He is a well-versed scholar of life who speaks enthusiastically on many topics and as personable a fellow as one can ever hope to meet. Just show up with him at a local racetrack or gaming resort, however, and you could find yourself escorted off premises with your name and photo kept on record. This, however, is something The Amazing Kreskin has come to laugh about over the course of an exciting, highly visible career as mentalist that spans six decades.
The Seton Hall alumnus offers predictions every New Year’s on CNN and remains active not only as a workaholic concert performer but as a presence on late night television, having endlessly perplexed Johnny Carson and, most recently, Jimmy Fallon. His ability not only to predict events with great accuracy but to eavesdrop and exert control on the mental ether of others continues to leaves mouths gaping in stunned disbelief.
Kreskin recently took time out of his busy schedule to speak with the Setonian about his current projects and the fresh limelight surrounding him in the wake of the Magnolia pictures film “The Great Buck Howard,” now playing in limited release. Oscar-nominated actor John Malkovich plays the title character, heavily inspired by Kreskin.
“The writer of the movie, Sean McGinley, came to work for me in 1994,” said Kreskin. “The actual story itself has nothing to do with me except for the first 12 minutes.”
He nevertheless found Malkovich’s dedication to the character, which included days of effort to immerse himself in Kreskin’s persona, fascinating to witness.
“All the nuances, the gestures, the handshakes – it killed me,” said Kreskin. “Try to imagine turning on a computer or a television screen and suddenly somebody’s there that doesn’t look like you, but with all the mannerisms– the vocabulary, the words you use every day. You see that, and it’s extraordinarily disarming. He’s a really remarkable actor – so modest and quiet in real life…what a grand person to play me.”
Kreskin said he fondly recalls the first time he tapped into his abilities. When a third grader in Montclair his brother Michael told him he hid a penny somewhere in the household. The young Kreskin came home from school, climbed a chair and immediately reached for the penny on a windowsill.
“Then I realized I had forgotten to call him and ask him if I was warm or cold!” he said. “Of course, my grandmother, being from Italy, must have thought it was some evil eye thing.”
As a Psychology major at Seton Hall in the 1950s Kreskin said he immediately turned heads with his uncanny abilities. One of his professors, Frank Murphy, not only let him take charge in some classes (“You know more about hypnosis and ESP than I ever will”) but also made an assessment of Kreskin’s abilities (“Kreskin has developed a unique and strikingly different method of communication which may take more than 50 years to become common”) which gave a tremendous boost to the credibility of the young mentalist.
Many different professors tested his abilities. Kreskin said he recalled one class where the professor took out a deck of cards and polled students for one randomly chosen word per each of the 52 cards in the deck while Kreskin’s back was turned.
“Two weeks later I went before the class and fully recalled all the 52 cards, the positions they were in and the words on the blackboard,” he said.
While he always carries a deck of cards Kreskin works in more sophisticated things in this phase of his career. He officially predicted the election of Barack Obama in December 2007 and is available for professional assistance in locating missing persons. He also has a new book, “Kreskin Confidential,” soon hit bookstore shelves. With public fascination for his talents and showmanship still abundant, he said he remains enthused and has no plans of putting his career on the wane.
“I could have retired years ago, but I did 198 appearances last year,” he said. “My life has been kind of an adventure. I think that’s how you have to treat life. If you meet someone who says that they are bored, you can think in your mind you’re looking at a boring person. There is so much in life, and there is no excuse for not being interested in anything because there’s always a book to pick up. I just have such a zest for what I do. I’m only home four days a month, and I’ve flown over 3 million miles – that’s a record.”
In appraising the landscape of his mental capacities, however, Kreskin took a moment to reflect.
“I don’t predict peoples’ lives; I read peoples’ thoughts,” he said. “And if your friends would like to play poker with me…no, I’m only kidding! And by the way, they’re (Seton Hall) overdue in booking me. You just tell them they’re overdue.”
For more on the Amazing Kreskin including tour and talk show appearances visit his Web site at amazingkreskin.com. “The Great Buck Howard” is now playing in select Manhattan theaters.