TV-Mystifier Uri Geller on his experiences with the CIA, his work for an Israeli and Palestina rescue service, the war in Lebanon, his novel "Ella" - and his advice to forget spoon bending ...
Last year Telepolis brought a short bio on Uri Geller, that was critisizing the media, but could have been allegded itself because it didn´t used an important source: Uri Geller himself. This was made good by meeting the worldfamous spoonbender in Cologne, where he is living for two monthes to realize his current tv-show. Between a trip to the hospital and his appearance in a talkshow he took the time to give Telepolis an interview concerning political matters..
O.K. Uri. Let’s start by talking about your dealings with the shady world of intelligence. In 1972 you got a direct call from Robert Gates. Then a controversial CIA director, today Secretary of Defence. What did he want from you?
Uri Geller: First of all it was a direct call, yes. And I think you are wrong. Why do you say “Gates”? I think it was Bill Casey.
Uri Geller: Unless. Where did you get this information from?
I think I took it from an interview with you. I will research it if you want.
Uri Geller: Do a research. Because I got a direct call from Bill Casey, and he asked me a question. He was in Washington, I was in Palo Alto. And he said, “Mr. Geller. I’m holding something in my hand. Can you tell me what it is?” It took me a little time, and I said to him, “You are holding a dagger, and it has an ivory handle.” And I think his words were, “I’ll be darned.”, and he closed the phone.
This was in 1972?
Uri Geller: I can’t remember dates, exactly.
I ask because you became famous in the USA a year later.
Uri Geller: More or less. I can’t remember when this call was, you know I don’t keep a diary. But there are of course other calls that I can’t talk to you about. I cannot. Because of certain things. But if you want to know the development of the CIA thing, it’s very interesting. And first of all, I know and there’s no doubt in my mind that part of the work that I did at Stanford was financed by the American Defence Department.
Uri Geller: Yes, by an agency called ARPA. Anyhow, when I think they saw this is amazing, what I do. Then, they contacted me. The first contact was in Mexico City, to the best of my recollection. It was a CIA agent, and he told me, “I’m a CIA agent, we want you to work.“ You know, I was very excited about this because I was young, and it was like a movie for me. It was like an unbelievable experience. Wow! To work for the CIA. And then I started getting tasks. To spy on the Russian embassy, to erase floppy disks that were attached to KGB agents in diplomatic pouches. They used to take floppy disks out of Mexico City on an Aeromexico flight to Paris.
In Paris they would change the plane and fly to Russia with Aeroflot. And I would fly with them, and sit in the first class cabin, and I would concentrate on the diplomatic pouch. There are many other tasks that I cannot talk about. They wanted me to meet Henry Kissinger. So I met Henry Kissinger in Mexico. I met very interesting and unusual people. And the CIA always had a wish list. They always told me what they want me to do.
In those days the CIA had a few problems with Kissinger because the White House and the CIA didn’t like each other. It‘s interesting that the CIA ordered you to meet Kissinger.
Uri Geller: Yes, I won’t tell you why! I did say “meet“. I said they wanted me to “meet” Kissinger. I met him. I have actually a picture with with Kissinger.
Too bad that you’re the mind reader, not me.
Uri Geller: So, then there was another very interesting thing that they did. They said to me that they wanted me to meet President Carter to invest millions of Dollars in psychical research. So I said to them, “How do you want me to do it?“ This was when he was President elect, not yet sworn in as President. So they said to me, “We will arrange for you to go to the White House on the day of the inauguration, and you talk to him there.“ “How are you going to get me into the White House?” “Don’t worry.“ And to make a long story short, a girl came into my life and she arranged it, and on the day of inauguration, I and Shippi were in the White House. So Carter was standing, I went to Carter, and I took his hand like this, and I held it, and he said, “Oh, Uri Geller you are the guy who can find oil. Can you find oil for us?” And I said, “Yes, maybe.” Then I looked into his eyes, and still holding his hand, I was sending him a message, “Invest eight million Dollars in psychical research.” I really believed that I could do it. I bombarded him. After that, he became the President, and he gave the money. This is a true story.
And then in Mexico, when I found oil, the CIA said to me to come close to the Mexican President. To become friends. For many reasons I can’t tell you why. But, I remember, the Mexican President made me a secret agent for the Mexican treasury. I actually had a card, it was metal, where I was Uri Geller, secret, it doesn’t say “secret“, but it said, “special agent for the treasury department“. And when President Lopez Portillo gave me a gun as a gift, a beautiful silver with gold carving, Colt 38, I said to him, “I can’t take it to New York because there are gun laws“ and his chief said to me, “Yes you can, because you are an agent, and Mexican agents have a treaty they can take guns into New York. So when I arrived at Kennedy I said, “I have a gun, and this is my card“, and I will never forget this, the guy in Kennedy said, “Oh, Mr. Geller, I can see the card but I have to take the gun, and I will check it out, and if it’s o.k. we will return it.“ It’s so unusual that a guy comes as a treasury department agent, and with a gun! So the next morning somebody knocked on my apartment door, “Mr. Geller we have the gun back for you.”
