Braco The Gazer: A new Age Guru With Nothing To Say
Johnny Podell, the agent behind Cream, Alice Cooper and other iconic rockers, is aware of all about getting excessive. His profession flamed out in the ’80s when he grew to become so addicted to cocaine, he hocked all of his platinum file plaques to fund his behavior. On a latest brisk spring day in Manhattan, Podell, since reformed, led the cost to sample a drug of a different type. The provider, a Croatian man known to followers as Braco (pronounced Brah-tzo, the Croatian phrase for “little brother”), pushes hope.
“Last evening, I used to be as excessive as I’ve ever been,” Podell told a crowd gathered within the Crystal Ballroom of the new Yorker Lodge. Folks hollered in agreement. A leather jacket hung from Podell’s skinny frame, and sunglasses shielded his eyes from the light of the chandeliers. “Eight bucks — not unhealthy! I want I would known about this 30 years ago,” he continued, cackling. “I’d have saved a lot of money.”
Ever for the reason that psychic Edgar Cayce birthed the American New Age motion within the early twentieth century, there’s been no lack of women and men promoting miracles to the crystal-pendant set. Braco, although, will be the smoothest salesman but. His cult of character has no personality. He’s mentioned to do all of it — everything from shrinking tumors to casting love spells — without saying a word or touching anybody. All he does, to the delight of his followers, is gaze at them.
The cross-section of Braco believers streaming into the brand new Yorker foyer that weekend could have been mistaken for a United Nations tour group. The variability was staggering: Midwesterners in sweatshirts and wise sneakers, pale young Balkan males, Indian couples sporting shawls and turbans, a big contingent of middle-aged black ladies. Some have been, in truth, U.N. staff, converts since 2012, when Braco gazed at them in a church down the street from their Manhattan headquarters. That point, the Croatian ambassador and his wife showed up.
Semi-celebrities have been in attendance, too. In the front row sat Tracie Martyn, a self-described “facialist to the stars,” and something of a magician-healer herself. Martyn’s webpage quotes Kate Winslet and Susan Sarandon, both clients, swearing by a facial Martyn delivers with an electric wand. That day, a band of her purchasers joined her, amongst them Podell and Christine Baranski, the Emmy-winning actress from “The great Spouse.” (“I felt like a dolphin swimming in stunning water,” Baranski later enthused.) They sat in reserved seats on the entrance of the packed ballroom.
This was day two for most, together with Podell. “I had to return back for more. In any case,” he grinned, “I’m an addict.”
Podell is the type of fan Braco tends to befriend: somebody who isn’t a household name, but who is aware of just a few personally. In the ballroom, he talked about whisking Braco and some gazing A-listers, including Martyn, to the backstage of the Beacon Theater for an Allman Brothers concert the night before (the Allmans are Podell’s shoppers from approach again). “We have been so lit up, you could have plugged us in,” he crowed, chalking up the night of spot-hopping to “the present of the gaze,” rather than medication or alcohol.
For many of the crowd, talking to Braco, not to mention hanging with him, is the stuff of dreams. Since 2008, he hasn’t spoken with anybody besides those in his inner circle — he refused to be interviewed for this story. The system maximizes the number of individuals he can “heal” in a day. It is also a trump card against costs of fraud.
“Braco would not call himself a healer,” Podell informed the group. “But what I experienced cannot be defined some other way.”
AN EXTRAORDINARY Expertise
No definitive study on power healing exists. The most important so far, a 1999 experiment by psychiatrist Elisabeth Targ, seemed to show that a diffuse group of healers stalled the deaths of AIDS patients. The data was later discovered to be flawed, and in a surreal twist, Targ herself died of a mind tumor beneath the watch of an army of healers. At the time, it was standard to call her the most prayed-for particular person on the earth.
Hope lives on although. Every year, national grants fund the research of qigong, tai chi, acupuncture, acupressure, meditation and reiki, a palm-healing approach now supplied at more than 800 American hospitals. Solo healers have gotten stars. These aren’t the faith healers of old, who lay fingers on writhing bodies in private homes and churches. The new generation is more akin to movie star health trainers, with products and regimens open to anybody keen to pay. The choices are countless: If Braco’s $eight, eight-minute soul-sweep doesn’t do it for you, why not an embrace from Amma, the jolly “hugging saint” from India, who as soon as wrapped her arms around Sharon Stone? Or in case you choose your healers clear-reduce, there’s always Dean Kraft, a psychic who wears fits.
