Reuters News Article – November 03, 1999
Wednesday, November 3‘Spoon-Bender’ Uri Geller Back With ‘Mind Medicine’
Israeli psychic Uri Geller, perhaps best known for his alleged ability to bend spoons with mental powers, is promoting a new self-help book, ‘Mind Medicine’. Geller is seen in a 1994 picture with thousands of his trademark spoons. (Jim Hollander/Reuters)
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters)
It can be pretty tough being a pop paranormal phenomenon — just ask Uri Geller.
The famed “spoon-bender” who burst on the world scene in the 1970s with a whirl of talk show appearances, celebrity interviews and telekinetic performance art woke up one day at the end of his psychic rope.
“It was all money, money, money, Gucci suitcases, two Rolex watches, private jets … one day I woke up in a hotel, and it was all just emptiness,” Geller said. “I couldn’t take it anymore, so I just stopped.”
Geller — who for U.S. audiences has long called up a Day-Glo era of Nixon, streaking, and platform shoes — retired to England and a different, more moderate kind of fame as an author and newspaper columnist.
But now, hot on the platform heels of the 1970s’ retro-chic revival, Uri Geller and his amazing mental powers are back seeking the spotlight. This time, instead of bending spoons and reading minds, Geller is pushing “Mindpower” as a self-help technique for emotional and physical well-being.
“Just by being positive and believing in yourself, you can help to heal your ailments,” Geller told Reuters during a recent swing through San Francisco to promote the book “Mind Medicine”. “There is a force in all of us, call it telepathy or whatever you want, that can do this.”
Geller, presumably, should know. His sizzling career as one of America’s favorite TV talk show guests hit the skids in 1973 when, on a “Tonight Show” appearance under the skeptical gaze of host Johnny Carson, “Mindpower” failed him and he was unable to mentally bend a spoon.
Period Of Bulimia And Depression
The “Tonight Show” debacle began what was for Geller a period of bulimia and depression. Once hailed as an example of mankind’s mental future, the Israeli-born Geller found himself mocked in the media, scoffed at by skeptics and dogged by debunkers who sought to frankly finger him as a fraud.
Many scientists still think Geller was one of the biggest media phony of the 1970s, a sleight-of-hand specialist preying on a gullible public.
But he persevered with his claims of paranormal powers, challenging detractors with lawsuits and holding demonstrations to win more devotees.
Now, with a self-help formula championed by none other than Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, he is ready for another go at tabloid glory.
“There are lots of rock stars, there are lots of politicians, but there is only one Uri Geller,” Geller said with a smile. “I am rather unique in my field.”
In many ways, Uri Geller is the father of the modern ”X-Files.” A handsome man with mysterious powers who stumped specialists and intrigued spymasters, Geller rose to prominence during a period of unparalleled hopes — and growing fears — about the potential power of the human mind.
Born in Israel in 1946, Geller says he was 4 years old when he first discovered his ability to bend spoons through sheer force of will, twisting the cutlery while eating soup in his family’s Tel Aviv kitchen.
Other skills soon followed, particularly an uncanny ability to start and stop watches and a growing ease at apparently reading other people’s minds.
A youth spent in Cyprus, a stint as an army paratrooper, and a growing fascination with espionage and show business followed.
Geller’s Strange Move
But in the late 1960s, Geller made a strange move for someone who would soon be praised as one of the most powerful human minds ever. He became a male model.
“They took pictures of me in towels, in underwear, wearing watches, you name it,” Geller said of his stint in front of the camera. “That experience lit the show business part of me.”
Promoted by longtime business manager and brother-in-law Shipi Shtrang, Geller began appearing at parties to show off his spoon bending and other tricks. As word spread he cut a swathe through Israeli society, ultimately winning an important fan in Prime Minister Golda Meir, who praised his telepathic abilities on national radio.
While some critics were already beginning to call him fake, Geller’s reputation grew and in 1972 he left Israel for Germany where newspapers reported a series of amazing stunts such as stopping a cable car in mid-air.
The inevitable migration to the United States followed, where Geller wowed people like NASA rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun and was studied at California’s prestigious Stanford Research Institute (SRI).
Geller says now that the SRI study was funded by the CIA, which was alarmed by reports of Soviet research into paranormal and psychic phenomena.
The U.S. work turned up enough interesting evidence to warrant a generally approving article in the journal “Nature”, but Geller’s association with the U.S. spy agency grew strained — in part, he says, by requests that he turn his mental powers to such chilling experiments as stopping the heart of a living pig.
Geller’s relations with the U.S. media were much warmer, and he appeared on enough television talk shows to become a household name. But after his mental meltdown on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show”, it slowly became less fashionable to feature Geller as a guest.
Geller himself says the Carson episode proves, if anything, that he is NOT a fake — what trickster would blow his big chance on the top rated television show in the country?
Star Slowly Dims
But while he remained friends with such big-time celebrities as John Lennon and Muhammad Ali, his star slowly dimmed in the public eye. Meanwhile, he found himself in the grip of an addiction to bulimia — repeatedly forcing himself to vomit in an effort to remain thin and photogenic.
“I was sticking pens down my throat, anything to induce the vomiting,” Geller said. “I became a walking skeleton.”
Geller says his eating disorder was so severe that he almost died. What saved him was “Mindpower”, this time harnessed to control his health. It’s a skill anyone can learn with his new book as a road map, he says and as he promotes the book he is finding himself back in front of U.S. television cameras.
“Barbara Walters almost didn’t recognize me! She was expecting an old-looking man,” the 53-year-old Geller enthused, attributing his remarkably youthful appearance to the preservative effects of Mindpower.
Geller — who says he supports his family’s lavish lifestyle by telepathically locating oil and mineral deposits for petroleum companies — says “Mind Medicine” is his latest attempt to show people just how powerful the brain can be.
“I am someone who has opened incredible doors for millions of people, telling them there is a force that is in our minds, and to ahead and use it,” Geller said. “People are accepting, slowly but surely, that you cannot ignore Uri Geller.”
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