A well-spoken, pleasant 83-year-old lady named Jenifer Whisper contacted me to say she was a songwriter. I said, “I think that’s a very nice thing.”
A couple of minutes into the conversation, she happened to mention that she received lyrics and music from George Gershwin — personally. That’s interesting mainly because Gershwin died 76 years ago.
Thinking I misunderstood, I asked: “You mean, inspired by him?”
“No, he tells them to me.”
Ahem. Madam, you have my complete attention.
A few weeks later, I pulled up a chair at her table and spelled it out. “Jenifer, when you told me you talk with George Gershwin and other composers, you were talking to a guy who can’t be surprised and is seldom shocked. But are you aware that some folks will think you don’t have both oars in the water?”
Jenifer accepts that with a shrug and tells me she’s had the gift of clairvoyance for 60 years. She’s a Christian and belongs to the Teaching of the Inner Christ church in El Cajon, which teaches the power of meditation. That ability to delve deeply into her mind, she explains, helps her tap her psychic powers.
I ask how she and Mr. Gershwin first met. (If you don’t recognize his name, go on to the sports pages.)
One day in the early ’70s, Jenifer was meditating to deal with some stress in her life when “I heard a knock on the door. I said, ‘Who’s there?’ No answer. I opened the door, and there’s no one there. So I kept on meditating. Then, I heard a voice in my mind say, ‘Hello, Jeny. It’s me, George Gershwin.’
“Oh, sure. George Gershwin, as in ‘Rhapsody in Blue’?”
“That’s right, Jenny.”
“I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I said, ‘Oh, Mr. Gershwin, you’ve made a mistake. You really want my sister, Madeleine. She’s a musician, not me. I know nothing about music except I love it.’ And he said, ‘But you’re the one who is gifted with telepathy. I left the planet when you were 7, but from that time, I was getting you ready to be our medium and song composer on the other side.’ ”
She says Gershwin gave her a new name, Jenifer Whisper, because of her ability to channel whisperings in her ear. She then became a conduit for his new songs, six of them over the years.
Jenifer says Gershwin dictated lyrics and tunes to her through telepathy, then she would write down the words and hum the tune to a pianist friend who would set it to music.
I pry my mind open like an eyelid after an all-night party. I want to be nonjudgmental and fair, which comes down to attitude. A cynic is a person who doesn’t believe, and is nasty about it. A skeptic is one who has doubts, but tries to be open. I try to be the latter — except for Nigerian investment pitches.
Jenifer knows that convincing me is a climb up Mount Whitney, and doesn’t mind my little humor digs that come from a main strand of my DNA. I hope Gershwin also gives me a pass.
The woman who became Jenifer Whisper was Genevieve Kunde, nee Oliver, born in San Diego in 1930. She was married twice. The marriage she prefers to remember lasted 18 years and resulted in seven children, six of whom live in the San Diego area. Her driver’s license now carries the name Jenifer Whisper.
For 25 years, Jenifer operated a cleaning service and employed several house cleaners. She is now retired and lives in a pleasant, one-bedroom apartment in Normal Heights.
She has trouble persuading her family to accept her psychic power and the spirits it connects with. She says of her kids, “If you were to ask them, they would probably say, ‘Oh, that’s mom’s thing. That’s just something she does.’ ”
When Jenifer first realized she was clairvoyant, she told her mother, who was not surprised. Mom told Jenifer that she, too, had the power.
Jenifer says she later channeled her deceased mother. When she told her sisters, her twin was supportive, but her older sister was ill at ease about the idea.
She has also channeled George M. Cohan, Cole Porter, Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix, Bing Crosby and Mae West, and received new songs from several of them.
She says about 10 years ago the spirit of Johnny Mercer, the pop-song master from the ’30s to the ’50s (“That Old Black Magic”), entered her car through an open window and dictated music to her. She had to stop and phone her answering machine to get it down quickly.
Personally, I’m mystified that ordinary folks, such as bookkeepers and housekeepers, even maybe journalists, never seem to receive the transcendental summons. Maybe some of them also have something interesting to say, even the journalists, although that might be a reach.
In more than 40 years, Jenifer has been given over 100 songs through her medium skills, which she has assembled into loose-leaf books. From those she has put together some mini-musicals and enlisted volunteers to perform them at bookstores and in front of transcendental groups.
Unless those lustrous composers have lost their edge, any new songs from them would take the music industry by storm and would probably be excellent. So, I ask Jenifer why they have not been published. She responds that she knows no one in the music business and wouldn’t know how to go about getting it done.
I put my toe in the water and ask if I could talk with Mae West. Jenifer says she’ll try and closes her eyes and rocks back and forth. In a minute, her voice deepens and utters a soft, “Hello?”
“Mae, I presume. May I ask a question?”
“Were you really as raunchy as you had the public believe?”
Thus pleasantly reassured, I want to ask how she is enjoying her existence on the other side, but I don’t want to get personal. Instead, I say, “If you see W.C. Fields, tell him I like his style. He’s my man.”
“One last thing: Please don’t ask me to come up and see you sometime — if ‘up’ it is.”
Though most will raise an eyebrow at Jenifer’s beliefs, she practices her clairvoyance to the detriment of no one. And when we consider the wide spectrum of beliefs in this world — from those we hold dear to those we consider wacky — there’s plenty of room for both truth and error. Thus, there’s plenty of wiggle room for Jenifer.
In a plea for transcendental tolerance, Thomas Jefferson said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Jenifer could even lean on the Bard himself for support, as he had his man, Hamlet, weigh in: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
This nice lady claims she talks to George Gershwin and many other departed stars of the last century. Personally, I’d like to listen in before I sign on. But then I consider that Jenifer is an intelligent, pleasant person, and I know people who don’t talk to Gershwin who aren’t.
If, as some believe, it will all be made clear to us in the end times, we may have some big surprises, especially those who think they have the truth nailed down.
Fred Dickey of Cardiff is runner-up Print Journalist of the Year for 2013, an honor from the Los Angeles Press Club. He believes every life is an adventure, and invites your comments and ideas via email at email@example.com.