New shows, celeb doctor, Derren Brown

A female illusionist and mind-reader nearly drowned on live TV yesterday as she attempted to escape from a tank of water on the show of celebrated fork-bender Uri Geller.

It’s one of the city’s major tourist attractions, but I see the coffee shops as a negative force. I hate all drug abuse, and from decades of experience with the power of the human mind I know how dangerous it is to meddle chemically with our brains.

Shipi and I tried a cup of coffee at one, and I can promise you that the regulars don’t go there for the flavour of the beans. We left ours undrunk and sauntered over to the Cafe American, the favourite bar of Dutch celebrities a century ago — the notorious spy Mata Hari had her wedding reception there.

We were on our second pair of capuccinos when Shipi spotted an alarming story in the newspaper: too much caffeine can cause hallucinations and even make you see ghosts, according to psychologists at the University of Durham. I have always believed coffee possesses the power of reincarnation — comatose from jetlag after a day-long flight from Los Angeles or Tokyo, only espresso can raise me from the dead.

But I never realised my cup of beans could summon spirits. “When you think how much coffee we’ve drunk during your career,” Shipi said, “this probably explains everything. You’re not weird… you’re wired!”

We needed plenty of coffee because I was about to launch two new TV series, in two different languages, with a different set of catchphrases and contestants for each. Both are being screened live from the studios in Amsterdam, so at least I don’t have to shuttle between cities.

Both series feature a fantastic line-up of mystifiers, all vying to be crowned the Next Uri Geller. In the German show-opener, one performer astounded the audience with a subtle and convincing display of telepathy — he seemed able to read the minds of everyone in the building.

A psychic surgeon had the Dutch audience gasping as he appeared to plunge his hand into the stomach of our celebrity guest, an Amsterdam rock star, to pull out a tablet from his intestines.

I am suspicious of psychic surgeons, as many have been proved to be charlatans, but I also have an open mind. My mentor back in the Seventies, Dr Andrija Puharich, studied a Brazilian man named Arigo who could carry out delicate surgery using only a rusty scalpel and the power of his mind. However he achieved these miracles, Arigo was able without doubt to cure many thousands of patients.

That set me thinking about other parascientific puzzles I witnessed with Andrija, and I remembered that in a corridor at Stanford Research Institute in California there used to be a potato in a glass box, wired up to electrodes. The scientists were testing it to see if the tuber emitted electrical responses to human activity… in other words, whether the potato was sensitive to people’s moods.

Inspired, I urged viewers to place a potato beside their television sets. Gathering our celebs around me, I held a handful of radish seeds in my palm and urged them: “One, two, three… GROW!”

A shoot half an inch long erupted from one seed. All over the country, potatoes sprouted too, and hundreds of viewers sent us photo evidence from their mobile phones.

I believe this is evidence that the energy in our bodies is the same energy that makes every plant grow, from the tiniest mustardseed to an acorn that will become a great oak. And if that energy can turn a small kernel into a towering tree, there’s no limit to what it can achieve in a human life.

Before I began another double series, I decided to have my health checked out by Dr John Gayner in London’s Sloane Square, after several celebrity friends praised him to me. He is one of the doctors recommended by many TV companies, including the BBC and Channel Four, and when I walked into his consulting room I realised how many stars must have been through those doors.

The walls were crowded with signed photographs, including giants such as Sir Larry Olivier, Dustin Hoffman and Frank Sinatra, as well as sports heroes such as Roger Federer. I asked him whether he kept a diary of his famous encounters: he just smiled and said, “It’s all confidential.”

As I left the clinic, I bumped Jody Latham, who played Lip in Shameless.

The presenters of the Dutch series are Patty Brard and Tooske Ragas. For the first show, I was joined by last season’s winner, Ramana. In Germany, the previous winner Vincent Raven came back to meet our new contestants. I stayed well away from his aviary — those ravens may have the power to read minds and even contact the dead, but they can also take chunks out of your hand.

Derren Brown, the master of mind control, revealed another gift when he sent me a portrait he’d painted of me. It is a caricature, with a long flaring nose and gaunt cheekbones, but it is also an honest painting which captures the intensity of my stare.

I was taught by Salvador Dali that an artist can only be good if he believes his gifts come directly from God. They are superpowers, insisted Dali. Derren’s painting have that quality of conviction, and there is no doubt in my mind that he deserves to be as famous for his art as he is for his mind-reading.



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