A Mind is a terrible Thing to Read, or how I met Ross Johnson.

I have always had a special love of mentalism and mind reading. I think it dates back to the sheer delight I experienced watching Maurice Fogel when I was a kid. I remember the reaction when he started his show by dramatically stating that he could tell you the winning number in the lottery and the name of the horse that would win the Kentucky Derby!

You could almost feel the audience’s disbelief of these claims. Fogel then deflated the moment and reassured the audience that if this were the case he would be a multi millionaire and happily retired. Instantly the audience relaxed and started to bond with this eccentric fellow.  Maurice then explained that on certain occasions he could sometimes demonstrate some rather unusual abilities. The audience was in the palm of his hand by then and couldn’t wait to see if this was going to be one of those occasions!

I am a huge fan of Max Maven’s contributions to the art of mind reading. I think Max is one of the great thinkers on the magic scene.  Watching Max work is always a delight and to read his books is a sure fire way to stretch your mind and learn something really new. I perform a version of Max’s ‘Four Sided Triangle’ and every time I do it I am grateful that Max has chosen to share so much great material with the rest of us in the magic community.

Having enjoyed watching Mentalism for so many years I would like to share my first meeting with the man I consider the most convincing mind reader in the world. Please note that the word I used in the last sentence was convincing, not flashiest, dramatic or unique. If you want your mind reading to be convincing then you need to check out Chicago’s own Ross Johnson.

I first met Ross on a Monday night at the ‘Catch a Rising Star’ comedy club located in the Hiatt Regency in Oakbrook. I was scheduled to headline the club for the week but unknown to me the club had booked Ross to perform for a special audience. The manager asked me if I would mind opening the show for Johnson. I replied that it would be a pleasure to do so, however I pointed out that Ross had better be good if he was going to follow me. I wasn’t being a big head, just honest; I needn’t have worried!

What makes Ross such an interesting performer is that he never looks like he is performing. Heck, he doesn’t even look like a performer let alone a mind reader. Ross has an intense delivery that makes his blindfold Q & A act into a masterpiece of modern mind reading. When Ross is mulling over the details he reveals to his audience he has an edgy and slightly abstracted manner. He always looks like he is more upset by the information that he can’t get than the stuff he does get.

As an actor Johnson is world class and he sells his act in a way that is almost over the top in its simplicity. People ask questions and then Ross answers them. There is just something so real about the way he gets slightly petulant with some of his audience as he seems to be chasing some piece of information from the back of their mind.

That night at ‘Catch a Rising Star’ I started a fine friendship with Ross that even included a séance performance at the ‘Catch’, which is still talked about.  During the séance a grown men fainted and a bolt of lightning hit the window of the showroom and broke open a shuttered and bolted window. These things would have been great special effects if they had been planned but in fact they were total surprises to us.  Some time I will have to write the full story of ‘The Awful Goings On In Oakbrook’ and tell you how crazy the evening really was!

~ by Nick Lewin on September 14, 2011.

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