Saturday, May 30, 2009

Uri Geller: Keep Fit

I didn’t know that a quadruple heart bypass was even possible. I thought the maximum number of grafts was three. But when a friend of ours was told his angina had become life-threatening and that he must undergo one of the most serious operations possible, I realised there’s only one person more important than a brilliant surgeon — and that’s a responsible heart owner.

Shipi and I dropped in to the London hospital where our friend, a lawyer we’ve known for over 20 years, is recovering. It’s a good thing Shipi never became a doctor — his bedside manner is appalling.
“I bet when they cut you open,” he announced, “the surgeons discovered you didn’t have a heart at all. I always said that’s what makes you such a great lawyer.”
In fact, the surgery cannot be carried out while the heart is still pumping. It has to be stopped while the new arteries are grafted into place: in order to save the patient, the doctor must first kill him.
Many of my legal friends tell me the biggest problem they face is stress. In a high-powered career, where the stakes are high in every case and clients can face ruin if their lawyer isn’t 101 per cent committed to his work, physical tension can destroy the body.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a non-smoking vegan who jogs to the office every day and never touches more than a half-glass of chianti: stress is a killer.
That’s why I’m delighted that my son, Daniel, has quit his work as a barrister in London chambers to retrain as a Californian lawyer. All that sun and surf will help him to relax.
My own health regime is focused on keeping fit. I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my adult life, I have no resistance to alcohol and couldn’t be a boozer even if I wanted, and I’m lucky enough to be able to afford full check-ups when it suits me — the National Health Service is a marvellous institution, one Britain is rightly proud of, but it’s no good if my appointment for a scan comes through when I happen to be on the other side of the world shooting a TV series.
Since a healthy diet is built into my lifestyle, the chief role I can play as a responsible heart owner is to take plenty of aerobic exercise. That doesn’t mean I have to don a pink leotard and dance round the gym to the sound of Wham! I only do that on Mondays.
Aerobic exercise is the kind that makes the body increase its oxygen intake. For best results, it should not be too intensive, and it should last at least 20 minutes. I always warm up before starting, to avoid straining my muscles, and I always cool off with stretches for the same reason.
My favourite work-out is on my static bike — I try to cover about 27km in 20 minutes, bringing my heart rate up to around 120 beats per minute and keeping it there while I work up a sweat. I also use a cross-trainer which works my arms, and I like to use weights for ten minutes or so: I could never get a Schwarzeneggar body if I trained 12 hours every day for life, but all muscle helps burn fat and the weights help keep my own weight down.
If I’m in a hotel, I might use the pool — swimming is great exercise, though I don’t like sharing the water with a crowd. And I usually find a flight of stairs to help keep me supple, even if it’s on a jumbo jet.
It’s important to know when to stop — and when I first discovered work-outs, moderation was a word that wasn’t in my vocabulary.
By my late twenties, soft living had made me overweight. My favourite foods were hamburgers, salami and especially brie, which is about 80 per cent saturated fat.
I wasn’t obese, not the way my American friends understood the word. Some of them couldn’t see their own feet, even if they lay on the floor with their feet propped on a sofa.
But I stood on a speak-your-weight machine in Manhattan one afternoon and realised I had motored smoothly past 85 kilos and was heading for 90kg... which means I was approaching 14 stone. As a former paratrooper and basketball player, I suddenly felt I’d turned into Orson Welles.
I got hooked on dieting, and that became bulimia. I also got hooked on exercise. Without taking medical advice, I started jogging for at least two hours a day, covering ten miles at a stretch. Then I’d drag myself to a bike and pedal for another 90 minutes. The flab evaporated, but I felt dizzy and depleted all the time.
My glycogen levels never climbed above a trough, and I was constantly tired. At the same time, my blistered feet and burning legs gave me constant pain.
In combination with my eating disorder, I could easily have given myself a heart attack.
My message to anyone who is reading this and who isn’t taking regular aerobic exercise at least three times a week: whether you’re 18 or 80, make an appointment to see your GP right now. Get your health checked over, and find out what levels of exercise you can safely target.
And if disability makes aerobics impossible, make sure you raise your fitness and reduce your stress in other ways, such as regular meditation. The mind is the most powerful exercise machine in the universe, and there’s no charge for using it to the max. Above all, liaise with your doctor, and make a pledge to keep fit... because whatever you’re doing today, I’m willing to bet that you wouldn’t want to swap places with my friend and his quadruple heart bypass.

when I look at this publicity shot of myself aged 62, and think back to the chubby youth I was at 28 in New York, I know which of us looks more in control.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Uri Geller: Twitter, Ezer Mitzion

*It’s an international phenomenon. Phenomena are my business. I should get involved. Right now I’m brushing my teeth with a new toothbrush.

