Uri shows the witches balls.
I always think it’s sad that there aren’t any really good songs about London. OK, so there’s A Foggy Night in London Town - a real downer, and London Pride - not exactly a belter. And what can you say about Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner and The Lambeth Walk - exactly? Now New York really knows how to sell itself. New York, New York’s a Wonderful Town sounds inspirational in the shower with an accompaniment of sudsing suds and some thigh slapping. And Frankie groaning New York does it to me every time. Paris has the wonderfully evocative, I Love Paris and from Brazil, The Girl From Ipanema tops my chart every time. I even have a little side bar on it. When I was living in Buenos Aires I met a Brazilian girl called Maria. I went up to Brazil for the Formula One Grand Prix that year and Maria took me to a little cafe close by Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro and introduced me to the man himself, Juan Carlos Jobim. She turned out to be Jobim’s niece. Evidently once he had written THE GIRL all he had to do was sit back and rake in the royalties. Which set me to thinking. Why can’t I write something to an up-beat tempo that will instantly be identified with London? Then I would be able to spend the rest of my life at a table beside the Thames counting the residuals. How about, The Thames , The Thames is a wonderful place, Tyburn is up and the underground down, And people live in the Streets in yer face, all right, all right, London’s a wonderful Town? I guess it needs a bit of working on, but what d’you think?
The Dali horse with the detachable saddle.
What set me off on this massively edifying track was a trip along the Thames Valley to see Uri Geller a couple of days before his much heralded wedding. It was more Foggy Night than Wonderful Town, Turner than Constable but there was a certain something. Gloom! I had told Uri I would be passing by and he had suggested I drop in for a cup of tea and a chat. There is one thing you can be sure about Geller. He is endlessly enthusiastic and it rubs off. And I needed rubbing off - on! I pushed the button on the gates at the end of the drive leading up to his riverside house and Shippy, Uri’s brother in law and major domo, chirped from the tinny security box. Even on that he seemed depressed. When I drove up to the house I soon found out the reason. Uri was sitting in his TV room morosely staring at a package he had just received from America. It was supposed to contain a pristine recording of the King, Elvis Presley, from his vocal yokel days. Uri had bid for it in auction on eBay. It had lain undisturbed on a shelf in Memphis for over forty years. Uri had bought it with the intention of re-recording and issuing it on a grateful Elvis oriented public. Possibly with his friend Michael Jackson doing his own version for him. It was not to be. Uri, almost in tears, showed me the contents of the parcel. A criminally bent record. He was suffering for his fame as a spoon bender extraordinaire. Somewhere along the route from the Deep South to the Thames Valley some wag had recognised the recipient and decided that it would be a wizard jape to do a little bending of his, or indeed her, own.
Most people keep their spoons in a drawer. Uri sticks the bent ones on the bonnet of his car.
It didn’t seem a good time for a visit. I wanted cheering up and Uri seemed to be in the same state. I started to fumble out an excuse but Shippy arrived with a tray followed by Uri’s wife Hanna and it seemed churlish to desert him in his hour of angst so I nudged the conversation to the fantastic amount of collectables and memorabilia in every nook and cranny in the large house. Uri brightened up immediately. Most of the stuff was presents from friends, fans and people he had helped in one way or another. I particularly liked the three foot high statue of Elvis he had in the window but decided that it was not an appropriate moment to mention it. Innocently Uri asked me if I had seen his witches balls. I managed to cool my reaction to a blink and followed him tamely from the room in wonderment. Uri is a collector’s collector. He collects just about anything and I wondered if what he was about to show me could be the product of some off-shoot of the head-hunter cult to be found on the banks of the Amazon. In his Drawing Room he soon put my mind at rest. Lined up along the hearth of the wide fireplace were a number of large spheres, about a foot in diameter and made of glass. A sort of pumped up version of the baubles you get on Christmas trees. They are made to ward off the evil eye and are very rare because they are extremely fragile and smash on the tiniest tap. If you have ever had a Christmas tree fall over on you you’ll get the idea. Uri uses them as tools for his mind, channelling psychic energy through them to safeguard his environment. To show me what he meant he led me around the house pointing out how the balls were positioned in strategic sites and how energy was linked from one to the other. A sort of super-psychic burglar and smoke alarm combined. The spheres are much sought after by White Witches as they are thought to embody the concept of the Universe and the basis for perfection in shape and harmony. Which led us onto the subject of crystal.
