I HAD ENJOYED performing in public. I was surprised at how well the demonstrations worked in front of so many people. The experiments had worked nearly three out of four times. Having an audience even seemed to help. But I had no ideas about going back on stage with more demonstrations. I had other things on my mind. My military service would soon be over, and I had to decide how to make a living.
With Joav no longer alive, I lost my desire to join the Secret Service. I made a stab at applying, but my heart wasn’t in it. Then as now, I always wanted to meet people, see people, talk to people. Work in the Secret Service would have to be hidden, and I’d have to keep everything to myself. I wanted something exciting that would involve meeting people.
When I got out of the army late in 1968, I ran into a friend from my unit whose father owned a textile factory. They were looking for someone who could speak English, and who would learn the business so that eventually he could set up meetings with customers in Canada and America and describe the company’s products in English.
There would be a long training period first, handling export orders and that kind of thing. It seemed to be just the right job at the time, so I took it. The work was near Shipi’s family, and I would often have lunch with all of them. Hannah and I were close friends, and Shipi and I practically became brothers.
Shipi was so happy about the first demonstration that he arranged more appearances in other schools and for private parties. Young as he was, Shipi was a great manager. We were able to make only about seven dollars an appearance, but the performances were fun to do. I still wasn’t taking it seriously; I was surprised that the phenomena worked most of the time.
Yaffa had married. But we were still in love with each other. We would meet several times a month in out-of-the-way places. I knew it was hopeless, and so did she. But we could not stand the thought of not seeing each other. I dated other girls, of course, but I wasn’t able to feel about any of them as I did about Yaffa.
One day I was waiting for a friend in a coffee shop when I noticed a beautiful girl sitting at the next table. She looked about nineteen or twenty, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a little nose. Her complexion was white and creamy, and she looked so tender and lovely. We kept looking at each other and finally started talking. I couldn’t help telling her how beautiful she was. Before I knew it, I had asked her for a date that night. Her name was Iris Davidesco.
Iris was someone I could express all my feelings to. We sat in a coffee shop for hours on that first date, talking about everything under the sun. As we got to know each other, we would play games, guessing what other people did, whether they were millionaires from Texas, school teachers, vegetarians, or whatever. We even stopped people to check, and many times we turned out to be right.
I started seeing Iris a lot. Then I found out that she was only fifteen years old. I was surprised; she looked and acted like someone twenty-three or so, which was my age at the time. I was really embarrassed and incredulous. And I had been on the verge of falling in love with her. The time we spent together meant so much to me that we kept on seeing each other as usual. Hannah knew about Iris, and I could see that she was a little hurt. But Hannah and I were close in a different way, more like brother and sister.
Iris had won a couple of beauty contests and was modeling for an advertising agency. One day she asked if I would model with her in one of her ads. I would be able to make some extra money to add to the 500 pounds a month in starting pay I was earning at the export company, which really wasn’t very much.
I posed with Iris for a beer advertisement and got a big kick out of it when it came out. There’s no doubt about it, I have a very healthy ego. This fed it, even though it was only an ad for something I never drank.
Word was getting around about the demonstrations. Shipi was working overtime. The number of appearances increased week by week, and now we were taking in quite a bit of extra money. Together with the money from my job and from other modeling work that came my way, it added up to quite a bit. Finally I sat down, figured things out, and reaised that my mother could stop working. I told my mother I had always hoped this day would come. She had kept me alive through all the years of struggle, kept me well, and kept me fed. It was wonderful that I could take care of her. That was a happy day.
Meanwhile, just about every newspaper in Israel was writing up our demonstrations. Suddenly many different managers and promoters were calling and asking me to sign with them. Shipi, who had really started me off, was in school and much too young to work on a full-time basis. I tried one manager without signing, but that didn’t work out. I was very inexperienced.
I finally signed with a big professional manager, not knowing exactly what this business was all about. The next thing I knew, I was being booked into big theaters all over Israel and playing to large audiences. I bought a secondhand Triumph sports car and felt very prosperous in spite of the fact that a huge percentage of my money went to the manager and to income tax, and very little stayed with me.
