The late great seance for the late great Lenny Bruce.
Ross Johnson was my co-host for this particular event and Ross is a performer I hold in high esteem. However I had no idea how potentially disturbed he was until our dress rehearsal for the Vegas event; which was held in the Oak Brook suburb of Chicago. Ross began to unpack his personal séance equipment; there was the fetal casket, the pentagram that dripped blood etc. etc. I took a double look at Ross and noticed that his eyes gleamed just a little too much for the superb corporate entertainer I knew him to be. I had assumed that as the crazed comedy performer in the team I would lead the way in any madness. Dream on, Nick!
Ross and I didn’t actually have any effects at all to enliven the dark segment of the séance other than Johnson’s brilliant Q & A and a picture of Lenny Bruce, attached to a length of thread being held by Jon Stetson in the audience. Jon had surprised us by arriving unannounced minutes prior to show time and was thrown into covert duties instantly. Magic Magazine recently spent several pages of a cover story trying to define Stetson. They missed out the most elemental one of all; he is the magician who is most often in the right place at the right time. I bet Jon will tell you the same thing.
Show time arrived and just as the séance was about to commence a thunderstorm broke out in the gray Illinois skies. A bolt of thunder and a flash of lightning filled the room causing the shutters behind us to bust wide open with a loud clatter. The audience chuckled with the prospect of upcoming fun and games.
Ross and I just looked at each other with wry looks of uneasiness, as we were the only ones present that knew this was an unplanned addition to the event. Even Stetson must have been fairly impressed. He had plenty of time to observe the action as a cocktail waitress had walked through the thread he was holding and caused a premature departure of the 8×10 of Lenny from wall to floor. It fell totally unnoticed to the ground: so much for our big finale!
The séance was a blast and Johnson and Lewin rocked the room, perhaps a little too much, as during the course of the events a grown man fainted and fell from his stool to the ground. The event was powerful and impressive and totally unsuited to its location and audience. I loved every minute of it. Unlike Ross, who had the added pressure of actually living in Chicago!
Two weeks later Ross and I presented the séance again in Las Vegas on Halloween night creating something of a press sensation and twice selling out the 500-seat theater at Bally’s. I have presented other celebrity séances since but this one will always be my favorite. The next celebrity seance was for Elvis and proved conclusively to me that cult is better than mainstream when it comes to seances.
The very best part of the séance biz is hearing the reactions as people exit the showroom. Some people walk up and earnestly grasp you hand and whisper, “You know! You really know!” Others give you a nudge and a wink and thank you for the fun. The correct response to everyone is an impassive smile and the words, “Thank You.”
If you decide to try out this séance business for yourself my wife will probably be delighted to sell you everything you need already packaged in two black footlockers. Add equal parts magician, mentalist and Elmer Gantry and you are ready to go. Enjoy!