The idea of staring one’s solution to transcendence isn’t new, either. Scientologists name it “confronting” — as dramatized in “The Master,” the drifter played by Joaquin Phoenix loses it whereas contemplating a wall. In the spring of 2010, the artist Marina Abramovic planted herself within the Museum of Trendy Art for a multi-month stare-athon, and all anybody might talk about afterward was how many guests cried.
Just a few years again there was even a flurry of “eye-gazing events” — “NY’s hottest dating development,” Elle Journal referred to as it — during which single folks searching for love appeared into a possible companion’s eyes for a few minutes.
However Braco is unique. He may offer lower than any star healer in the marketplace: no mantras, no dictums, simply the sight of him seeing you. When his ongoing tour, Braco in America, launched in 2010, he grew to become a punchline. On his radio show, Howard Stern wondered if the silent Croatian was mentally disabled. Just a few months later, the comic Tim Heidecker, of the “Tim and Eric Awesome Show,” tweeted a link to a YouTube video of Braco gazing at a crowd of tearful onlookers.
“I was obsessed,” mentioned Scott Jacobson, a former author for “The Daily Show,” who first encountered Braco in a video emailed by a friend in comedy.
“He appears absolutely like some guy you’d see eating at a cafe in Santa Monica, staring out and doing nothing at all. There seems to be nothing particular about him, which is why the cutaways to the audience, their responses, are so fantastic.”
Jacobson wound up doing a day’s worth of gazing sessions in 2011 for a gonzo article for Vice Journal (which he later published on his private webpage after a dispute over length).
The classes, held in Woodland Hills, Calif., 20 miles from downtown L.A., drew other skeptics who found the premise hilarious. Two comics in the audience, Natasha Lejjero and Mark Proksch, upset the peace once they challenged the opening speaker, based on Jacobson. His dispatch describes the security guards, or “guardians,” who linger on the sidelines of every session, asking Jacobson if he knew the duo and will cease them.
At the identical time, backers began to floor. In 2011, Braco was making ready a renewal application for his O-1, or extraordinary expertise visa, a 3-year ticket to work within the U.S. granted to candidates with impressive references. Considered one of his followers worked for Dennis Kucinich, the one-time presidential candidate who was then the U.S. representative from Ohio. Kucinich, who is a component Croat, agreed to a non-public assembly with Braco. He wrote a welcome statement in Croatian. Quickly, he was asking his secretary to clear his schedule and shepherding Braco on a non-public tour of Congress, chatting in English about world peace. When Braco’s visa application went out, it was with a letter from Kucinich’s office inside.
Kucinich is the best-profile American politician to assist Braco gain a visa. (While Braco employees members say former Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal made a vital name after Braco’s first visa utility was rejected, Freudenthal advised The Huffington Put up he can’t recall doing so, saying with a chuckle, “You’d suppose I would remember someone like that.”)
At the moment, Braco is the primary and solely Croat to hold the O-1, a class of certification related to Olympians and Oscar winners.
What could be so compelling a few man who seems to stand for nothing? Jacobson, the “Each day Present” writer, talks about an “unpretentious” vibe. “He appears to stay modestly, he doesn’t charge a lot. This is not like Scientology, the place by the time you clear, you have spent lots of of dollars,” says David Bromley, a Virginia Commonwealth College professor who tracks suspect religious phenomena.
Kucinich rebuffed a query in regards to the gazing classes — “I do not know something about these things” — but spoke glowingly of his fellow Croat in an interview with The Huffington Submit. “He’s a gentle, delicate soul. Would there have been more people like him.”
Braco’s adherents make extra grandiose claims: that he hails from Atlantis; that a fallen sunbeam pierced his mentor, wiring Braco right into a type of mystical hotline to the sun. Most undertaking his divinity onto the products hawked at every gazing session: the $35 DVDs (additionally available for $20 on-line), which some purchasers rub on their pores and skin in the belief that it’ll ease muscle ache, or the pendants from his sun-impressed jewellery line, some priced upwards of $5,000.
Braco’s factotums won’t focus on monetary figures. One worker estimated that 3,000 folks sat within the Crystal Ballroom over the course of the weekend this spring. An official Braco web site places his report at 10,000 people in in the future. But because clients usually attend multiple sessions in a day, ticket gross sales do not translate into a conclusive head depend.
Braco’s rising tour schedule tells a clearer story. This year he is scheduled to spend solely two weeks at residence in Zagreb along with his spouse and son. He’ll gaze in cities across America: Richmond, Va.; Phoenix; Sacramento, Calif.; Portland, Ore. He visits Texas and Massachusetts for the first time (as nicely because the Netherlands, and he recently visited Australia). New York and Los Angeles, the place the Podells of the world live, will host multiple stops.
