundaries were, that he was hiding somewhere in the entire city of New York. When one thinks about the extent of the challenge it almost becomes mind-boggling, but I could not allow that to interfere with my belief in my ability. I started to tell the driver to go in certain directions in the city, go down certain streets, as it turns out, much to the annoyance to the police who were trying to cordon off traffic wherever I was going, I was going down one way streets the wrong way, and they couldn’t plan for this because they didn’t know where Robin Leach was hiding, so they could only follow me. I came to an old, beat up building, got out of the car, Cindy Adams followed me, we went into the building.
The bottom line is, I went up to a certain floor, left the elevator, we found another hidden elevator, went to the top floor, it was a sports complex but it was closed because it was early in the morning. We walked through the sports club and ended up at a door where I said to her, I think my voyage ends shortly. We opened the door and there were people on the floor, cleaning it, they were also cleaning tables and I walked through and found a man resting his head on the table, draped in a seemingly relaxed state of mind, but I didn’t see his face. I put my hand on his shoulder and he sat up, it was Robin Leach. I had found him, in the city of New York, in less than 48 minutes. One of the greatest challenges of my entire career.
Of course, there are other experiences where they were not challenges to me, but I suppose in one respect I couldn’t even foresee them happening. Who would have dreamt that a former road manager of mine, Sean McGinley, would be working for the film industry and sell the script to Tom Hanks, who proceeded to produce a movie called The Great Buck Howard? This is about seven or eight years ago and John Malkovich, the famous actor, plays a character in the movie who for a living reads people’s thoughts. The character he plays, as is announced at the end of the movie as yours truly, and it is incredible the study he made of my behavior and movements, that he took an imitation of me so graphically in the film.
The film is not a biography, but every single piece of work that is seen done by this performer on-stage, I can name the city, the date, where it happened, because they all legitimately took place. Tom Hanks thanked me opening night on Broadway after the red carpet walk-through, that I gave his son, [actor] Colin Hanks, the opportunity to play my road manager in the story.
I believe you were born in Montclair, a town which now has its own film festival and a major concert venue. When was the last time you went to Montclair?
The Amazing Kreskin: Actually I grew up in a town right next to Montclair called Caldwell and that was only seven or eight minutes from Montclair. I have through the years visited the city many, many times.
— PlanetJCG (@PlanetJCG1) May 30, 2017
When not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time? Any surprising hobbies?
The Amazing Kreskin: Yours truly just added an addition to my home. It is a two-story library, as the library that I’ve already built on my home is too limiting since I now own over 8,000 books. One of the prides and joy of my life is reading. When I’m home I read, usually four books per night. I’ve reviewed hundreds and hundreds of books through the years from writers who send me their manuscripts before they go to print because they’ve often used my comments as part of the cover piece. So I’ve read all kinds of books as you can imagine. I have the largest library on hypnotic phenomena, but that would be understandable because of my experiences through the years.
My last book, In Real Time, has dealt with my reflections on the decades and years to come. There are four different sources who want me to work on my next book, and I will make a decision with what company I will work with and when the book is completed. It will be my 21st book, as I’ve written 20 so far. I keep being reminded that with the constant adventurous experiences as I travel, that I’ve got more to tell and more to reveal about my life and career. I have as of now, flown in my career, over 3.5 million miles.
People who are very close to me understand that I treat my work as truly an adventure. With the constantly-busy schedule that I have, I can never consider myself a workaholic because my performance for audiences ranging from thousands in state fairs to hundreds in auditoriums, to private events numbering sometimes a dozen people in a home-like gathering. The dealing with reading the thoughts and feelings of people I’ve never met before becomes a constantly-exciting experience.
Is there something you wish more people knew about The Amazing Kreskin?
The Amazing Kreskin: One of the most dramatic experiences that I’ve had in my life is one that I cannot explain. It has been discussed in broadcast, nationally in this country and in other parts of the world as well, and it deals with a prediction. I have made some dramatic predictions in my life, based on intuition, and the fact that I’m tuning in on the thoughts of audiences around the world. I get a sense of how they are thinking and what their intentions might be. Thus I predicted the last four elections. In 2012, that election, I delivered to the Jimmy Fallon show a sealed package, which NBC put in a sealed safe for one and a half years. When they opened the package it was clear that I had successfully predicted the election, one and a half years ahead of time.