The demonstrations hardly changed at all since that first one at Shipi’s school. I had no set plan but improvised as I went along. I would do telepathy while members of the audience wrote or drew things on a blackboard; pass thoughts directly into people’s minds; describe what people were wearing without looking at them; start up watches that hadn’t run for some time; bend keys and other objects they brought in; and then have a question-and-answer period. All the experiments would work about 75 or 80 per cent of the time. It was a simple, informal routine, but the audiences enjoyed it.
One day the manager came and told me I was doing great, but there ought to be more to the act. It should last longer, so people would feel they were getting more for their money. He said I should add tricks to fatten up the act. I told him that was ridiculous, because everything I did was real, and people accepted it. But he had thought of a way I could make it even bigger. He would watch people get out of their cars and write down their license plate numbers. Then he would have them ushered to selected seats as they came into the theater. He’d give me the numbers before I started the demonstrations, and I would point to these people and tell them their license plate numbers. Unless I did this, he said, the demonstrations would start failing. I’d be unable to make a living any more.
By then I had quit my job with the textile firm and stopped modeling, because I was doing shows almost every day. It was very hard and tiring work. After the demonstrations in the big theaters, practically everyone in Israel knew about me. I was invited to a party to meet Abba Eban. Golda Meir addressed the country on the New Year about all its problems and its future. An interviewer asked her what she predicted for the coming year, and she said on the air: “I don’t predict. Why don’t you ask Uri Geller?” I didn’t predict either, but it was an indication of how well-known I had become in so short a time.
When the manager urged me to add the magician’s trick to the regular demonstration, I didn’t know what to do. He was very persuasive, and I was young and inexperienced. He insisted that everything was going to fail unless I added the trick material. I figured, well, it won’t last much longer anyway. We’ll soon cover all of Israel, and that will be it. Maybe I’ll be able to save enough money to open up a coffee shop or something like that. I really didn’t have any conception about the gift that had been given to me. I didn’t know that this power, this force, this unknown energy was going to be taken so seriously by the scientific world. I never even associated it in my mind with science.
It was a far cry from the simple way Shipi and I had started out, but I finally gave in to the manager’s pressure. I felt I was wrong the minute I agreed. I didn’t reaise, though, how big a mistake I was making, one of the most crucial mistakes of my life. After all, the more I became known all over the country, the more the controversy would grow as to whether what I did was real or phony. I added the trick to the legitimate demonstrations and I hated myself every time I did it.
I had become a good friend of Amnon Rubinstein, who was dean of the law school at Hebrew University and a very learned man, well known in Israel. I had met him at a party in Tel Aviv. I had shown him how the energy forces seemed to work. He believed in me and was taking my side in the controversy, which was getting more intense as I become better known. The papers were saying that I must be using a laser, or chemicals, mirrors, accomplices – things like that.
Shortly after giving in to the manager’s pressure, I went to see Dr. Rubinstein. I told him to forget about me. I said that I had been using a trick in the demonstrations, and that I was no damn good. It hurt to have to tell him this, because I liked and respected him. He took hold of my shoulders and shook me. He said: “What do you mean, Uri?” I get goose pimples when I think about this even now. He said: “You’ve done things that neither you nor I can explain. You don’t need to add any tricks to it!” Then he added: “I don’t believe what you’re telling me now.”
I told him how the manager was forcing me to do the license plate thing. Dr. Rubinstein said: “All right, that’s a trick. But how did you do the things with me? The bending of my key with just a touch? The drawings I did, and kept out of your sight completely? The drawings and the numbers that you fired into my head? How did you do those things?”
“I just don’t know.”
“Of course you don’t know. It’s some unknown force. That’s just it. You must stop thinking that, just because your manager forced you into this, it’s the end of the world. You’ve got to stop it right away, of course. And you must never do it again, ever.”
Then he really shouted at me. He told me that I had to give myself over to scientists to show that these forces do exist. He believed in me, and that helped. He knew that, aside from the things I was talked into doing, the rest was real. I put a stop to the trick after that and decided to stand or fall on what was really happening, even if the demonstration didn’t run long enough to suit the manager. I also started thinking about working with scientists, although that idea scared me.
