Q&A: The Amazing Kreskin
Did you predict that the world's premier mentalist would be performing in Connecticut soon? Well, you were right.
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Don’t call The Amazing Kreskin a psychic, a medium, a fortune teller or any other name that smacks of paranormal hibbity-jibbity. He calls himself a mentalist. “I don’t want people to think I have supernatural powers,” he says. “What I do is a form of thought transference, an ability to sense what people are thinking and feeling when I’m around them. But those people have to concentrate, or I can’t do anything. It doesn’t mean that when I walk into a room I know what everyone’s thinking. I couldn’t live that way, and who’d want to live with me?” Kreskin’s best-known demonstration of mentalism is a routine he’s done worldwide—and will bring to Connecticut when he plays Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre Feb. 18 & 19 (203/576-1636, dtcab.com) and Infinity Music Hall & Bistro March 4 (866/666-6306, infinityhall.com).
We're talking to you about your shows in Bridgeport next February . . .
Is that right? If I don't have my schedule right in front of me, I wouldn't know where I was going next . . .
But you're Kreskin, aren't you?
[laughs] I'm booked heavily until April. Things have been pretty hectic for me. Last year, I did 237 appearances around the world. In 2010, the number was 301. And in 2008, the airline industry announced that I had flown a little over three million miles at that point in my career. I just got back from Vancouver, B.C.—I spend eight to 10 weeks a year in Canada.
During the Christmas holidays in 2010, I was headlining at the Riviera in Las Vegas for three months. I ended up on the CBS Morning News because in the last seven weeks of my run, when I was playing Vegas five nights a week, I still managed to fly 68,000 miles to other gigs in between. CBS asked me how I manged to meet that schedule, because there are so many dilemmas in flying these days; it's a hassle.
So at age 77, you're still the busiest man in show business.
It's been an extraordinary career. Who would have thought, a few years ago, that Tom Hanks would make the movie The Great Buck Howard? I think John Malkovich studied my videos for hundreds and hundreds of hours. He did quite a job, and got my mannerisms and phrasing down pat. The only downside was he had to spend three days learning my handshake. Regis Philbin once said that I shake hands in a way that is the dream of every chiropractor. There is some energy in it.
Growing up, I remember seeing you in scores of TV talk-show appearances. What were your favorite shows to guest on?
It's impossible to pick one show, because I have a special reverence for some of them that's unusual in this business. I'm thrilled to have been on Jimmy Fallon's "Late Night" more times than any other guest—four times in one year. And I've enjoyed working with Mike Huckabee, though that's an older, different audience. But I have a special fondness and feeling for Regis; it was very difficult when he left his show. ABC sent me a beautiful letter asking if I would be there for his last show. I've known the man for almost 40 years and have done 104 shows with him—we go back to the days when he was an announcer for Joey Bishop.
People have asked me if I have any idea who will replace him. The answer's very simple: Nobody. Over the last 28 years, them man has created a one-of-a-kind image. There are very few people in this industry who are exactly the same offstage as their public persona, and he's one. Tom Hanks, I think, is another. You can't say that about many people, whether they be in show business or politics.
David Letterman's been very good to me. A couple of years ago, when my hometown of Montclair, N.J., decided to throw a party for my 75th birthday, he had a birthday party on the air for me that same night, even though I couldn't be there. But he never sent me a piece of the cake.
I did 88 shows with Johnny Carson, more than any guest in the history of the series. His character Carnack, the Magnificent is based on yours truly. I did 101 shows with Merv Griffin, who showed interest and believed in me at a pivotal point in my career. And I did 112 shows with Mike Douglas.