You found oil in Mexico. How did you do this?
Uri Geller: Wait. There are more interesting things with the FBI. Some of the other things that they asked me to do that I can talk about now, is to convince Russian diplomats to defect to the West. So they made parties. The FBI arranged parties, for Russian diplomats in Long Island. And these were very exclusive parties. I would go round and talk to the diplomats, and “send them” to come to defect.
finding oil in a paranormal way
Now in Mexico how did I find oil? I was in Los Pinos which is the White House of Mexico, with President Echeverría. And President Echeverría, somewhere heard that I can go like that, just with my hand (Uri gestures). So he brought his oil minister, I can’t remember his name. Serrano! Diaz Serrano. And Diaz Serrano said to me, “Uri, if you can find oil for Pemex this is fantastic.“ Pemex is the national oil company. So I said to him,... and then I did a little demonstration. I said, “I will go out of the room, take olive oil, put it somewhere in the room and I will find it.“ So I went out, after two minutes I came back, and I went like this (Uri gestures) in the room, and I said, “It’s in here.“ And it was true. He had poured the olive oil into a plant, on the window.
And then he said to me, “What do you need?“ I said, “I need a helicopter or a plane. I need some maps. And I need to talk to the geologists.“ “No problem.“ In the coming weeks he arranged me maps and geologists, I spoke to them. And I went up with an aeroplane, the map on my leg. And I went like that (Uri Gestures), and I said, “Here I feel it“. And I took my marker, and I put an “X“. And then came the report in the New York Financial Times or New York Wall Street Journal, I can’t remember now. I have the article, the biggest off shore oil found in the Gulf of Mexico, and this was the same place. The Mexican president said, “Uri, you’ve done such an amazing thing for us, I want you to become a Mexican citizen. And he made me a Mexican citizen and I have a Mexican passport.
You are a Mexican citizen and...
Uri Geller: I’m a British citizen now, but also an Israeli citizen. But I have a Mexican passport. It’s number one. Because nobody can get a Mexican passport if you’re not born in Mexico. So the president has to sign the Carta Naturalization.
Fascinating. Even today, you are sometimes involved in politics. For example, in 2005 you headed a London pressure group, "Friends of Magen David Adom", the Israeli ambulance organization similar to the “International Red Cross“ and “Red Crescent Movement“. Magen David Adom was not accepted by the Red Cross or the Red Crescent at the time and there were some problems with the religious symbols of the organizations. How did you deal with the problem?
Uri Geller: First of all, how did I get involved? The chairman of Magen David Adom, Dr. Noam Ifrach, was watching a BBC-documentary about me called “Reputations.” In this documentary I was saying how the head of the American foreign relations committee Senator Claiborne Pell asked me to go with Ambassador Max Kampelman, to bombard the Russians to sign the nuclear treaty. So I went to Geneva, and Al Gore was there, and I did it and it worked. And I told this story on the BBC. So the chairman of Magen David Adom, Dr. Noam Ifrach said “Wow! Uri Geller is the right person for us.” So he called me and he said “Uri, we would like you to help Magen David Adom.” I said “Come to my house, let´s talk about it!” I thought they wanted money for a donation.
When they arrived, he said “No, no, we don´t want your money, we want your talent. So I said: “What´s going on? He said “One: we are not accepted by the organisation of the International Red Cross for 59 years. Two: We have a problem with the Palestinians. We cannot come to an agreement. Can you help us? So I said: “Look, I will help you, take me to all the meetings, let me start meeting the Palestinians. So Dr. Noam Ifrach said, “We have to make you a legal representative.” So the lawyers of Magen David Adom made me officially the President of the “Friends of Magen David Adom“. Officially, you can do it, it´s not illegal. This allowed me legally to go and be in the negotiations. This was a long process. Dr. Noam Ifrach and I had to contact the State Department, Condoleezza Rice, we had to contact Arik Sharon, Israeli government, we had to contact the Israeli foreign minister and we had to contact the Red Cross in Geneva. This was complex. It took us a year and a half.
