Everyone who knows me knows that I love engaging belief systems. I’ve gone to mass, circled with Wiccans, had rituals by Santeria priests and a priestess, gone to a Born again service, saw Benny Hinn knock a bunch of people out, tried to channel (no it did not work), gone to psychics, mediums, and even a faux Houdini seance at the Magic Castle in L.A. I don’t really go in as a believer, but as a folklorist. I like to understand why people believe as they do and what makes them behave as they do. Also, I’d be delighted if there ever were proof of the supernatural or the beyond. Which, to my knowledge, has not yet occurred. So, I’m not a believer, but I am also not a disbeliever. However, every once in a while, I get disgusted.
I just saw a listing for a guy called Braco – who is coming back to L.A. in two weeks. I saw a similar ad last year. So, me and my friend Marsha went to see this guy – as he was ‘performing’ down the street from our office at Otis College of Art and Design. We waited in a long line, meeting people who had allegedly just come from the airport, pushing bags (were they pumpers?) and other people who had been positively effected by the Croatian Braco. Many people had already been in to see him. Apparently you pay $72 for a day pass, or $8 (what we paid) to see him. Then, the people get kicked out of the room, go back in line, pay another $8 to see him again. Anyways, we were ushered in and seated with a couple hundred other folks. That’s when the testimony began. A couple of representatives regaled us with stories of the many miracles and healings that have happened through Braco. This lasted about 40 minutes. It could have been 20 – but it felt like 2 hours. This type of priming occurs with many belief experiences, preparing the participants, giving them expectations and informing them how to interpret their experience. After this, the lights dim and Braco comes out. He stands on the stage and looks. He looks at people. He spends 7 minutes looking, silently around the room. Then he leaves. The guy in front of me whispers about the ‘lame’ experience. The people behind me breathe heavily and talk about negativity palpably leaving their bodies. Marsha and I try to suppress giggles. Then, we are told to come back, for $16, in 15 minutes, we can hear The Voice. Yay, I’m thinking the guy is going to talk! I ask a lady in the lobby. She gushes about The Voice. Its a recording. In Croatian. Uh, then how do we know what he’s saying? She explained that one could buy the book which has a translation of his talk, and also buy the 13 pointed diamond star that is his emblem. We did not go back in line. I will say that Marsha and I had a good laugh and a good time. Braco – the Gazer. Really, what else can one say? He gazes….