He correctly guessed what three-digit number a random audience member was thinking of. He knew what number had shown up on a dice rolled by someone from the crowd. He was able to determine what word a man had chosen from a stack of magazines by asking questions and having the participant free associate.
He’s Fred Zimmerman, known as The Chicago Mentalist, and by his own admission, he’s not a psychic or a medium. (“I’m a triple XL,” he jokes.)
He is, however, a keen observer of people.
“I’m waiting for the day when the term ‘psychic’ is replaced by the phrase ‘paying attention’,” said Zimmerman during his performance. “When you’re at a live performance and watching the actors, they’re also watching you.”
You might not want to play poker with Zimmerman, who has done gambling demos and is tuned in to people’s tells.
“You don’t play the cards. You play the player,” he said about gambling, and this applies to his mentalist act as well.
The slogan on his website is “An actor prepares… to read your mind,” a take on the famous book An Actor Prepares by Stanislavski. The book is about diving deeper into roles, and Zimmerman, an actor by training and profession, pulls from acting and his awareness of people when performing as a mentalist.
Zimmerman, a third generation Forest Parker, was born and raised in town. He attended St. Bernardine school and later Fenwick High School in Oak Park. He worked at Forest Park Liquors on Madison Street for 16 years. His father, after whom Fred was named, was a police officer in Forest Park for 32 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant. Zimmerman sang locally as part of a barbershop quartet, under the tutelage of long-time resident (and former Review publisher) Bob Haeger. Zimmerman’s mother, who is 91 years old, still lives in Forest Park.
Zimmerman has spent over 25 years as an actor, in roles ranging from national Broadway touring companies to appearances on national television shows. In 2018 he appeared on NBC’s hit drama Chicago Fire, playing the part of a middle school principal. He has performed at the Auditorium Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, the Kennedy Center, the Oriental Theatre, and in many other well-known venues.
The audience at Murphy’s on Madison Street on Sept. 18 was stunned with his ability to “read minds,” and his sense of humor had them laughing. Those gathered to watch Zimmerman perform included many people from Forest Park who have known him for years.
“I lived next door to him,” said lifelong resident Linda Eggersdorf who was there to watch the performance. “He was always nice and a good friend. His show tonight was amazing.”
“He’s incredible,” said Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, whose family has known Zimmerman for years.