*Everybody’s doing it. It’s the future of the internet. Facebook is yesterday’s news. I left my old toothbrush in a Moscow hotel bedroom.

*It’s free publicity. Although, at the moment, I have less than 100 followers. And four of them are Hanna, Daniel, Natalie and Shipi.

*You don’t get many words into 140 characters, do you? Still, it’s a good excuse to play with my Blackberry. Like I need an excuse.

*I must stop in at Boots the Chemist and get an electric toothbrush. Either that, or fly back to Russia and collect the one I left there.

*If anyone in Moscow is following my toothbrush saga, please call at the Hilton and ask them to send mine back. I am now walking my dog.

*I am standing in an English field, typing on a tiny keyboard. My greyhound is chasing rabbits. This is a typical morning at home for me.

Twitter account: GellerUri

I’m Twittering. Or Tweeting. I’m not quite sure of the jargon, but the concept is simple: I can send updates from my beloved mobile phone to a webpage called Twitter, and anyone who signs up can instantly see what I’m saying. It’s like sending a text message to countless fans, instantaneously.

Every day I send texts to my children in America, just to let them know I’m thinking of them. Now I can do the same for everyone who watches my TV shows and reads my Weekly News column.

Some of the most popular Twitterers have millions of followers. When Barack Obama was on the election trail, his off-the-cuff observations were beamed via Twitter technology to voters from Cape Cod to San Francisco Bay, generating a wave of excitement and publicity which helped the first Hawaiian president surf into the White House.

Messages have to be ultra-brief, and are supposed to be answers to the question, “What are you doing?” Each one must contain no more than 140 characters, including spaces.

That’s about 25 words which, when I’m worked up, is about as many words as I say every three seconds. Space is a major drawback, but it also forces people to stay focused. If everyone was publishing five-page rants, most of us would never have time to read the Tweets, never mind write our own.

It’s the biggest sensation on the internet right now. Millions of new users are signing up. If you want to read my posts, my username is gelleruri — somebody has already registered as urigeller, without asking me first.

That’s a common practice — the rapper Kanye West went ballistic this month when he discovered that more than a million people were following a Twitter imposter who had hijacked his name. The account was quickly shut down, but it shows the power of the phenomenon: if a million or more sign up to read instant messages from a pretend pop star, the potential for real celebrities must be unlimited.

Who needs TV adverts for a new album or a television show, when you can reach a seven-figure audience with a Tweet?

Unlike most internet sensations, this one isn’t dominated by teenagers. MySpace, Messenger, phone texts and music downloads were all powered by adolescent excitement, but Twitter seems to be an adult obsession. Maybe if it can’t capture the imagination of the very young, it will be short-lived — most internet crazes burn out fast. I’m going to have some fun with this one while it lasts.

*Barney the greyhound is now out of sight. He smelt a rabbit in the next county. This is going to be a long walk. I’ll keep you posted.


Ace pilot Julian Murfitt

My daredevil friend Julian Murfitt put on a display of acrobatics above my home this week, for a party of children from Israel who were visiting Britain with the Ezer Mitzion charity.

All of the youngsters are suffering from very serious illnesses, and the courage and determination they display in the face of frightening and painful treatments is inspirational. I always try to give them a day which will be just as much an inspiration.

I emphasize to the children how important their medical treatments are, and urge them to work hand in hand with their medical team, because the danger is that some might lose their faith when treatments become too painful. The sickness caused by treatments and, for instance, the loss of hair during chemotherapy, can be very traumatic for youngsters.

After Julian’s stunt-plane, an Extra 230, touched down, he explained to the children how he piloted it and what he experienced in the cockpit — and as he used his arms, his face and his whole body to demonstrate the extraordinary strains and stresses of acrobatics, he looked like he was dancing.

Next time, I’m going to film him and set it to music!

When the children leave, I give all of them my private phone numbers, including my mobile, so they can call me any time they need encouragement. It’s not unusual to get a call from a child about to go into the operating theatre, and some of the most moving conversations of my life have come like this, out of the blue.

Maestro pianist Uri Geller

What matters most is that the children take strength and hope from our words — I’m less concerened about the science of what is happening during inspirational moments. I used to think that I was sending an energy flow, but now I’m convinced that the healing power is latent in everybody, and I am just a catalyst, a tool the children can use to trigger their own inner energies. Next week I hope to reveal the incredible experiment which opened my eyes to this universal power.


