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‘Hello, Sweet Spirit, this is Kenny Kingston . . . ’ : Notes on a Happy Medium

I was sitting across from psychic Kenny Kingston in his Sherman Oaks apartment listening to stories from beyond when he said suddenly, “Do you know someone named Marie in the spirit world?”

The abruptness of his question caught me off guard and I said, “Well, my mother’s name was Mary.”

I should have realized he was just figuring anyone with a Latino surname would know someone named Marie or Mary. It’s like being an Epstein and having a Bernie in the family.

“And your mother is in the spirit world?”

“I think so,” I said. “She hasn’t telephoned lately.”

Kenny remained somber. “She’s sitting next to you on the couch,” he said.

My turning to look was more automatic response than expectation because I knew Mom was not on the couch next to me. If she were haunting anyplace at all it would not be in the San Fernando Valley. She hated L.A.

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“She’s crocheting,” Kenny said, setting his gaze in a mode I assumed would allow him to see directly into the spirit world. “Did she have pierced ears?”

Before I could reply, the self-proclaimed “Psychic to the Stars” broke into song. It was in a foreign language which I took to be Spanish, though I’m not sure because I don’t speak Spanish. His eyes were half-closed. He swung his arms from side to side as he sang and smiled blissfully.

The reason I was in Kenny Kingston’s apartment listening to my mother allegedly sing from beyond is that I decided it would be a good idea to be in the company of a psychic the day Los Angeles was to drop into the sea.

As you might recall, the loonies who inhabit Southern California were interpreting the centuries-old writings of Nostradamus to mean that a giant earthquake was going to destroy us Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Trance-channelers, regressionists, astral projectionists and others of a similar tilt gathered on hilltops to await the Big One but, alas, it never came.

“They said it would hit L.A. because Nostradamus mentioned a ‘new’ city,” Kenny said, scoffing. “Nonsense. Why not New York or New Jersey?”

“Or New Haven, Connecticut,” I added.

He glanced at me skeptically and said, “Possibly.”

I was visiting Kenny in the first place because others told me he was to the spirit world what Dan Rather is to more secular forms of communication. That is high praise in a city where there are almost as many psychics as there are agents.

When I telephoned him, his voice on the answering machine said, “Hello, Sweet Spirit, this is Kenny Kingston . . . “

I knew right away he was my kind of guy.

The King of the Sweet Spirits, I learned later, claims to have been, or to be, the personal psychic to celebrities both living and dead, from Marilyn Monroe to Lily Tomlin.

I’m not sure whether to use the past or present tense because Kenny says he still talks to all of them once in a while. Ingrid Bergman, who died in 1982, told him just the other day that the secret to success was “Good health and a damned poor memory.”

Kingston says that he often met with former Gov. Jerry Brown who sought advice from the spirits while still in office, which doesn’t surprise me. Brown, you might recall, pioneered in spatial politics and was often referred to around Sacramento as Gov. Moonbeam.

The California tradition of spiritual chic continues to this very day in Washington where it has been revealed that Nancy Reagan regularly consults an astrologer.

“It isn’t just Nancy,” Kenny confided. “Ronald Reagan saw an astrologer for years before he was even governor. I used to see him there.”

Kingston has such an appealing manner it is difficult not to believe him. He beams out at the world from behind oversized tinted glasses and is a blaze of color with blond hair, yellow shirt, white trousers and white loafers.

His couches are bright orange and are scattered with enough multicolored pillows to make you feel as though you are trapped in a rainbow.

He has had his own television show, plays night clubs and runs a church where messages are exchanged between the living and those who have shuffled into Paradise. For a $10 entry fee you can also be cured by a pair of “healing sisters” who work the crowd.

“I do a little healing myself,” Kenny said, “but I don’t specialize in it.” He paused and tilted his head as though listening and said to an unseen person, “Of course, Sweet Spirit.”

Then he turned to me, a seen person, and asked, “Do you know someone on the other side named Tillio?”

I said I didn’t.

He shrugged. “I’m not always right,” he said. “I saw a singer in San Francisco once and predicted he’d never make it. His name was Johnny Mathis.”

Kenny laughed loudly then said, “That proves I’m no charlatan. They’re never wrong. I’m just a happy medium!”

He paused again, listening. Then: “Tillio owned a dime store. He said you used to come in as a kid. A very nice man. They buried him in Philly.”

Better luck next time, Sweet Spirit.


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