Uri strikes a chord in Sabine’s life!
28th Feb 1998
Uri Geller’s Mindpower has bent spoons and cured his bulimia. Now it’s produced a first novel
Would you believe it?
INTERVIEW BY SABINE DURRANT
URI GELLER, the Israeli spoon-bender, has experienced some major highs in his life and some equally impressive crash landings. Long before he pillaged the world’s cutlery drawer in the seventies, he was a household name in Israel. “One minute the phone didn’t stop ringing – producers, agents, impresarios; the next it’s, ‘Oi, Uri we saw you bend a spoon – do something else.’ And from being the biggest thing in Israel, it was seedy nightclubs and woomph – down rock bottom.”
Later, after he “went worldwide” it was his own ego that tripped him up, one short step from “hundreds of Rolexes and private jets” to bulimia and panic attacks. “The addiction, the excessive lifestyle was killing me, it had to stop.” So he is used to falling on his face is Uri Geller. But there is one occasion when it happened that still bothers him.
“I don’t talk about it much because people believe I’m either mad or making it up,” he told me. “I was in Manhattan. I was jogging home to my apartment and just before I arrived at my building I looked at the floor and I wasn’t on the floor any more and the next thing I remembered I was thrown at something and I crashed through something on to a table then fell on the floor And I looked around and I was … you’ll find it unbelievable, but I was in Ossining, a small town 36 miles out of Manhattan in the porch of a friend of mine’s home! I shouted his name ‘Andrija Andrija!’ and it took him five minutes to find me. He went out of the house to look for footprints in the snow, but of course there were none.”
If you ask Geller what happened that day, he just doesn’t know. “Was it a genuine teleportation? Or was it a dematerialisation?” Unfortunately, it only worked one way, and that evening his friend had to drive him all the way back to New York in his daughter’s Volkswagen.
Uri Geller keeps his feet firmly on the ground these days. The first man to introduce “psychic phenomena” to television entertainment, who became known as the most famous paranormalist in the world, has pared down his public appearances (though he says the offers still pour in) and brought an end to the jet-set lifestyle. He’s a vegetarian and exercise fanatic who rarely goes to parties. “I don’t drink. I don’t go to places where there will be cigarette smoke. It disturbs me, I can’t stand it.” He has halted his extracurricular activities, too – he used to dowse for oil and gold for multinational mining companies and undertake counter-espionage for the CIA. He was happy to scramble KGB floppy discs and erase computer programmes but he put his foot down at killing Andropov. “They asked me to kill a pig … But I knew they meant Andropov.”
In short, he lives the quiet existence of an author. There have been self-help books – Uri Geller’s Fortune Secrets, Uri Geller’s Mindpower Book, and Change Your Life In One Day – and now there is a novel, Ella, a disturbing tale about a young female anorexic psychic whose life follows a similar pattern to Geller’s (Ella/Geller ) except not only can she bend spoons, she also ignites objects, creates disembodied sounds and levitates. “I wish I could do that,” said Geller. “That’s my dream.” When Ella dies she turns into an angel, although whether a similar fate awaits Geller for the moment we will have to wait and see.
He lives, with his wife Hanna and two teenage children in a white house outside Henley with a garden running down to the Thames. It’s a newish building created in “grand” style, which is to say with porticos and columns and a gold, mirrored lavatory in which the loo handle is in the shape of a swan’s neck, but it’s oddly miniaturised, like new houses sometimes are, like a doll’s house. It is decorated like a doll’s house too, with chairs made out of crystal and toys – a 4ft model plane, for example – that dwarf the furniture. There are piles of teddy bears -which Geller embeds with crystals and sends to sick children.
The Gellers have a gardener and a secretary cum organiser, Hanna’s brother, Shipi. “We don’t have maids,” he said. “Hanna cooks. She cleans the house. In the past we had all that but we decided that simplicity is the best way You’re down to earth. You’re together. There’s no one there to interfere in your lives. I don’t need someone cleaning my bedroom and my bathroom and my bed. It’s just… I’m very personal. My underwear and so on.”
