Everybody knows that newlyweds William and Kate are in town this weekend. But Kenny Kingston says he knows how that royal marriage will work out. The self-styled Psychic to the Stars who has hosted lucrative infomercials, TV shows and hotlines says he consulted with the likes of Lucille Ball and John Wayne on this side of life, heard from Elvis and James Dean on the other side, and knows Marilyn Monroe from both sides -- she gave him the table and chairs where we sat and talked in his Studio City home. He learned his craft from his grandmother, his mother and his mother's friend, psychic devotee Mae West. And Los Angeles' wide embrace of every branch of spiritual endeavor made Kingston his own kind of celebrity. With collaborator Valerie Porter, he's still writing books and is about to launch an Internet radio show into a world, seen and unseen, that has changed substantially since he first offered it his psychic insights. I'll quote the usual fine print: It's for entertainment purposes.
How has your work changed over the years?
You know, sweet spirit there are not the psychics that there used to be.
Why is that?
People want to be their own psychic[s] in a lot of ways. Two or three years ago I thought: I'm going to stop seeing people in person. Somehow the people themselves have changed. I'd give them a [spirit's] name and they'd say, "Never heard of 'em." I would say, "Maybe not, but at least welcome them." They'd say, "But I don't know 'em." Later on in the reading they'd say, "Oh my God, I know who that was. What did they say?" And I'd have to say, "I'm sorry, the spirit's gone somewhere else."
The world has changed so much. So many people take it too seriously, or they don't take it seriously enough.
From the moment you walked in, a woman walked in with you. She was standing beside you and she'll be back; I know she'll be back. I don't know whether it's an older woman or someone you lost in your heart would you know who that was?
[I shrug and shake my head.]
Think, and you might pick up the vibration of this woman. Just think as we're sitting here.
What's the difference between a psychic and a medium?
A medium [initiates] contact with those on the other side, and a psychic tells you whatever they're told by a spirit. There's no comparison, none at all.
Do you do astrology?
I don't know anything about astrology. I read my horoscope. I don't take it seriously unless it's good!
What did you think about the federal actions against the psychic infomercial operation represented by "Miss Cleo."
I don't mean to be unkind about this, but there are so many bad apples still roaming. Truthfully speaking, I never paid any attention to [Miss Cleo].
I must know about your encounters with President Truman.
When I got out of the Army, I was living in San Francisco, and [Fairmont hotelier] Benjamin Swig called and said, "Kenny, can you do me a favor? Truman would like to see you about a few things."
What did he want?
[It was about] if he was going to be reelected. I read more for Truman every time he came to the Fairmont. Things I don't remember, and if I did, I couldn't divulge.
And what about Dwight Eisenhower?
I was in the Army in Gorizia, Italy [in 1946], and went to get some coffee. He was at a table with four or five officers, and they got up and left. He [beckoned], so I went over and sat down. He didn't want a [spirit] message. He said: "See that major over there? They shouldn't be singing 'Happy Birthday' to him, because you get one birthday in your lifetime. All the others are anniversaries."
[Later] I met him in San Francisco. He was at the St. Francis hotel. [At the] elevator, the door opened and there was Earl Warren, who was then governor. He said, "Kenny, how are you? May I present the president?" So help me God, [Eisenhower] looked at me and said, "You're the spirit man. All I want to know is, am I going to be reelected?" I said, "Absolutely." He said, "Let's call off the campaign."
Why do people consult with you?
People want to talk to their mother, their father, their husband or wife, and what better way than to go to someone who communicates with the other side?
What is the difference between that and the way people pray to the dead?
They usually have something definite in mind that they want to know: buy a building, get married, just various reasons.
Your books are full of advice along the lines of what therapists would offer -- about depression, weight, family problems. Again, what makes your consulting different?
I will talk to a spirit, give [the client] advice. If they recognize the spirit instantaneously, there will be no problem; they listen attentively and do what spirit says. There's nothing like your loved one from the other side paying you a visit.
How do spirits manifest themselves to you?
I don't see them as much as I hear them.
People will say, "Oh sure, you hear Elvis, you hear Marilyn Monroe." What do you say to those who don't believe you?
I just don't dignify it. Why dignify somebody who doesn't know what they're talking about?
What about well-known skeptics like the Amazing Randi?
He called me several times about being a guest on his show. And I said, "Fine, but you have to tell my manager how much money you're getting for the show, and I must be paid equal." He said, "I'll get back to you." He never did.
Five hundred years ago you would have been burned as a witch.
I would be today, by a lot of people!
Science is learning more and more about what were once considered mystical experiences, like neurological explanations for some parts of near-death experiences. Is that encroaching on spirit turf?
You know, I don't listen to all that. To those who question, I close my ears. I want to go on just the way I'm going. I'm happy and people who come to me are happy.
Some people have kept track of your track record of predictions: You were right about X but wrong about Y. Do you?
No, I do the best I can, and that's all I can do.
What do you think heaven is like? With all the renowned spirits you've talked with, it sounds like Sardi's!
[Heaven's] just what I'm having now! I never really put it in perspective that way.
You are still a Catholic.
There's a lot of things we don't agree [on]. Some people say, "Why would you go in to an ordinary man and tell him your sins? What right does he have to give you absolution?" That doesn't bother me; it makes me feel good.
Where is the line between the living and the dead?
They're never gone, really. They just make another dimension. [When you die], you're starting whole new life. You're seeing all your loved ones.
You call what you do a gift. So do people ask you why you charge for it?
I have to live. Everybody has to charge something to navigate. I fell into Kenny Kingston Psychic Enterprises; it's over now but it was eight solid years. Someone's now using my name [on a dot-com site; his own site is kennykingston.org], but they're not me. Every chance we get, we're telling people, "Don't go there; [I] haven't been involved for years."
The duke and duchess of Cambridge are in Southern California this weekend. You met the duchess of Windsor, Prince William's great-great aunt by marriage, several times. What was the first encounter like?
[I heard her] talking to someone on the phone about a bill for her clothes that she didn't want to pay. [Then] the door opened. I gave her a reading. I gave her a reading many times, in different cities.
I gave him [the duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII] a reading too. He really didn't want a reading; he accepted it for her sake. [On one occasion] when we finished, a packet was on the table -- a gold frame. She said, "Please [take] it." So there it is, with my mother's picture in it.
What did she want to know?
It was mostly that she wanted the royal title [her royal highness]. That's why when Diana passed away, the duchess greeted her on the other side, because they were both [ultimately denied the royal highness title]. It makes sense.
Do you have any insights about the newlyweds?
You know, it's so obvious that this marriage will not last. First of all, why would you give a new woman that you love your mother's ring?
Don't a lot of people do that?
Would you be married in the same [church as] your mother's [funeral]? I wish they would be happy, really, but -- I would never tell the world. There's a reason. And the queen knows it.
This interview was edited and excerpted from a longer taped transcript. Interview archive: latimes.com/pattasks.