Interview: Anthony Cools

I conducted this interview with Paris Las Vegas hypnotist Anthony Cools in November 2006 for the companion blog to my Open Road’s Best of Las Vegas guidebook.

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Two weeks ago, uncensored hypnotist Anthony Cools returned to amp up the scandalous sex at Paris Las Vegas after a stint at the Excalibur. He’s been a Strip fixture since 2003, when he debuted at the Stardust. He also holds the distinction of being the longest-running headliner in the Gulf Coast. In between hypnotizing men into thinking they have nads growing out of their heads and giving his volunteers spontaneous orgasms, Anthony sat down with us for our inaugural Best of Las Vegas interview.

Best of Las Vegas: I saw your show. You’re pretty hilarious. Although I can imagine how much more you can pull off when more than three of your volunteers make it through the induction.

Anthony Cools: Yeah, you saw a tough show. It all depends on audience participation. No matter what people think, it’s real. I don’t know what kind of show I get until it happens. Sometimes I’ll have eighteen people under on stage and ten more in the audience. No matter what, people still have a good time.

Best of Las Vegas: In your act, you hypnotize people into tapping into their repressed sexuality. Tell me about how you devised your act.

Anthony Cools: I like to look at it – hypnosis is a very generic thing, whether therapeutic, on stage or medically. If you get into trance state, you’re removing the right and wrong switch in the brain, putting the subconscious in control. That’s why my volunteers can laugh and enjoy the show. They’re the ones who are really deeply hypnotized. The ones who are really zoned out are not quite as deep. When the subconscious is in control, there’s no right and no wrong. Anything I suggest, there’s no reason not to do it. You’re uninhibited, everything feels right. If i say screw the chair, there’s no reason not to screw the chair. I’ve been doing basically the same act for 13 years. My first show I smoked cigarettes & had beer on stage, a rough view of that first show. Manipulated, perverted, refined it into what it is today, but it’s always been a dirty show.

Best of Las Vegas: How did you get into hypnosis, and into a branch of it so different than a therapeutic or even an entertainment setting?

Anthony Cools: I’ve always been a ham. Being a DJ made me comfortable with a mic and an audience. I always knew I’d be in showbiz. I thought I’d be a rockstar, but apparently that takes talent. The DJing got me really comfortable talking to big groups of people, and I’ve always had fascination with the paranormal, occult, UFOs, anything to do with the brian. I started reading about hypnosis at age 14. Nobody would apprentice me, so I learned on my own. I read somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 books. Out of them, 290 were bad material. Anything available in local library is not worth reading. Most good books on hypnosis are dry, boring reads. I started reading seriously at 27 and was managing a nightclub in Canada. I hired myself to do a free show, walked up on stage in front of 550 people, having never hypnotized anyone before in my life, did an hour and a half show. Nobody believes it, but you’ll never find anybody I hypnotized before going up on stage that night.

Best of Las Vegas: Where do you come up with the ideas for your bits?

Anthony Cools: A lot of them were written out, “Hey, you know what would be funny?” But a lot were written after shows. We’d kick out the patrons, have a few beers and hypnotize a few staff members, and in that informal setting, with no lights or music, we developed new material.

Best of Las Vegas: I’m sure there’s a lot of skepticism about hypnosis in general. Can you expand on the physiology behind it – how it works, why it works?

Anthony Cools: As it stands right now, hypnosis can neither be proven nor disproven scientifically. It jus doesn’t work that way. That’s why it can’t be used in a court of law. If you admitted it, then you’d have to believe in UFO-logy, ghosts, past lives. If you take it for exactly what it is, it’s a relatively new expression of the human form. The subconscious mind is being put in the forefront, with the conscious mind being put to sleep.

Best of Las Vegas: Most recently, you had a show at the Excalibur. Why did you move over to Paris?

Anthony Cools: Well, we were originally at the Paris a few years ago in what used to be the tour and travel lobby. We converted a hotel check-in to a theater. We set up 250 chairs every night and then tore them down. Caesars Entertainment gave us a shot and we proved it, because it worked and it worked well. We set records every week. When Harrah’s took over, they gave me a really good deal to stay, but Excalibur gave me a better deal to leave. It was a great bunch of people, but it was like mixing chocolate milk and Kraft macaroni and cheese. They’re both great on their own, but they just don’t work together. It just wasn’t a good fit. We opened at Paris about two weeks ago, and we’re getting it up and operating. We’re going to shut down from December 4 through 25 and renovate the theater during that three-week time period. We’re putting doors on the theater and making it a beautiful showroom.

Best of Las Vegas: What characteristics make someone a good candidate for induction?

Anthony Cools: Absolutely, they must be willing. If they fight me in any form or fashion it’s not going to work. They have to be of sound mind. They can’t be drunk, they can’t be high. Intelligent people can focus better, and all hypnosis is, is an extension of focus.

Best of Las Vegas: What’s your favorite part of the act?

Anthony Cools: Definitely the orgasms. You should have been here last night. We had a dozen people on stage and had some really wild orgasms.

Best of Las Vegas: What about the audience? What gets the best response out of them?

Anthony Cools: Definitely people coming with an open mind, people who know what they bought tickets to see. People who are shocked – I don’t get it. We advertise heavily – “raw and uncensored,” “hypnotizing comedy that crosses the line” – these catchphrases let you know what you’re in for. We just added the French maids on stage so the audience wouldn’t be so shocked when I came on stage.

Best of Las Vegas: You talk about crossing the line – has there ever been a time when you’ve felt like, “I’ve gone too far, even for me?”

Anthony Cools: Ten years ago I did a bit up on stage. I called it the kissing moon. On a command word, one guy would turn around, drop his pants, and show his ass to the audience. Another guy, on the command word, he would see the most beautiful woman in the world and want to kiss her. This guy got his lips a half inch from the other guy’s ass when I woke him up. I immediately pulled it out of the show.

Best of Las Vegas: What kind of audience do you want? What kind of Vegas visitors would most appreciate your show?

Anthony Cools: It appeals to everyone from 18 to 80. It’s not necessarily the demographic of the audience but the mindset of the audience. I like a large group of people that want to have some fun, know what they’re getting into, and are less inhibited than their neighbors.

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Anthony Cools performs at 9pm every night (dark Wednesdays) at the Anthony Cools Experience inside Paris Las Vegas. Tickets are $52.75 and $75.75. For reservations, visit the Paris Box Office or call 1-877-374-7469.