This spectacular chair was designed by the Israeli genius Ron Arad. We spotted it in the Timothy Taylor gallery in Mayfair, where Ron’s work is on show. If I’d ignored spoons and concentrated on chairs, maybe all furniture would look like this.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tamas Vasary, Christine Wilde

It’s an unforgettable romantic moment when the pianist dedicates a song to a couple. Memories like those can define a love affair — that melody becomes ‘our tune’.

These special moments are usually set in intimate restaurants or secluded bars, at family gatherings or on the last night of a magical holiday.

It was different for Hanna and me — the setting was the packed auditorium of the Royal Festival Hall and we were serenaded by one of the most celebrated concert pianists in the world, Tamas Vasary.

But as I told Hanna when the applause died down, Tamas once joined me in one of the most unusual requests of my life, and it was only fitting that he should dedicate another, 35 years later, to us.

In the early Seventies, I was invited to take a cruise from Bordeaux to Naples on board a liner called the Renaissance, with my friend Byron Janis and his wife Maria. Byron was one of the most successful pianists on the planet, an unparalleled interpreter of Chopin: he was to be performing on the musical voyage with another celebrated musician... and that is how I met Tamas.

Tamas Vasary

Anyone who thinks classical pianists must be stuffy and serious has never met one. They’re just as riotous as any saloon-bar piano player in a movie starring Maria’s superstar father, Gary Cooper.

Egged on by Byron, Tamas and the other boys in the orchestra, I decided to recruit the passengers for a mass mindpower experiment. We were out on deck, in the blazing Mediterranean sunshine, off the coast of Spain, when I urged everybody to focus their minds on halting the liner.

All of us clenched our fists, screwed up our eyes and shouted, “One, two, three... STOP!!” Tamas shouted louder than anybody. Maybe it was his psychic energy that tipped the balance — he was an experienced conductor and well used to imposing his will on the elements.

Within two minutes, all of us felt the ship was beginning to slow down. Secretly I suspected the captain was in on the joke, and some of the passengers clearly thought I’d bribed the stokers. But as the liner drifted to a complete standstill, I decided to find out what was going on, and stopped one of the ship’s officers.

He had no idea why we’d stopped — and that was when I knew our experiment had been simply too successful.

It was nearly an hour before the engines shuddered back into life. Later I discovered that one of the metal fuel pipes had buckled, cutting off the supply.

For metal to bend spontaneously, at the precise moment that we were chanelling all our energy into halting the ship, was one of the most conclusive demonstrations of mindpower I have ever experienced.

I didn’t board a cruise liner for another 15 years, and when I did — in Bermuda, on the SS Britannis — I kept my thoughts away from the fuel lines. I noticed, though, several unmistakeable secret service types were watching me (this was at the end of the Cold War, when I was involved with the US delegation to the SALT II nuclear peace talks, so I’m not being paranoid... the surveillance was very real).

I didn’t give the dark-glasses-and-radio-headset brigade any demonstrations of how to halt a ship on the ocean — it might have given them ideas, and I had no intention of becoming a secret weapon against nuclear submarines. But on another cruise ship, in the English Channel, I did put mindpower to dramatic use — by revealing an eclipse of the sun.

It was the 11th of August, 2001, and a total eclipse was due at 11.11am. The day was overcast, and to everybody’s frustration we hadn’t glimpsed an inch of blue sky all morning.

I ordered everybody to focus their thoughts on burning away the cloud cover — and sure enough, the sun burst through, moments before the moon’s disc began to slide across it. We witnessed the whole of the eclipse, though across most of Britain it was wholly hidden by the grey skies.

The Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank looks a lot like the bows of a cruise liner too. Perhaps that was in Tamas’s mind when he called a halt during a concert by the London Schools Symphony Orchestra last month to dedicate Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 15 to us.


Scientists have always been eager to know if my metal-bending ability is latent in many other people, and the late Professor John Hasted at the University of London carried out comprehensive tests on a host of promising youngsters during the Seventies and Eighties.

Christine and Robert Wilde

One of them, Christine Wilde, visited my home with her husband Robert this week, and told me how metal still bent unexpectedly around her. I sent them off to one of my favourite restaurants on the banks of the Thames, and told her to mind the cutlery.

That evening, Robert emailed to say they had experienced two extraordinary phenomena after leaving my home. As they drove to the restaurant, Christine was holding the bent spoon I’d given her, and another straight one which I’d suggested she could use for practice. Without warning, it twisted in her hand — “in a downward direction,” Robert said, “with the bending stopping at precisely the same angle as your bent spoon. The two spoons were truly symmetrical... amazing!”

And as if that wasn’t enough, a key on Robert’s keyring bent during lunch. Christine must have a remarkable gift.


| More