To an older generation of pop culture fans that grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, the Amazing Kreskin was a frequent presence on the talk show circuit, regularly dropping by to chat with the likes of Johnny Carson and Mike Douglas. He even had his own show, The Amazing World of Kreskin, which ran for five-and-a-half seasons that was broadcast in Canada and syndicated in the United States from 1970 to 1975 and can currently be seen on Hulu.
Kreskin’s reputation as a mentalist and master of playing card feats later garnered him invitations from David Letterman, Howard Stern and most recently, Jimmy Fallon. The octogenarian stage performer has also found his way to younger fans, who may have been exposed to the entertainment legend’s depictions in recent films like 2008’s Tom Hanks-produced The Great Buck Howard (in which John Malkovich’s title character is based on Kreskin) or 2010’s Dinner for Schmucks, in which Zach Galifinakis’ Therman Munch declares Kreskin to be his hero and influence. With no signs of slowing down, the man born George Joseph Kresge figures he’s only home in New Jersey about four times a month and as recently as two years ago, did exactly 364 appearances around the world.
“The last vacation I had was 13-and-a-half years ago. I’m not a workaholic. I just have a tremendous passion for my work,” he excitedly explained. “I don’t mean this egotistically, but people tell me I have to take a vacation sometime. I find what I do is extraordinarily exciting.”
Born in Montclair, NJ, Kreskin’s biggest influence growing up was Mandrake the Magician, the lead character in Lee Falk’s 1930s comic who happened to be a crime-fighting magician. Decades later, the Garden State native eagerly shares his love of the fictional illusionist.
“When I was a kid, Mandrake the Magician was one of the biggest comics in the Western World during World War II and the biggest comic in Italy,” he recalled. “It was a very popular comic. My mother, whose mother was from Sicily, would read me this comic about this magician with telepathic abilities. That comic became a model that burned into me over a span of days, weeks and months.”
Famed for his predictions, Kreskin is quick to point out that he doesn’t consider himself a psychic, nor does he claim to have any paranormal or supernatural powers. Instead, his razor-sharp mastery of hypnosis and powers of suggestion have not only allowed him to make a living off of performing sophisticated parlor tricks around the world, but found his services being tapped by professional athletes and various law enforcement agencies.
Back in 2014, he mentally prepared/conditioned boxer Heather “The Heat” Hardy, who later went on to win the WBC International Junior Featherweight Championship of the World. Kreskin also teaches classes for law enforcement groups, which “focuses on psychological methods such as jogging lost memories through relaxation techniques or detecting lies through body language and voice inflections.”
But in the end, it’s his stage show that has found people coming out to see him for decades. One feat in particular, called the check test, finds him putting the most on the line.
“During my hour-and-a-half show, I pick a group of strangers who I’ve never met before and hand them my check. Part of the committee will escort me from the auditorium and they will hide my check anywhere within the confines of where I’m performing. I simply ask that whoever hid it and knew where it was shouldn’t talk to me but concentrate,” he explained. “If I don’t find the check, my fee goes back to the organization.”
And while he’s performed the check test upwards of 6,000 occasions, and only fallen short 10 times, Kreskin feeds off of rather than feels the inherent stress tied into this extraordinary feat.
“One person wrote that witnessing the check test was like going to a play and witnessing a mystery, except the solution is different every show because I don’t write it. People who know me well over the years ask me how I can stand the pressure. But it’s exciting.”
The Amazing Kreskin will be appearing on April 1 at the Lighthouse Waterfront Café, 76 Shore Rd., Glen Cove. For more information, visit www.myfathersplace.com or call 516-621-3137.