Kenny Kingston: Psychic to the stars whose list of visitors from the afterlife included, he said, Elvis, Diana and the Duchess of Windsor
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Friday 18 July 2014
Among the people Kenny Kingston kept in close contact with during his long and prosperous life were Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Princess Diana and the Duchess of Windsor. Or so he said. His circle of acquaintances, he insisted, also encompassed large numbers of notable figures including John Wayne, Bette Davis and the Duchess of Windsor (before she died). Presidents Truman and Eisenhower consulted him, he said, on their electoral chances.
Most of the public did not, of course, believe Kingston – the world is full of doubters and naysayers – yet enough were intrigued to provide him with an excellent living during his decades as one of America’s most popular psychics. The famous who kept in contact with him included both the living and the dead. Those who were no longer alive kept him well supplied not just with mystic thoughts but also with a stream of fascinating celebrity gossip.
On television and radio he would relay their latest conversations. He would display the table and chairs which, he said proudly, had been given to him by Marilyn Monroe. She had told him that in the afterlife she was studying philosophy since she expected to be reincarnated. “She wants to come back and not appear to be a dumb blonde,” he revealed.
He was told by Elvis – who appeared in a toga, singing “Amazing Grace” – that he had not died of drink and drugs. Like Marilyn, he was seeking to better himself, said Kingston: “He’s studying medicine, a new form of medicine which is going to revolutionise the world.”
Kingston, who was born in 1927 in Buffalo, is said to have started reading tea leaves at the age of four. He joined the US Army during the Second World War, becoming involved in entertaining the troops in Europe. After the war he moved to California, working in television as a talk show host and then branching into the world of the psychic, charging hefty fees for personal readings.
A small man once described as elfin, he developed a bright persona and brightly coloured hair. He was genuinely acquainted with a range of celebrities whom he met in TV. Over the years he built up a business which included late-night broadcasting, books and a credit card known as a “Psychic Passport” which would connect customers to a network of counsellors. He would market a “new caller special” offering “10 minutes for only $9.90”. Later he made use of the internet as part of a psychic empire which, according to his partner Valerie Porter, made millions.
Describing him as one of the premier psychics of the 20th Century, one of his adverts proclaimed: “For years Kenny’s gifted psychics, astrologers and tarot readers have guided tens of thousands of people just like you. They are experienced, insightful, caring and professional. They are amazingly accurate.”
But in fact many of his pronouncements were not accurate at all. He would predict that many Hollywood marriages and relationships would not last: entirely unsurprisingly, he was sometimes right. He had an indifferent success rate, however, when it came to forecasting who would win the Oscars each year. He would shrug off his failures, laughing and quipping, “I’m just a happy medium.”
His key insight was to hit on a way of combining two of the fascinations of large parts of the American public, the realm of the spirits and the world of showbiz and celebrities. His own particular speciality at Oscar time was announcing that he had been advised, by stars who had passed on, who would win the awards. His celestial sources included, he said, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Cary Grant and Elvis. Oh, and Charlie Chaplin, James Dean and Marilyn.
He was unabashed when much of what he said proved to be wrong. “That proves I’m no charlatan,” he told an interviewer.
Asked how he reacted to the criticisms of sceptics, he replied: “I just don’t dignify it. Why dignify somebody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?” When an interviewer suggested that 500 years earlier he would have been burned as a witch he answered, “I would be today, by a lot of people.”
He also reached back into history, boasting how he had been consulted by Eisenhower and Truman, the latter confiding that he was unimpressed, in fact “very, very angry” at George Bush. Kingston had revelations to make, too, about the Duchess of Windsor, conducting several readings for her and remaining in touch after her death – one of his books was called I Still Talk To... He would exhibit a gold photograph frame he said she had given him, relating how she had welcomed Diana to the afterlife, having a fellow feeling for her since they had both been hard done by on royal titles.
The Princess herself confided to him that her death had resulted from a “well-planned accident”, going on to remark that she thought that of her sons she felt Harry might make a better king since he was more military-minded, while William “is a bit more of a playboy.”
Kingston billed himself as “the legendary psychic to the stars.” Opinions of him will differ, but it seems safe enough to describe him as the greatest psychic name-dropper America has ever seen.
Kenny Kingston, psychic and broadcasting personality: born Buffalo 15 February 1927; partner to Valerie Porter; died Studio City, Los Angeles 30 June 2014.
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