Not every miracle sounds far-fetched. That a person’s temper would possibly enhance under a continuing kindly gaze, as an illustration, isn’t such a leap. So too would possibly a sick canine seem to chill out if played one of the uncommon recordings of Braco talking (known as “The Voice”) in a soothing Croatian drone. Vanishing tumors are another thing. In response to HuffPost’s requests for proof extra rigorous than first-person anecdotes — a comply with-up survey, or anything medical — Braco’s employees mentioned they did not have the manpower or funding to track outcomes.
On cult-watch boards, critics say his sessions are designed to create a placebo impact, squeezing Braco into 10 minutes towards the end of an hour filled with hype-males and -women. The skeptics deride a ban on pregnant ladies and youngsters, whom Braco’s literature warns may be “overburdened” by the vitality.
“You understand why children aren’t allowed, proper?” wrote a commenter on the Men’s Desgin Lion Drawing Short Sleeve T-Shirt positioning NewAgeFraud.com. “This kinda stuff is considered 18+ ever because the Emperor received himself a new outfit. Children *ask questions*.”
BRACO IN AMERICA
Almost every English-language factoid about Braco comes from the 2 U.S. employees closest to him: Angelika Whitecliff and Jane Sibbett. At first glance, the leggy blondes, both of whom dwell in Hawaii and wax poetic about vitality fields and swimming with the dolphins, seem like twins.
In actuality, they’re at odds. The girls promote the Braco In America marketing campaign roughly independently, and even run comparable however competing web sites that promote his goods. Sibbett, an actress (she performed Ross Geller’s lesbian ex, Carol, on “Friends”) is linked into L.A. and New York. She may be breezy and persuasive about how Braco gained over her “pragmatic thoughts,” whereas Whitecliff, a hardcore New Age-ist, never expresses doubts. Tall and angular, she flits round sessions gripping a cup of coffee and trembling with nervous energy.
Whitecliff met Braco first, at a UFO convention in Las Vegas in 2009. She adopted up with a pilgrimage to Zagreb, where she wrote a memoir, 21 Days With Braco, that she says was meant to prep American audiences for his arrival. In it, she particulars the second Braco commissioned her help. By her account, he advised her she was the one to deliver him to America.
Back house in Hawaii, she employed Sibbett to film a line of DVDs, during which followers element miraculous turns in their lives. (These may be purchased on the dueling websites: Braco.internet, run by Whitecliff, and BracoAmerica.com, Sibbett’s site.)
By the time of Braco’s first gaze on American soil — at a convention in Hawaii run by Whitecliff — Sibbett and her Television writer husband had moved from L.A. She and Braco bought to know each other, she says, during volleyball matches and swim journeys. She took him horseback riding.
She recounts taking a stroll one evening and working into Braco, who was also on a stroll. The “mystical, magical assembly” stretched for hours. “He said, ‘I might like you to deliver me to the mainland. I think you can do it.'” He gave her a solar pendant, “different from Angelika’s,” stated Sibbett, “a miniature version of the one he wears … yellow with diamonds.”
Sibbett reached out to her community, including outdated “Mates” pals. Three weeks later, Braco gazed in L.A. The tickets bought out, Sibbett stated. “Kenny Loggins came.”
She booked up the West Coast. (Whitecliff, she says, appeared reluctant to share her contacts.) A helpful new good friend got here within the type of the Rev. Michael Beckwith, star of the self-assist franchise “The key.” They mentioned how energy “goes beyond the boundaries of time and house.” The 2 took the logical next step, dwell-streaming footage of Braco gazing at Beckwith’s megachurch in Culver City, Calif., so anybody with an Internet connection and a credit card could be healed past the boundaries of time and area.
This kind of labor is new for Sibbett. “She’s a bit too poised and slightly too good for what she’s doing,” stated Jacobson, who contacted her for his article. “The best way she was type of interrogating me and hedging her bets, giving me disclaimers: that not everybody feels it the first time, that you just want to return back for more. If I knew of any person who had mystical healing properties, I t shirt shooters wouldn’t bend over backwards to qualify the experience.”
