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Small Mediums at Large

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Iacuzzo consults the tarot in her Little Italy home. When Terry Iacuzzo goes to her local deli, she likes to talk to the tomatoes, and she says the tomatoes talk back to her. When she orders a bowl of soup at a Chinese restaurant, she thinks the way the noodles lay in the bowl can predict the future.

Iacuzzo isn't nuts, she simply believes that everything from tomatoes to tea leaves tells a story. Iacuzzo is one of New York's most renowned psychics. For two decades, she has read the tarot for thousands of the rich, the famous, the artistic, the notorious, the connected and the regular Joes on a small wooden table in the bedroom of her tiny sixth-floor walkup in Little Italy.

"I'm full of stories," Iacuzzo says. "I'm a walking library." Iacuzzo has transformed these tales into a fascinating new memoir, "Small Mediums at Large: The True Tale of a Family of Psychics." Be warned: The book is not a major dirt-dishing - she swears she'll take the identities of her famous clientele to her grave - nor is it a pat on the back about how she has altered people's lives (though she has). It's an homage to her family, the city, the psychedelic era of the '60s and '70s, and the madcap characters she has met along the way. All of which Iacuzzo credits with nurturing her powers.


"The book is definitely a love story to New York," says Iacuzzo. "It's almost like a 'Wizard of Oz' story. A young girl comes to a magical city. I'd told the story so many times that I wanted to write a book to really savor the experience. I was going so fast in other peoples' lives that I really wanted to stop and think about 'How does it work? How do I do what I do?'"

Through her writing, Iacuzzo says, she realized that all of us have psychic ability - we just might not know how to tap into our intuition. "I hope the book will encourage people to come out of the psychic closet and say, 'I have those experiences, too.' ... Because it naturally happens around us."

Iacuzzo was a skeptic. In fact, it took her nearly 20 years to recognize and accept her abilities. "I'm an original person. I'm an original thinker," she says. "As my friends used to call me, I'm an original weirdo. I'm proud of that. But I am also a psychic."

Iacuzzo grew up in Buffalo, and her childhood was, well, kind of weird. Her mother, Mary, was known as the local soothsayer and always had a gaggle of girlfriends around the kitchen table asking what trouble their good-for-nothing husbands were up to.

Her father, Andy, could predict winning horses at the track. Her older brother, Frank, had vivid dreams that foretold the future, her sister, Rosemary, channeled dead relatives, and all three children would hold sťances in their basement under a single red light bulb, scaring the bejesus out of the neighborhood kids.

"We didn't know we were psychics. We didn't have that vocabulary," Iacuzzo says. "We just had a special way of looking at things that we got from my mother. When my brother moved to Manhattan in 1959, someone said to him, 'Frank, you're so psychic. You should study the tarot or astrology.' And that was it. The whole world changed."

Iacuzzo joined Frank as soon as she finished high school and moved into his Mulberry St. brownstone, just down the street from her new neighbor, mob boss John Gotti, who held court at the Ravenite Social Club. As Frank became famous as a psychic (Grace Kelly, Yoko Ono and Imelda Marcos were clients), the brownstone became the center of the psychic universe. It also became the hub of wild parties and more truly hair-raising sťances.

"It was quite the scene," says Iacuzzo. "The parties would go on for days. We would get a call and go over to a loft in SoHo, when there was nothing there, and in the corner would be street musicians and Salvador Dali. It was a hungry time. You saw a more creative spirit."

Iacuzzo spent the next decade going deeper into the mystical world. After studying with legendary medium Nesta Kerin Crain at the Temple of the New Dawn on the upper West Side and witnessing radiant flying spirits at a trance retreat at Silverbelle Spiritualist Camp in Pennsylvania, Iacuzzo says, she ditched the cynicism.


"I'm still irreverent and skeptical, but I now believe that everything is possible," she says. "I believe in these things. I believe in them because I experienced them. If I don't experience them, I don't believe it. There are very few things I haven't experienced."

In 1977, Frank hired her to schedule his readings. But it was becoming impossible to fit everyone in, so Terry began giving readings to the spillover clients. Soon enough, her name got out - and her phone hasn't stopped ringing.

Twenty-five years of reading five people a day, five days a week became emotionally draining. "My brother said that there are two kinds of people in the world - those who are sick and those who are trying to get well," Iacuzzo says. "There are many people who come for readings who are self-absorbed or obsessed about some person. They don't want to hear the truth. But you can't do what I do if you don't really love, not so much people, but helping them grow. Helping them get well. Some people I don't like, but when we're engaged, I'm there. You can be the nastiest high-society lady, but in 10 minutes I'll having you melting."

To her clients' dismay, Iacuzzo stopped doing readings two years ago to work on her book. "For years and years I had been in the future, in the past or in other realities or dimensions or alternative choices for others. ... It was hard for me to be in the now," she says. "Writing the book cured me. Now that I don't do that, I'm so happy and I love being here. I had to reprogram myself."

Think you've got the gift? According to Iacuzzo, the best place to hone your own ability to "read" people is out in public. "Eating in restaurants is where you can really be a psychic. There's something about people in restaurants. Their defenses are down. They're hungry, cranky, tired and self-conscious. A lot of body issues and health issues come up. It's all right there. When you're hungry, you're very vulnerable. It's a great place to learn, if you're so inclined."