STAGE HYPNOTISTS AND POLICE OFFICERS, OH MY!On Tuesday, I finally got a chance to see the self-proclaimed "XXX-rated hypnotist" Tony Lee when I went to see one of his shows at the University of Ottawa. I've known about the guy for eight years, ever since my brother saw a show in 1998 at the Club Rock Quest bar in Pointe-Claire, a show where his friend got hypnotized (and was the star hypnotic subject of the evening). Tony Lee is a Canadian stage hypnotist with a huge university following, and he's got a large gay following as well, for his raunchy act where it's the guys who do the most outrageous things. Strangely, Tony Lee still doesn't have a website I can link to. I somewhat enjoyed the stage hypnosis show with Las Vegas hypnotist Fernandez that I saw at the Super EX last year, but that one was family-friendly and I was hoping to see something a little more risqué. I could have seen Tony Lee at the same venue last November, but it wasn't the nicest of evenings and I just didn't feel like leaving the house.
I was procrastinating on Tuesday afternoon, and I wasn't even sure that I'd get out, but, I decided that I've been cooped up in the house too much lately, and I decided to go and see it after all. I left the house around 6:50 p.m., and took the bus straight to the Campus Transitway stop, next to the University of Ottawa, arriving at around 7:20 p.m. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to get a good seat, I quicky found a map which led the way to the Jock Turcot University Centre, where the show was, and paid $12 Canadian to enter the Alumni Auditorium.
The theatre was only about half-full, this being midterm season, and I easily found an aisle seat just one row in, though an aisle seat on the left-hand section (right hand section if you're looking from the stage). That was about the ideal spot for me to be close to the action, but not be the centre of attention.
While waiting, I played the Shaman King Gameboy Advance game that I got for Christmas, and it's decent fun, sort of like an anime-themed version of the classic, underrated Sega Master System game Kenseiden. At 8 p.m., the lights went dark, and Tony Lee himself walked on stage in a spotlight.
To break the ice, he commented that the crowd was mostly new faces. He asked if there were people there from other schools. I was tempted to call out "Concordia", even though I haven't been an active student there in almost two years. He also commented that the crowd was a little light, because of the midterms, like I said. And he chatted up a guy and a girl whom I think he thought were a couple, but they were actually just co-workers in a bank, with at least one of them being a teller. He tried to get them to admit stronger feelings for one another, but I think they were serious about being just friends.
I get the feeling that the audience in the Alumni Auditorium in the Jock Turcott building at the University of Ottawa was a "tough crowd" by stage hypnotist standards. There were 25 chairs on the stage, but Tony Lee didn't start off by calling for volunteers. He had the entire auditorium (or everyone who wanted to play along) close their eyes for the "hand-clasp test", which tests for suggestibility. You hold your two hands up in front of your eyes, with the palms together, the thumbs pointing towards your face and the index fingers pointing straight up, bent back slightly with the tips about two inches apart, while the other three fingers on each hand are clasped over each other to keep the hands shut. Tony told us to relax and breathe in and out, and then had us open our eyes, as he gave us the suggestion that the index fingers were coming together, and when they touch, our hands would be stuck, and only he could unstick them. The fingers coming together worked for me, but that's inevitable, since it's not natural for your fingers to be bent back for too long, and, since there's not really anywhere else for the fingers to go with the hands pressed together, they just meet. As for the hands being stuck, I was almost convinced that they were for about maybe ten seconds until I started feeling like I was just playing along, and what little spell there was was broken and my hands became "unglued".
I think, out of the maybe 120 people in attendance, only two people were actually fully "stuck", and Tony plucked them out of the audience and had them sit down. (I think one of them said that he had been hypnotized on stage at least once before.)
