Uri Geller on a new bent
By Marco R. della Cava
SONNING, England – The spoon is bending.
Uri Geller, his right thumb and forefinger clamped on the utensil’s bowl, stops rubbing his left forefinger across the narrow neck.
“It won’t bend past 90 degrees,” Geller says.
And it doesn’t.
The spoon has frozen into a metal L.
The Israeli paratrooper and model who became known worldwide for his paranormal displays smiles, pleased that on command he has managed a feat that famously eluded him in 1973 during a tense 22-minute live appearance on The Tonight Show.
“Johnny Carson set me up to fail,” says Geller, insisting the talk-show host bombarded him with negative vibes.
Now a youthful 53 with only flecks of gray in a thicket of black hair, health nut Geller hopes to course back into the mainstream with a positivist message for the new millennium.
His new book, Mind Medicine: The Secret of Powerful Healing (Element, $24.95), is a surprisingly sensible compilation of self-help hints rooted in holistic healing. A chapter titled “What Are We All Worrying About?” looks at the causes of stress that can range from indoor pollution to cell phone microwaves. The only spoons involved here go with the teacups laid next to this colorful coffee-table book.
It’s not art, but it’s quite a craft
I was a magician in my youth. So while Uri Geller was bending his spoon, I was desperately trying to come up with trick-rooted explanations.
He seemed to hold the spoon’s bowl rather tightly. But even so, pressing gently on the neck would cause the handle to drop, not rise as it did.
Shortly after that impressive display, Geller pulled me aside, gave me paper and asked me to draw something. “Keep it simple, please,” he said, turning. I drew a house with a triangular roof and a door. He closed his eyes and told me to concentrate on the image. He started sketching.
A minute later he asked me if my drawing was complete. I said it was. He opened his eyes and frowned: “Well, I got an incomplete image.”
He turned his paper around and looked at my drawing. His eyes lighted up, and he slammed the kitchen table with an open palm: “Yes!”
Geller drew a square house with a triangular roof but no door. “Ah,” he said, “that’s why mine was incomplete. You weren’t thinking of the door.”
In truth, I hadn’t been.
“Want to see something that will really blow you mind?” Geller asked, sounding like a thrilled teenager. Even though we’d both drawn freehand, when we laid his house over mine, I saw that the two squares were virtually identical in size.
My old boxful of magician’s gear did contain a version of this mentalist feat. But it involved both me and my subject writing on a board that I provided. And it did not include the possibility of my image virtually mirroring my subject’s.
If this was merely a trick, it was one of the finest I’d ever seen.
By Marco R. della Cava
“People are searching out there for new approaches to medicine,” says Geller, who is an honorary vice president of two English hospitals. “Health is our most precious asset. If Bill Gates got cancer but could be cured if he gave all his money away, I bet he would.”
The journey from that day on Carson’s couch to Deepak Chopra wannabe has been a long one. Success might have spelled a different future for the ’70s staple who rubbed spoons and shoulders with the likes of Muhammad Ali, John Lennon and Rosalynn Carter.
Instead, he spiraled into a battle with bulimia, fled Manhattan in 1985 and took up residence here on the muddy banks of the Thames, where he lives in baronial splendor (Swimming pool? Check. Tennis court? Check) with his wife, two teenagers, mother and manager.
The surreal résumé: mind reader, spoon bender, watch “repairman,” scientific guinea pig. Pop culture took note, with films such as Phenomenon and The Matrix proffering psychokinetic characters.
But apart from oblique Hollywood references, the world largely forgot about Uri (pronounced OO-ree) Geller Freud, who claims family ties to the Viennese master.
Gregarious, exuding passion and, well, energy, Geller fixes his dark eyes on you, and the feeling is slightly disquieting. He also possesses an unabashed flair for self-promotion, immediately signing the aforementioned bent spoon with a special marker. And he confesses to a long-standing attraction to money.
“Sometimes,” he says on his epic lawn, “I can’t believe this is all mine.”
Geller maintains, however, that he is over materialism and says he has put his $8 million mansion on the market. He hopes to live in a French-made, solar-powered, wooden hut that looks like a spaceship.
But if the capitalist Geller is dying, the showman never felt better.
His writings appear regularly in The (London) Times, he is a monthly guest on a syndicated U.S. radio show called Doug Stephan’s Good Day, his Web site (https://www.urigeller.com/) draws thousands daily, and while he pushes “positive thinking,” he still dabbles in the blatantly weird.