But it was not only me; it was the effort of everybody. It was the effort of the American Red Cross - I have a lot of negotiations with the President of the American Red Cross, Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, with the chief of the legal State Department, John Bellinger, with the Israelis, and – who helped us unbelieveably – was Micheline Calmy-Rey, who later became the President of Switzerland. She was then the Foreign Minister. We went to the Palestinians to negotiated this.
You see, there was one really big problem, which I was very angry about: When you had a palestiniam child who was injured, or if you had a palestinian pregnant woman, and they have to go to hospital, they would always go to the checkpoint and then they were stopped. Sometimes a pregnant woman would sit in the car for two hours. This is inhumane. This is unacceptable. Whether you are Israeli or Arab, this is unacceptable. So this was part of the problem. How do we get rid of the checkpoints for injured and pregnant women? So part of the negotiations was this. The Palestinians wanted five Red Crescent-ambulances in Jerusalem. So this was kind of political humanitarianism, it was very difficult to achieve.
And then came the big negotiations in Geneva with Michelin Calmy-Rey. We were sitting around the table, Palestinians, Israelis, there was no talk, it was all cold. And I said to Michelin Calmy-Rey: “Tell the maitre dee to bring me a spoon.“ She said to me: “Uri, a spoon? You want to bend a spoon in these negotiations? And I said “Yes.” So he came with a silver spoon, and I took the spoon and showed it to the Palestinians, I think seven Palestinians, big high chairmen of the Red Crescent, and I said “Look at the spoon“, and I went like this. And the spoon bent – it freaked them out. This started going “Wow! What is this? And they started laughing, and suddenly the wall was broken: we could start talking to each other. I put my hand on the palestinian´s shoulder – there are many pictures on my website from these negotiatons.
So it was suddenly working. And it was the result of entertainment, charisma, personality, and niceness. And then, after six months, Israel was accepted into the Red Cross Movement after 59 years of exclusion. Palestinians can now have ambulances in Jerusalem, and pregnant women and sick children from Palestine don´t have to wait anymore in the checkpoints. There is a fast track for them. They go straight on. So for me this was the best achievement in my life.
Please tell us about the symbols!
Uri Geller: Yes. You see, when you have a country with war, religious symbols can make more trouble, like the Star of David or the Red Cross, it is a religious symbol. So they had to change it and create one symbol that is neutral. So they chose the Red Crystal, you know I have crystal jewellery, and this was very interesting. Now all the nations accepted the third protocol, which is the Red Crystal. In countries where there is war, yes, you don´t have to put the Red Cross, you don’t have to put the Red Crescent, you don´t have to put the Red Star, you can put the Red Crystal.
I‘ve heard you designed it personally?
Uri Geller: No, it was designed by somebody in Geneva. But, you know, I´m into crystals, so maybe I had some influence. Who knows? And remember what I told you, it‘s not me alone. It was the effort of everybody together, and when Michelin Calmy-Rey was making the speech for all the press, she said “There were a lot of bent spoons on the way to signing this agreement.”
I heard that these ambulances don´t carry guns on board.
Uri Geller: Yes, one of the conditions was that in the Israeli ambulances there will be no guns. And we agreed. So now there are no guns in the ambulances. This is a big step. Big step.
War in Lebanon
Since then, there‘s been a terrible war in the region. Did it work during the war?
Uri Geller: Look, when the war started, on day one of the war, the morning I woke up in London, in my village, and I said “Hannah, there is a war. Let´s go to Israel!“ So we got on a plane, the same day, and I flew to the war. Hannah and I and Shippi, we went into Lebanon. You know the man who owns ESTÉE LAUDER? You know Ron Lauder?
Uri Geller: He is a billionaire. He gave me his armoured car, a big van. So Hannah and I and Shippi we drove up to the war and went into Lebanon. And I was there in the war. Bombs exploding, unbelievable! And we were there with the troops. If there were ambulances for these? It’s impossible, there was so much mess there... But I was there to see everything. Then Dr. Noam Ifrach and I was there to open the gate for the chairmen of the Red Cross from Geneva, Jakob Kellenberger, who came to see Beirut, how Israel destroyed Beirut, and he also came to Israel to see how the Katyusha‘s and rockets destroyed a lot of towns in Israel. And I greeted him at the border in Rosh Hanikra.
And the idea with the ambulances kept working during the war?
Uri Geller: It´s now working, absolutely. You know, it´s agreed now, and also the ambulances are in Jerusalem – Palestinian ambulances! Do you understand the political significance? That you have actually in Israel‘s Jerusalem, five or six or ten Palestinian ambulances.
And they are not considered to be spies or ...?
