For the young Uri Geller, it all began with a towel. "This is going back to 1968. I had just finished three years in the Israeli paratroopers. I'd been in the Six Day War, when I was wounded. I was broke, struggling to find work so that my mother, who was divorced, wouldn't have to work as a seamstress. One of my girlfriends was a model. My only possession was a Vespa and I used to scooter her from one photo shoot to another. One day, the photographer said, "Uri, a male model hasn't turned up today; will you take his place?".
It was a towel commercial. Once Uri had established that this wasn't a joke, he lay down on the towel, as did his girlfriend and a little girl model. "Two weeks later, I buy a newspaper and there I am, on the centre spread. I was stiff and nervous, but the photographer called up with another job.
"Word got out. Ads for shirts, cigarettes, suits, coats, curtains, beer, aftershave followed. There was one photo of me for a deodorant ad, shirtless."
It gave Geller a feel for the buzz of showbiz. "People pointed at me in the street. It was a fabulous period in my life, when I was 20, 21. In 1970, I was the hottest male model in Israel. It was so easy to do and I was being paid.
"It taught me to be pleasant to people who came up to me in the street. And to be neat, cool, clean and tidy."
Thanks to his earnings, his mother could at last give up her job. He still features in ads, but now it's because of who he is, as in the Omega watch campaign; in Israel, he was advertising Citizen watches because of what he looked like.
"One day, while being photographed, I thought, 'How long are you going to be doing this?'. I asked the photographer, 'Do you have a key in your pocket? Pull it out and I will show you something else I can do'. I placed my finger on the key and bent it." The astonished photographer paid him to be the floorshow at his party. "That was my first performance."
At another party, Uri sent Prime Minister Golda Meir into the lavatory to draw a picture and, without seeing it, described what she had drawn. Now he had a new career. Without it he might have continued to model for another year, but by then he had realised that the £15 or £20 he earned per session was never going to make him a millionaire. He didn't have to be psychic to work that one out.
Details of the international TV project 'The Successor' on www.urigeller.comReuse content