Dr. Rubinstein was one of the few people I could talk to openly. Yaffa, Iris, and Shipi were others, because as my closest friends I felt I could share everything with them. We all decided I should look for a lawyer to see what could be done about terminating the contract.
After the talk with Dr. Rubinstein I started thinking seriously about the powers for the first time in my life. What was really behind them, and why did they have the effects they did? I asked myself: Why did it seem no one else had them?
I was in the army reserves after my service. When I became well known in Israel, I was assigned to a unit that entertained troops all across the country. It was a lot different from being in the army. I got to know many high-ranking officers and generals. Demonstrating to the soldiers at their stations was enjoyable. Doors were opening to me all over.
I hadn’t lost my taste for exploring and adventure. Shipi drove with me one time to Eilat, where I was scheduled for an appearance before an armed forces unit. When the navy people learned I was interested in scuba diving, they offered to lend us some underwater gear. So Shipi and I took off the next afternoon to explore an area where the desert meets the sea. We found a lonely spot on a rocky beach that looked like a good place to dive. After wading out, however, we found that a long coral reef blocked us from getting out to the deep water where we could dive. It was impossible to climb over the reef because the surface was sharp and cutting, and there were spiky sea urchins all over it. After about ten minutes, we found one narrow slit that opened to the sea. We slid through it carefully, making sure not to hit the equipment. I made a bad mistake right then. I forgot to leave a marker to show us where that slit was so we could return to shore later.
The area was so deserted that it looked as if no one had ever dived there before. That added a little excitement to our sport. The waters were deep and blue, perfect for diving. We had been swimming quite a distance from the reef, when I suddenly saw an enormous blue shark beneath us. I swam immediately to Shipi and tapped his mask, pointing down to it. The shark was coming closer and beginning to circle us. He looked as if he were going to attack. I took off my mouthpiece and let some bubbles rise, which is supposed to scare a shark away, but the big fish didn’t pay any attention. All I could think of was getting back to shore as fast as we could. I tried concentrating on the huge, ugly fish. That didn’t do any good. I could see one of the small eyes on the side of his head as he was circling us. It looked horrible.
We had about twenty minutes of air left, but we would have to surface slowly, which would take time. Not that surfacing would help us any with the shark. My compass showed that we were heading in the right direction for the reef, but now the shark was between us and the reef. He was moving faster and coming closer, about 15 meters away. We had spearguns, but I was sure all they would do was wound him and enrage him. I was scared. I thought about how this monster could tear the limbs off our bodies in seconds. Shipi’s parents had given me responsibility for him, and that made the matter all the worse. I was shouting in my mind: Get away, get away, disappear!
Now he was only about 5 meters away and was coming straight toward me. I felt as if I was in the door of a plane, about to jump without a parachute. I did the only thing I could. I aimed the spear gun at him and pressed the trigger. I involuntarily closed my eyes. I figured that if I felt a hard pull on the spear, which was attached to the gun by a line, I’d just let the gun go, and maybe that would turn him away.
But I didn’t feel any tug on the spear. I opened my eyes and saw the spear sinking slowly below me. There was no sign of the shark. I looked everywhere. I couldn’t understand it.
We swam for several more minutes, and there still was no sign of the shark anywhere. We came to the reef and surfaced slowly, being careful to breathe correctly as we did. When we got to the surface, we told each other how lucky we were. It was a terrifying experience for both of us. But we had another problem that took our minds off the shark. It was now late afternoon and beginning to get dark fast. We didn’t have any idea where the slit in the reef was.
With all the equipment we were wearing, it was impossible to cross the razor-sharp coral and the sea urchins, both of which can give painful infections. We had little air left, and the waters were getting dark. We had to find that slit in the reef. I started to concentrate again, and something told me to start off to the right. We started diving along the reef, then came up and swam along it, trying to swim on the surface with the tanks on our backs. It was almost impossible. By now it was so dark I couldn’t even see the car on the beach to give us a heading. Trying to grip the rocks and pull ourselves along, we cut our hands badly. Just as total darkness fell, we found the slit. We got to the beach and rested on the sand. I lay there, looked at the sky, and thanked God or whatever it was that had sent the shark away and told us to go to the right when we reached the reef.
