Uri in MOON Magazine.

MOON

Victoria Stagg Elliott gets her spoon bent by the globetrotting Israeli psychic

Uri Geller’s fingers are six inches away from my face, rubbing a spoon at its thinnest part. “See what I do,” he says. “I stroke it very gently and instead of bending it, I’m going to try to melt it. See, look. It’s becoming soft. I almost make the metal like plastic, and it’s going to crack.” I am holding one end in my hand and before my eyes the spoon bends and then breaks.

He pulls a black marker out of his pocket, signs it and drops it into my bag. The spoon, which belongs to the West End coffee house that we are sitting in, has not changed temperature and is still cool to the touch. “I hope they don’t charge me for it.”

I have not asked him to prove anything. He does this not because he likes to break cutlery but because he loves being the centre of attention. Around the cafe, all eyes are on him.

For his next trick, he reads my mind. “I’ll show you what I do,” he says. “I’m going to close my eyes, and I’ll turn away. I won’t look. Draw here something very simple and then cover it. Something that you can visualise.” I draw a picture of a fish but screw up by accidentally showing him the picture. We try again, and this time I draw a sloppy cube.

“Telepathically put it into my head. Look at me. Don’t look at what I’m drawing.” He draws a cube that is a neater mirror version of my own but, he points out, is the same size. “I really got it very strong. Now let me show you something very fascinating. If you look at your line from here to here and you look at my line, they are going to be millimetrically identical.” They are close. Very, very close. “That’s telepathy. Being able to read your mind.”

Uri Geller is an international entertainer. In his lifetime, he has stopped Big Ben, bent the cutlery of the famous and nonfamous and read the mind of Ulrika Jonsson from thousands of miles away. But he reveals that he has also spied for the CIA and FBI. “They put me on Aero Mexico, first class, and I would sit right next to two KGB agents who were flying with diplomatic pouches chained to their arms and my task was to erase the floppy discs in the bags.”

Dressed like a ski bunny in wraparound Porsche sunglasses and a bright red thermal jacket, he has eyes full of sparkle and a face that does not quite betray the fact that he is nearing 50. He sits drinking his hot chocolate and sucking on sugar cubes while communicating telepathically with his daughter at the next table. “I’m not sure if she has inherited my gift or not. We’ll see.”

The film version of his life story, Mindbender is now available on video. Uri Geller’s Mindpower Kit, a work out for the brain, which comes with a quartz crystal pendant infused with Geller energy and an orange dot, has just been published by Virgin. Uri’s T-shirt line which can receive his positive vibes on the first day of the month is available from Joe Bloggs Jeans. Now we can all enter Uri Geller’s world, properly dressed, read and energised.

The video, directed by Ken Russell and starring the Israeli actor Ishai Golan, is not the kind of film that Uri would have made about himself.

“Ken Russell is a strange guy,” says Uri. “He took events in my life which are true and interpreted them through his poetic eyes. He made the movie very entertaining. If you asked me whether this is the kind of film I would give an authorisation to, I would say no because it’s too entertaining. It’s very far away from being a documentary.”

Have your broken clocks and watches ready. Uri appears on screen at the end and will try to fix them with the power of his mind.

The video and the T-shirts are fun, but The Mindpower Kit is more of a mixed bag that is supposed to tap into your will power and psychic abilities. The accompanying audio tape is relaxing, but the advice in the book is simple. The section on weight control advises never to go food shopping when hungry, chew slowly, pay attention to calories and think slim. But unlike most normal diet books, it also includes a spoon-bending how-to, a guide to crystals and instructions for discovering valuable minerals through dowsing.

Uri was born in Tel Aviv in 1946, the son of Austro-Hungarian Holocaust survivors and a distant relative of Sigmund Freud. He broke his first spoon at the age of four.

“My parents thought that I had a weird power,” he says. “They never thought that I would cultivate it or entertain with it. They thought it would die out.” His mother was convinced that his powers came from his famous relative.

“He didn’t have powers but she thought that maybe he did,” he says. “But I must tell you something that I just learned recently, that Sigmund Freud did an experiment of telepathy with Albert Einstein.” He is a repository of psychic trivia.

