Going on a bender with a coffee spoon.

16th November 1998

The Daily Telegraph

Going on a bender with a coffee spoon

The Monday interview

Boris Johnson is flummoxed by Uri Geller

As soon as I got back to the office and told them what had happened, they smiled their broad, condescending smiles; and at once I was filled with the petulance of the convert.

“But it’s true!” I said, and I produced the evidence. Now there was no containing their cackles, or my blushes. What can I say? As I stare at the awesome evidence of Uri Geller’s ability to reorder atoms by force of his throbbing cerebrum, I can only ask you to accept my assurances that I watched him like a lynx.

From the moment he welcomed me to his kitsch Dallas-style eight-bedroom house on the Thames, I was monitoring every motion of the skinny 52-year-old Israeli. Within minutes of sitting down in his conservatory, after some perfunctory preliminaries about his new biography by Jonathan Margolis (Orion, £18.99), the notorious cutlery-damager was away.

“Draw a simple figure”, he cried. “Simple, simple!” He whirled round on his rotating chair, shielding his eyes with his hand, as I drew a dog-cum-donkey, covering my notebook like the school swot. “Is it finished!” he kept shouting. “Now,” he said, leaning on the table between us, his eyes swivelling worryingly beneath the pale, lightly closed lids, “I want you to draw it in your head.”

I strained my brainpan. Summoning up all my reserves of psychokinetic energy, I tried to pump the horizontal stroke and the twig-legs across the gap between us.

“Mmmm,” he said, twiddling in the air with a callused finger. “No, no.” But I was fascinated to see that he was indeed outlining a vague trapezium; and then he grabbed the Margolis book and drew fast on the endpapers.

Frankly, there must have been something wrong with my mental aerial, because the resulting oblong wasn’t very close: although he did point out that our drawings were of a similar size.

“Again!” he said, and this time, to aid transmission, I did a smiley face; and – zap – the image leapt effortlessly from my skull to his.

“Is it something like a smiley face?” asked the psychic. I gasped. Well. Almost. After the first stupefaction wore off, and our conversation proceeded, I reckoned he might well have been able to study the motion of my pen top. I could have sworn he did not peek, but let us say that the carapace of my cynicism was more or less intact.

We meandered on through his life: how President Lopez Portillo, of Mexico, had used him to dowse for oil, while Senora Portillo took a fancy to him; and his hopes for his children, one of whom, Daniel, can apparently disable telephones with a frown.

Uri told of his greatest nightmares, like when 25 million people watched him on the Johnny Carson Show, and “the spoon didn’t want to bend”; and how, for the only time, he cheated in an act in Tel Aviv, when a stooge took down the car number plates of the audience.

He described the greatest mysteries of his career, like the time he was transported by molecular disintegration 36 miles from the pavement outside Bloomingdales, crash-landing through the conservatory of his then mentor, one Andrija Puharich.

“This was the most mind-shattering event of my life. But it happened and I am not going to back away from it.”

Or there was the time John Lennon met him for coffee in the Sherry-Netherlands hotel, New York. “He said a bright light woke him up. Suddenly there was this sphere of light pulsating in the middle of the room, and this hand reached out, a thin, scrawny hand,” containing an object which John passed to Uri.

“I don’t want to get it analysed. I don’t want to be disappointed in case it turns out to be made in Korea,” he said. Looking at the alleged heirloom from space, a small bronze ovoid, I could see his point. And all the while I was glancing at the coffee spoon which Shipi, Uri’s brother in law, had brought with my coffee, and wondering…

Uri set it up beautifully. “I can’t guarantee anything,” he said, asking in vain whether I had anything thinner than the spoon, like keys. The spoon was not easy to bend, certainly not with the fingers alone. He came round the table – my eyes were peeled here – and started to rub the neck softly with his left forefinger. “It’s bending! It’s bending!” he claimed.

Great Scott, so it was. Or was it? He stopped rubbing, and I persuaded myself that it had always been like that. “Now come round to the radiator,” he said, adding that he derived strength from metal objects. “Now rub it yourself,” he said, and I rubbed the spoon as he held it, and, blow me down, it really was bending. “Touch the radiator with your foot,” he instructed; so I did, and, gadzooks, that spoon was bending like spaghetti.

It bent through 90 degrees. In fact, it appeared to bend after he had stopped rubbing, while it was just in the palm of his hand. I have it before me. At no stage did it get hot, and it remains as difficult to bend as before.

Now it may very well be that Uri simply fooled me, that his sinewy hands were giving the spoon surreptitious yanks; and one has to wonder why a chap with these tremendous gifts would confine himself to bending spoons for 30 years.

But I have to confess. I was flummoxed. Answers on a postcard, please.


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