Back in Tel Aviv, things were even worse between the manager and me. I found I could not easily break the contract with him even though some evidence pointed to his dishonesty. While my lawyer was trying to figure out a way to establish it, some appearances in Italy were arranged to see if the demonstrations could succeed outside of my country. I had appeared before so many Israeli audiences that I would soon run out of people who hadn’t seen me.
The appearance at a big club in Rome seemed to be a disaster. The interpreter was poor, so no one could understand him or what was going on. The demonstrations worked, but nobody seemed to believe them. I was depressed. When I got back to Israel, I decided I ought to look for another way to make a living. I thought: Well, Geller, you’ve got to go back to Israel, it’s the only place you can work.
However, a few people in the Rome audience that night had found the demonstration impressive. One of them was an older, well-dressed Italian man who spoke good English. He said afterward that he thought the demonstration was fantastic and had a very important matter to talk over with me at lunch the next day, if I was free. I was curious, so I agreed. He picked me up at the hotel in a Silver Shadow Rolls Royce, pointed out many things of interest around Rome as we drove along, and then told me at lunch that he could arrange a large number of appearances for me in America, and especially Las Vegas, if I should decide to go there. He wanted me to think about it. He put much quiet but urgent pressure on me and asked questions. Of course, the idea of going to America was appealing. Whether it was my imagination or not, something about the man suggested the Mafia to me. I decided the next time he got in touch with me just to tell him that I had commitments in Israel. Maybe in the future if I came back to Italy, and if I wanted to go to America, I would look him up. I didn’t want to involve myself with someone I didn’t know, especially in view of the problems I was having with my manager.
The next day, as I was getting ready to check out of the hotel to go back to Israel, a message from the desk told me there was an envelope for me. I went down and, to my great surprise, inside the envelope were all the papers and the keys for a brand new car in my name. The desk clerk told me the car was outside. I went out and looked: There stood a brand new Alfa Romeo Spider. The anonymous donor, of course, was obviously the man I had talked to the day before, and the last thing in the world I wanted was to put myself under any obligation. I crossed out my name on the papers, gave them back to the clerk, and told him to return them to whoever had brought them. There was a telephone number on the papers, and I told the clerk to call that number to tell someone to come and get the car. There was something mysterious and scary about the whole thing, and I didn’t want to be mixed up in it. I never heard from the man again.
I returned to Israel depressed and upset. I still was forced to work with my manager because of the contract. My lawyer had discovered that many times the manager would arrange for an appearance for 800 pounds and enter it as 500 pounds. The missing 300 would never appear in the records. My lawyer was collecting the facts and preparing to take the case to court so that the contract could be canceled.
Meanwhile I was scheduled for more appearances in Italy, at better places this time. Other Italian managers had seen my demonstration and understood that the real problem had been between the interpreter and the audience. My manager now had a new publicity man working for him who arranged for me to meet and talk with Sophia Loren when I returned to Italy. He figured that this would be great for publicity and that a picture of Miss Loren and me would attract attention in the Israeli press.
I still had my dreams of being a movie star, and the idea of meeting Sophia Loren appealed to me. I had heard that she very rarely gave interviews and was extremely hard to see. It would be a wonderful experience for me, and I welcomed the idea.
When the time came to meet Miss Loren, there were troubles. She had recently returned from New York where her hotel suite had been robbed. She was upset about the robbery and didn’t want to see anybody. We talked with her husband, Carlo Ponti, who explained all this and offered his apologies. After talking for a while longer, however, he agreed that we might drive to her villa outside of Rome.
The villa was huge and beautiful. Miss Loren was charming in spite of her recent setback. She and I talked alone for about a half-hour. I told her what I thought was coming from her mind, and she was impressed with the accuracy of my reading. When we rejoined the others, the public relations man asked if he could take a picture of her and me. Miss Loren said that her own photographer took all her pictures. He wasn’t available.
We thanked her and left. The publicity man was upset. The picture was extremely important for future publicity, he said, and it was ridiculous that it couldn’t be taken.
I now was on my way back to Israel for more appearances. A fatal mistake was about to be made that would seriously damage my reputation and my career, and would almost destroy the trust of the people I respected who believed in me.
