Mind reader Marc Salem is appearing in a one-man show called "Mind Games." He uses a pendulum, globe and other props to indulge himself and the audience in what he calls mental calisthenics.
Mentalist Marc Salem shares these brain tricks for impressing your friends:
Tell the player or players to write their answers down. Then say: "Pick a number from one to four."
You can wow them by privately writing down the number "3" before you even ask the question -- statistically, most players pick 3. Why?
During that little mind push, you mentioned all the numbers between 1 and 4 -- "from one to (think "2") four -- except 3, and their minds will fill in the blanks.
Don't fret if they don't cooperate. Try this one next:
Ask a partner to imagine two children fighting, hitting each other. Then ask: "Are the children boys?" Most people will say yes.
333 Madison, Detroit
Show times vary
Now through July 29, 2001
Tickets range from $24.50 to $36.50, higher on holidays
Call (313) 963-9800 or log on to www.gemtheatre.com.
-- Marc Salem delights in toying with your most private part, probing deep into your inner realm. Adept at reading others' thoughts -- he's a master at playing mind games.
And he'll be doing just that at the Century Theatre in Detroit, performing five nights a week, plus Wednesday and Sunday matinees, through July.
Salem's sometimes spooky, often baffling, always entertaining one-man show, Mind Games, leaves members of the audience collectively shaking their heads and muttering, "How the heck did he do that?" In a word, it's mind-blowing. And, as word gets around, it could become the hottest ticket in town.
"Look, the most intimate portion of us is our mind," Salem says. "For someone to begin to probe it can be frightening."
A self-described mentalist, he honed his nonverbal communication skills as a psychology professor before entering the entertainment world, including two stints off-Broadway. To take the edge off his potent, if not supernatural ability, Salem leavens his show with jokes. "My sixth sense is my sense of humor," he says.
During his fast-paced opening schtick, Salem asks an audience member's name and shouts, "That's correct!" when the unwitting subject answers. To late-comers slinking into the room, he calls: "I knew you'd be late."
Nothing otherworldly there.
But that's just a warm-up -- mental calisthenics -- to Salem's intriguing stuff. He intuits children's names, ascertains words on pages in randomly chosen books, divines where various audience volunteers vacationed and unusual things they did there.
He also performs amazing mental gymnastics with numbers, letters, cell phones and serial numbers -- not even Canadian currency stumps him.
And he uses an exercise with audience volunteers' on-the-spot drawings to demonstrate how to tell if someone's lying.
"Eighty percent of the information we convey is not what we say, but how we say it," Salem, ever-the-teacher, says in an even tone.
But perhaps most uncanny is his ability to wave his hand over and describe, while blindfolded, the nature and sometimes even the origin of yo-yos, cosmetics, shoes, fans, pocket knives and other objects randomly passed up to the stage.
For the skeptics: His eyes, under the black blindfold, are covered with half-dollar coins held in place with layers of surgical tape. Ning, ning, ning, ning.
He acknowledges possessing heightened sensitivities. But Salem insists there's nothing supernatural, mystical or occult ("Well, maybe a little," he says with a wink) about what others would call his psychic gift, which surfaced at an early age.
As a child, he was an avid puzzle-solver and reader, fascinated, he says, by the workings of the mind.
He practiced by sending his younger brother, Avi, into a dark room to concentrate on numbers. He also tended to spoil surprises by knowing what was inside wrapped presents or where his family was headed when his parents hadn't discussed the trip.
And he was highly empathetic to others' pain. It was a trait he shared with his father, a Philadelphia rabbi, who, Salem says, internalized his congregations' problems and died at 41 after suffering a third heart attack.
"He did not know how to separate himself," says the entertainer, shaking his head.
Salem, 47, holds a doctorate in developmental psychology from New York University. He also taught college psychology courses for two decades and was research director in the 1980s for TV's Sesame Street, where he studied the developmental areas of the mind.
He has helped lawyers with jury selection and trained police departments in nonverbal communication techniques, emphasizing information retrieval and reliance on intuition.
"Much of my work is (nonverbal) signals ... sometimes a flash or a feeling," says Salem, who has made the rounds of TV talk shows, from The Rosie O'Donnell Show and Montel Williams to Maury Povich and Live with Regis.
"I don't have a warehouse of hidden information in my mind. Police do, and all they have to know is how to retrieve it." Trusting your gut is also crucial.
"We're all intuitive to a certain degree, we're constantly picking up cues," he says. "But we've conditioned ourselves -- we tend to reason things out instead of going with gut reactions."
Salem chooses not to chase criminals, do counseling or predict futures.
"That's not fun," he says. "I'm always uncomfortable doing personal things with people."
Two other activities he abhors are driving and gambling, both of which, he says, require too much intense concentration.
"Gambling holds absolutely no interest for me," says Salem, who enjoys a comfortable lifestyle with his wife and three grown children. "I just can't see sitting down for hours at a table, I'd be miserable."
But he's happy with the direction in which his show business career is heading. After Detroit, he'll perform Mind Games in Edinburgh and London for four weeks each, followed by an open-ended run in New York.
Earlier this month, he returned there to receive Backstage magazine's Entertainer of the Year award for a version of his show that included musical accompaniment by a jazz ensemble.
Indeed, no two Mind Games are exactly alike since the show depends on audience interaction. Salem uses the intimacy of the Century Theatre cabaret setting to his advantage, occasionally moving among the audience -- encountering real people and real thoughts, absorbing energy and vibes.
"I play without a net," he says. "This is reality programing on stage."