In this last election, it was one that I walked away from. I didn’t want to become involved because going on my webpage would be pictures of yours truly with Donald Trump, who at that time was not President, pictures with Hillary Clinton, because I performed in Washington, D.C., and I didn’t want to become accused of supporting in some way either candidate as the campaign was becoming somewhat-rough and ambitious. Having succeeded with the other elections, as it got closer, since I had a feeling for many, many months who the winner would be, I still declined and then a few days before the election, I made a decision. It had become common knowledge that the polls, and the reviewers, and the researchers, had pretty much come to the conclusion Hillary Clinton would be elected the next president.
I had decided the next day to seal my prediction, though it was no longer important. By now it was mixed amongst scores and scores of others, but I still wanted to have a record of my results. It was sealed and put in the store window of Madame Paulette’s, a couture dry cleaning company in New York City. The owner put it in a large, locked safe in his store window, in clear view. The day after the election, just a few days after the safe had been put in view, the safe was taken to a TV studio in New York, where it was going to be opened by a newsman and a crew of people observing it, and broadcast on the internet. This is one day after election day, and as I’m being driven there, people are calling out the windows of their cars, I saw you on FOX and we heard about the FOX situation and I had no idea what they were talking about. Turns out when I arrived at the studio, the newsman David Webb said to me, didn’t you hear what FOX discovered?
— The Amazing Kreskin (@Kreskin) June 15, 2017
No, I did not, I didn’t know what he was talking about, and I really didn’t. It turns out that one of the affiliates of FOX in Washington, D.C., had me on as a guest on December 9, 2015. I had evidently been performing in the area and they had me on in the morning live as a guest. One thing everyone has known for decades, I will never reveal my prediction of a political figure ahead of time. I’ll seal it away. Revealing it ahead of time only will antagonize some in audiences who feel I am influencing the results. Silly, but that’s what’s going to be accused. I never say it ahead of time. When I look at the video which FOX sent me and has now been played, God knows how many times, over different programs. It is clear that I was tired. The truth of the matter is I was distracted from a family illness that I had been notified about only an hour before going on the air…
Don’t you know, one of the newsmen asked me, “Kreskin, the election is 11 months from now, who’s going to win?” In similar words, my answer was, “I don’t want to get in trouble, I was just in his home and the campaign is going to be furious and noisy as he’ll campaign in that way.” It was obvious I was referring to Donald Trump. The problem is this, I have no memory of ever saying such, and every reporter who has done stories on me knows I would never make such a public statement.
It turns out I did, and every time I look at that segment, a show that obviously I did, I have no memory of ever saying it. It was somehow with the fatigue and the preoccupation a coming forth from my unconscious and my inner feelings — and as has been made clear — that prediction was stated for millions to hear, almost a year before the presidential elections.
Finally, Kreskin, any last words for the kids?
The Amazing Kreskin: I’ve done over a thousand university shows between Canada and the United States. As I’m asked for tips and suggestions I would have for kids — as they start to leave their pre-teens, and become teenagers — I would warn them and point out to them that they should not feel an experience, whatever they attempt, can ever be thought of as a total failure, because people need to realize that we often learn more from failures than we do from successes. Get on with things, if something doesn’t work out, move on with it or go to something else, or push yourself and work hard so you can finally make what you are trying to do work for you. That’s a really successful person.
If you feel like playing games, face the fact, you may not win every game. That’s not a failure on your part, that’s competitive spirit. Whether you’re playing cards, chess, baseball or taking on a new job in life. You’re not going to win every game, and if someone tells you you’re going to win every game, they are lying to you, and they’re cheating you. Hey, I’ve lost a number of competitive games, including ping pong early on in my career, but I love the activity, I love the action. When I was in junior high school, I was one of the two fastest runners in the school, but the other runner sometimes beat me. So what? I went on with life and the skill, and the strength and the healthy experience added to my success.
The other advice I give in many of my performances is if someone says to you they are bored, you are looking at a boring person. They don’t have to have two cars, their own house, and some expensive clothes. I grew up in a three-room apartment, my brother and I. My parents had their bedroom, my brother and I had our two beds in the living room and my father was making less than $100 per week and didn’t always have a car. Those years were some of the happiest memories of my life. I also read voraciously. By the time I was in 6th grade, going into 7th, I had read every single book in the children’s department of the public library of my town. If you don’t find things interesting on certain days, just open a book, it can change your life or your spirit.
I hope you have some reflections here that would be useful to your readers.
[Featured Image by Kaela Williamson]