The publicity man stayed in Rome for two days after I left. I had no idea what he was doing. It wasn’t long before I found out. He had taken one of my pictures and one of Sophia Loren and had arranged with an Italian photographer for a composite of the two. The composite made it appear that Miss Loren and I were photographed together. The publicity agent released it to the Israeli press. It appeared in papers all over the country with captions saying that I had visited Miss Loren in Italy. That was true, but the picture was not.
It didn’t take long for the photographic deception to be discovered. Huge headlines all over Israel declared that Uri Geller’s picture with Sophia Loren was a fake. I was really depressed now. This was going to finish me for sure. I went to my manager and told him that, if he didn’t tear up our contract, I would take him to court immediately. He had no choice. The fake picture had been done without my knowledge. Combined with the other material my lawyer was gathering against him, this fact would have compelled any court to decide in my favor.
Although the faked picture hurt me terribly, it actually increased the attendance at my appearances. A girl had been assisting me on the business side. She was very bright, even though she wasn’t a professional manager. She continued handling all the details for the appearances and did a good job of it.
The whole series of what you might call professional public appearances in Israel had begun in the early spring of 1970. In June of that year I did a demonstration before a group of students and faculty at the Technion Institute at Haifa, the MIT of Israel, which trains the top scientists and engineers of the country. Later, not long after the experience in Italy, a well-known retired colonel of the Israeli Army came to my office. He said that his son had been greatly impressed by what he had seen at the Technion demonstration and that he – the colonel – had been in touch with some American scientists who were interested in what I was doing.
The colonel informed me that Itzhaak Bentov, an Israeli researcher working in Boston, was interested in the reports he had heard and would like to investigate if I was willing to be tested scientifically. Since Amnon Rubinstein had first made that suggestion, I had been thinking more and more about working with scientists. I did have mixed feelings about it, not because I felt there was anything to hide, but because the idea of being tested seemed so cold and unfriendly. Scientists interviewed by the Israeli papers had been saying my powers were trickery and nothing else, and they were sure I was a fake. That kind of thing turned me off. And there was my ever present fear of failure as well. I was worried that with scientists watching nothing would happen.
The colonel was relaxed and open-minded, although I was sure he didn’t know whether to believe me or not. He said to me: “Look, I don’t want to press you or anything, but if you bent a sample of metal for me I could send it to my scientific friend in America, and he could analyze it in his laboratory, just for a start.”
I didn’t want to bend anything of my own, because that could be suspected, and the only metal he had with him was an ordinary pin. I reminded him that a pin is very thin and simple to bend, but he said it would satisfy him as a preliminary test. I had the colonel hold it in his hand and close his fist gently. I held my hand over his without touching it. Then I concentrated on the pin, as I usually do, saying bend, bend to myself. When he opened his hand, the pin had broken cleanly in half. I had never touched it.
He was impressed. He immediately put the two broken pieces in an envelope and told me he was going to send them to America. I didn’t reaise at the time how completely this was going to change my life or that it might possibly change the whole face of science.
I went about my normal routine of giving demonstrations at schools, universities, theaters, and discotheques. In spite of the bad publicity coming from the Sophia Loren incident, most of the appearances were successful and I was able to take care of my mother and make a good living.
I spent a lot of time with Iris and saw less and less of Yaffa – only a few stolen moments. No matter how impossible the situation was, I still loved her. I told Yaffa everything about Iris. As open and frank as I was with Iris, I had never told her about Yaffa. That bothered me. There was a conflict in me; something always held me back. Maybe I knew that my love for Yaffa would always be there, no matter how old I would get, and maybe I did not want to hurt Iris.
I was still debating with myself about scientific tests, trying to get over my fear of them. If a chance to go to America was offered should I take it – or should I just quietly phase out the whole operation and go back to ordinary work?
Word came that several scientists had examined the broken pin the colonel had sent to America. They were definitely interested in testing me, in Israel first, and perhaps later in America. This was a way for me to leave Israel for a bigger country. I thought I probably should be somewhere working with scientists. I was free of my manager, and there was nobody else who could tell me what to do
A new career was about to start for me. It changed my life into something extraordinary, something almost beyond human thinking. I had never dreamt I would become involved in anything like it.
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