Geller, as he should be after all those hours on the exercise bike (he cycles and writes simultaneously for an hour and a half “that’s 40 miles” – a day), is fit, fit, fit, trim, trim, trim. The day I met him he was wearing sparkling white trainers, almost as bright as his neat top teeth, and a contrast to his jet black hair, dominant eyebrows and copious chest hair.
There is something rather feminine about his chiselled cheekbones and tiny, darting hands. In manner, he is childlike, particularly when dramatising – with emphatic arm gestures and intent expression – the bi-zarre things that have occurred around him: “The next thing I remember was a ball of light in the sky – and a beam came out of it and hit me on the forehead.” Or when proudly showing you one of his paintings. What does it represent? “It’s the surface of another planet.” And what are those strange objects? “Those are graves of astronauts that have visited and died.”
But Geller, as the plot of Ella shows, has known much darkness in his life. He was born 51 years ago in Tel Aviv into poverty. He was bullied at school after objects started moving around – “I was regarded as a freak” – and beaten by his father. When he became famous, he was dominated by people who wanted to control his talents, particularly a scientist called Andrija Puharich (he of the transportation story). “He wanted to sign my life over to him. Everything.”
Through all these things, Geller drew on his special powers. “I learnt through the downs and darker days in my life that you can survive if you learn the ways of climbing out.” And never more so than with his eating disorder, which coincided with the height of his fame and wealth.
“One day my driver drove me to my apartment, and I couldn’t get out of the car I was so weak. I had to hold the roof and pull myself out. And as I was sort of struggling towards my apartment, I said, ‘If I do not stop this now I’m going to die.’ So in the middle of the street I screamed out, ‘One, two, three STOP’ and I stopped it. I just summoned my will power, instructed my psyche, my inner powers whatever you want to call it, and that’s it, finished. I never vomited again.” Which must have saved a lot in doctor and therapist bills.
Did he ever talk to Princess Diana about his bulimia? “I’d rather not talk about her,” he replied, his eyes downcast. “But I can tell you that Fergie came here. She sat where you are now and we talked about many addictions, struggles in life.”
Sportsmen come to see him. “Formula One drivers come; that helmet belongs to Jan Magnussen in Jackie Stewart’s team. Footballers come. Ian Walker sat where you are.” During Euro 96 Geller put crystals by the goalposts at Wembley to encourage England to win. But they didn’t, did they? “All the matches that I dropped the crystals in they did,” he replied sharply.
Geller may have broadened his talents, but he still comes back to his party turn. He has a Daimler studded with cutlery from celebrities (including John Lennon and Elvis Presley; and this week he bought an item from the Windsor auction). He fetched a teaspoon from the kitchen just for me. It bent. In fact it carried on bending after he’d put it down. (Disappointingly, his mind can only bend certain objects. Thick metal, such as coins, is out of bounds.)
He also did some mind-reading. You draw a picture. He reads your mind and reproduces it. It didn’t work first time (a boat). But he was quite close the second (a circle with a cross in it). It was impressive, though he did emphasise that my drawing should be “big and simple”. In fact, he repeated the word “big” several times.
Still, he is a phenomenon. In his book Soul Searching, Nicholas Humphrey has shown how “psychics” with tricks up their sleeve can come to believe in their own special powers by a combination of self-delusion, naturally occurring coincidence and the well-meaning collusion of others.
Geller is clearly his own biggest disciple. “I’m a believer,” he said. He talked with equal conviction about the forces surrounding the Millennium (“There is some supernatural wave or vibration or frequency which is coming from the universe, something powerful, something bad, something good”) as he did of his son’s support of Third Division Exeter City (“My own explanation is that he must have lived in Devon or Exeter 100 or 200 years ago”).
He hasn’t given up hope of another teleportation experience. “I think it is some kind of automatic process with us, it’s the sharpening of our inner powers, our mind, our brain, our spirit, our soul. I don’t think we are going to build some kind of time machine. I think our minds will be able to teleport us.” Gosh. “But I’m not talking around the corner,” he said quickly, holding out his palms as if to hold back my excitement, “I’m talking 250,000 years from now”
Ella is published by Headline Feature on March 12, price £9.99
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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”