First there was Uri Geller, the alleged psychic who amused audiences (and sparked controversies) with his telepathic and spoon-bending “powers” back in the 1970s.
Now there’s Guy Bavli, an entertainer who performs feats such as foreseeing the future, reading minds and bending forks.
So just what is it about Israelis and reshaped cutlery that always seems to draw a crowd?
Next week, when the pony-tailed Bavli — the self-proclaimed “Master of the Mind” — makes his Silicon Valley debut, Bay Area audiences will have a chance to come up with their own conclusions to the inexplicable, scientifically unsubstantiated feat of bending metal.
“But people shouldn’t come to challenge. People should come to have fun,” says Bavli, born in Israel in 1971.
Unlike Uri Geller, Bavli doesn’t claim to have any real paranormal abilities.
“I’m a normal person. I wasn’t born with supernatural powers,” he says. “I just use experience, psychology and intuition. All of the things that people call a ‘sixth sense,’ they’re really very natural — anyone can do it.”
Bavli is vague when asked about what people can expect from his upcoming show. “Each show is different,” he says.
He does mention that his repertoire includes telepathic reading, predicting, bending metals, seeing with his eyes closed and stopping and moving watches. He calls his performance a “multimedia and interactive experience,” in which some (willing) members of the audience always become part of the show.
“I wanted to bring something different to the Bay Area,” says Vered Ravid, president and founder of the Silicon Valley chapter of Yad BeYad, a nonprofit organization that supports day care for disadvantaged children in Israel, and the sponsor of Bavli’s upcoming Bay Area performance.
“I went to his show in Israel a few years ago, and I was very impressed,” Ravid adds.
Since 2000, Ravid has brought a wide array of Israeli performers to the Bay Area, from singer Boaz Sharabi to comic Tzipi Shavit. He says all profits from Yad BeYad’s Silicon Valley shows are sent to one of the daycare facilities (called a bait ham, or “warm home”) in Tel Aviv.
Bavli says he’s happy to come to the Bay Area, especially to perform for a good cause in Israel.
Although he recently moved to Florida to be closer to his U.S.-based shows (Bavli performs at stage shows and corporate events), he got his start in his native Israel.
At 8 years old, Bavli performed his first “magic” show at a public swimming pool near Tel Aviv.
Today, he says he’s proud to be the only Israeli (as far as he knows) with a regular gig at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
“It’s good for people to see that Israel is not only war and soldiers and ‘Hava Negillah,'” he says. “I’m always presenting myself as an artist from Israel.”
Critics of pseudoscience (which includes levitation, telepathy and psychokinesis, defined as the ability to influence the behavior of matter by mental exertion), such as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), state that “every instance of claimed paranormal activity has failed to stand up under scientific scrutiny.”
Then again, Bavli has never claimed that his ability to bend forks and spoons is a product of the paranormal.
So just how does he do it?
“Well, some things I can’t even explain to myself,” Bavli says in voice that is half-earnest, half-playful.
“If you go see Celine Dion perform, you don’t ask her how she sings. How I do it — that’s not what’s important. The most important thing is to come have fun.”
Guy Bavli performs 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16, at Gunn High School’s Spangenberg Theatre, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto. Tickets: $25-$45. Information: (408) 530-8243 or www.yendor.com/yadbeyad.