Then Tony called for volunteers from the audience to come on stage to be hypnotized, but, I don't know if the University of Ottawa is more conservative than most schools, but there didn't seem to be too many thrill-seekers in attendance that night, and only about 10 other people came forward, leaving at least a dozen chairs empty. I wasn't uninterested in being hypnotized, but I'm really not someone who is fond of being the centre of attention. I'm just too self-conscious to want to appear eager. I figured that my chances of being hypnotized were actually probably better if I stayed in my chair and followed along, since I'd still hear Tony Lee's induction from my seat close to the stage (and they were over the speakers anyway), because I wouldn't feel like everyone would be looking at me, and, if it worked, I'd be brought on stage and would be so focused on following the suggestions that I really wouldn't give a damn how many people were watching.
Certainly, the conditions there were much more conducive to me being hypnotized than at the Super Ex show, since I was in a comfortable, padded auditorium seat (which was probably more comfortable than the chairs on stage), compared to the cement step I was sitting on in August, and the auditorium was mostly darkened and I wasn't in direct sunlight. And Tony began the induction by having everyone in the auditorium close their eyes, meaning that there wasn't any eye fixation on an object the way Fernandez made the people on stage look at his hand, and, as such, no matter where you were in the auditorium, on stage or not, you had pretty much an equal chance of being hypnotized.
Tony told us to concentrate on his words and only his words, and the relaxing music, and our breathing, which needs to be slow and deep. He had us roll our eyes up, with our eyelids still shut, towards an imaginary point in our forehead. There is an actual reason a lot of hypnotists will have you look up with your eyes; for whatever obscure neurological reason, when your eyes are rolled up, it induces "alpha waves", which are the brainwaves corresponding with a relaxed state and which assist greatly in inducing the hypnotic state.
I could feel myself drifting off a tiny bit, but how much of that is hypnosis and how much of that is natural relaxation simply because I had my eyes shut and was breathing deeply?
Then Tony tried another common stage hypnotist technique: he had us stick both of our arms out, with one palm facing down, and the other up. In the hand with the palm facing up, he had us imagine that we were holding a very heavy dictionary, and that hand would start to sink under the weight, while the other hand was attached to a helium balloon, and would slowly rise up towards the ceiling. The weight of a heavy book is fairly easy to imagine, and I could feel my hand sinking a tiny bit. But, for the helium balloon, I kept on thinking of that one episode of Mythbusters where they showed that it would take thousands upon thousands of helium balloons just to lift a little kid into the air, so, eh, I don't think my hand moved an inch up.
Tony followed this with the progressive relaxation portion of the induction, relaxing the whole body part by part ("concentrate on your toes, relax your toes, feel the relaxation moving up to your ankles" etc...), and, by this point, the hypnosis train was chugging out of the station and I most certainly was not on board. It was my best chance in several years to get hypnotized at a stage show, but it still wasn't working on me. I think part of the problem is that I've read too much about the process of hypnotization and was too busy analyzing what was going on for it to work, because, while you'll never see a consensus opinion about what hypnosis actually is due to disagreement and uncertanties between scientists, psychologists, and researchers, one characteristic of the hypnotic state is the turning down of the conscious, analytical mind, which is a little difficult for me to do if I'm, at the same time, analyzing what is happening. Also, you need to be convinced that it's going to work, and, while you'll often read testimonials from people who say they didn't think hypnosis was going to work who actually went "under", their subconscious mind was convinced, so it does work. Unfortunately, I'm a natural skeptic, and I still can't overcome the idea that it's not going to (fully) work on me, so it doesn't. And part of me could be a little anxious about the possibility of something happening, being someone who is very self-conscious, as I said before.
At this point, I knew nothing was going to happen to me this evening, and I opened my eyes and just became a spectator. Tony was beginning to weed people out who didn't go under hypnosis, or who were not under deeply enough for it to be entertaining to the audience. This wasn't all at once, some of the pruning was done during the first few simple hypnotic suggestions, particularly the temperature hallucinations, where he tells the subjects that they're on a beach, and it's getting hotter, to the point it's ridiculous, and then a cold front comes in, and everyone has to huddle together. Every stage hypnotist I've ever seen starts off the post-induction part of the show with, as it's a good test to see how "under" the volunteers are, and how "active" they'd actually be in a stage show, since someone who is deeply hypnotized but who is just sitting there is not exactly good entertainment. Also, Tony plucked two people from the audience who did go fully "under", so, when all was said and done, six people, evenly split by gender (meaning "three guys", "three girls", for those of you in Rio Linda), remained on stage for the duration of the show. From the stage hypnosis shows I've seen in person and on the Internet, six subjects is on the low side of "normal", enough people to be entertaining, but still disappointing.
