Outside the banquet room, Randi feigns relief, giving his brow an exaggerated, sarcastic wipe. "Thank God the money is safe."

He says that people who lose the challenge all react the same way: "Without fail, they always have an excuse for why they couldn't do what they claimed they could."

Sure enough, once Sonne returns to Denmark, she claims Banachek had used sleight-of-hand to move the cards and protect the money.

Randi, Penn, and Teller each pose in thought during a panel discussion on magic and skepticism.
Bill Hughes
Randi, Penn, and Teller each pose in thought during a panel discussion on magic and skepticism.

After the test, most of the attendees head to the airport or begin long road trips home. A few skeptics linger at the bar. "The TAM parties are something of a legend," a tall, pale, bearded conferee from Seattle confesses after his third vodka, between a string of Simpsons quotes. (Asked for his name, he spits out two that end up not being his.) "Skeptics understand the chemistry of inebriation. And we're good people to have deep, meaningful conversations with. All the people here are based in reality. That's really refreshing." To punctuate his sentiments, he stands up: "Who wants another round?"

Although the future is up in the air for the Amazing Randi, what keeps him going are the men and women who approach him every day with stories of their skeptical conversions. "That means I've changed someone's life," he says. "I get emotional. I say to myself, 'Damn! That's why I'm in business.' The people here, they're going to follow me. The movement's going to go on."

Randi jokes that after he passes, his fans need not bother with grandiose gestures like establishing a museum of magic or burying him in an elaborate tomb. He has something more Amazing in mind. "I want to be cremated," he says with his signature dry, knowing charm. "And I want my ashes blown in Uri Geller's eyes."

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