Kenny Kingston — the self-described “psychic to the stars” who claimed numerous celebrity clients and said he could communicate with the dead — died June 30 at his home in Studio City, Calif. He was 87.
The cause was cardiovascular disease, said his partner Valerie Porter.
Mr. Kingston was most widely known in the 1970s, when he appeared on national talk shows. He remained in the public eye long after that for his annual predictions of Academy Award winners based, he said, on messages he received from dead stars.
The predictions were often no better than those in an office pool. For example, in 1994 Mr. Kingston said he had it on good authority — from the likes of Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson and James Dean — that the winning actors would include Holly Hunter and Tommy Lee Jones. Those picks turned out to be correct, but two others, Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson, did not.
The perpetually genial Kingston, known for his oversized tinted glasses and ample mop of blond hair, blamed misfires on the dead stars, saying that they rigged it by choosing the people they wanted to win.
He admitted that he got other predictions wrong. “I saw a singer in San Francisco once and predicted he’d never make it,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. “His name was Johnny Mathis.”
But in Mr. Kingston’s world, even the flubs bolstered his claims of psychic abilities. “That proves I’m no charlatan. . . . I’m just a happy medium,” he said.
Mr. Kingston was born Feb. 15, 1927, in Buffalo. He got his start in fortunetelling as a child when his grandmother taught him how to read tea leaves.
After briefly attending a junior college, Mr. Kingston joined the Army in the mid-1940s and was sent to Italy, where he helped plan and host entertainment for the troops. He did fortunetelling as a hobby, leading him to do a reading for the visiting Duchess of Windsor.
“She was very interested in readings,” said Porter, who is Mr. Kingston’s only immediate survivor. “The Duke, not so much.”
Upon his discharge from the Army, Mr. Kingston moved to San Francisco, where he eventually got a local television talk show. The show had nothing to do with psychic predictions, but it gave him the chance to meet visiting entertainers, such as Marilyn Monroe, and do readings for believers.
It became a profession for Mr. Kingston in the 1960s when he moved to Los Angeles and his celebrity connections led to appearances on local and national shows, most often one hosted by Merv Griffin. Mr. Kingston also hit the lecture circuit, wrote books, did “psychic hotline” infomercials and gave private readings for $250 an hour.
His tales of how stars were doing in the netherworld were invariably sunny. He said that Elvis Presley was studying medicine, that W.C. Fields was in training to become an accountant, and that Monroe, who was happily reunited with former husband Joe DiMaggio, was immersed in the study of philosophy.
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