A couple of the subjects, particularly the Indian-looking guy, seemed to be largely playing along, as you could tell that they were finding what was going on around them amusing even when they had their eyes shut in the relaxed, neutral "sleep" mode, when the hypnotist is feeding them with suggestions. But one of the audience members who went under, a girl with dark, frizzy hair, actually seemed to be deeper asleep compared to everyone else on stage, and took all the suggestions dead seriously, so she did not seem like she was acting or playing "pretend" in any way.
I wasn't taking notes, so I don't know if this is a complete account of everything Tony Lee told the subjects to do, and some of the hypnotic skits may have been a different order that the wa I'll present them.
He had them believe that they were driving Lamborghinis, waving from their cars at attractive members of the opposite sex, or the same sex, if they were so inclined, and then they had to evade the police. After that, they pulled their car over, and started eating some magic mushrooms, and tripped out.
He brought a guy from the audience, had him stand behind the subjects, and had them believe that the guy had let out a fart, of the roadkill-and-sweatsocks-at-the-bottom-of-the-locker-and-diaper variety, and they reacted in disgust, and then they believed that he let out another fart that was even worse.
Another skit, and another one that a lot of stage hypnotists do, had him being a third-grade teacher, and the volunteers were his students, who acted up by making faces whenever he had his back turned to them. Then he had them think they were eighth or ninth grade students, and that he was a hot substitute teacher who was wearing a short skirt with no panties, and he kept on beiding over, making all the guys leer. He then gave them the suggestion that, when he touched his forehead, he'd feel the guy behind them pinching their butts, and another suggestion to this one guy that, when Tony gave the same cure, he'd moon the audience and then forget what he's doing.
Content advisory warning: you might want to skip the following paragraph if somewhat graphic descriptions of imaginary sexual situations offends you.
Then there was a slate of sexual-themed suggestions, since it was an XXX=rated hypnotist, after all: they believed that they were watching the hottest pornos that they ever saw, and then that they were directing one. I think, though memories of hypnosis clips that I've seen on YouTube.com might be corrupting my memory here, then he did the bukkake suggestion, where he had them think that one of the male porn stars had ejaculated all over their faces, which disgusted them at first, but then he had them react positively, thinking that cum is good for the complexion. Then he had the guys turn up their heads and believe that they were giving a girl cunnilingus, and then he changed the guys' genders, and he had them believe that they were slutty girls giving blowjobs to (imaginary) guys. This part was actually a little tamer than photos of past Tony Lee shows had me believe, where Tony used to have two guys believe that they were gay and sucking off each other, and they're actually sucking on long, cylindrical balloons that they believe is the other guy's penis. I'm not entirely certain of the exact sequence of events, but this portion of the show ended, naturally, with every one on stage having imaginary orgasms, except some of the guys were girls, and some of the girls were guys. And Tony Lee, who is a guy of Chinese origin, though with a shaved head and muscular, commented that, when guys orgasm, they get "Asian faces" (like in the song, "Turning Japanese", which is really about masturbation). This reminded me of that video clip people keep uploading at YouTube.com of Lee's fellow Canadian erotic hypnotist Sailesh hypnotizing people at a stage show in Iceland to have orgasms, though the ones in the video were more intense.
The biggest disappointment of the night for me was that, when my brother's friend was hypnotized by Tony Lee, he made love to a giant stuffed bear, but the bear was nowhere in attendance this evening. (Did Tony get tired of having to clean it?)
