Quick witted and extremely engaging as well as gracious and loquacious, The Amazing Kreskin has been wowing audiences with his mentalist abilities for more than six decades. He has graced the stages of some of the world’s most renowned venues and amazed people from all walks of life.
However, for most of us, our first exposure to his talent came through television — in particular, daytime and late night talk shows.
“I’m 84 years old now and the last vacation I’ve had was about 12 or 14 years ago; I’m only home about five days a month,” he said. “Television has been very, very good to me through the years. I did more shows with Mike Douglas than anybody in the history of that show; I did about 118 of his shows, and of course Johnny Carson was a legendary part of my life. As a matter of fact, whenever I do Jimmy Fallon’s show, who was a tremendous fan of Carson, he always asks me questions about him.
“I learned a very important lesson from ‘The Mike Douglas Show.’ They came up to me about maybe the eighth or ninth appearance and said, ‘Kreskin, we have you on for half an hour and we’d like to, in the future, bring up a topic that we haven’t discussed or told you about ahead of time because we think you can handle it.’ And it became a new format. So I had that as a rule in a lot of my shows, and it became refreshing. If I don’t know anything about the topic, I can usually handle it with some humor.
“I listen to my audiences because they’re part of what I do and I’m constantly traveling. I toured Saudi Arabia on and off for five and a half years. I’ve written 20 books now. If you add up all of the shows, radio and television appearances that I did two years ago, I did something like 264 appearances. We didn’t add up last year’s shows yet.”
With that kind of work ethic and such a hectic appearance schedule, it is obvious to most that he is from a different era — an era that functioned differently, an era that had many less distractions. Never one to shy away from giving his opinion when asked, Kreskin sees the changes in today’s world and offered up his viewpoint.
“My last book, ‘In Real Time,’ is on those electronic things. I tried one and almost electrocuted myself. I read books directly. The BBC came to my home to film my library because I have over 8,000 books, and when I’m home I read four books a night. I read voraciously. I read four newspapers a day.
“The problem today, especially with young people — and it’s becoming seriously critical as it affects their lives and our society immensely — is that people are relying on quick answers through cell phones and what have you. Therefore they are forgetting very quickly what they heard and have lost the art of listening and reflecting upon what they hear.
“A perfect example: A week or two ago, I was with a group of producers having lunch here in New Jersey at a restaurant and one of the producers said, ‘Kreskin? Do you see what’s going on? Take a look around,’ and I looked and there was a table of about five or six college-age students and they all had their cell phones in their hands. So people today, even when they go out to eat, have that one instrument intruding in their lives and that’s the cell phone. It’s overdone.”
Kreskin will perform at the Lizzie Rose Music Room in Tuckerton, July 27.
“It’s going to be a 90-minute show,” he said. “To me, that’s a short program. Most of my shows are two hours to 2 ½ hours.”
Kreskin grew up in New Jersey. “My father was making $84 a week working for a battery company,” he said. “My grandparents came from Sicily and Poland. We lived in a three-room apartment. My brother and I slept in the living room and my parents in the bedroom, and let me tell ya, they were some of the happiest years of my life. I did not feel that … I was owed something. I grew up in Essex County near Montclair, N.J., and I have great memories.”
Kreskin said he has had such longevity in his career because “first of all, when people come to see me, they’re not coming just to watch a program. They’re actually part of the program. I’m working with the members of the audience, I’m reading their thoughts. The last time I was at Carnegie Hall, the place was full and some guy said something to his friend sitting in the fourth level balcony and quietly talking. I have a very high-level sense of hearing and it’s almost a problem because I can’t go into noisy places, so I heard exactly what he said and that kind of brought down the house because people couldn’t hear it downstairs, let alone the second level balcony.
“I’m a thought reader, I’m not a fortune teller, I’ve tried looking at crystal balls and I get severe headaches.
“So I was doing a show recently where I kept describing a large orange circle. Nobody raised their hand, so I moved on. Later on, I mentioned a name and this gal stood up because it was someone she knew as a kid. So I gave her the address where she lived as a kid for, like, 40 years. Then I asked her if she wanted to ask me something about an object that she had lost and she gasped and said, ‘Yes.’ I couldn’t seem to bring whatever unconscious memory it was to the surface, so I told her, ‘Okay, just forget about it,’ but I still was seeing a large orange circle.
“A couple of days later, I get this call from this woman because I had given her my business card and she was almost hysterical. Turns out she was at her house and there was some moving taking place, and in the part of the house next to the cellar there was this chart with a tremendous orange circle on it and they brought it forward and there was the trinket she had lost behind the chart on the floor.
“My career … I get a kick out of it because it’s a life of adventure.”
Kreskin wish it to be known that he has a guarantee of his own for the Tuckerton show.
“One of the peaks of my performances, and it will take place at The Lizzie Rose, has to deal with my paycheck. I do this thing where I tell the audience and the venue to hide my check, and if I can’t find it, then I will work for free. I’ve only been stumped once or twice before.”
For more about the man who has mystified audiences the world over, visit amazingkreskin.com.
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence, though, depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $10, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJ Arts Daily to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.