When the Buddha once proclaimed that “The mind is everything. What you think, you become,” he wasn’t prepared for the mental acuity and intuitive prognostication of The Amazing Kreskin. For the past 60 years, Kreskin (née George Joseph Kresge) has developed his skills at reading minds and predicting world events, at times with truly remarkable results. And in the process, he’s become a pop culture icon. While Kreskin is primarily a stage performer, he’s been a TV regular, both as a longtime repeat guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Late Show with David Letterman, as well as his own ’70s-era series, The Amazing World of Kreskin.
Combined with his impressive stage act, part of Kreskin’s appeal is found in his affable, humorous demeanor. One part Houdini and one part old-school showman, Kreskin has personally demystified much of his own act, insisting that his abilities are based on the power of suggestion rather than the ethereal planes of the paranormal. His performance is based purely on direct interaction with his audience and he literally puts his money where his mouth is. At every performance, Kreskin is escorted out of the room, as a group of volunteers then hide his paycheck for that show. Once the paper is hidden, Kreskin returns and tries to locate the check. If he doesn’t correctly identify its whereabouts, he doesn’t get paid. Out of thousands of performances, he has gone home empty-handed only 10 times.
And at age 81, the mentalist surely keeps busy. Over the course of his career, he’s racked up more than 3,000,000 flight miles and still performs hundreds of gigs a year. This year, he released his 20th book, In Real Time, and in recent years, he’s appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, while continuing to offer his annual New Year’s predictions on FOX and CNN. Locals can be amazed by this maestro of the mind at his Feb. 15 performance at Alhambra Theatre & Dining on the Southside.
Folio Weekly Magazine recently spoke over the phone with Kreskin, in his home state of New Jersey. We talked about hanging tight with Carson, why crystal balls cause headaches, and the value of human thought.
Folio Weekly Magazine: Mr. Kreskin, what an honor to speak with you, sir. How are you doing?
The Amazing Kreskin: Oh, wonderful. I’ve got some extraordinary good news: I’m sober, which a lot of people will find refreshing. Not that I drink; I just start rumors. [Laughs.]
What can we expect here at your upcoming performance at the Alhambra?
The program usually runs about two-and-a-half hours. Whenever the show’s at a dinner theater, I like to have intermission so I can have two meals.
You know, I was a child of the ’70s and have many memories of you appearing on the Johnny Carson show. He seemed to really like you, since you were such a regular on his show. You were the dude.
I’m still the dude! [Laughs.] You know what’s interesting is, I heard about this months ago, but the Carson family or company sold the rights to the Carson shows. So now one of the cable networks (Antenna TV) is showing it twice a night and don’t you know, in the first two weeks, two of the shows had me back-to-back as a guest. But I actually did 88 shows in total.
Tell me about your new book, In Real Time.
Well, it took me two years to write. And a year ago, I tore it to shreds and started over again because, while I’m known as a mentalist, a thought-reader, reading people’s minds and influencing them, and what have you, this is a book of predictions. And not that I’m a fortuneteller, because every time I look in a crystal ball, I get a headache because the damn things are so cloudy. [Laughs.] But you know, for a long time, people have been saying to me, “Kresky, it’s five-and-a-half years off-and-on in Saudi Arabia, the world is crazy, you’ve gotta have a sense of what’s going on.” So for 10 years, they’ve been badgering me. So I put together a book of predictions. They’re not in stone but rather what I think are the changes that are going to take place in world in the next months, years, and so forth.
So can I get a sneak peek at some of the more notable predictions? Can you tell me when Donald Trump is going to finally go away?
[Laughs.] Well, I get asked a lot about the length of the war. And by the way, as much as I slam the people in Congress and the Senate, and people see me with Hilary or Donald Trump — neither [of whom] I support, I just perform for them in so many areas — I’m really not political. But people ask me who in Congress or the Senate can pull us out of this debt that we’re in and my answer is very simple: of all those available that I’ve seen or known in Congress or the Senate, I don’t think one single damn person has that ability.
Let me put you on the spot — can you read my mind, right now at this moment?
[Laughs.] No, we’d have to be in person.
OK. I’m admittedly fascinated with things like what you do, psionics, or the occult … these sidestream phenomena in life. And you’ve described what you do as, in your own words, “tapping into the collective unconscious.” Do you feel any kind of shift of your own consciousness when you do these things?
Yes, very much so.
Without divulging any secrets, can you describe how this happens? Is it intuition, or a thought? Do you hear it?
It’s interesting you say, “hear it,” because when I work with people and their thoughts, I often hear it in my mind. People think in different ways. It’s called synesthesia. But yes, I do tend to hear it. But the bottom line is, I’ll do this outside and at a state fair you can’t say to the environment, “Silence.” I must be able to work with people who can focus on some continuity of thought.
In that case, do you think your greatest successes are really contingent upon the crowd’s receptivity and how “open” they are?
That’s right. Absolutely. You really hit on something significant. A couple of people that have reviewed plays and things observed that when I walk out onstage, there really are no footlights, psychologically, between the audience and what I do. If I was a musician, I’d have an instrument; if I was an illusionist, I’d have my tricks. But I’m working with my audience. And I think you’ll see that this is why I now get three generations of audience members. I think that it fascinates people that I’m tuning in to the one last vestige of privacy left in our world today, and that’s the human thought. And that human thought is the one thing that we must cherish.