Then came the sadistic portion of the show, where he had them all petting baby elephants (ones that are small enough to hold). One of the guys named his baby elephant "Trumpy". Tony Lee took one of the "baby elephants" and then stomped on it. He tried to take another one, but the girl was protecting it with her arms, so he magically teleported it into his hands and then shot it. He took a third baby elephant, and had the volunteers on stage believe that the elephant was giving him a blowjob, and then Tony Lee "came", and the force of the ejaculation was so strong that it blew the elephant's brains clear across the room (yes, just like the father did to the mother in South Park creators' Matt Stone and Trey Parker's infamous, quickly aborted Princess flash animation series).
After that, he asked the bank teller girl come up to the stage, and he had the volunteers believe that her vagina was talking to them (a literal Vagina Monologues, I suppose). This was also similar to something I've seen in an Internet video, except in that one, the girl believed it was her own vagina doing the talking. (And what's a pussy's favourite song? The Beatles' "Obladi, Oblada" apparently.) What the subjects heard was a lot less amusing, mostly stuff like "Hello", though one of the girls thought the vagina said, "I like it rough."
The last big sketch was one that my brother had seen in 1998: Tony Lee had two of the subjects believe that they were ordering from the drive-thru at McDonald's, and Tony Lee was a drive-through window attendant who was a stereotypical "FOB" ("Fresh Off the Boat") Chinese immigrant who would always screw up their order (which was supposed to be for a Big Mac and Chicken McNuggets; glad to see that no one tried to order a Burger King Whopper, because it annoys me when people get their corporate branding confused even when hypnotized), and the volunteer who believed that he was the driver had to be as insulting as possible, though this guy was mostly tame ("Do you speak English?") compared to the things my brother's friend said as the driver in 1998 (supposedly things like "Fucking immigrants" and even "gook"). Tony Lee the suggested, though it took a couple of times for the suggestion to "take", that the driver ask to see the "manager", and the "manager" was also Tony Lee, this time faking a strong stereotypical Indian accent (though the driver managed to avoid saying the "P" word that rhymes with "wacky tabacky").
The finale of this skit differed a little bit from what my brother described to me: when my brother's friend had finished tossing insults upon poor Tony Lee, Tony got revenge on him by "dropping trou" and making him pucker up, kissing Tony Lee's ass literally. This time, Tony got one of "the driver"'s friends from the audience, sat him in a chair, and put whipped cream on his nipples and crotch, and had "the driver" lick it off. I know that sounds really, really homoerotic, but the friend kept all of his clothes on, so it seemed like a minor frat prank at most.
Tony then woke them up, though I'm racking my brain trying to remember whether or not he did a full-fledged "count up" (e.g. "three, feel your awareness returning to normal, four, almost there, feel the heaviness leaving your body and feel your eyelids begin to flitter, five, open eyes, wide awake and feeling fine.) But he left them with a few posthypnotic suggestions, mainly that they'd forget about the show until they left the building, at which point the memories would come flooding back, and, until then, they'd go back to their seats, they'd be angry that the show didn't start, and they'd think it's all their friends' fault. I was sitting not too far (across the left-hand aisle) from one of the subjects, and she was going through the motions of yelling at her friends, but you could tell from the expression on her face that she wasn't taking it too seriously. The other post-hypnotic suggestion that Tony Lee gave the subjects was that, each time they'd see the bank teller girl with the "talking vagina", they'd hear her vagina talk again, and this suggestion would last until the end of the term. For five of the subjects, this suggestion was no big deal, but one of the subjects was a teller at the same bank, so Tony told him that he wouldn't respond directly to the talking vagina, but, that each time he heard something, he'd write it down in a private diary. (Though I'd personally be surprised if the post-hypnotic suggestion lasted that long without reinforcement.)
On the way out, just past the doors, I passed the dark-haired girl who went under in the audience, and the one who seemed to be more hypnotized than anyone else, and she was telling her friends that she thought she remembered most of what happened, so at least one of the post-hypnotic suggestions worked properly on at least one person.
