When Bob Fellows talks about drug abuse, he hopes young people will absorb his message before they even realize it was there.
The mentalist "uses the illusion of extrasensory perception, mind reading nd the power of suggestion" in such a way that "it's hard for kids to tell if they're watching a show or hearing a message. I use humor, illustrations and even magic to get my point across."Regardless of the method he chooses, Fellows is serious about the point that he wants to convey: "I'm not preaching just anti-drug so much as not allowing yourself to be manipulated. And there's a strong correlation between drugs, alcohol - even cults - and manipulation," he said.
Fellows is one of a dozen speakers and entertainers who will participate in "Reach for a National High," the Utah Federation for a Drug-Free Youth's fifth parents and youth conference April 28 and 29 at the Salt Palace.
Speakers include Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Reggie Williams; Olympic gold medalists Bart Connors and Billy Mills; Lonise Bias, mother of the late Len Bias; Jazz players Thurl Bailey and Karl Malone; drummer Jevon Thompson; world-record-holding freestyle skier Darol Wagstaff; as well as dozens of local and regional experts on substance abuse, motivation, health and other topics.
There's an equally impressive lineup of performers, including Fellows; Paul Hunt; Elvis impersonator Dr. Robert Moody; the Manila High School Improv Group; The Cub Powers Chorus; Four Corners Mental Health Peer Helpers; Grand High School Psychological Drama Group - S.T.O.P; Kelsi and Kassidy Osborn; The Southwest Utah Mental Health/Alcohol and Drug Center; and others.
Fellows said he started doing magic when he was 9, and as he was studying for his master's degree in religion at Harvard, he discovered a strong link between cults and manipulation as well as alcohol and drug abuse and manipulation.
"The techniques I use - and explain - as a mentalist are very similar to those that are used in everyday situations to manipulate people, from just trying to make someone feel guilty to something as dangerous as pressing him to join a cult or take drugs.
"I demonstrate the techniques and explain how social manipulation works so that people can learn to resist it in all kinds of situations."
Fellows said he likes to borrow the old Abbie Hoffman line: "Telling someone to just say no to drugs is like telling a manic depressive to just cheer up."
For information on the conference, contact the Federation for a Drug-Free Youth, 538-3949.