We’re thinking of a man who has been wowing audiences for decades and, even at 77, shows no signs of stopping. (If you had his mentalist abilities, you’d know we were talking about George Kresge, better known as The Amazing Kreskin.)
Midway through a performance in a small theater in Newton, N.J., headliner George Kresge is pulling a truck driver by the arm up and down a softly lit aisle like a bloodhound following the scent of a trophy bird. Suddenly he halts, feeling the air with an outstretched hand before reversing course and stopping again before a burly man wearing a white baseball cap.
“Move!” Kresge barks. The man dutifully exits his aisle seat, allowing Kresge, still attached to the compliant truck driver, to wade deeper into the row of faded velvet seats. Pausing, as if the scent has gone cold, he suddenly turns and orders a dark-haired woman in a white top to join the man in the aisle. As she does, the only sound in the historic Newton Theatre on this Sunday evening is the whir of air conditioning.
This is what the audience has come to see: George Kresge — aka The Amazing Kreskin, the most famous mentalist on the planet — finding his paycheck. In his six decades as an entertainer, it’s become his signature move. (He’s found it underneath a man’s denture plate, inside a cooked turkey and at the end of a fire hose.) If Kreskin doesn’t find his check, which audience members hide while he is out of the room, he doesn’t get paid. But that’s happened only nine times out of 6,000 performances.
Using the truck driver, the last audience member to have touched the check, as a psychic divining rod, Kreskin returns to the standing pair and lifts the white cap from the man’s shaved head. Voilà, Kreskin grabs the check and bounds back onstage with the vitality of a man half his 77 years, to thunderous applause.
It’s just one of the many feats in Kreskin’s more than three-hour act that leaves the audience wide-eyed and gaping with astonishment. But the spry, white-haired performer is the first person to tell you he’s not a magician or a psychic; he’s a mentalist. “I read people’s thoughts,” he says.
It’s a gift that has fascinated audiences since the 1960s, when he got his first break on The Steve Allen Show and almost broke his neck. After being introduced as a great mentalist, Kreskin walked onstage, tripped over a dais and fell flat on his face. “My family says that was the highlight of my career,” he says.
It was also his debut on national television, and it led to hundreds of appearances on shows such as The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson (Kreskin is said to be the inspiration for Carson’s alter ego Carnac the Magnificent), The Mike Douglas Show, Late Show with David Letterman and, more recently, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. For five years in the 1970s, Kreskin had his own television show called The Amazing World of Kreskin. The consummate showman says he has flown more than three million miles throughout his career and is on the road for all but four days a month.