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Mentalist Matt Cooper

Daisy Loves . . .

Mind Reader

For Upper East Siders, mentalist Matt Cooper is the latest hot party trick. But he can’t really know what you’re thinking. Can he?

Spend any amount of time with mentalist Matt Copper, and you will be charmed! Delighted! Amazed! And—more to the point—delightfully baffled.

There’s a video on his website from Buzzfeed Live where he correctly guesses the name of a woman’s first kiss. What? But what’s even more amazing than this sorcery are his stories of arriving in New York City from Las Vegas in 2010 as an art school dropout who couldn’t get even the most menial job. “I interviewed to be a bellhop, an elevator operator, and a dog walker. I think I lied for that one and said I trained dogs.”

Cooper, now 35, grew up in Las Vegas and was born into glitz: his mom was a showgirl at the Tropicana, his dad was a stagehand, and his grandma worked as a cocktail waitress at the Golden Nugget. His particular attention-getting obsession? “I can’t sing, act or dance. I chose magic!” he says. “It’s a quick, easy way to impress someone. There are people who say ‘Magicians suck.’ Not all magic sucks. It’s like hearing a band play and they’re terrible, and then you say, ‘Music sucks.’”

He was also fascinated by the idea of UFOs, as Area 51 wasn’t too far from his hometown. “I used to be a hardline skeptic. But are they among us now? I don’t want to sound like a weirdo,” he says, sidestepping the question.

In between various modeling jobs, he scanned listings of charity events, emailing them with an offer to do his mentalist act for free.

Over drinks at a Brooklyn wine bar near his apartment, he describes how he eventually became gainfully employed in New York City. “I was in a loft-stel, like a hostel. A room with three bunk beds, $20 a night.” Another lodger said he should work as a hand model, (unlike George Costanza, he has nice hands along with a terrific face) and got him into Abrams Artists Agency.

He landed an audition for a cell phone commercial where he needed to be able to roll a coin down his fingers. “When I was 16, my friends and I used to hang out at Denny’s, and a truck driver taught me how to do that.” The cellphone company decided against that move because it conjured up gambling, and asked him to open the phone and text. “It wasn’t an intuitive way to open the phone,” and he nearly dropped it, but caught it and opened it in one fell swoop.

Cooper got the job, but then panicked about how he was going to reproduce that move. Fortunately, they wanted him reclining on a bench and texting, so no phone tossing was necessary.

Mentalist Matt Cooper and guests at an art salon hosted by NYC-based production company Mad Gene Media.
Cooper at an art salon hosted by NYC-based production company, Mad Gene Media. “Not only did we get to experiment with some strange ideas, but we also got to discuss magick in a way that I rarely share with others,” he posted on Instagram. Photo by Kirra Cheers
Mentalist Matt Cooper giving the keynote address at the World Travel Inc. fall symposium in Atlantic City in 2023
As keynote speaker at World Travel Inc.’s fall symposium in Atlantic City in 2023. “I understand people. I understand how you think, which informs what you think, and why you think it. And it’s because of this I’ve developed an ability to look you in the eye and reveal your innermost private thoughts,” he told the audience in his opening remarks.

In between various modeling jobs, he scanned listings of charity events, emailing them with an offer to do his mentalist act for free, “because I support what you’re doing, and my usual fee would be,” an inflated number. He’d work the parties, and if people were impressed, he’d hand them a business card.

More work followed, and eventually he toured the British Isles with his idol, British mentalist, Derren Brown, for two years. There was no All About Eve moment; he was a roadie. “It was basically moving furniture,” Cooper says. “It was amazing, watching from the wings.”

Showgirl feeding a baby backstage at the Folies Bergere, Tropicana Hotel, Las Vegas, circa 1989
Cooper, brought up in Las Vegas, was born into glitz. His mother was a showgirl with the Folies Bergere, dad was a stagehand, and grandma worked as a cocktail waitress at the Golden Nugget. Here, baby Matt backstage with mom, circa 1989. Photo courtesy of Matt Cooper

 

Being a mentalist is not being a psychic. It’s combining applied psychology, illusion, magic, and he says, “ . . . noticing things. Your ability to see creates the magic. You need participation,” he explains, meaning one who is willing. “You’ve already bought into the idea of seeing a mentalist.”

Cooper had me fill out a few little white cards (unseen to him, of course). He then instructed me to fold them into fourths, shuffle them, and place one under my watch, another under a table leg, and another under a glass. Next, he told me what was on each one, even though I’d lost track of which card was which:

  • A number between 10 and 100.
  • A person meaningful to me who wouldn’t be found in a Google search under my name.
  • A quick drawing.
My drawing was a house with two windows. His drawing was a house with two windows.

On the first card, I’d written the number 75. Without looking at my card, he handed me his card, “See anything familiar?” There were 16 different numbers on it, in four rows of four, none of them mine. “Nope,” I said, triumphantly. He pointed out the rows of numbers, across, and diagonally . . . all added up to 75. Damn.

My drawing was a house with two windows. His drawing was a house with two windows.

And finally, the special person. He said, “You’re very into music. You named some songs we’ve heard. It’s not a band, but an individual. The initials are MJ, but it’s not Michael Jackson.” Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wrote down Mick Jagger. When I got home, and told my husband and son that I wrote down a musician, my son said, “That’s easy. David Bowie.” My husband said, “Trent Reznor.” They were shocked.

This jaw-dropped reaction, he explained, is what audiences are tapping into, judging the mentalist by the level of hysteria. Watch the videos on his website and you’ll see a comically gob-smacked Kelly Ripa, among many other similarly startled people.

As to his plan beyond the many parties and corporate events he works, he’s attracted to television and filmmaking. “David Blaine revolutionized magic on TV. We lived the story of people freaking out over what he was doing. Now we’re ready for a shift.”

Contact Matt at matt@mattcooper.com.

Hero photo of Matt Cooper by Jeffrey Kellogg

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