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Robert Saviola is a hypnotist who grew up on Buffalo’s Lower West Side. Over the years, Saviola said he has hypnotized about 30,000 people who seek his help to quit smoking, lose weight or ease stress. Some of his clients have a fear of spiders or heights. Some seek confidence.

Saviola’s interest in hypnosis started early in life. At age 14 he used hypnosis to help a friend deal with a bad relationship. Today he and his staff of hypnotists work at Buffalo Hypnosis on Elmwood Avenue in Kenmore.

Twice married, Saviola is 54 and has three grown children. He splits his time between his home in East Amherst and one in Florida.

People Talk: Was hypnosis a hard sell for your parents?

Robert Saviola: Yes, they thought I was crazy. When I was 9 years old, I was in the library doing homework and I found a book on hypnosis that I read. I started by hypnotizing my brothers and sisters. By the time I was 14, I was hypnotizing adults. I hypnotized my aunts to quit smoking, and they quit. I also worked in my parents’ pizzeria every day – Saviola’s on Tonawanda Street.

PT: How did you acquire the ability to hypnotize at such a young age?

RS: I just believed I could do it. I entered the military at age 17, stayed for four years and then started driving racehorses at Buffalo Raceway and in Toronto. I did quite well, but I came back to Buffalo when I should have stayed in Toronto. All the while I’m doing these things, I’m still hypnotizing people on the side.

PT: Has hypnosis been good to you?

RS: Absolutely. All my life I’ve been able to sell myself so no matter what I did I went to the top of the organization overnight. To get a racehorse jockey license takes six to 12 years. I did it in two. I wanted my own TV show handicapping horse races. I got it. I wanted my own radio show. I have one. I wanted to own nightclubs. In the early ’90s I had Legends in the Falls. I do not believe there are any limits to what a human being can do.

PT: Do you recall the first person you hypnotized?

RS: It started as a joke doing it with a friend. I told him to close his eyes, and I started talking to him. I told him to pay attention to the sound of my voice. It was my friend who liked this one girl, but she was bad for him and he was pining over her. I didn’t want him to have those feelings all the time, so I hypnotized him. When he came out he felt totally different about her. And then she started going after him.

PT: Were you formally trained?

RS: I was in 1998, but I already had 25 years’ self-training under my belt. It gave me a huge advantage. I really didn’t get serious about it until 2004. There was a lot of competition in the area, but I knew I had a skill.

PT: Tell me about stage hypnosis.

RS: Stage hypnosis is simple. It’s one of the easiest things anybody can do. Stage hypnotists once could get from $1,500 to $2,000 per show. Now there are so many out there who ask $400. If you put 20 people on stage and you keep at least half of them, you’ll have a decent show. Some you have to send back to their seat because they’re not going in deep enough.

PT: How can you tell if someone is faking?

RS: I’ll look for rapid eye movement, fluttering of the eyes. You can tell if a person is sincere in what they are doing.

PT: As a hypnotist, what is your success rate?

RS: The cop-out answer is: The hypnotist doesn’t fail. Only the client can fail because they are in control at all times. If we really could control people we would work only with bankers and car dealers. The true answer is: Done appropriately, successful hypnosis is almost automatic. You can hypnotize people wide awake in public all the time without their knowledge. That’s called covert waking hypnosis. This happens all the time on the news.

PT: Do you have a problem getting people to take you seriously?

RS: Never. I walk into a room like I own it. I speak to them from a position of strength and knowledge.

PT: Do you have many friends?

RS: No. I know a lot of people. A lot of people like me, but familiarity breeds contempt.

PT: How else do you use hypnosis to earn a living?

RS: I do business consulting. It’s called hypnotic neurolinguistic programming and it works especially in sales. It gives salespeople a huge edge when they’re working.

PT: Hypnosis is so mysterious.

RS: It’s powerful. In the wrongs hands, it’s terrible. I found out at a young age how powerful it was when I wanted to go out to a nightclub and pick up a nice girl. It was easy, but I was always looking for a relationship with a nice girl.

PT: Are you married now?

RS: I’m with Donna. We were married, got divorced but stayed together. We realized paper wasn’t good for us. The way the laws are, a traditional marriage didn’t fit us anymore. Marriage is no longer a romantic relationship. It’s an economic partnership. We had nice American families. We don’t have them any longer.

PT: Do you have children?

RS: I have three grown children. Never once have any of them had any issues with drinking, drugs, smoking. There were no terrible times everyone warns you about. But then again, I would hypnotize my kids since they were little to be successful, productive and to feel good about themselves.

PT: How eclectic are you?

RS: Off the scale. I just don’t make sense. I’m the type of guy who could have crystals and wands but still at the same time talk about family morals or fiscal responsibility. I’m a walking contradiction. And I go to church every Sunday.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com