by April Helms

Special Products Editor

About a week before I met Brent Webb, a self-described mentalist with roots in the area, he sent me a cryptic e-mail: that "just for fun," he would send me a letter, and I was not to open it, but bring it with me when we met.

Sure enough, the day before we met, I received an 8 1/2-by-11-inch yellow envelope, addressed to me from Webb, with "DO NOT OPEN" clearly marked in multiple places.

The next afternoon, I met with Webb, who will start performing a version of his Las Vegas act in the Novo Lounge at the Sheraton Suites in Cuyahoga Falls, starting in August. And just what is Webb's act? Webb, who grew up in Ravenna, can be best described as a mental magician: making predictions, bending spoons and other mental magic.

"I got my start as a child," Webb said. "My father would hide a quarter for me, and tell me to go find it. The amount went up, and I kept finding it. Finally, he took a $100 bill and taped it to the back door of a barn. I still found it."

Webb laughed. "That was the last time my father played that game."

After high school, Webb said he went to college for a brief period of time, very brief.

"It wasn't for me," he said. Instead, he took his talents and joined a circus. Eventually he bought the circus and operated it for a few years before selling it. Webb settled for a time in Las Vegas, where he performed at the Desert Inn, opening for stars like Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Chaka Khan and others. He also toured the nation, performing before stars such as Dolly Parton, the Smothers Brothers and the late Johnny Carson. Webb said he also performs at corporate functions, among other venues. He moved back to the area to be closer to his family, Webb added.

Webb then asked me during the interview to select a piece of paper from a clear plastic envelope. Inside the envelope were about 50 pieces of paper, each with a word like "clown," or "house." I drew a slip of paper with the word "football." He then asked me to draw a picture of my object, without letting him look. I drew a passable football, then he pulled out a booklet and asked me three questions: what was a standout summer vacation, who was a dear childhood friend and what is a favorite word?

OK, I thought, that's puzzling. I answered that my favorite vacation was an extended weekend to Savannah, Ga. I thought a moment about my childhood friends, for I had several, but I settled on my cousin, Tina, who lived across the street from the home where I grew up, and was almost like a sister to me. As for favorite word, in a fit of whimsy, I said "serendipitous." It's fun to say, if nothing else.

Then it was back to the intriguing envelope, which I had placed in front of me, underneath my purse. I opened it, to find a smaller envelope, again marked "DO NOT OPEN."

"That was in case you opened the first one," Webb said.

Inside the smaller envelope were two slips of paper, one bright yellow and the other salmon-colored. On the yellow slip of paper was a drawing of a football.

On the other slip of paper was this note:

"April --

"I predict you will remember your vacation to Savanah [sic], your childhood friend was Tina and your favorite word will be serendiptus [sic]. I hope I'm right! Brent 6/20."

In this business of news, we are trained to be cynics -- but how do you explain that?

Webb will perform a lounge show every Tuesday and Thursday evening, from 7 to 11, in the Novo Lounge starting Aug. 7. He also will perform a dinner show on a regular basis, starting Aug. 25. Tickets for the dinner show will be $25 per person, which include the show, a pasta buffet and salad. Call the Piatto Novo restaurant at 330-920-7530 for details or reservations.

The doors will open for the dinner show starting at 6 p.m. The next dinner show dates are scheduled for Sept. 7, Sept. 29, Oct. 12 and Oct. 27.

For details on Brent Webb, call 330-689-0722, or visit www.brentwebb.net.