Toward the end of every show, mentalist Bill Gladwell asks a woman to concentrate on her first kiss. He then proceeds to “tell her how old she was, where it happened, and the name of the person she kissed,” he said.
For years, Gladwell has been dropping jaws with mind reading skills. During his 90-minute performance, Gladwell seemingly pulls thoughts directly from people’s minds, predicts what they will say before it comes out of their mouths and reads them like an open book.
Gladwell will be reading minds and much more at Feb. 21 at the Gulf Theater at the Military Heritage Museum.
“This man is absolutely amazing,” said Isaac James, Gulf Theater manager. “I don’t know how he does what he does. But he does it, and he does it with a sense of humor. Everyone in the audience will be thoroughly entertained.”
Gladwell’s shows are always accompanied by laughter, surprise and, yes, a few tears. Gladwell is bound to elicit reaction from virtually everyone in the audience. He has mastered the unique art of reading and influencing people.
Another deft sleight-of-mind comes when Gladwell asks a woman on stage to hide an item under one of five cups turned upside-down. He tries to find the object in several different ways. “That way,” he said, “they know I’m not cheating.
“Most nights, I find them all.”
Gladwell, who moved to Punta Gorda with his wife and family just about a year ago, started by studying therapeutic hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming, which uses language and sensory-based interventions and behavior-modification techniques designed to help improve self-awareness, confidence, communication skills and social actions.
“At one point, a local restaurant owner asked me to perform hypnosis show,” Gladwell recalled. “I turned it down, told him I just did therapy. But he was really persistent, and he finally persuaded me. I tried it, and it went well.
“He wound up bringing me back every other week.”
How does Gladwell do it? His website says he uses information from nonverbal communication to give the appearance of true psychic ability. He combines that with psychology, suggestion, directed awareness, humor and showmanship.
It adds up to an evening that appeals to the universal wonder associated with how someone seemingly pulls thoughts from thin air. It even can bring sentimental tears when he asks someone to think of a favorite pet, and then he tells the person the kind of animal, its color and its name.
“It really strikes an emotional chord,” he said.
The format of the show is pretty much the same everywhere Gladwell performs. What changes, he says, are the people.
“You never know what people are going to say.”
Well, he does.