Uri’s weird power made him popular with his peers as a child and even improved his grades. “Reading minds in school I would be able to copy from children,” he says.

As he neared puberty, however, he began to feel less confident about other children’s’ reactions to his gifts. “For a period between the age of 11 to 16, I didn’t do anything with them. I tried to hide them away. I didn’t want to be like a freak.”

His family was always poor and crammed into a one-bedroom apartment. He always dreamed of being rich. “There was even a time when I considered becoming a gigolo and going to Italy to find a rich woman and marry her. That was my dream to become wealthy, because of my poor background.”

His teenage years were spent in Cyprus where his father was stationed, causing him to miss his barmitzvah. “There was a curfew exactly that day. The British were fighting the Greeks. The Greeks were killing the British. The Turks were killing the Greeks, and I couldn’t have a barmitzvah. Later on we had something at the embassy.”

After graduating from high school, he entered the Israeli Army and was injured in the Six-Day War. His left upper arm was shattered and, while he still cannot turn the arm fully, he considers himself lucky. “Definitely not serious compared to the other friends that were blown up. They lost their eyes and legs.”

He was wounded badly enough to be given three months recuperation time and was assigned as a counselor to a children’s camp near Tel Aviv.

“That was where I met Shipi Shtrant, who was only about 12 or 13 but already showed all the hallmarks of being the brilliant manager that he would become.” Today, Shipi is still his ever-present agent and his sister Hannah is Uri’s wife of nearly 20 years.

Initially, Uri performed a stage act that included reading the minds of audience members, bending spoons, rings and bracelets and starting broken watches. Most people thought he was just another magician. He had been working for three years when in 1971 then prime minister Golda Meir was asked what was in store for Israel in the coming years. She responded, “Don’t ask me. Ask Uri Geller.”

The more people started to know him, the more money started rolling in. “My mother always wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer. Then I turned out to be a spoon bender,” he says. “They didn’t know how I was going to make a living out of it. When my mother started seeing me on television and reading about me, she couldn’t believe that it happened to her child. Obviously, when I started making money that changed her life. She worked very hard as a seamstress and as a waitress. Suddenly I bought her an apartment, watches and rings. She’s a real Jewish mama. I give back to her now what she gave to me.”

In the early ’70s, he shot to fame in Britain with a headline-grabbing appearance on the David Frost Show.

There was mass hysteria,” he says. “Spoons and keys were bending all over the country. People couldn’t get into their cars.” Geller became a byword for bent spoons and worldwide fame soon followed.

Uri aroused the interest of scientists and spent an extended period of time at the Stanford Research Institute, now SRI international, in California to prove that what he did was not mere trickery. He erased video tapes and increased the mass of gram weights in the laboratory. At least some of the scientists at Stanford were convinced.

“As a result of Geller’s success in this experimental period, we consider that he has demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner,” wrote SRI researchers Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ.

The results of the tests were printed in the science journal Nature along with an editorial from the magazine’s staff. “Perhaps the most important issue raised by the circumstances surrounding the publication of this paper is whether science has yet developed the competence to confront claims of the paranormal,” it suggested.

Uri says he did not undergo these tests purely in the interests of science. “On the one side, I wanted to gain credibility and prestige, so I had to work with scientists. I had to demonstrate my powers under laboratory controlled conditions.” he says. “From the other side, I also enjoyed being on television and entertaining people. In a strange and bizarre way, they worked for me together. Once the scientists validated me. More TV shows wanted me.”

At SRI, he called eight out of ten dice throws under controlled conditions, but he says he never gambles. “Once I won £17,000 in a casino in London. The next day f was in a car being driven somewhere, and I heard something shouting in my mind. I actually threw the money out of the window.” He does not know where the voice came from but has not gambled since.

Following his IV years in the ’70s, he turned to business in the ’80s, dowsing for minerals for mining companies and hiring out his psychic powers to western governments. “I helped the American government secretly to fight the nuclear race because I believe that if we don’t stop the nuclear weapon race, It’s going to destroy us sooner or later.” he says. “I tried to do positive things. When the Americans asked me to come and help them to make the Soviets sign nuclear arms reduction treaties, I did that.”

