I once witnessed a show put on by the famous King of Spoons, Uri Geller. I am sworn by the Magicians’ Guild not to reveal what I saw, but I have been permitted to tell you what follows.
I have a few psychic powers of my own. I predict that one day you will find yourself, through no fault of your own, sitting in a tiny 400-seat theatre in Brecon waiting for Geller to begin his magic show. You will look around and be gratified to see that only a dozen or so people have turned up, and that three of those are children. The theatre, tiny though it is, is bare. On the stage a screen will be showing the beginning of a TV documentary about Geller, the part where they lay out the World According to Uri as a preliminary to knocking it flat. The technician will leave the tape running just a little too long and you will hear things that are not complimentary to your host. Geller will make a hurried appearance on stage and give the technician a look that says, “if only I didn’t need to preserve my psychic powers, you’d be a fly lunching on a dung heap.” The technician will be unmoved and un-transformed.
Geller will be dressed in jeans and a tee shirt. He will claim that his only stage costume is at the cleaners. You will suspect that he just couldn’t be bothered to get changed. He will quip that, when Les Dennis was faced with such a small audience, he bought everyone pizza. Geller will not be so generous. He will ask if anybody has read about his recent acquisition of a house or boat or car on eBay. A female member of the audience will pipe up, her voice aching with adoration. She worships the One True Geller and all His works. She knows of His shopping, for did He not outbid the false purchasers? And was He not patient and forgiving when the vendor declined to accept payment in spoons?
There will follow an impromptu trivia quiz in which the audience, all but you, will be keen to display their knowledge of all things Geller. Your reluctance to participate will not go unremarked, the audience is too sparse for it to be missed. Geller will glance nervously at you from time to time, calculating the odds. Your cards are marked, your rabbit shaved, your spoons tarnished. Are you an emissary for James Randi, debunker of psychics? An unsympathetic journalist perhaps? Do you have a concealed camera? A concealed weapon even? He only feels comfortable among Believers, but if he calls security and has you thrown out, will you go to the press? Can you afford to sue? It’s a tricky one and his psychic powers are not helping. For the moment he will give you the benefit of the doubt.
Bored with the trivia quiz, Geller will turn to the important event of the evening: the car boot sale. “Who will give me a hundred pounds for this spoon?” he will ask. The audience will be slow to respond. They are not quick thinkers and don’t realise that Geller has moved on. They are not sure of the right answer. Could it be David Frost? “You can sell it for twice as much on eBay!” Geller will assure them. He will proceed to sell the believers all manner of Geller kitsch, adjusting the outcome of each sale to suit himself. Someone buys a day with Geller at Uri’s home. Somebody else buys an autographed book, but Geller will give him the torture day instead because “he bid more.” Nobody will know quite what they’ve bought but they are content, for has not Geller prophesied that they will make their money back manyfold on eBay? Their prosperity is written in the spoons.
By this time you will be convinced that you have been sitting in the theatre for two thousand four hundred and eighty-six years, but Geller has miraculously slowed time and it’s only three-quarters of an hour. And not a single trick yet. But he’s about to do one. To the right of the stage is a blackboard. Geller will ask for a volunteer to write the name of a colour on the board. “Just an ordinary colour,” he will instruct them, “like red or blue or green.” All of a sudden you picture the show where he learned that this instruction was necessary. Somebody once wrote, perhaps, ‘beige’ on the board and Geller, with his child’s vocabulary, didn’t recognise the word. “Beg?” he would have ventured. “Is it big? Is it beggy?” You will begin to laugh, and once you’ve started you won’t be able to stop. The audience, such as it is, will glare at you, your laughter is as welcome as an outbreak of Tourette’s at a christening. But Geller is looking at you in abject terror. “Is this where Uri meets Uzi?” he is thinking. You can picture his interior monologue. “It’s their fault, not mine. I just give them what they want. If not for these dummies I’d be stacking shelves in Asda. Shoot the audience, not me. Do it to them, not me!”
Once you have regained your composure, the show will continue. The audience, unaware of Geller’s Winston moment, will settle back to bask in the radiated psychic glow. Geller will correctly divine the colour written on the board, demonstrating that he has a reading age of at least five. There’s a video camera on a tripod on stage. It’s pointing at the blackboard. Could the monitor screen on the camera have assisted him in any way? The believers don’t care. If he’d turned and read the colour directly from the board, they’d have been convinced they had witnessed true magic.
