An internationally known mentalist and entertainer who has logged more than 3 million flying miles will make his debut in Rockport tomorrow night — on Friday the 13th — in a show he says he's eager to make on such a notable date.
The show will begin with The Amazing Kreskin's signature segment in which he will give his performance check to a group from the audience and tell them to hide it somewhere within the venue after he leaves the stage for a moment.
If he fails to find it, he will forfeit his fee. One theater critic in Pittsburgh wrote how he came to the show two nights in a row before he wrote a review because he was enthralled with the check test.
"The audience members are the ones who create the mystery," Kreskin told the Times in a telephone interview, adding that he's failed to find the check nine times out of 6,000.
One time was at a New Zealand coliseum show after which the press conference was broadcast around the world; his check was turned over to a crippled children's organization.
At a banquet in honor of Bob Hope at the Waldorf, Kreskin found his paycheck in the stuffing of a turkey. Another time, he found it in the roof of someone's mouth.
For a man who has performed for the A-list of the entertainment world, headlined in Las Vegas and once had his own television show, he comes across as a most affable and humble soul who has a passion for his work.
Even after 50 years of performing, Kreskin, born George Kresge 77 years ago today, said he is excited about the show.
"The program is a happening. The two hours for me goes so fast," he said. "What makes my work meaningful is the people. I love my work and I'm particularly pleased and looking forward to the performance on Friday because I love public appearances on Friday the 13th."
It's also the day after his 77th birthday.
"I don't celebrate birthdays because I'm not home that much," he said. "I'm only home four days a month. It's not that I avoid birthdays but I don't have time for them."
Kreskin continues to offer $50,000 to anyone who can prove that he employs paid secret assistants in any phase of his program. In addition to his public and private appearances, he has appeared on almost every talk show or variety show imaginable, including more than 80 appearances on "The Tonight Show" during the tenure of Johnny Carson. For those who remember Carson's bits, his spoof character Carnac the Magnificent was based on Kreskin.
Tony Beadle, executive director of Rockport Music, said that, although it's not a musical act, he thought Kreskin would delight local audiences and bring a new genre to Shalin Liu for its winter program.
Kreskin also has performed at more than 2,000 university shows, including multiple times at Rutgers and Notre Dame universities. He was a college student himself at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where he was born and still resides.
A student of psychology, it was not long before his professor, head of the department, asked Kreskin to teach part of the class just two months into college. Kreskin had been performing since he was 12 years old so by the time he went to college, his talent was already known in his part of the world.
"The professor wanted to see my knowledge of hypnotic phenomena and the paranormal. He said 'Kreskin, I don't even know this stuff,'" the mentalist recalled. Even his fourth- and fifth-grade teachers would have him read the thoughts of his classmates during show and tell.
Kreskin is a man of faith, raised Roman Catholic in a family of Polish and Sicilian Italian heritage.
"My family thought I would have been a priest," he jested. But his favorite food ever remains that of a plate of spaghetti and meat sauce, with lentils in a close second place.
An author of more than 16 books, Kreskin is a lifelong scholar reading four books a night when time permits.
"I built a home for my library that has over 9,000 books," he said. Currently he is reading about the Nazi period in history and the budding power of Hitler.
"I'm interested in history because we were warned years and years ago when I was a kid that if we don't know history we are destined to repeat it and it's unconscionable that our political figures don't have a sense of history," he said. "But I don't live in the past — I learn from the past. That's how we build."
He touched upon the growing disconnectedness of the world as technology develops at a staggering pace.
"We have become a socially dysfunctional society. We don't even listen to each other any more," he said.
Perhaps that is why there is continued interest in one who can "read minds."
"People are finding it fascinating that it is possible to link with individuals in ways that are beyond speaking, and as a thought reader, a feature of the program is there are no footlights so there is no barrier," said Kreskin, who has been called upon as a training consultant to law enforcement.
"Historically, there has always been interest in my field before and during very traumatic periods, before the Civil War and after, as well as the world wars, and there was tremendous interest during the Depression. These were the only public features people were going to see," he said. "The continued interest is a reflection of that."
In addition to public shows, he is hired for many private corporate functions. He recalled one such event with an elite group in the audience at which the host asked Kreskin to stay for a question and answer.
"People were asking me questions and at the end they were saying how society is changing and what can we do," Kreskin related. He left the group with a simple question to reflect on: "I want to ask parents how often do you sit and have dinner together?"
Kreskin is known for his successful predictions, including the last presidential campaign which he predicted 11 months before the election. His prognostications for 2012 include both serious and playful ones:
The Occupy Wall Street protests will continue, grow more violent and have a focus on smaller cities.
Watch out for crime. He's concerned about guns and an increase in home invasions.
Bike lanes are here to stay, and he applauds that effort, arguing that if they can survive in a place as chaotic as Paris, they can make it here.
There will be a fashion fad of red undies, though he did not say why.
As for the upcoming presidential election, he secretly predicted the winner on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" on July 25, but it won't be revealed until two days after the election.
"What's dramatic is not so much that I predicted the results of the election," he said. "I believe the party I picked is the one that's going to win, but I named on July 25th who would be the Republican candidate, and if people look back to that time, they will see that there were some 12 to 14 candidates."
On a more universal level, he said: "I cannot believe we are the only intelligent life in the universe. God forbid we are."
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.