Former St. Louisan hopes to leave Shaare Emeth audience ‘Spellbound’

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

Congregation Shaare Emeth is offering a chance for congregants to be “spellbound” later this month.

The congregation’s annual fundraiser, formerly “Taste of the Town” and now called “Spellbound,” will feature native St. Louisan and noted hypnotist Ricky Kalmon. Kalmon, who is also a motivational speaker and corporate entertainer, has been a mainstay in casinos and comedy clubs nationwide, and appeared on numerous television shows.

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This time Kalmon will use hypnotism on some audience members. “It’s so unique because the audience is the star,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about them.”

Kalmon said that during the performance, which he has been doing for almost 25 years, he will put participants under hypnosis and suggest to them that they are a famous rock or movie stars, or allow them to live out some other fantasy. He said it’s a way of giving then their 15 minutes of fame. He also said that often those who say they’ll never volunteer are the first to do so.

“They really do escape reality,” he said. “I take them on a vacation in their own mind. Twelve people volunteer randomly out of the audience. No one is preselected or prearranged. They come up on stage sit down, I hypnotize them and I literally take them on an adventure.”

Congregant Sue Lesser, co-chair of the event with Joanne Mishkin and Joyce Kolker, said that the new name would rebrand the show to a degree.

“In the past, we’ve had comedians. We’ve had singers,” she said. “We just wanted something different to draw people in.”

Lesser said the congregation hopes to raise at least $50,000 with “Spellbound.” Kalmon, she said, seemed the natural choice to headline the effort given his local roots.

“He grew up here so there are some personal connections,” she said. “People are very familiar with his act.”

Kalmon is a graduate of Parkway North High School and the University of Missouri-Columbia. He left town more than five years ago but his mother, along with a few other relatives, still live here.

“I grew up at B’nai Amoona,” he said. “We were also members of United Hebrew and I went to Shaare Emeth’s Hebrew school so I think I’ve got a connection everywhere.”

This year’s event is a general fundraiser for the temple but it is being held in honor of Shaare Emeth’s 15 years of participation in Room at the Inn, a program in which area houses of worship provide shelter to the homeless.

Kalmon, now based in Atlanta, said he usually comes to St. Louis a couple of times a year and has previously performed his act at United Hebrew Congregation among other venues. He estimates he’s entertained more than 100,000 people in his career and has done his comedy routine hundreds of times though he can’t say exactly how many for sure.

“I don’t count the number of shows,” he said. “I guess I’m a little superstitious and that would be looking back. I’m always looking forward.”

What he can say for certain is that viewers will be entertained by a unique and interesting presentation.

“They’ve never experienced anything like this,” he said. “It will be a program they will not forget and they will be talking about it for a very long time.”

But according to Kalmon, they won’t be the only ones. Due to the audience participation aspect of the performance the hypnotist said he’s witnessing events unfolding at the same time his audience does and has little more idea than his viewers of what will happen next.

“It’s never a dull moment for me because I see a new show every night,” he said.

‘Spellbound’

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 20 with dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the entertainment starting at 7:45 p.m.

WHERE: Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road, Creve Coeur

HOW MUCH: $36 for the show, a wine and cheese reception and an after-the-event dessert reception; $150 for admission, gourmet dinner with raffle and silent auction.

MORE INFO: Call Stacy at 314-569-0010 or www.shaare-emeth.org.