Uri Geller: This was always a problem, because one would not be sure. I said “Look, this is a humanitarian organisation. Magen David Adom, the Red Cross an the Red Crescent are humanitarian organisations.” And I must tell you one very important thing: The Israeli state department at one point said “No signing!“ And we asked “Why! What´s going on?” “Because we can´t give the green light, only Arik Sharon can.“ So I said “But it´s a few hours from now? Where is Arik Sharon?” “He´s sleeping!“ And I said: “Give me his telephone number!” So they say “We cannot.“ And we had to call the White House, and we had to call Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the president of the Red Cross. I said “Bonnie, we have got to find from the White House the secret number of Arik Sharon, we have to wake him up, because he is the only person who can give the green light to sign with the Palestinians.“
She did a miracle: She found the number, we called Arik Sharon, he woke up, and they told him “Arik, you have all the documents on the table, please go quickly and look at them! He went, he looked, he sat for one hour, he called up Geneva, he says: “OK, you have the green light!“ This was just a few months just before he went into a to coma. It was unbelievable, because we thought, this is it ... Everybody was sitting upstairs. CNN, NBC, CBS, all ready for Michelin Calmy-Rey and all the dignitaries to sign, and suddenly they say “No“. So Arik Sharon, at the last moment, gave the green light.
Now you know the story, because nobody knows this.
Obviously your work for this rescue service seems to correspond to your sad experiences in the Six Day War. You were wounded in that war?
Uri Geller: You know I just came back from hospital, you know I injured my hand. Did you see the last show?
Uri Geller: You don’t know what happened to me? I will show you! Because in the war, I was injured here. See? When I took the cigarette box, remember in the show? I threw it with my left hand, and look: I´m injured, see? It’s swollen.
Attacked by cigarettes!
Uri Geller: So I had to go to the hospital and have an x-ray. Because I had a doctor in my room yesterday to check it. It´s swollen because of this former injury I can only open my hand up to here. And when I threw the cigarette box into the crowd I stretched it very hard. So I just came back from this hospital here. You see how swollen it is? Look at the difference!
Now I can see it.
Uri Geller: So the doctor said I tore the ligament. So I was wounded in the war. (He shows his arms and his forehead.) It went into the bone, but it didn’t go into the brain. What was the question?
Is this the reason why you are so involved in the rescue service-thing?
Uri Geller: Yes, yes. You see, after the war, when I became famous, at first I was obsessed with guns. Me and Frank Sinatra were the only two people in New York City that had a license for seven guns. I have carried guns here, here and here guns, everywhere. (Shows some places where the guns were hidden.) I was crazy. Crazy with the guns. I used to walk in the street with seven guns. And then, I realized, my God, what am I doing?
This is completely new to me. Interesting!
Let´s change the subject: You are known for your experience in dealing with the media. I was especially astonished to read that you wrote a novel called “Ella“, that complains about improper journalism and silly PR stunts. The protagonist of the novel is a 14-year old girl with psychokinetic abilities. Ella is used by almost everyone to get attention, money and sensation. Why did you write about these things?
Uri Geller: Well, because, Markus, first of all, Ella has powers that I don´t have. I wanted always to have the power of levitation. I cannot do it. So I gave it to Ella. And then, because I know how the press works.
Uri Geller: Exactly. This is exactly what happens around Ella. And this is exactly an example of my life. That´s it. It´s very simple.
You wrote the book – now appearing in German for the first time - ten years ago when your real daughter had passed Ella´s age. Did she also start to levitate like Ella in the book?
Uri Geller: No, but she is on the cover of the book.
Uri Geller: The English book. That´s Natalie, on the cover of the English book. On the German book it´s a blonde a model. Ella is a very powerful novel and is going to be a movie now. Because it is the psychology also of the press, of money, of power, of somebody who wants to own you for power. And this happened to me at the beginning of my career. Andrija Puharich, he owned me.
You know, Andrija made me sign a contract, I gave all my life away in this contract to Andrija. I was naive. Andrija thought I was like a kind of a messenger from extraterrestrials, it was crazy. Then when the book "Uri" came out in England, I said to Andrija, “ Andrija, I will only promote the book, if you tear up the contract. I don´t want to be a prisoner.” And he tore up the contract. You see, Andrija made Uri Geller. He took me to the CIA, he and Edgar Mitchell, he was the one who came to Israel. And I owe a lot to Andrija.
You made public that you had problems with bulimia like your fictional character Ella. Why did you choose to reveal such a private problem to the public?
Uri Geller: Because there are lot of men who have bulimia, but they are secretive about it, they’re ashamed. They die. A lot of men.
