James Randi, focus of iconic Australian television moment, dies

James Randi Don Lane Australian TV piss off

James Randi, the magician and debunker of mind-reading and faith-healing charlatans, died yesterday aged 92. Randi took centre-place in one of the most iconic moments on Australian television when late-night TV host Don Lane stormed out of an interview. As he stomped off the set the ‘lanky yank’ uttered a phrase then considered too shocking for television, “You can piss off.”

James Randi

Born in Canada, James Randi first came to fame as an accomplished magician. However, he later became even more famous for exposing the tricks of frauds who claimed to use supernatural powers. In one famous incident, he issued a challenge to Uri Geller, the 1970’s most famous psychic. The good-looking and personable Israeli performer bent spoons apparently using only the power of his mind.

Randi and Geller appeared together on Johnny Carson’s ‘The Tonight Show’ where Geller was scheduled to demonstrate his ability to mould metal with his mind. However, James Randi prevented Geller obtaining access in advance to any of the props used on the show. During an excruciating 22 minute segment, Geller proved unable to perform any of his usual stunts.

Don Lane

American-born singer and talk show host Don Lane ruled Australian nighttime television for much of the 1980s. In 1981, during Randi’s Australian tour, Lane invited him on the show. Randi said he agreed on the proviso he not be asked to rehash spoon-bending.

“I said, please Mr Lane, please don’t ask me to do the stupid spoon-bending trick. I do it all over the world, and I’m bored, bored, bored with it.”

However, before the show, Randi noticed a set of spoons Lane intended ambushing him with, so the magician substituted a set of keys.

The interview proceeded with Randi furious over the planned spoon ambush and Lane furious when he discovered the key switch.

Piss off

To regular viewers of The Don Lane Show, the stoush was predictable. Lane absolutely loved a British psychic called Doris Stokes who claimed to talk to dead people (for a fee). The kindly, sweet old granny also communicated with Lane’s revered dead mother on his behalf.

James Randi had expressed scepticism about Doris’s claimed abilities.

Don Lane raged at Randi during the interview in defence of his friends Geller and Stokes before sweeping the keys from a table as he stormed off the set.

“We’re going for a commercial break and you can piss off.”

James Randi marriage

Randi announced he was gay in 2010. He did not make a secret of his sexuality previously. This author spoke with him on magic forums in the early 2000s and found him cantankerous but also phenomenally intelligent and engaging. James Randi did not suffer fools and had no patience for shonks who claimed supernatural powers to cruelly prey on vulnerable people.

James Randi married partner Deyvi Pena in Washington in 2013.

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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