Geller will do the spoon trick of course, offering to sell the remnants to anyone with any money left, and he will do his other signature trick, the watches. This is how it will go. Among the props on stage is an open-topped cardboard box. He will show the contents to the audience. Look, just ordinary watches. No tricks here. The box, Geller will claim, contains broken watches given to him by members of the audience before the show. You will think this odd since you were not invited to contribute a watch, and there appear to be more watches than audience members. Geller will prod around in the box, select a watch, and – praise be! – it is working. He has a box containing watches from Geller-knows-where, and one of them works! No, two of them work! How could such a thing be? Scientists are baffled. Believers are thrilled.
Now the children will have their turn. They have been promised that if they sit quietly through the show, a wizard will bend their spoons. They have been waiting patiently for the wizard to appear. No sign of him yet. The children will be invited to come on stage. They approach, bearing their gifts like three wise men in a low budget nativity play where the tallest boy in class is playing Mary, Joseph and all the shepherds combined. But the wizard has no intention of bending their spoons. Possibly, you will think, he is afraid they will sell them on eBay – eBay figures prominently in Geller’s life – and deny him his rightful share of the proceeds. Possibly he prefers to work with prepared spoons. Possibly he’s just bored and wants to go home. Whatever the reason, instead of keeping his promises, Geller will line them up and give them a lecture of such adorable cuteness that you will want to throw up. In his broken English he will tell them to be kind to babies and kittens, pick lots and lots of pretty flowers, feed their bunnies, and always do what mummy says. It will be evident that he has never met a child before, isn’t at all sure what they are, and doesn’t much like what he sees. Their parents notice nothing and beam proudly.
The two little girls, six and seven perhaps, are used to grown-ups. You get prodded and poked, you have to recite stuff – monday, chewsday, weddingsday - or sing a song. You have to say bless to babies because that’s manners, but you can’t say knickers to anybody because that’s language. Sometimes you get talked at, just like now - you just wait for the noise to stop and ask for an ice cream. Mummy tells them at home that a psychic, a kind of Harry Potter, will bend their spoons. They don’t know what a sidekick is and prefer their spoons straight – surely the food will fall off otherwise? – but try to show the proper enthusiasm. They haven’t met Daniel Radcliffe and, knowing grown-ups, they hadn’t really expected to. Now they wait patiently for their parents to rescue them and prod them back to their seats ready for their next performance.
The boy, on the other hand, is nine or ten, and he is angry. He’s been forced to sit through this … this church, this maths lesson, this visit to loony-nan, and now he’s being lectured by a … a teacher who talks like his baby sister. His parents have lied to him yet again. He isn’t going to meet the wizard and it has all been for nothing. He is wondering whether Geller counts as a proper grown-up, and what the repercussions will be if he spoons him in the groin and makes a run for it.
At last their ordeal is over and the children return to their seats. Now he will make the grown-ups stop smoking. The Geller method, in case you’re trying to give up yourself, is to say, “I will stop smoking,” and then stop smoking. It really is that easy. The words have extra power when spoken in the presence of a wizard, of course, but the basic principles can be applied at home. Many say the words but don’t stop smoking. This is wrong. For the method to work properly you must do both.
But what am I doing? I’ve left you stranded in the future in a magic show that has, in subjective time, lasted long enough for a whole new race of dinosaurs to evolve, and for a cataclysmic event to wipe them all out again. When you emerge from the theatre you won’t recognise a thing. God will have corrected his mistakes and made a world simple enough for hairdressers and solicitors to understand. The prettier a thing is, the more healing powers it will have. Medicine will be learned from coffee-table books with many pictures and few words. Stars won’t be nasty science-things any more, they will be lights in the sky that send messages from the pixies to tell you of your personal marriage prospects, and how you can achieve your dream of being famous on the telly. Everyone will be granted one psychic gift and one only. Yours will be the power to lengthen the spouts of teapots. You will make a living by demonstrating your one trick again and again and again and again and again….
I’m so sorry to have got you into this. This world is not for you. Leave now, before it’s too late!