All in all, I'd say the show was fairly wild, but I still seemed a tad disappointed, like I had been waiting to see a Tony Lee show for so long, and had read so much about the guy on the Internet, that, actually seeing him in person didn't quite live up to the way I had imagined the show being in my head, though that's probably because I had some unrealistic expectations, and also because the University of Ottawa doesn't seem to be as big a party school as some of the others, so the students are a little more timid. I'd say, out of the $12 that I had spent on the ticket, it was worth $8 (which is what it would have cost if I had bought the ticket in advance instead of at the door).
Since I was leaving the Jock Turcott building instead of the Montpetit building, where I go to the anime club, I was a tad disoriented and walked east instead of walking north. So, I skipped my normal route, through the campus and up the Transitway and then Waller to Rideau Street, and, instead, walked north along King Edward Avenue, a route that had the added benefit of skipping the Union Mission for men homeless shelter on Waller, meaning that I didn't get asked for change 10 times over the span of about two blocks. While walking up King Edward, I noticed that a week of playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has had an interesting effect on me. While I'm not any more violent than usual, I noticed that, whenever I saw a grafitti tag on the wall, I had a compelling urge to spray "Grove St. 4 Life" over it, just like C.J. does in one of the many optional side tasks in the game. Fortunately, as someone who neither owns green spraypaint nor has any on his person, I couldn't follow through on my urges.
While I was on King Edward, I picked up a free copy of Xpress, the weekly events paper which is the Ottawa version of Montreal's Hour, which, itself, is an English version of the French-language Voir. I wanted to check out which movies were playing at which times, not because I wanted to take in a late movie, but because I needed to come up with a plausible "cover story". I was originally going to claim that I went to see the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, but the early evening screening started at the World Exchange Plaza Empire 7 cinema at 7:15 p.m., and I didn't even get downtown until about 7:30 p.m. Plus, it would have been over by around 9:30, so I'd have to account for the missing 50 minutes or so after the show by the time I called. And I didn't know quite enough about the movie to be able to come up with a convincing "gist" of the plot. (Something about a family of mutated humans who live in seclusion in an abandoned town in the desert, I think.) So, I decided, instead, to claim that I saw Ultraviolet, which started at the Rideau Centre Empire 3 a little later, and which I could easily "gist" up in a sentence or two, due to it being one of a recent slate of very similar movies like Aeon Flux. ("Just another action movie about a kickass cyberpunk martial arts girl in a futuristic dystopia who has to fight to gain her freedom against an authoritarian state. More style than substance.") Once I reached Rideau Street, I found a phone booth and called my mother, who bought my cover story hook, line, and sinker. I'm not too sure why I feel I cannot just admit that I went to see a stage hypnotist show. I just feel a little embarrassed that I like that sort of thing, possibly because it stems from my slight-to-moderate hypno-fetish. Hell, I still hide the copy of the children's novel Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism for that very reason. (Obviously, I'm only talking about my close relatives. I don't care what anonymous readers on the Internet think of my hypno-interest.)
As I approached the Rideau Street McDonald's, I spotted two uniformed young men whom I initially thought were the same "rent-a-cop" security guards whom I had seen at that very McDonald's location before, and who had once just stood in my way, chatting to each other about matters not directly related to security, while I was trying to get from the counter with the condiments, straws, and napkins back to my table. But, when I got close, I saw that they were not "rent-a-cops". They were "real-a-cops", interviewing a witness to something or other. The sparse police insignia on the winter jackets of Ottawa police officers sure do make them look more like private security guards from a distance. I have no idea what kind of incident they were interviewing the man about. I had gotten there too late to see what had occurred, and I didn't hear anything out of the ordinary as I was approaching the McDonald's.
