FREDONIA - The man David Letterman calls the "best mentalist in the world" is coming to Fredonia.
The Amazing Kreskin, George Joseph Kresge, has been dramatizing the unique facets of the mind for more than 50 years. And now Kreskin will appear at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House on Friday at 8 p.m.
There are several aspects of Kreskin's performance that make his show unique. He reportedly tells people things that only they or a close family member could possibly know. Skepticism is bound to follow such a claim, and therefore Kreskin offers $1 million to anyone who can prove he employs secret assistants or confederates in his program to help him perform his mentalist "effects."
Kreskin has the audience hide his paycheck, and if he doesn't find it, he forfeits his performance fee. A film was made in 2008 called "The Great Buck Howard" that starred Tom Hanks and John Malkovich as The Amazing Kreskin. A third of the film deals with the check-finding test that Kreskin has done all over the world.
"I will gather from the audience a half a dozen strangers who have never met me before, and I will turn over my check to them," said Kreskin. "I will be escorted from the theater, and the committee will hide my check somewhere within the confines of the theater. There is no guessing game. I don't ask any questions. No one speaks to me, but the committee has to focus on what they've done in their minds. And, if I don't find my fee, I forfeit it back to the organization that booked me."
Kreskin has done this test more than 6,000 times, and out of those only nine were failures, he said. Of those nine, Kreskin's most memorable was at a theater in New Zealand.
"The morning after we held a press conference on the steps of the theater that was broadcast all over the country," said Kreskin. "The reason was because I lost in one night $51,000. So, it's not a joke. It's been hidden in some diabolical places."
Another example of the check test comes from one of Kreskin's 1,000-plus university shows. At University of Illinois during a family weekend the place was jammed, he said.
"I asked a gentleman to stand and open his mouth. I started walking away and thought, 'What a stupid thing I've done.' But, something told me mentally to go back to him. I finally said, 'Sir, I've never asked this question in my life, does this have to do with the roof of your mouth?' He reached in his mouth, took out his upper plates and handed me my check."
Yet, one of Kreskin's favorite stories of how he found a check involves digging into the stuffing of a turkey.
"The most famous was at a show for Bob Hope, bless his soul," said Kreskin. "There was a dinner in his honor at the Waldorf with about 1,500 media people. I walked back in, and you could hear a pin drop. I walk behind where Bob Hope was sitting and asked the gentleman sitting next to him, CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, to move over. On every table there were 3-foot long trays of carved meat that I kept lifting, but there was no check underneath. Finally, after putting it down the fourth time I walked away. But, I found myself meandering back, and I have to tell you I never felt this sensation, I took my jacket off, rolled up my sleeve, and shoved my hand into the stuffing of the turkey where the check was."
Last year Kreskin did 261 appearances around the world, and as a result the American Airlines will author a feature on the fact that he has flown more than 3 million miles during his career. Something that the story will likely not touch on is the close call that Kreskin had while flying out of Newark, N.J., to a performance.
"While driving to the old airport I took a detour, which I'd never done, and it turned out that when I got to the airport I found out I wasn't going to make it," said Kreskin. "So, I threw my luggage in front of them and ran to the gate. When I landed I found that my luggage had been lost. That night at the venue I was getting ready to go on, and there was a knock at my dressroom door. These two men walked in and said that they had driven my luggage to me because it had made it onto my original flight even though I didn't. And, they also told me that the plane had crashed in a cow pasture in New York state - true story. This was three minutes before going out on stage and the audience knew I was preoccupied, so instead of my usual opening I told the story."
However, this wasn't Kreskin's only strange experience while flying. He also mentioned a flight in which the landing gear would not release. The passengers were very worried so he walked down the aisle to use the bathroom, and when he returned to his seat he heard the noise of the landing gear unlocking, he said. Upon exiting the plane Kreskin was greeted by the pilots who thanked him because walking down the aisle to the bathroom reassured everyone on the plane that everything was going to be OK, because Kreskin wouldn't have taken the flight if something bad was going to happen, he continued.
One of Kreskin's ongoing tests includes a secret prediction of the outcome of the upcoming 2012 presidential election.
"My time has been crazy the past weeks because of the election coming up," said Kreskin. "Not that I'm involved in politics, but on July 25 of last year on the Jimmy Fallon show I wrote and put in an envelope that's kept secret in a safe what I felt would be the results of this coming election. I wanted to establish that this isn't some sort of gimmick, so a second copy is in the hands of Robin Leach, now a columnist in Las Vegas, the third is with a broadcaster in New Jersey, and the fourth is placed over the bar in Patsy's Restaurant, a great Italian eatery made famous by Frank Sinatra. The day after the election they'll be revealed, and I really think I'm correct. I think also I can predict that when this is all over the public is going to have had it with politics, and not want to hear anything because it's at a saturation point."
The key to Kreskin's abilities lies in audience participation, he said. He tries to elicit emotions that inspire people to realize that there is more to communications than society is totally aware of.
"My program is a happening," said Kreskin. "The important thing people should realize is that they aren't coming to watch a program, they are involved in it. I'm called a mentalist because I read people's thoughts; I'm not a fortune teller. They have to concentrate on what I'm to perceive, otherwise I'm not going to succeed. ... Nothing that's ever been created by man was not first of all seen in his mind."
Reserved seating for those 12 years and older is $30. To order tickets call 679-1891. For more information visit fredopera.org or amazingkreskin.com.