His company, Uri Geller Associates, has found gold for an unidentified Japanese company and diamonds in the Solomon Islands for Zanex Ltd, an Australian mining corporation. Peter Stirling, the company chairman, gave Uri an open testimonial letter certifying his effectiveness. Uri will never drill an oil well without asking Uri Geller’s advice first,” wrote Stirling.

Companies are reluctant to come forward for fear of ridicule in the business community but the Financial Times recently carried an interesting item on the Geller business success. “Of the 11 projects he has undertaken in the past 10 years, he says four have been big successes, where the royalties went way beyond the original £I million advance.”

Business has now overtaken show-business. Before his appearance at a Jewish charity show last autumn, he had avoided live performances for eight years. Recently, he came out with an album featuring high-pitched whispered lyrics accompanied by pianist Byron Janis and a cover depicting himself striding across the cosmos in maroon polyester. David Frost is still a champion. He wrote the foreword for theMindpower Kit and features Uri in his current Beyond Belief shows for ITV. Uri is suddenly back on our screens.

Whether you believe in his psychic powers or not, the evidence of his success is plain to see. Mrs Geller snr now resides in a wing of the beautiful home in a Berkshire village where he has been living for the past ten years with his wife and two children. He says he prefers Berkshire because it is less polluted, less violent and more civilised than his previous homes in New York and Tel Aviv.

“I had seen three murders in New York. I had a beautiful house in Connecticut and two beautiful apartments on 57th street but I couldn’t escape the violence and the pollution. This is why I live in a small village now outside London. I really love it here.”

In the garage is a boat-sized 1976 Cadillac covered with 5,000 pieces of cutlery bent in all directions and welded to the body. He has Churchill’s fork and spoons previously owned by President Kennedy and John Lennon. He was going to drive his dream machine around the Middle East to raise money for children in the area but changed his mind when the bombing of Lebanon started.

“I’m saddened that we chose to bomb because I am a peaceful person,” he says. “I believe that things can be achieved by negotiation and patience. I question what did we gain out of this. Did we gain anything?” He does not hesitate at all when asked if he will ever live in Israel again. “Of course. I’m planning to go back there someday.”

He believes in reincarnation and life after death but does not know if he has had any past lives. He considers himself a religious man. “l do pray to God every day. I do not necessarily go to synagogue to pray but I do put my hand on my head and do the prayer. I believe in one God, that one God created us all.”

Uri will bend a spoon for you if he is in the mood but he does not like to be messed with. He sued Prometheus Books who questioned whether he had psychic powers in courts worldwide. They apologised and settled after incurring nearly £200,000 in costs.

He has no explanation for his powers. “It’s a mystery to me,” he says shrugging his shoulders. “It could be genetics. It could be an outside force. It could be a gift from God. It could be an extraterrestrial UFO out there. giving it to me. I don’t know.”

Uri cannot bend spoon after spoon. It tires him out mentally, but a waiter comes to take his order for another hot chocolate and asks him nicely. “I’ll bend this, but bring your people to see.” The white suited waiters gather round. “I don’t like making a circus out of it. I get embarrassed actually.”

Uri rubs it at its thinnest point where the handle joins the base between his thumb and forefinger. It starts to bend and keeps going even after his hands leave the metal. He pulls out his marker and signs it. The chef comes out of the kitchen flashing a huge aluminium soup spoon but does not have the nerve to ask him to try with this one.

“People are so curious, and since I’m in a good mood now, I don’t mind doing it,” says Uri. “That little thing that I have just done there, will change their lives. They will never forget that moment.”

‘Mindbender’ (Hollywood Pictures Home Video, £./0.99) and ‘Uri Geller’s Mindpower Kit’ by Uri Geller with Jane Struthers (Virgin £/9.99)

MIND-READER: Geller’s copy (right) of my sketch (left) was an exact mirror-image to within a millimetre.

 

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