By David H. Van Biema
May 18, 1987 12:00 PM

More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing nothing, than by believing too much.

—P.T. Barnum

The psychic, 6’4″ and of not inconsiderable girth, failed to foresee that he requires a 46 Long, and that is causing his agent, Michael Goodrich, a headache. Bloomingdale’s does not have many suits in 46L, and the psychic is not being cooperative. “If I’m in an altered state,” he dithers, fussing with a Christian Dior double-breaster, “I’ll never be able to figure out these inside buttons.” He sniffs and gestures at Goodrich: “He’s been saying for years I’ve gotta get a suit. I have 18 or so. Maybe they don’t project the image he wishes.”

Goodrich agrees. He wants to get the psychic on TV. “He needs a nice, conservative television suit. If he goes on Oprah Winfrey, I don’t want him to look like a wreck.”

Alas, the purchase is not destined to be. An hour later the salesman throws up his hands. “Listen to what the man says,” he advises Goodrich. “What he’s got there is an old classic look that’s coming back, but it might be out tomorrow. Go somewhere else and find something that will please him. He might know better than us.”

Goodrich, who would normally smile contentedly at any reference to prescience on his client’s part, shakes his head gloomily. “There isn’t anything that’ll please him,” he mutters.

Anyone who thinks it should be easy to be an agent for psychics (“Hello, Joe, I got you a job.” “Yeah, I know.”) should talk first with Goodrich, founder and chief officer of Cosmic Contact Psychic Services. “If you take the creative mind to the extreme,” he explains, “you’ve got the psychic. They’re like actors. They have egos. And they have trouble with everyday things. They’ve really got to have someone to take care of them. I’ve never seen a real psychic who knew how to deal with money.” Of course that’s why he is here.

Never before, says Goodrich, until recently an advertising salesman for North-South Communications, Inc., has there been a full-time agent for psychics. (Unless, of course, you count various dubious party agencies—”strictly Staten Island,” he says—that sometimes ask their clients to work topless.) For the most part fortune-telling gypsies have always done their own bookings, while their upscale counterparts, society mediums, have relied on word of mouth to fill up their séances. But times change. The last few years, according to the New York Times, have seen “a new kind of customer for readers of cards, palms [and] minds…people in their 20s and 30s [for whom] old questions about love, money and success are often posed in terms of marriage or divorce, investing in commodities or condominiums.” In other words, yuppies. And the trend may be moving into the mainstream. Says Laurie Sue Brockway, a New York public relations consultant who is a friend of Goodrich’s: “People these days are open to information from many different sources, and many of these sources may not be in physical bodies.”

The implications, money wise, are enormous. But there is a problem. In keeping with their artistic temperaments and fringe social status, many psychics have developed unconventional, bohemian life-styles. Most are ill-equipped to package themselves for the Winfreys or Donahues who might make them stars. What has been needed is a bridge: someone who understands the mystical world of “trans-channeling,” whereby the dead can advise the living, but who also comprehends marketing, public relations and how to dress for TV. Goodrich, 27, boyishly handsome and clad today in a white button-down shirt, Perry Ellis trousers and Giorgio Armani jacket and tie, allows modestly, “I seem to be a natural connector.”

His professional day begins this morning with a call-in interview on a Chicago radio station. A listener wants to know whether spiritualism is an apostasy. No, says Goodrich. “We’re not trying to usurp any existing faith—spiritualism should be seen as a supplement….” Next he consults with Media wire, a service that will transmit the press releases (“Spirits are soaring at Cosmic Contact….”) that he churns out at the rate of about three a week. At midmorning, the doorbell rings at Goodrich’s combination office-apartment, and he ushers in a pretty young tarot reader on tryout. She spreads the cards twice for him and concludes he is “doing something new, charging ahead with a lot of bravado,” that there will be “money coming in” and that he is “generous” in sharing new ideas. Michael likes the gist. After she leaves, however, he declares her merely a “good grade-B reader. She’s got a nice manner. I wouldn’t put her on television, but I think she’d be good for a restaurant.”

Restaurant readings (10 to 15 minutes at $12 per) and private appointments ($100 an hour and up) are the steadiest paychecks for Goodrich and his 30 or so transchannelers, tarot readers, palmists, graphologists, numerologists and astrologers (he likes to lump them together as “Professional Practitioners of the Paranormal”). But when his clients proffer him his one-third cut, they expect him to be ambitious for them, and he is. Last December he managed to involve 25 psychics in a Manhattan disco bash thrown by the Tonka Corporation. The psychics affirmed that the toy company would indeed “…put Furries on top this year with aggressive advertising,” and collected several thousand dollars for their insight. A really good party, moreover, could attract press—perhaps even the elusive New York Times. And press of that sort could lead to Oprah, David, Johnny and stardom.

Late morning finds Goodrich brainstorming with the director and PR lady of the Midtown club 4D, trying to define the concept of a Friday the 13th party built around the psychics themselves. It is not easy going. Goodrich favors a classy, almost somber, affair with tuxes and gowns. The club officials are interested in something a bit more, uh, accessible.

GOODRICH: Okay, we’ll invite a panel of celebrities to ask the psychics questions.

CLUB DIRECTOR: Great. They could predict the last episode of Dallas, when J.R. gets killed again.

PR LADY: It would be nice to have a psychic turn to Morgan Fairchild and say, “You will win an Academy Award in 1987.” We could get Jeane Dixon.

GOODRICH: I don’t think so. Jeane Dixon is overexposed.

CLUB DIRECTOR (enthusiastically): We could do it like Scanners. Kind of bolts of blue lightning from one psychic to another.

PR LADY (dryly): The Battle of the Psychics.

