For some of Hollywood’s elite, the center of power is not Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian Hotel, but a half mile away, above a traffic school on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. This is the nondescript office of Bill Burns, a psychic whose clients include top stars, agents, and execs at networks and studios (not to mention the wife of an ex-presidential candidate). ”Bill,” says the producer of a major ’80s sitcom, ”is like Oz.”
Here’s a peek behind the curtain: For an hour-long session, costing $275, the barrel-chested 61-year-old Boston native gives insiders a sixth sense about the biz—though he says he never reads Variety and has seen only three movies since Doctor Zhivago 37 years ago. Working from the name or photograph of a person a client wants ”profiled,” Burns enters a trancelike state. ”I get an instant knowing about who they are in relationship to the question I’m being asked,” he says. ”I can immediately and intuitively visualize the person’s motivations, hot buttons, reliability, and integrity.”
Since moving to L.A. in 1979, Burns has developed a loyal clientele—several of whom spoke to Entertainment Weekly about his skills (while declining to identify themselves).
A literary agent says she routinely uses Burns to screen her list of authors seeking representation. ”He told me one [potential client] ‘can be big if he wanted to be,’ and the writer later won a Pulitzer Prize.”
One top TV agent consulted Burns on where to pitch a new series. ”I asked him to choose between ABC and NBC, and he told me to take my pitch to CBS first,” he says. ”He was right.”
When the star of one of TV’s longest-running sitcoms asked why she was finding it hard to make friends on the set, Burns says, he told her she had become intimidating to her castmates and suggested she drop defensive behaviors.
A cable exec recalls bringing Burns pictures of her two bosses. ”He said the first boss was in over his head and was going to be fired, which he was, and he also warned me that the replacement boss wasn’t going to mesh with me,” says the suit, who then successfully negotiated her way out of the company.
Burns, a former corporate trainer for a Boston insurance company, claims he first noticed his psychic gifts in 1971 after sobering up. ”As a drunk, I couldn’t have harnessed those abilities,” says Burns, who soon began practicing his visualizations with strangers in $5 readings. Today, he estimates that more than half his clients are in showbiz. Some make appointments under an alias, he says, and a few arrive wearing disguises. (He never makes house calls.) While Burns says most questions are work-related, his clients insist that he doesn’t do their jobs for them. ”If I had to call Bill just to ask him which scripts to buy, then I shouldn’t be in this business,” says the cable executive, who nonetheless sought advice about which up-and-coming producers the network should approach for deals.