At the Rideau Street McDonald's, I had my usual Big Mac, medium fries, and medium Coke combo meal. Nothing of incident happened, other than that all of the available tables had some kind of food residue on them and I had to flick off a piece of lettuce from mine. I ate my meal fairly fast, as it was around 10:30 p.m., and I remembered from a previous trip downtown that the 86 Lincolnfields bus gets to the Mackenzie King Bridge (Rideau Centre) station at around 10:50 p.m., and I didn't want to wait around half an hour on a chilly night to get the next bus.
After dinner, it was about 10:40 p.m., so I crossed Rideau Street, and entered the Rideau Centre through the doors near Shoppers Drug Mart. This being past 9 p.m., most of the stores other than Shoppers Drug Mart, the bars, and a couple of the fast food places in the food court, like Burger King, were shut, but the mall is open to provide access to the cinema, the bars, and the bus station. Since the escalator near the Dairy Queen/Orange Julius has a lot of empty space in front of it, I did something fun-but-dorky. I pretended I was an airline pilot approaching a runway, and I did all of the "call-outs" during take-off: "Take-off", "Power set", "rolling", "Airspeed Alive" (when the airspeed indicator dial becomes active, at around 60 knots), "Eighty knots/crosscheck" (that being the "decision speed" after which you cannot abort a takeoff), and, when I get to the metal plate at the base of the escalator, "Vee-one, rotate", and, when I'm ascending, "Vee-two, positive rate of climb, gear up." Just another minor idiosyncrasy of mine, which I got from playing too much Microsoft Flight Simulator. I couldn't repeat this at the escalator to the third floor in front of Sears as I had forgotten that the escalator was being replaced. So, being pressed for time and not wanting to backtrack to the escalator near HMV, I took the elevator up to the third floor, just for a change in my normal Rideau Centre traversing routine. I proceeded towards the bus stop.
Once I got to the fake bus front facade, used as a map window, near the OC Transpo information desk, I noticed two more Ottawa police officers, or, perhaps, the same ones I saw near the Rideau Street McDonald's, searching two white teenage males in loose, rapper-type clothing, forcing them to empty their pockets, and doing a full pat-down on one of them.
Not wanting to hang around police when they're in perp-busting mode, I checked the bus schedule on the wall opposite to where the officers were conducting their search just to see what time my bus was coming, and then checked the time on my GPS device (since I don't currently have a watch with a battery in it), and, fortunately, the bus was scheduled to come that exact minute, so I exited the Rideau Centre proper to wait in the glassed-off area of the Mackenzie King Transitway stop, but, since I was waiting for my bus to arrive imminently, I waited on the near end to the stop, still in front of the Rideau Centre doors, and I got a good look as the officers contined to search the teenagers, right down to making them roll up their baggy jeans so they could check what was in their shoes. One of the officers was holding up something in a plastic type bag that could have been a nickle bag of marijuana, but I can't honestly tell you that is what it was, since the contents of the bag were not too clear to me from around five metres away.
At the same time, from further down along the waiting area, in front of the Sears department store, I noticed another police officer escorting a black male who appeared to be in his early twenties, and whose hands were behind his back, presumably in handcuffs, towards the other two officers. I presume this was part of the same police action, though I don't really have any way of knowing for sure. If I had to extrapolate what was going on based strictly on what I observed, I'd guess that the black guy was a drug dealer, and the white kids were his customers, and this assumption isn't based on race but rather simply because the black guy seemed to be a few years older, and he was handcuffed, indicating he was the suspect of greater interest.
If the bust was what I suspected it to be, while I support the legalization of marijuana and other soft drugs, because going after the producers, distributors, and customers of what should be a taxable cash crop is a huge waste of police resources, I can't fault them from doing their job, and they didn't seem to be unfairly rough towards the suspects. It was just a bit freaky seeing people getting arrested in person, even if the suspects didn't seem to be genius criminal masterminds, and I was happy to get out of there, especially considering that I accidentally got some road salt in one of my pockets when I was clearing the driveway once, and I don't know how much road salt looks like rocks of crack cocaine.
I took the 86 bus home without further incident, playing the Shaman King Gameboy Advance game until it ran out of batteries halfway through the trip.