GOODRICH (wearily): I don’t think so.

CLUB DIRECTOR: We had Grandpa Munster on Halloween.

GOODRICH: Let’s move away from Grandpa Munster.

Later, Goodrich is talking to a woman from Z100, a radio station that may be promoting the 4D party, perhaps by doing interviews with the psychics. He lays down the law: “We like fun, but we don’t like to be made fun of. If my psychics are on the air, and they say Madonna‘s gonna have a baby, then don’t ask, ‘How do you know?’ That’s it. She’s gonna have a baby.

“If I stop and think about this,” says Michael Goodrich in an unguarded moment, “I realize how bizarre it is. Coming like I do, from very conservative people who go to military schools and proper universities, and then [breaking up] to go out and found a psychic business…!” He hoots. “It’s almost too strange for words.”

Born in Milledgeville, Ga., hometown of the writer Flannery O’Connor, Goodrich was the middle child of a Jewish family whose earlier generations had made their fortune and social place in the dry goods business. They were industrious and conservative (“When my ancestors show up during a séance, my friends say they look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in yarmulkes”), but after military school and graduation from William and Mary, Goodrich found himself unready to uphold their tradition. “Everyone else was on a track and knew exactly what they were going to do,” he says. “I never wanted to work.” He taught waterskiing at various Club Meds “until I got tired of French cultural imperialism”), then tried Rome for a while before drifting to New York and a job selling advertising.

Shy and ill-suited for the job (“My mother said, ‘Michael, you’re not brought up to deal with these people’ “), he found himself attracted to spiritualism and began putting questions about potential clients to a psychic. Then another psychic. And another. Over four years, he says, he may have set a record for psychic visitation—”800 or 900” consulted. Not all were successful. “Some were really great and some were terrible,” he remembers, but he soon became attached to a pair of partners named Bill Kase and Rock Kenyon. Kase and Kenyon were connected to a community of psychics in Upstate New York called Lily Dale, and it was there that Goodrich made some of his best friends in the business, both living and dead. Through Kase, a transchanneler, he developed several “mentors” on the Other Side, notably a Tibetan monk named Ty, a Staten Island metaphysician named Helen and a former medium, the Rev. Edythe Brown Meader. Goodrich says that Edythe, who has been dead 11 years, “is hysterical, which is great because a lot of the biggies don’t have much of a sense of humor.” He became steeped in the Lily Dale philosophy and emerged with the personal belief that one’s soul, fresh from another existence, chooses one’s place and time of birth, one’s parents and major life challenges. One simple way to find out what is predestined and where free will applies is to get in touch with “Spirit,” usually through a psychic. “Spirit can advise you,” says Goodrich, “but you make the choices. It’s all about personal responsibility.”

From the beginning one of the things Spirit told Goodrich was that he could make a lot of money in the psychic business. At first he didn’t believe it. “Psychics worked out of fleabags, and the only people who made money were sleazy types doing dishonest readings for the tabloids,” he remembers thinking. But two things changed his mind. First, with his encyclopedic knowledge of the spiritualist scene, he was already providing an informal psychic reference service for both friends and strangers. “I’d stand at a bar and attract them like fireflies: ‘Do you know a good astrologer?’ ‘Do you know a good numerologist?’ I said, ‘Damn, I should be making money off this.’ ” Moreover he began to see the work as a calling. “I saw something that was true and right,” he says, “and I knew how it should be presented.”

It is after 6 p.m., and Goodrich is fortifying himself at Nishi, a fashionable uptown sushi joint whose co-owner, Lou Fischer, has been one of his biggest supporters. Goodrich wants to know whether Fischer can arrange a “psychic brunch” for a Jewish singles group. No problem, says Fischer. Then Goodrich outlines his accomplishments and sketches his plans. There are the restaurants, the clubs, the publicity for his clients. There is the “Message Service,” an ingenious setup whereby Kase and Kenyon do two-minute psychic readings for a room packed with ever-greater numbers of yuppies. At the last two Kase has become the vessel for the spirits of a Ming dynasty Chinese lord and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Elsewhere, Kenyon has done a séance for Spin magazine with dead rock personalities. Although details of that session are officially embargoed, Goodrich can reveal that Elvis put in an appearance (“He didn’t say much. He’s still pretty screwed up”) and that Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ late manager, is still angry with them. Then there is the future—Goodrich’s version. He has recently gotten permission from American Express to open a credit card pay-by-phone transchanneling service, and awaits a similar okay from Visa (“They give it to the telephone sex people,” he notes practically). And he is very interested in video, particularly in instructional tapes on how to tap your own psychic potential. “Services are okay,” he explains, “but the real money is in product. That’s what’s gonna support me in my old age.”

That is still a way off. Not long ago Goodrich celebrated his 27th birthday. There was a party. Bill and Rock presented him with a card inscribed with their own names and, at the bottom, in silvery, ethereal script, “Ty, Edythe and Helen.” Bill did the transchanneling and informed Michael that everyone on the Other Side was singing Happy Birthday—vigorously and out of key. Spirit, speaking through Bill, told Michael that Cosmic Contact would expand, that he would have to take on assistants, and that business would really start to kick in next month.

Then, abruptly, as often happens in these situations, another foreign presence made it self felt. Bill’s voice changed from its usual reedy tenor to a self-assured booming baritone. It was P.T. Barnum, tuning in to pay his respects. The great promoter, obviously mellowed by death, offered none of his usual cynicism about the birth rate of suckers. Instead, Goodrich says, he informed his audience that he had always made a point, in life, to send thank you notes after every engagement.

“The next day, ” says Goodrich, “I went out and bought stationery.”