Ricky Jay, close friend and associate of Michael Weber, died Nov. 24, 2018, at age 72. This post henceforth is dedicated to his memory.
Is Michael Weber an earthling?
Brian Williams’ career is toast. He glorified himself by claiming to have been shot down in a helicopter over Iraq, and it never happened. He’s on six months leave from NBC News, but the smart money says he’s not coming back, not ever. I don’t care about Brian Williams. He’s rich enough already. Maybe he’ll do more hosting of Saturday Night Live, but I have a feeling SNL might not want him.
Williams fabricated a story and repeatedly told millions of viewers it was true.
June 16 update: well, looks like they’re taking him back, in some diminished capacity. You just never know…
On the other hand…
Michael Weber does pretty much the opposite: the incredible stuff he does has to be real, but he manages to conceal it, or at least diminish it, within the framework of “magic.” That’s what I find amazing, and that’s why I’m featuring him today. I believe he is the most remarkable person I’ve ever met.
Spring 2000: I’ve been at the same event with Michael Weber for four days, in San Antonio, and now on his last day here we’re having lunch together. We’re having lunch because I’m acting as a reporter at this large corporate sales meeting, and need to do a story about him because day after day he has absolutely blown the socks off everyone in attendance. And the more I’m with him, the more I think, “I can’t believe this guy exists.”
Google Michael Weber, and you won’t find much. He doesn’t have a website, he’s not on Facebook, but he appears before many thousands of people every year, mostly as a featured guest or host or emcee at large corporate sales meetings, customer events, executive conferences and the like. A handful of speakers’ bureaus feature him, but they have to bang the drum loudly for him because Michael won’t. He doesn’t promote himself because he doesn’t have to. He’s in huge demand, entirely by word of mouth, all over the world – by Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, and world leaders alike. They include three U.S. presidents, Margaret Thatcher, Johnny Carson (himself a magician), Frank Sinatra, Jerry Seinfeld, Henry Kissinger, on and on it goes.
What is he? First, he’s educated half to death: BA, BS, MBA, JD, PhD, and he’s a practicing lawyer in California. On top of this, he’s partly a magician, partly a “mentalist,” a mind-expander, a film and TV consultant, inventor, wonder worker, and problem-solver so brilliant that Scientific American has called him “a walking Swiss Army knife.” He’s friends and business partners with magician and actor Ricky Jay, arguably the world’s best sleight-of-hand magician. Together, they have a consulting group, Deceptive Practices, which has worked on several movies featuring magic and illusions.
Your program was magnificent. Will you please tell me how you knew what I was thinking. – Lady Margaret Thatcher
Explain this to me. I throw a huge wrap party for my show, and the only thing my friends are still talking about is Michael Weber. You had the toughest audience in show business eating out of the palm of your hand….You are talented, funny, amazing, and a nice guy. You’ll never make it in this town. – Jerry Seinfeld, after his series finale wrap party, where Weber was the only performer.
His close ties to Ricky Jay intrigue me. Jay is buddies and frequent co-conspirator with heavily-awarded playwright/screenwriter/director David Mamet, himself an aficionado of games and deception, and if there is a covert cabal of Mamet and Jay and Weber lurking in our midst, it would be a formidable force on any level of experience. Imagine a room with just the three of them together, all master thinkers, brains constantly red-lining.
So Weber does some magic. But mostly – at least when I knew him – Michael Weber was a mind-spinning, motivational, change-how-you-think kind of presence at large meetings and at small parties. He’ll do private performances, but his stock in trade is large corporations, lumbering behemoths who’ve forgotten how to think. Time and time again it’s been shown: they need him.
If you ever think you’re the smartest one in the room, maybe you are, but if Michael Weber walks in, you’re not.
