Singer-turned-hypnotist mesmerizes volunteers at popular State Fair show

Published: Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013 - 5:12 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Jul. 11, 2014 - 8:48 am

The packed audience watching the California State Fair's center stage cheered - and sometimes cringed - at the 15 people gyrating wildly.

The participants had been hypnotized to think they were hula-hooping.


"I'm just a ringleader, I'm just trying to get everybody to have fun," hypnotist Suzy Haner said after the show she performs three times daily during the fair at Cal Expo.

Stage hypnotism has become a staple at many fairs across the country, and Haner has held court as the California State Fair's own for four years running.

She seems to have an endless supply of willing participants. An estimated 1,200 to 1,500 people attend each show, according to Paul Gillingham, Cal Expo entertainment director.

"Every show is different," Haner said. "I never know what I'm going to do until I get up there."

Haner's natural stage presence comes after 15 years of fronting her band, Suzy and the Knockouts, which covered acts ranging from the Beatles to Janis Joplin.

"Suzy and the Knockouts was doing a lot of the fairs," she said. "And so I went and got certified, and then I called all the fairs I was working at and told them I was a hypnotist now."

"I immediately had a career because of the fair industry, so I'm really grateful for that," she said. "The transition was really smooth."

The lead singer-turned-hypnotist comes from a family of performers. Her husband, Brian Haner, is a comedian and her son, Brian Haner Jr., is the lead guitarist for the heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold and goes by the stage name Synyster Gates.

Haner compared being under hypnosis to the feeling people have when they drive home at night and pull into their garage without remembering a portion of the journey.

"I didn't really feel everyone watching me; it was kind of like I was just in my own world," said participant Austin DeHererra, 17, from Elk Grove.

For the finale, Haner hypnotized people into thinking they were singing karaoke.

But they believed they were rapping in an unknown language. Each participant took the microphone one at a time and rapped in what sounded, for the most part, like complete gibberish.

"The most rewarding part for me is when people are just like, 'That was so fun, we laughed so hard,' " Haner said.

Haner uses hypnosis for more than entertainment. A hypnotherapist for 17 years, she said she uses her skills to help people change their lives.

She said some people who have listened to her self-help hypnosis CDs have told her they quit smoking after 35 years.

"People think they don't have that power within themselves," Haner said. "I go, 'Look, you're just going to make this a part of who you are now.' "

Although Haner's comedy show is less life-changing, she still hopes that it can help fairgoers laugh and unwind.

"That's why I'm here - just to have everyone relax and laugh for a while." she said.

Call The Bee's Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103. Follow her in Twitter @BrittTorrez.

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