Slamdog Aster Kuttner
How’s this for the world’s creepiest chat-up line? A leather-jacketed man, shaven-headed with a goatee, says he will know your deepest desires and darkest secrets if you buy him a drink. Dare you?
We knew the movie would have to be special to outshine the cinema itself — Amsterdam’s Tuschinski, a spectacular Art Deco edifice. The front looked like a spaceship disguised as Harrods, and the interior was even weirder, a riot of styles.
An usherette showed us to seats in a box called the Queen’s Booth, and explained that the place was designed to create an aura of illusion. “It’s called the Tuschinski after its founder, Abraham Icek Tuschinski. He had it built, in 1921,” she said. “He spent four million guilders on it, an incredible sum at the time — but when the Nazis invaded in 1940, they renamed it the Tivoli. Tuschinski was Jewish, of course.”
We loved the movie — it’s incredible that boys from real slums, with barely any education, can act with such flair and confidence. I believe acting is an intuitive human ability, something born into us, a form of mindpower potential.
The story really whetted my appetite for a visit to India, one of the few countries I have never seen. Shipi and I were booked on a business trip to Mumbai a few years ago, but the airport was closed by monsoon flooding and we had to cancel the trip.
There’s a strong chance that my TV show will be bought by one of India’s broadcasting giants. If that happens, I’ll be reporting for The Weekly News from the most densely populated place on Earth — and I promise to send you photos both of the Taj Mahal and of the slum cities.
An email out of the blue from a historian transported me back to a party in Germany in 1972, a few days after my arrival in Europe from Israel. I remembered the night clearly — there were about 60 industrialists there, and my demonstrations provoked a sensation.
I had no idea, though, until this email popped up, that the echoes of that night are still resounding today… millions of them.
The party was given by a woman named Aster Holler. The historian, Heidrun Edelmann, sent me a photo of her — it was a little blurred, but Heidrun explained Mrs Holler was shy and disliked having her picture taken.
“I have been commissioned to write the biography of Aster and her husband, Christian,” explained Heidrun. “One letter I have discovered describes how you made a flower burst into bud, and made another object dematerialise. Aster Holler was convinced your powers were genuine, and she contacted a professor at Freiburg named Hans Bender.”
I knew the name at once — he was a brilliant parapsychologist, who fearlessly investigated all kinds of psi powers despite the disapproval of academics and scientists all round him.
He became an expert on the paraphysics of metal-bending, and also a leading world authority on poltergeists — he set up the Freiburger Institut fur Grenzgebiete de Psychology, known as the Bender Institute.
If we ever learn the mind’s deepest and most powerful secrets, it will be through the work of a handful of independent-minded labs. The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research unit closed last year, but the Koestler Parapyschology Institute is still making psi waves in Edinburgh. And the Bender Institute is at the forefront of current research.
Professor Bender died in 1991 but his work goes on, thanks to a multi-million euro annual bequest from Aster and Christian Holler. When Heidrun told me this, I could not believe my ears. My bent spoons were worth more than solid gold that night — much, much more.
“I knew there were some rich people at that party,” I said, “but how could the Hollers leave so much money to parascience research?”
Heidrun laughed. “Didn’t anybody tell you who they were?” he asked. “They owned Volkswagen…”
One of the first friends I made when I came to Britain in the mid-Eighties was Stuart Kuttner, the long-standing managing editor of the News of the World. He’s a warm, witty man with a campaigner’s heart, and when he fixes his newspaper’s sights on a political target you know he will never give up.
This month Stuart and the paper won a major victory in their fight to protect children from paedophiles. He met the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, who agreed to extend a trial scheme across four police forces, so that parents can demand access to information on convicted child abusers in their area.
Stuart believes that if the law had been introduced nationwide when he helped to launch the campaign, following the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000, other horrific killings could have been averted — perhaps including the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham two years later.
Politics is a slow business, and law-making is even slower. Britain is lucky to have patient, determined, obstinate men like Stuart who will hang on to what’s right and never let go till the job is done.
Wherever I go, I like to sign my name… whether it’s in a dressing room, an aeroplane or on a chunk of the Berlin Wall.
Grafitti artists have turned the remains of the concrete divide into a triumphant symbol of unity. I was delighted to add my own bit of artwork.
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Tannens Magic Blog
"There is no spoon!"
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"The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues."
James Randi (In an open letter to Abracadabra Magazine)
Sir Elton John
"The Geller Effect is one of those "para" phenomena which changed the world of phusics. What the most outstanding physicists of the last decades of this country colud grasp only as theoretical implication, Uri brought as fact into everyday life.."
Dr. Walter A. Frank. Bonn University - Germany
"Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind"
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"Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae's in bloom"