Whitecliff, meanwhile, who lists her interests as UFOs, telepathy and angels in one online profile, seems proper at home. Opening speakers at gazing classes recite the life story informed in her e book: that earlier than Braco was Braco, he was Josep Grbavac, the son of wealthy dad and mom in Zagreb. He accompanied his mom to a psychic, Ivica Prokic, who claimed to see the long run by peering right into a mirror. The young Grbavac, along with his grasp’s diploma in economics, was a doubter. But Prokic gained him over. The psychic gave him his new name and foretold his powers, saying he would use them in America after a great shift (Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential win, in accordance with Whitecliff). A year later, in 1995, Prokic died. Braco took his place at his middle in Zagreb.
Prokic’s demise is put down to a freak accident, a “rogue wave” that swept him away off the coast of South Africa, the place Whitecliff says he had gone on vacation with Braco. (The story raises the antennae of skeptics, who see one thing extra sinister in two people going off somewhere collectively, however just one returning.)
By 2008, Whitecliff says, Braco’s fans had been so nice in number — and his critics so irritating — he got here up with the thought of simply standing and staring at complete plenty of individuals.
“There’s a profoundness to him,” stated Martyn, the high-wattage facialist. “We all communicate a lot and waste our energy and words. He would not converse that much, and when he says one thing, it’s extremely potent and purposeful.”
On the night of the Allman Brothers live performance, she recalled, “Someone said, ‘Oh, it’s so late.’ And he stated one thing to the effect of, ‘What is time? It’s only a quantity.’ We were all like, ‘Did you hear what he simply stated?’ There is a profoundness to him, and not in the conventional guru way.”
Sibbett calls Braco a “actual man. He eats everything. He would not drink, but he does smoke. There’s a variety of spiritual individuals who do.”
Earlier than she took the job, Sibbett says watched “creepy” videos on YouTube of individuals fainting and screaming during Braco occasions, and realizing that Braco needed to alter his image. Within the DVDs she produces, his gaze is often directed on the Pacific Ocean, his hair floating on the breeze.
The first YouTube video launched for the Braco in America marketing campaign.
Sibbett’s first session was in Whitecliff’s dwelling room. She and her husband couldn’t stop giggling, caught in what she calls a “bliss bubble.” Quickly, she says, she saw Braco, gazing via Skype, “form-shift into a local American man with feathers in his hair.” Extra classes transpired, and she became sure that her allergy issues, introduced on by the moist Hawaiian climate, had been getting higher.
“Believe me, if I had been to hear myself, I’d suppose it’s crazy, too,” she mentioned. “Nevertheless it happened.”
Only The start
Braco’s mates want him to blow up. They talk about seeing him on Oprah’s couch, the seat where gurus are made. They cite function fashions resembling Eckhart Tolle, the German spiritualist who vaulted into bestseller lists after Winfrey gushed about his e-book, “The facility Of Now.” If Braco gives just one interview, he could not do much better.
“We’re a related group of people,” Martyn said. “If I can inform somebody who can inform someone else — I mean, that’s how issues occur.”
Take Podell, whom Martyn convinced to affix her in the ballroom that weekend. By the time he was on stage priming the gang, he’d agreed to consider a request from Braco to introduce him all around the country. That day, he wrapped up his first try in the usual way. After asking the crowd to face, he paused, then said gravely, “I now present to you — Braco.”
Instrumental music stuffed the air, operated by employees and volunteers sitting stage proper at an extended table covered in laptops and binders.
On cue, a slight man appeared from the other aspect of the corridor. He climbed the stage without moving his arms and pivoted to the audience. Gray hair fell onto sloped shoulders clad in a silky white shirt. His features seemed soft, nearly melted. This was Braco. He might as well have stepped off the life-dimension poster in the hotel lobby.
He slowly scanned the room. Some within the viewers held up photographs of beloved ones, pictures of sick humans and pets. A man swayed precariously, as if he’d fallen asleep standing up. People of both sexes shed tears.
And why not? There was no denying the joys, especially in a city where making eye contact can feel like a provocation.
A couple of loaded minutes of silence, and Braco was gone. The crowd shuffled, resumed their seats, put away their pictures. The floor opened to volunteers. A center-aged girl with thinning hair raised her hand.
“I feel light and childlike and artistic,” said Irina from New Jersey. “To me, that is what Braco does. I have been carrying, like, a heavy sack of stuff on me for ages now, and it began to drift away. In fact, I started to investigate it, however I instructed my mind, ‘It is going to be okay. You’ll be able to feel as mild as you want.'”
Clarification: Language has been amended to mirror that Duane Allman, whereas at one time a client of Podell’s, is not, having died in 1971. It has also been updated with additional details about the worth of Braco’s DVDs.
t shirt shooters