Uri Geller: Of course. You die from bulimia if you don´t stop. And when I came out with this – because I was so thin. I couldn’t lie, that I´m running around New York, exercising. People saw me. Because I´m a thin person anyhow. Can you imagine how thin I was with bulimia? I revealed it on a big american tv-show. I said I have bulimia. Then I got letters from men: “Oh Mr Geller, thank you very much for saying it. I have bulimia and I´m hiding it from my family. And You help me in a big way.” So it was very good.
The story of “Ella“deals in a critical way with both religious fanatics and nasty know-it-all-skeptics. What can you say about this?
Uri Geller: Because I live it. It´s been all my life. And you know what I also want to answer something that ... I get emails, yes, they ask me, “Oh Uri, is it true, that you said that you’re not a psychic to a German magic magazine?“ And this is my answer – listen very carefully: I never said that I´m not a psychic. You must listen to my words. Read my words, what I said.
I said to this German magazine, so what I did say, that I changed my character, to the best of my recollection, and I no longer say that I do supernatural things. I doesn´t mean that I don´t have powers. It means that I don´t say “it’s supernatural“, I say “I´m a mystifier!“ That´s what I said. And the skeptics turned it around and said, “Uri Geller said he’s a magician!“ I never said that. And I will never say that. Even Criss Angel asked me in an interview on his show. “Are you a magician?“ I said “No, what do you want? I’m a mystifier.” “But can you bend a spoon if I put a spoon on the table?” “Yes, I can bend a spoon with a trick, but that doesn´t mean that I don´t have powers. People want to hear and write what they want to hear, not what I say.
You often get emails from young people who‘ve discovered their paranormal abilities and ask you for advice. What do you tell them?
Uri Geller: I tell them the following: Forget the paranormal! Wait, I want to show you something. (Scrolls his handheld pc.) Because I get emails all the time. From young children, and youngsters, and say ..., One moment, I want you to read an email. Look! (Reads an email) This is a 12-year old kid, Finn, and he wrote to me “I want to know how you do it!“ And I said: “Forget the paranormal. Forget spoon bending! Instead of that, focus on school! Become a positive thinker! Believe in yourself and create a target! Go to university! Never smoke! And never touch drugs! And think of success! “ This is my message. To every 12-year-old, 13-year-old. 14-year-old.
The age of Ella, by the way.
Uri Geller: The age of Ella.
Even today we have a few obscure German scientists who seem to consider your current entertainment-show "The next Uri Geller" on ProSieben to be a scientific programme and fulminate against You. What do you think of them?
Uri Geller: I don´t care about them. They only give us great publicity! This is great! I will be worried when they don´t talk about me! You remember what I said to you about Oscar Wilde? There’s only one thing worse than being talked about and that’s not being talked about. I will be then very worried when suddenly they stop speaking about Uri Geller. Then I know it´s the end of Uri Geller.
Okay. This will never happen!
Uri Geller: Probably never!
You’ve been living in London for two decades now, despite having grown up in Cyprus and Israel, and you have a Mexican passport. So why did you choose London to be your home?
Uri Geller: It´s not London, it´s a small village outside London. I don´t know if it was a coincidence. I was flying – You know who Richard Branson is?
Yes, I do.
Uri Geller: I was flying with Richard Branson when he opened his new airline. He said to me “Uri, I want you to come with me for the inauguration flight.“ So we flew from London to New York, and next to me was sitting Clement Freud who is directly descended from Sigmund Freud, his brother is Lucien Freud, a very famous painter. And Clement said to me “Uri, I understand you are related to Sigmund Freud,” and he said, “Where do You live?” And I said, “I live in New York.“ And he said to me, “You should come to live in England. It´s more civilized and your children can go to British schools.“
And you know I thought, “Wow. I’ve been living in New York for ten years. That’s a long time. Maybe we should go to England. And then I spoke to Hannah, and Hannah said, “You know what? It will be nice if Daniel and Natalie can go to British schools. And that was the decision. Then we went to live in England. And I´m very happy there, because I live in a village and there is no pollution, and my children now are big. My son went to LSE - London School of Economics, and now he is a lawyer, a barrister. He is coming here. In two weeks. And Natalie is coming too.
A last question: Our magazine is known for critical journalism, so I´m sorry that I can´t avoid this hard question: How often do you meet your almost London-neighbour and magical colleague Harry Potter?
Uri Geller: Ha, ha, ha. I wish I could. You know that I meet David Berglas a lot. And just last month I have a new neighbour. Do you know the band Led Zeppelin?
Uri Geller: Jimmy Page has moved next door to me. You know Jimmy Page, the guitarist from Led Zeppelin? Maybe he is the real Harry Potter! I don´t meet Harry Potter, I would like to meet him! I believe in Harry Potter!
Me too! Uri, thank You very much for the interview!