If you ever feel in the mood to con a celebrity, don't choose a telepath. More importantly, don't choose Uri Geller. Unfortunately, John Voos, an Independent photographer, tried to do just that yesterday when the notorious spoon-bender appeared in London to repair broken timepieces as part of a publicity stunt.
Armed with a watch that he knew contained a dud battery, Mr Voos approached Mr Geller, 48, and asked him to undertake some psychic repairs. Within seconds, a wry smile appeared on Mr Geller's face and the watch was handed back. "I can't do anything with that," he said. "But do you have a key?"
Mr Voos handed over a large bunch of keys, all but one of which was ignored by Mr Geller. The one he chose was, inevitably, the photographer's front door key. Within seconds, after a little gentle rubbing, the key bent upwards and was rendered completely useless.
Mr Geller's talents had been put on display at Victoria Station in central London by British Telecom to publicise its new policy of charging by the second instead of by units. It claims the new tariff, introduced today, will result in total savings of pounds 310m on British phone bills.
Not everyone was given the same treatment as Mr Voos. Mr Geller's first customer, Geoff Lewis, a 51-year-old accountant from Brighton, handed him a gold watch that had not worked for six years. The psychic rubbed the back of the watch three times with his finger, tapped it with a clenched fist and said "work". And it did.
"It was given to my father by my mother on their 40th wedding anniversary 15 years ago, but it hasn't worked for years," said Mr Lewis. "I've had it in for two services but each time the watch packed up again after three weeks. It's amazing."
Mr Lewis was not the only amazed punter. Anne Chapman from south London noticed her broken watch begin to work again while simply standing next to Mr Geller. Chris Kettle, a City worker, saw his work again after five years of trying to get it repaired.
Alex Royffe, 34, who swore he was a genuine satisfied customer despite his position as a BT publicity manager, was visibly shaken as Mr Geller fixed an alarm clock that had remained dormant for 20 years.
However, as you might expect with someone as mercurial as Mr Geller, not everything that emerged from yesterday's performance was quite as it seemed.
Answering questions on the practicality of his talents, he said he put them to use at the request of the American government during nuclear arms talks in Geneva five years ago. "I was asked to stare at the Russian delegate, willing him to sign the treaty," he said. Later, he said he had pictures of himself with Al Gore, the US Vice-President, during the talks and could prove he had been there.
The Americans, however, were not impressed. Mark Biedlingmayier, acting executive director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in Geneva, disagreed. "I have been here for 10 years and was part of the Start 1 and 2 negotiations and Geller was never part of a delegation, nor did he act as a consultant or in any capacity whatsoever. He should stick to bending spoons and fixing watches."
Nor was his watch-repairing a complete success. At 12.57pm yesterday, Mr Lewis was contacted to see if his was still working. "Absolutely," he said. "It's moving along nicely. Right now it shows 11.17 ... "
Meanwhile, John Voos was reported to have spent the night in his car in south London.Reuse content