Those who feel divinely in many forms in the '70s. We have electronic evangelists booming over the airwaves, Larry Flynt and his born-again skin mag, Pat Boone and Debby, and a man who crawled on his hands and knees for 1,600 miles from east Texas to Washington to spur America to "get back on its knees."
And we have Andre Kole, nee Robert Gurtler, of Tempe, Ariz., master illusionist and magician and special representative for the Campus Crusade for Christ International, who will astound you with amazing feats of levitation and dematerialization and, after a one-minute intermission so that any of you can leave who do not want to hear The Most Controversial Part of the Program, will talk about just what it is to have a personal relationship with God.
Kole, who looks a little like Dick Cavett and has the same small frame, has an important message, which he has delivered-as he will say several times-to audiences, in 73 countries and more than 3,290 separate university audiences. That is: As a professional illusionist, a "magician's magician," he is uniquely qualified to examine the miracles of Christ and determine if they were just so much "hocuspocus."
"As we take the total evidence of the life of Christ and what he did," he announces, "it would have been impossible for any magician to do what he did."
That includes rising from the tomb, multiplying the loaves and the fishes, raising Lazarus from the dead-you name it, that was no trick.
"I really know what I'm talking about," he says quietly, staring intently with large blue eyes that match the suede trim on his shiny blue suit.
"This lightbulb will be used to represent the body of Christ," he told Thursday night's audience at Cramton Auditorium, which consisted largely of children.
"This colorful handkerchief will be used to represent the over 100 pounds of cloth and compounds placed on the body of Jesus,"
As he continued to talk, describing the placement of Jesus' body in the tomb, the two-ton stone slab placed over it, the seal of Caesar and the 16 Roman soldiers on guard, he rolled up a silky cloth and stuffed it into a box.
"But three days later something happened that changed the entire course of history from B.C. to A.D%. . . . LIKE A BALLOON WITH THE AIR LET OUT OF IT, THE BODY OF JESUS WAS GONE."
AND POOF, HE OPENED THE BOX AND THE ROLLED-UP SCARF WAS GONE.
ANDRE KOLE IS A MAN WITH A MISSION. FOR 14 YEARS HE HAS TRAVELED THE WORLD FOR THE CAMPUS CRUSADE FOR CHRIST, TAKING HIS ILLUSIONS AND ALLUSIONS TO ALL PARTS OF THE GLOBE. EVERY COUPLE OF WEEKS HE GOES BACK TO TEMPE TO SPEND SOME TIME WITH HIS SECOND WIFE AND HIS TWO CHILDREN THERE (A 19-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, ROBYN, TRAVELS WITH HIM AS "ONE OF THE WORLD'S FEW FEMALE MAGICIANS")
SHOW BIT AND RELIGION? "JESUS TOOK PEOPLE OF ALL BACKGROUNDS TO SPREAD HIS MESSAGE," HE NOTES.
HE FEELS "THERE'S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RELIGION AND BEING A TRUE CHRISTIAN . . . SO MANY PEOPLE ARE INVESTING IN CHURCHIANITY, NOT CHRISTIANITY," HE SAYS. "TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE MAJORING IN MINOR THINGS."
HIS OTHER AIM IS TO INSTRUCT HIS AUDIENCES ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN REALITY AND ILLUSION. THAT IS, HE SAYS HE "TELLS PEOPLE I'M GOING TO FOOL THEM AND THEN I DO."
"URI GELLER, THE AMAZING KRESKIN-PEOPLE REALLY BELIEVE THEY HAVE SUPERNATURAL POWERS. I BELIEVE TO LET PEOPLE THINK THAT IS DISHONEST."
TO THAT END, HE WENT TO THE PHILIPPINES-AT THE REQUEST OF TIME MAGAZINE, HE SAID-AND FIGURED OUT HOW CERTAIN "FAITH HEALERS" WERE USING CLOTTED BEEF BLOOD, COTTON AND ANIMAL TISSUE TO HOAX PEOPLE INTO THINKING THEY WERE PERFORMING "PYSCHIC OPERATIONS" ON TUMORS AND CANCERS. HE SPENDS ANOTHER CHUNK OF HIS PERFORMANCE EXPLAINING HOW THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE IS NOT ANY MORE DEADLY OR MYSTERIOUS THAN ANY OTHER SIMILARLY SIZED AREA OF WATER.
ALL OF THIS HE RECITES IN A FAST-CLIPPED PATTER, THE SING-SONG OF A PERFORMER SKILLED IN KEEPING THE SHOW MOVING ALONG AND THE TIMING DOWN PAT. HE SEEMS TO CUT HIS DAUGHTER'S MID-SECTION OUT IN AN ACT HE CALLS CRAZY LADY; HE STUFFS HER INTO A PYRAMID AND STICKS LIGHTED SWORDS THROUGH IT.
AND, ALMOST MORE AMAZING THAN THAT, HE APPEARS TO LEVITATE, TO RISE FROM A CROSS-LEGGED POSITION UP INTO THE AIR AT LEAST EIGHT FEET OFF THE GROUND. MAYBE IT'S ONLY FOUR, BUT IT LOOKED LIKE EIGHT. THE CROWD GASPED.
HOW DOES HE DO IT? "I DON'T KNOW," HE SAID COYLY AFTERWARDS. "I'M IN A TRANCE WHEN I'M DOING IT."
HE PLANS TO PRODUCE AT $1 MILLION BROADWAY SHOW BASED ON SCENES IN THE BIBLE. "WE'LL HAVE THE STORY OF DANIEL WITH REAL LIONS, AND WE'LL MAKE THE LIONS DISAPPEAR. WE'LL HAVE SHADRACH, MESHACH AND ABEDNIGO WITH THE MOST UP-TO-DATE CHOREOGRAPHY; WITH NOAH AND THE ARK WE'LL HAVE LIGHTNING, AND THE SOUND WILL BE SENSURROUND-YOU KNOW, LIKE THE MOVIE 'EARTHQUAKE'? IT'LL BE THE MOST EXCITING BROADWAY PRODUCTION EVER PUT TOGETHER . . ."
MEANWHILE, LIKE SIMON THE MAGICIAN, WHO ASTOUNDED THE PEOPLE OF SAMARIA WITH HIS MAGICAL ARTS, HE WILL WITNESS FOR THE MIRACLES OF JESUS CHRIST. YES, HE IS AWARE THAT THERE ARE THOSE WHO CALL RELIGION ITSELF AN ILLUSION, AN OPIATE OF OPTIMISM TO MASK REALITY.
"IF I'M WRONG, I'VE LOST NOTHING," HE SAYS.
AND HOW LONG WILL HE TRAVEL FOR THE CAMPUS CRUSADE?
"I JUST FOLLOW ORDERS," HE SAYS, POINTING HIS FINGER UP TOWARD THE SKY. CAPTION: Picture, Illusionist Andre Kole at Tysons Ramada Inn Thursday night; by Margaret Thomas