Statue of Elvis.
Uri Geller loves crystals. More than that he loves people giving him crystals. He says they represent love. He has put his love of crystal into the design of the jewellery he sells on his programme on the Home Shopping Network. He has them crafted by a man in Italy. Each piece is specially designed to bring not only elegance to the wearer but good health as well. One of the most amazing things he has is a table and a couple of chairs made for him out of crystal for £400 sixteen years ago. Now he estimates their worth at around £25,000. Not a bad mark-up. On another table he had an array of crystal from all over the world. Some of it carved into fantastic shapes, others just solid blocks of crystal. He showed me a large carved piece he had received the day before from a fan in Australia. It wasn’t easy to work out what the carving represented but to my inexperienced eye it looked like a representational kangaroo. Uri looked at it, then at me but didn’t comment on my interpretation.
As we went through the hall I noticed a number of bronzed figurines which looked decidedly Dali-ish. A millennium ago I was making a film called El Beso en el Puerto (1966) in Spain with home-grown heart throb, Manuelo Escobar. We were sitting having coffee in a harbour cafe while the director set up the next shot when Salvador Dali hove into view, moustache akimbo and a gleam in his eye. Manito introduced us and Dali went through what was evidently a well honed routine of saying how gorgeous I was and how he was just dying to paint me. I agreed totally with his sentiments and let him. When the portrait was finished he gave it to me. It looked more like Winston Churchill stretched out on a butcher’s slab after a heavy bout on the bevvy. Naturally I simpered and said how wonderful it was but when I left I discretely left it on the top of the wardrobe. Fool! But how was I to know that Dali would turn out to be one of the icons of the 20th century? Uri gave me a look which either signified disbelief in my naivete or in my story and showed me a horse that Dali had made for him. For once Salvador had kept to the physical facts and the horse actually looked like a horse. It even had a detachable saddle although I’m not sure why. The Dali collection also included an elephant that had suffered Dali’s well known sense of mischief. The body and head were fine but the legs were long and spindly and even a giraffe might have felt embarrassed to stand on them. There was also half a dozen miniature grotesques and a picture, all attributable to the master of dripping time pieces and misaligned perspective.
A couple of Uri's crystal chairs. The bat in the hat is me.
But Uri isn’t just a collector of objet d’art. His style is best described as eclectric. Nestling amongst the art are Teddy bears and tin cars. In one corner is a collection of Star Wars figures, over the television is a circus style roundabout with aeroplanes instead of galloping horses suspended from the outer rim. On the wall in a frame is one of the Ultimate space age bicycles used in the Olympics. Understandably perhaps he has a thing about spoons. He has spent a lot of time searching out utensils which might have touched the lips of the famous. One he particularly likes is a dessert spoon he claims was once used by the Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra.
Which brought us to the subject of music - some how or other. I suppose it was natural that Uri’s musical taste should be as random as everything else he collects. LP’s CDs, 45s, sheet music, audio tapes and the occasional musical instrument were piled in corners and were obviously well used. I just happened to notice a recording by the London Philharmonic Orchestra of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance and brightened up immediately. London may be a bit short on memorable tunes but what country can put up a song to compare with “Land of Hope and Glory’? OK - so there’s the Marseilles and the Men of Harlech - but we don’t talk about those.
It really was time to go. Uri’s son Daniel dropped in to say hello and told me that he was off shortly to study law in France, the Code Napoleon and all that. He is a hunking six foot something and is going to devastate the Sorority of whatever Uni he finishes up in. As Uri walked me out to the car I caught a glimpse of his Cadillac through the open door of the garage. This is no ordinary Cadillac. This one is covered in spoons which Uri has bent with the power of his mind for all sorts of famous people. He pointed out the Kennedy spoon and another he had corrupted for Marilyn Monroe.
As I drove out through the gates I was humming Land of Hope and Glory and revelling in the bright winter sunshine that had turned a murky day into something wonderful. Uri had done it for me again. But I wasn’t sure that I had left a particularly happy bunny in the house by the Thames.
Model Mart 11