Friday, 15 May 2015

The Day I Lied to a Hypnotist

Have you ever been hypnotised? For entertainment purposes I mean.

I ask because well-known hypnotist, Martin St James, died yesterday at 80 years of age; a pretty good innings. His career was long and he was world famous but the most startling statistic was he had twenty children. Twenty! Still, if you’re a world famous hypnotist I imagine getting the household chores done would just be a matter of clicking the fingers and the minions would do your bidding.

Martin was a regular on the club circuit on the Gold Coast, especially in the eighties and nineties and his shows were always good for a laugh. I first saw one of his shows with my parents when I was about 16 and I thought it was hilarious when he got a thirty-something overweight white guy to dance like Michael Jackson. Then there were the people who spoke alien and others who could translate for them, the band conductors and even those who felt compelled to take their clothes off given the right cue. I remember thinking “Ha! I’d never get my gear off if I was up there.”

A few years later when I had my license and independence, I saw Martin was making a return to Twin Towns down Tweed Heads way, so I did what any independent young man would do. I asked mum if she could score a couple of free tickets for Andy and me. A few phone calls later and it was organised, we were set for some hilarity.

Being the show-offs we were Andy and I decided we were going to rush the stage when the call was put out for volunteers at the start of the show. The plan was to both get up there and be the stars of the show; even if we didn’t go under. We fed off each other and figured we’d be able to fake it and we were convinced we’d be hilarious. As I said, that was the plan.

Martin St James
We’d just sat down with a drink each when the volunteer call was put out so without haste we sculled the bourbons and took off toward the stage. We were a couple of mad men, weaving this way, darting that way, jumping over smaller people and dodging the security guards and scrambling onto the stage. We plonked ourselves down in the chairs and looked out over the sea of faces staring expectantly at us all. “Crap, that’s a lot of people” was my comment as the bravado started to waver. Always the showman Andy quipped, “We’ll be right, just remember to be stupid and back each other up.” His reply gave me some comfort. Then came the first blow.

Before the show really starts Martin would do a pre-hypnosis thingy to determine who stayed and who had to leave; presumably those who got to stay were more likely to do his bidding or something. We were told if we felt a tap on our shoulder we were to quietly exit the stage and resume our seats. As his voice got nearer to me I braced myself for the inevitable, but his voice moved right past me. “Sweet!” was my first thought but as I cracked open one eye for a cheeky look to Andy this soon changed to “Uh oh” as I saw Andy leaving the stage.

I started to panic, this wasn’t the plan at all! What should I do? Should I quietly slip off stage as well? I wasn’t confident enough to do this without my wing-man! Had I not wasted precious time wondering what to do I could have indeed just sidled off the stage and rejoined Andy but no, my indecisiveness was my undoing. He was ready to start the show. Crap.

Now the proper hypnotism was to begin so I figured I needn’t worry as I was sure I wouldn’t really be aware of what I was doing anyway. Again, that was the plan. What I didn’t count on was not being hypnotised. At all. Not even a bit.

I’m a classic introvert so this was not turning out like I expected at all. Had Andy been there it would have been fine, we were good at being stupid together but without Andy I had nobody to take the attention off me when I started to feel awkward. The panic was rising.

Part of me wanted to just run off the stage but another part of me felt sort of obligated to at least pretend, people had paid good money to be entertained, well most people had. So I sucked it up and proceeded to pretend to be hypnotised, all the while quietly wishing I could break my leg so I could get off stage without looking like a big fat fake. Of course there were other people who weren’t quite under and as they were spotted by Martin they were given a gentle tap on the shoulder allowing them to go back to their seats. Was I one of these people? Oh no, for whatever reason I thought it was better to keep the lie going.

When you’re not hypnotised, listening for all the cues that are planted and remembering the right reaction you’re supposed to have isn’t easy! At one point Martin asked me a question and I panicked and replied with, “boobies” to which I received uproarious laughter from the audience. I’ve never had to stifle a smile so much in my life. And no, I don’t remember the question but I do know boobies was not an appropriate answer. Maybe it was going to be alright, I got a laugh after all.

We were headed towards intermission and during that time I’d done a very energetic impersonation of a washing machine, accused people of farting, danced like a moron, pretended to see stuff I couldn’t see and generally made a fool of myself. I was such a fraud but I didn’t want to make Martin look bad just because I had a stubborn mind.  I thought for a brief moment perhaps I was hypnotised and I was just really, really aware of everything.
I did a really good impersonation of one of these.
As intermission started, a song, or cue, was played for our exit. The instructions were whenever the music stopped we were to jump on the lap of the nearest person and start hugging and kissing them. I had been intensely surveying the audience mapping out the safest route back to my seat, sure it might not have been the quickest route but it would take me past some pretty girls (hey I was single at the time!) Despite my planning, when the music did stop I found myself face to face with a 200kg hairy giant; so I kept going until I was safely back in my seat where Andy had a bourbon and coke waiting for me, bless him.

“You weren’t under at all were you?” he probed. “Nope” I said while I quietly wished everybody would stop staring at me. Eventually the music signalling our return to the stage began, where we were supposed to start doing a strip-tease. What did I do?

I ordered another drink. And didn’t move.  I told you I'd never get my gear off.

RIP Martin, you always did put on a good show.

PS. I'm sorry I lied to you.

Have you been hypnotised?