Fun_People Archive
2 Nov
The Amazing Randi - But I didn't drink the water...

Date: Thu, 2 Nov 95 19:04:12 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: The Amazing Randi - But I didn't drink the water...

Forwarded-by: (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: Steve Dekorte <>

From: James Randi --- Wizard


A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to visit Seoul, Korea, for the
purpose of doing a TV program there. My agent, myself, and a
representative of "Guinness World Record Korea" exchanged endless faxes
to arrange the details of the contract, and experienced considerable
problems with language differences. Those we suffered through via fax were
nothing compared to what my friend Vikash and I were to undergo once we
were in Seoul.

Nothing, but nothing, took place as planned. People would call, arrange
to meet me, and never show up. There was little, if any, understanding of
what I was there to do, though I'd gone into exquisite detail on the
faxes. It took us two days to discover that the Big Producer, Mr. Kim*,
had been misinformed; he thought I was a genuine psychic!

Well, that posed a major problem. I'd outlined 16 tricks-of-the-psychics
I would do, along with explanations. And I did them all at the production
meetings, to establish that they'd work. Everyone oooohed and ahhhhed,
but Kim was quite troubled. He finally announced that I would wear a
silver robe and hat, and declare it all to be the real thing. I
counter-announced that I'd do no such thing, and he could only get that
costume onto my corpse. Kim suggested that I say that some of what I did
was fake , but most of it was real. I said no. He told me I could say that
most of what I did was fake, but some was real. Nyet, nein, no, non. We
were not at all happy with each other, and Kim kept saying that the Korean
people like to believe that psychic stuff is real, and they would expect
me to say that it is.

Note: Mr. Kim wasn't at all interested in the truth of the matter, but
only in what the Korean public wanted to hear. His lack of respect for
their dignity really annoyed me. And his confident declarations of psychic
powers that were, he said, part of the lives of Koreans, really depressed
me. When he ran on about a Korean girl who could read sealed envelopes --
and had been "tested by scientists!" -- I offered to give her my fee for
the engagement if she could do it for me, just ONCE, but he waved away
that suggestion. We have an exprssion that involves putting up or shutting
up, but I think it would have been lost on the man.

Well, we did the show. The same tired old spoon-bending, ESP, compass-
moving, sealed-envelope reading, etc., and at the end I asked the audience
-- through the interpreter -- how many believed that what they'd seen was
genuine. Most of the hands went up. I told them that it had all been
tricks, and there was a hush.  Mind you, I THINK that's what was told them
by the interpreter, but I can't be sure. I'll get a report after the show
is aired September 9th.

I was supposed to have been paid immediately following the taping, but
someone had forgotten to go to the bank. As I'd suspected for two days,
they were going to try to stiff me for the money. Well, this old trouper
didn't get into the business yesterday, and that wasn't going to work.

The next day, as usual, those who were supposed to show up at the hotel
didn't make an appearance. I wasn't at all surprised. We were taken to
the airport to await the money. Let me take you back to the night before,
when I managed to discover (I have ways) that the Guinness chap had bank
checks in the exact, correct and full amount, on his person. That same
young man now sat with us awaiting a person who we all knew would never
appear. He finally announced, 45 minutes before the flight, that he had
some money for me, but that only half of it was there. Gee, what a pity.
I told him that I would postpone my flight until the following day, and
wait at the hotel for the rest of the payment. That didn't seem to be too
acceptable to him, but he just didn't seem to know where he'd get the
rest of the money. I suggested he look carefully in his memo case (where
I already knew the rest of it was), and lo! he found it. I accepted the
rest of my money, and we headed for the aircraft.

Not a good experience, at all. Korea is deeply into supernatural beliefs,
and the press supports that angle shamelessly. After the department store
collapse a few weeks ago, dowsers and other fakers were called in to find
bodies, alive and dead. Everyone was shaking sticks and pendulums all
over the place, and when one of the indicated spots yielded a person,
everyone got excited. They ignored the hundreds of bad guesses and the
subsequent waste of time and effort.

I can't picture my going back to Korea in the near future.

James Randi.

[=] © 1995 Peter Langston []