He claims to have helped the English national soccer team beat Scotland a few years back by buzzing the stadium in a helicopter and concentrating until the ball moved just as a Scottish player shot, and missed, a penalty kick.
Geller’s real gift is for deception, contend the many critics who have dogged the mentalist for decades.
“In my opinion, he’s a good magician, and it never goes beyond that,” says Jerry Schnepp, president of the St. Louis-based International Brotherhood of Magicians. “Many people do spoon bending, and it’s done with misdirection. There is no so-called force there other than Uri Geller.”
Geller is blunt about skeptics.
“Look, I’m brash and outspoken, so some people are frightened, and some maybe even anti-Semitic. I don’t understand the resentment,” he says. “I am not a healer, prophet or guru. I am simply a trigger, a catalyst, an enabler to your powers.”
Whatever he is, the world once was on board big time, providing Geller with a life that would out-twist the most serpentine screenplay.
After dazzling audiences in Tel Aviv at the start of the ’70s, Geller became entangled in a series of experiments at Stanford University designed to validate or repudiate his powers. Although nothing conclusive was produced, Geller was enough of a mystery to attract the attention of government officials from the United States, Mexico and Israel. And he maintains that the CIA used him to bombard the minds of KGB agents.
“George Bush (then head of the CIA) was very open-minded to the field of the paranormal,” Geller says with a smile. “I’m sure you didn’t know that.”
The CIA declined to comment on queries about Geller. Agency officials kept their public distance in the ’70s as well. Not so the glitterati.
Geller says he helped Ali psyche out boxing opponents. He and Lennon would meet for tea at a New York hotel to discuss UFOs. He bent a spoon for President Carter’s wife and read a nervous Henry Kissinger’s mind. Life was a party, and Geller was drunk on the Studio 54 Zeitgeist. He commanded racks of Gucci suits, drawers of Rolex watches and fleets of limousines.
But soon people tired of an act that could not change because, Geller maintains, it was real. Abruptly, he vanished from the cultural radar screen. “I tasted all that money, the fame, the groupies, and suddenly no one wanted me,” he says. “I thought it was the end of Uri Geller.”
So he started killing himself.
In the late ’70s, impresario Robert Stigwood raised the possibility of doing a film on Geller’s life, but he wanted his star, who would play himself, to slim down. Ever the obsessive, Geller took the request to extremes. Bulimia hooked him for a year. The film idea fizzled.
“My friends started saying I looked like a Holocaust survivor,” he says. “That was it. I stopped.”
Geller rebounded. He fathered a son and daughter (Natalie, 18, and Daniel, 19, neither of whom displays the father’s abilities) with his longtime companion and now wife, Hanna Shtrang. Her brother, Shipi, has been Geller’s manager almost since the two met in their teens. Worried about crime in New York, the entire crew, including Geller’s mother, Margaret, moved to an estate in the English countryside.
Whatever the source of Geller’s ability – otherworldly or sheer practice – Geller’s greatest “effect” remains Uri Geller.
“I go back and forth,” says Jonathan Margolis, author of a recently published biography, Uri Geller: Magician or Mystic?
“Some days I’m pro-Uri, and others I think it’s just about possible he’s a magician. But if he is, it’s unchallenged that no one knows how he does what he does.”
The L-shaped sugar spoon rests on a table near Geller. Its bending continues to elicit puzzled stares from two guests. Geller is asked for an explanation.
“I have none,” he says. “And I would like to leave it a mystery. If I’m ever truly validated, I will cease to be interesting.”
Shazam. Geller has nailed the essence of his appeal: Mysteries command our gaze.
But he is not through with revelations. A few minutes go by. Silence fills the room. His five dogs, which include a blind fox terrier and an injured greyhound, lie quietly nearby.
“I must tell you something,” Geller sighs. “I am sick and tired of bending spoons.”
Motivational Inspirational Speaker
Motivational, inspirational, empowering compelling 'infotainment' which leaves the audience amazed, mesmerized, motivated, enthusiastic, revitalised and with a much improved positive mental attitude, state of mind & self-belief.
“There is no spoon!”
“The world needs your amazing talents. I need them”
“Uri Geller gave an absolutely resonating talk on his life and career. He had every single magician in the room on the edge of their seats trying to digest as much information as they could. Uri emphasized that the path to frame is through uniqueness and charisma and that professional entertainers must be creative in their pursuits of success and never shy away from publicity.”
Tannens Magic Blog
“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
“Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind”
“I Have watched Uri Geller… I have seen that so I am a believer. It was my house key and the only way I would be able to use it is get a hammer and beat it out back flat again.”
“Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae’s in bloom”