Spring 2000: The San Antonio event is a sales meeting for Abbott-MediSense, makers of diabetes diagnostic devices, and they’re celebrating the launch of a new product called Precision Xtra. I’m there because they’ve hired me to write daily about what ‘s going on, and then put it all into a newspaper they’re calling The Precision Times. I’m having lunch with Weber on day four so I can write a feature on him for the paper. It’s clear he’s become the star of the whole event, whether he likes it or not. I”m having a sloppy drippy tuna sandwich and a Coke. He’s having a salad and bottled water. He’s usually in a suit, but today just a shirt and sports coat. I ask him, “how do you see your role here for MediSense?” I write later in the newspaper:
“My core competency,” he says, “is dealing with that connection between human beings and information.” He says he first noticed the need when he was working toward his M.B.A. to begin to bridge the gap between business and the world of “infotainment” as a way to encourage business leadership to take fresh approaches toward information. His three watchwords for consulting: Intuition, Information, Innovation.
Okay, fine, so he’s like a consultant, a thought leader. But at one session he also asked one of the MediSense managers, Laura, to join him on stage, and then think of the name of any person in the room (and there are more than a thousand of them). At the same time that he removed an envelope from his pocket, he asked Laura to reveal the person’s name, which she did. He then asked her to open the envelope and read what was written on paper inside. She did. It was the same name.
I write later in the paper:
In correctly identifying the person she was thinking of, Weber seemed to be demonstrating telepathy in its purest form, but he won’t admit to any unusual “paranormal” ability. Instead, he raises the issues of “noticing things other people may overlook,” and being very much in touch with “nonverbal communication.” For example, he says, can you find the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo? “Mostly what I do is help companies or individuals manage information.”
But his unusual talents have attracted considerable media attention. Recently he was featured on Sightings, where he was able to produce writings on Polaroid film answering questions the series host was concentrating on (on site, the head of Polaroid’s R&D department pronounced Weber’s feats “impossible.”).
Now it’s my turn to have my mind read. I protest – I’m a reporter, I’m not part of the story – but he persists. Truth is, Weber is a disarmingly friendly, witty, and gentle person and difficult to deny. So I say, okay.
“Think of something in your past that made you very happy. It could be anything. Just remember the year it happened, and in a few words what it was.”
Well, I noodled it a bit, and settled on a time in my junior year in college when I was elected into a special program for scholars that was highly competitive. It was 1967, and a big deal for me at the time.
While I’m noodling, Weber is scribbling on paper. “Okay,” he asks, “You can tell me.” I tell him what I just told you, and he produces the paper with the words “Scholar, 1967.”
He adds with a smile, “You went way back.”
I recover for a bit and we chat for awhile and I say to him, “It’s real, isn’t it.” But, like a David Mamet character who parries questions by asking more questions, Weber easily slithers away from this. He won’t admit to what he really can do, what he really knows.
There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that Michael Weber has this extraordinary ability – to know what you’re thinking. It won’t work with everyone. He links with people, with minds, he feels confident he can see into. He’s the real thing.
Science hates this. I don’t. Science is gradually expanding past the conventional boundaries of three spatial dimensions and one time dimension, and it doesn’t happen overnight. For now, they can’t deal with it. Soon, they will, once they finally figure out the enormous truth of physics in its unified, fully known state.
Weber is heroic to me, as you may have guessed from the tone of this post. It’s not the talent he has, astonishing as it is. It’s how he uses his gift to work with thousands of us every year, to kick us up a notch, outside of where we are. We are, all of us in his audience, vastly ordinary, and he embraces our ordinariness. He wants us to shift ourselves up, just a bit, into second gear.
Ken Kirsh runs Kirsh Productions, a large and versatile bicoastal video and event production company. A close associate of Weber for more than twenty years, he’s the best place to go for booking or more information. See his Michael Weber page here. Also, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here also is a very fine series of very concise interviews with Michael Weber, from a series on the Discovery Channel (the site is in Spanish, but Michael’s in English). Plenty of Ricky Jay on YouTube, too.