Fifty years ago I wrote a story for NEW YORK about Uri Geller.

When I first handed it in, concluding, as the Stanford Research Institute and the CIA had, that Geller’s paranormal powers were real — he drove me through Central Park while blindfolded! — my editor told me, figuratively and literally, he “wasn’t buying it.”

“But I saw it with my own eyes!”

“Do more research.”

“I blindfolded him myself!

“I’m not going to let you ruin your career, dear boy.  You’re just getting started.  Do more research.”

I was aggrieved.  What good would more research do?

Like a sullen teenager, I stalked out and . . . found out how to drive blindfolded.

I rewrote the story — now, basically an expose — and NEW YORK put it on the cover:

Okay, He Averted World War III, But Can He Bend a Spoon?

Fast forward 50 years.

I am in Israel for the first time, as described last week — within walking distance of the Uri Geller Museum.

How could we not go?

I booked a tour.

(Open by appointment only, with visitors led through the museum by Uri himself.  Uri donates the admission fee to Save A Child’s Heart.)

It was fantastic.

Including the part where he told us about being summoned by the CIA to be tested and meeting Wernher von Braun . . . who, Geller hinted, showed him frozen extraterrestrials.

Here he is telling that story on TV last week (start at 2:40), almost word for word as he told it to us.  And has doubtless told it to thousands of others over the years.

“Do you know the Tom Lehrer song about Wernher Von Braun?” I asked.

(Von Braun developed rockets for the Nazis and, later, for us.)

He did not.

“Send it to me!”

Which I did — the operative lyric, of course, being, “‘Vunz zee rockets are up, who carez VEHR zey come down? / Zat’s not my depaahtment’ / says Wernher von Braun.”)

We saw so much.

Signed photos of every major star, politico, and celebrity, each with a story — his great friend John Lennon, his great friend Salvador Dali  (who had his own way of bending things), his great friend Michael Jackson.  A MAGA cap with four strands of Trump’s hair, a priceless Warhol, Boris Becker’s tennis racket, Pele’s signed jersey, an Egyptian clay plaque from 2,100 BC, a photo of tiny Lamb Island that he’s turned into (an uninhabitable) country, a giant model Libyan Airlines Boeing 727 given to him by Muammar Gaddafi — “an amazing, astonishing, incredible story.”

Pretty much all his stories are “amazing, astonishing, incredible,” as is his enthusiasm for telling them.

Some are probably even true!

As he texted me after our visit (emphasis, mine):

I posted this today please see my Twitter @theurigeller:

<< Friends I am astonished that at my age and with an unbelievable narrow repertoire of psychic demonstrations I have stayed relevant for over 50 years. The secret is: chutzpah (Israelis have it) charisma, stage presence personality and character. BUT most important controversy! Which  has fueled  the wheel of publicity around me, the jealous and envious minority of magicians, skeptics and Geller haters created the enigma around me the mysterious Aura the mystical the mysticism and debate. they are the ones that I have to thank they are the ones who gave me longevity. And to those who liked me I give huge respect and love to those who hate me I also send love. The other element was and is that I managed to instill spoon bending into world culture it became iconic legendary and I always said that the secret of success is originality. All this I achieved without managers or agents or image makers or PR people. Zero! I know what the media loves quirkiness, mysteriousness, bizarre elements woven into your performances. So to the young magicians, mentalists and performers I say be controversial be cool be nice and don’t give a F to the ones who envy you, just think about your success and be motivated to reach your goals. There is nothing which you cannot be do or have! Because you are the architects of your own lives. >>

I was going to try to write a summary of the Uri Geller phenomenon, but with the above he more or less beat me to it.  (Could he have picked up on my brain waves from 6,576 miles away?)

He is in some measure a fraud — any magician who suggests his feats are paranormal is a fraud — but in full measure a showman.  Wildly narcissistic — with a lot to be narcissistic about.  A dynamo of positive energy who knows much of what he says is embellished (at the very least) — but who may actually believe we are routinely being visited by extra-terrestrials.

Surely he doesn’t believe he persuaded the Kremlin to sign the 1987 nuclear arms treaty, as he claims.  But it’s good for the show, and he’s at it again, this time, with Putin.

As our afternoon was coming to an end, a young man wandered in: the Israeli Air Force’s mentalist, Yanai Elgossi.  (Israel’s Air Force has a mentalist?) 

All of 18.  One of Uri’s mentees.

I took his picture with Uri and after some chit chat, he held out a deck of cards . . . had me inspect and shuffle . . . pick a card (any card) . . . and then show it to everyone — even him.

Really?  If he saw it, where was this headed?

He took the card back and returned it to the deck.

“Do you have your phone?”

I did.

“Where is it?”

I patted my left pants pocket.

My eyes began to widen as I imagined the impossibility of what was to come.

“Take it out and look at the last picture in your photo album.”

Oh, no!

There was a photo of him . . . holding my card!

The two of hearts!

Of course, it is a measure of what an idiot I am (and what a good magician he is) that Yanai was able to “force” me to pick the two of hearts (here are 10 ways to force a card) and that I hadn’t realized this impossible feat was set up the minute I suggested a photo.  He had held the cards next to his smile — a natural pose for a magician, so I hadn’t particularly noticed — and now, a few minutes later, there I was, looking in amazement at the photo I had taken.

“Want to see another one?”

Still wide-eyed (only later would I figure it out), I said, “Sure!”

“Pick a number between one and a hundred.”


“You’ve got it?”


“What is it?”

“You want me to tell you?”



He immediately handed me his phone and asked me to look in the Notes page.  Up came a list of 100 celebrities.  I scrolled down and found myself (hardly a celebrity, I need hardly add) at #61.

Oh, no!

Just after Ariana Grande, #60, and ahead of George Clooney #62.

Okay, I know about forcing a card.  But forcing a number between 1 and 100?

None of us could figure out how he had done that (and Uri at least pretended to be astounded), but of course here’s the thing:

Yanai never claimed to have paranormal powers; Uri became famous tricking people into believing that he did.

“You’ve just spent three hours with us,” I wanted to ask as we were leaving.  “Why do you take the time?”

The answer, quite clearly, is that for 50 years he has loved being Uri Geller, building — and being dazzled by — his own legend.

It was big fun taking that tour and seeing him again.

(If you can’t get enough of this stuff — as, clearly, I cannot — here’s Andrew Weil’s account of meeting Uri in 1973 a month after my story appeared.)

Have a great week.



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