Believe this: New Yorkers will stop at nothing to get the latest information. Which is one reason why this city is the medium capital of the world. From the storefront palmists watching CNN in the glow of their neon signs to the most prestigious Fifth Avenue seers, psychics rival trainers and nannies as city dwellers’ indispensable support staff. In the secular culture of the city, they’re as close as some of us get to spiritual.
Smart people enlisting their own Rasputins is nothing new. First Ladies seem to love it: Nancy Reagan made no secret of her affinity for astrology, and Hillary Clinton was famously led by a medium through a series of conversations with dead people as a means of getting through some of her darker days on Pennsylvania Avenue. But the current uncertainty has made their services more desirable than ever. Psychics are, for strictly secular types, an acceptable way to put faith in a greater force—and to take a break from ambition and control-freakery. Plenty of New Yorkers wouldn’t buy an apartment or accept a new job without an astral okay. And you may say it with your tongue in cheek, but it still helps you handle that co-op-board rejection when your psychic posits that you weren’t supposed to have the place anyway. Even therapists are working in tandem with psychics—another means, perhaps, of helping their clients accept that there are things beyond our control. “I decided to quit therapy,” says a 23-year-old woman who works in the fashion industry, “and my shrink said, ‘If you want to stop seeing me, that’s fine. But let me give you the phone number of a psychic.’ ”
“They’re all very in tune with what women want to hear,” quips Anne Fahey, the executive director of fashion PR for Chanel, who’s seen her fair share of psychics over the years and has even hired one who bases her readings on the contents of handbags to work Chanel parties. “She told me I needed to have more fun with my handbags.”
The dozen people who follow use a variety of methods to provide a compass to their clients’ lives, to help them find lost things or even communicate with a pet. Absolute faith in their pronouncements is not required (do you believe everything your shrink says?), but you may want to have it. Most of them keep the bad news to themselves.