Mind-reading duo Jeff and Kimberly Bornstein perform at the ACME theater. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)
Kimberly Bornstein stands blindfolded at the front of a small stage at Hollywood's Magic Castle. Behind her a man from the audience stares intently at a dollar bill in his hands while Bornstein's husband, Jeff, looks on. Slowly, Kimberly recites a list of numbers that comprise the serial number of the dollar bill. The man gasps and says something unprintable under his breath.
This is the pinnacle of the Bornsteins' show "Mind Meld," which the celebrated mind-reading duo are performing for the next few weeks at Hollywood's Acme Comedy Theater. Over the course of the show, which is hosted by NBC weatherman / funny man Fritz Coleman, Kimberly pulls off similar acts of telepathy by naming contacts in the address books of audience member's cell phones, stating words picked at random from books and recounting numbers on lottery tickets.
"We all have intuitive powers, Kimberly has just developed hers to an awesome level," says Jeff. "How many times have you thought about someone and your phone rings and it's them? It's kind of like that."
Yes and no. The rest of us haven't been approached by the C.I.A. or the F.B.I. and asked for help, as the Bornsteins claim to have been.
"We say what we do is for entertainment purposes only and we don't want to end up in a witness protection program," jokes Jeff, who spent most of his career as a Hollywood stuntman and a stand-up comic before meeting Kimberly in rural Oklahoma on Match.com in 2003. At the time Kimberly was working a regular office job and says that she hadn't really given her gift of intuition much thought.
"Most of the women in my family were just really connected, so I didn't think about it that much," she says of her years growing up in a town so small that all the local packages were delivered to her mother's house for pick up. "I was the quiet, shy kid in class. I had one friend in high school. So I spent most of my time watching people and observing their habits."
The pair carried on a long-distance relationship for several years before Jeff showed up on Kimberly's doorstep in 2005 and convinced her to move to California.
"They ran out of peanuts, that's how much we flew," jokes Jeff.
For a time they lived in a tiny apartment and struggled while Jeff toured and worked the clubs.
"Then I found out she had this power," says Jeff, "Although I don't want to call it a power, it's not supernatural. It's a gift. And I thought maybe we should do a show because there are a lot of people interested in what we're doing."
He was right, their act took off and they were soon performing at private parties for corporations and celebrities including Nicolas Cage, Jason Alexander and Jay Leno.
"From the beginning I never felt nervous," says Kimberly of her sudden turn as an entertainer. "I always felt I was home when I was onstage."
She looks at home, too. Dressed in a smart black suit with long blond hair, Kimberly plays the calm foil to Jeff's zany comedic antics. And in the end it's her who does all the wow-ing. At the end of "Mind Meld," the audience is left with a true sense of wonder, and that's what the Bornsteins are going for.
"We leave it up to them whether or not they want to believe in [telepathy]," says Kimberly. "What we want to give someone when they come to see our show is a break from life. We want to help them suspend their thoughts and their disbelief and just relax and enjoy."
Which is why to this day her favorite memory of a performance was one they gave during a military tour (Jeff is an Army veteran). After the show one of the wives came up to her with her small son in tow. The woman was crying and she hugged Kimberly.
"You don't know how much this meant to me," Kimberly recalls the woman saying. "My husband just got deployed and I don't know if he's coming back and this hour-long show made me not think about that for the first time."
Where: Acme Comedy Theater, 135 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 6 and 13
Price: $10 in advance; $15 at the door
Info: http://www.mindmeldshow.com; to purchase tickets go to http://www.laughstub.com/buyTicket.cfm?showTimingID=223584