April 2014

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

John Howard & Uri Geller

John Howard & Uri Geller

When it came to ruining cutlery, Uri Geller was the world champion. By the early 1970s, the former Israeli paratrooper had become internationally famous for his ability to bend spoons using only the tips of his fingers and his unique powers of telekinesis. So great were these powers, given to him by extra-terrestrials, that he could not merely deform tableware but also start stopped watches, read minds, cause keys to droop like limp spaghetti and detect mineral deposits by psychic prospecting.

Long after Geller’s paranormal abilities were discredited as being no more than well-known conjurers’ tricks, people continued to believe that he possessed secret gifts. These included the directors of Zanex, an Australian mining company. In 1985, Zanex paid Geller $US250,000 to fly over the Solomon Islands, mind-probing the jungle below for buried diamonds, and to intuit potential gold deposits at Maldon, an old gold-mining town in Victoria.

On a commercial fight to Brisbane in October that year, Geller was noticed by another passenger, an up-and-coming politician in his mid 40s. John Howard was the new Liberal Party leader and the father of three young children aged five, eight and eleven. He sent the celebrity illusionist a note, asking if Geller could provide an autographed photograph for his kids.

“We duly met and I bent a spoon for him in the usual way,” Geller wrote later, adding that he took the opportunity to predict that Howard would one day be leader of the country.

John Howard’s rise took more than the prophecy of a prestidigitator, however felicitous the forecast. It was just over ten years later, after two leadership bouts and a lost federal election, that he finally succeeded in making Labor vanish from power. In that time, and the decade that followed, he proved himself more of a master magician than could ever have been foreseen. The Great Winston, he made things disappear in plain sight, sawed his opponents in half, switched the contents of locked cabinets, and delivered the cold spoon treatment to the ambitions of his treasurer.

Zanex, meanwhile, terminated its loss-making operations in the Solomons, citing poor management. Geller dropped his supernatural claims, became a close friend of Michael Jackson, sued Pokémon for filching his image and took to calling himself an entertainer. This didn’t stop a British tabloid reporting that he’d been enlisted to use his “remote viewing” skills in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

John Howard’s children must have appreciated the autographed photograph. In 1997, he was declared our Father of the Year.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

From the front page

Image of Anthony Albanese

How to be a prime minister

The task ahead for Anthony Albanese in restoring the idea that governments should seek to make the country better

Image of the Kiama Blowhole, New South Wales

The edge of their seats

Lessons from Gilmore, Australia’s most marginal electorate

Image of Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley

The future of the Liberal Party

Peter Dutton doesn’t just have a talent problem on his hands

Image of Australian Army Cadets on parade. Image via Alamy

Ghosts in the war machine

Does the military attract violent misanthropists, or are they forged in murky theatres of war?

In This Issue

A funny thing happened on the way to Adelaide

A car accident brings an unlikely collection of people together

Craig Sherborne’s ‘Tree Palace’

Text; $29.99

Karl Ove Knausgaard. © Anders Hansson

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s ‘Boyhood Island’

The third volume of the epic autobiographical novel ‘My Struggle’

Harry Seidler in 1997. © Michelle Mossop / Fairfax Syndication

Helen O’Neill’s ‘Harry Seidler: A Singular Vision’ and Vladimir Belogolovsky’s ‘Harry Seidler: Lifework’

The man who revolutionised Australian architecture


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Fonofono o le nuanua: Patches of the rainbow (After Gauguin), 2020. Image courtesy of Yuki Kihara and Milford Galleries, Aotearoa New Zealand

The dream machine: The 59th Venice Biennale

Curator Cecilia Alemani’s long overdue Biennale overwhelmingly features female artists and champions indigenous voices and other minorities

Image of Daniel Boyd, ‘Untitled (TBOMB)’, 2020

Mission statement: Daniel Boyd’s ‘Treasure Island’

An AGNSW exhibition traces the development of the Indigenous artist’s idiosyncratic technique, which questions ideas of perception

Image of Bundanon

Shades of grey: Kerstin Thompson Architects

The lauded Melbourne-based architectural firm showcase a rare ability to sensitively mediate between the old and the new

Still from ‘Men’

Fear as folk: ‘Men’

Writer/director Alex Garland’s latest film is an unsubtle but ambitious pastoral horror, mixing the Christian with the classical


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

Chips Rafferty & The Monkees


Online exclusives

Image of Australian Army Cadets on parade. Image via Alamy

Ghosts in the war machine

Does the military attract violent misanthropists, or are they forged in murky theatres of war?

Composite image showing John Hughes (image via Giramondo Publishing) and the cover of his novel The Dogs (Upswell Publishing)

A dog’s breakfast

Notes on John Hughes’s plagiarism scandal

Image of Erin Doherty as Becky Green in Chloe. Image supplied

App trap: ‘Chloe’

‘Sex Education’ writer Alice Seabright’s new psychological thriller probing social media leads this month’s streaming highlights

Pablo Picasso, Figures by the sea (Figures au bord de la mer), January 12, 1931, oil on canvas, 130.0 × 195.0 cm, Musée national Picasso-Paris. © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022. Photo: © RMN - Grand Palais - Mathieu Rabeau

‘The Picasso Century’ at the NGV

The NGV’s exhibition offers a fascinating history of the avant-garde across the Spanish artist’s lifetime