Concetta Bertoldi has a gift, and whereas some people would squander or exploit a gift as special as this, Bertoldi is doing a world of good with it. Having a warm heart, open arms, and her brother’s spirit guiding her, Bertoldi listens and learns from her gay brother Harold, a man who died of AIDS 21 years ago. That’s right, you heard me. She hears dead people. Crazy as it sounds — and as much popular culture might paint mediums, psychics, and clairvoyants as charlatans — Bertoldi’s story is different and her believers are many.
Bertoldi, a New York Times best-selling author of three books including Do Dead People Watch You Shower? is a full-time medium with a two-year waiting list and is regularly consulted by members of Britain’s royal family, American celebrities, politicians, and others.
She learned from an early age that she had this ability, although unsure what to do with it and scared to tell anyone other than family, she kept it to herself, staying in the proverbial closet about who she was. As a young girl, she says she learned about kindness, strength, and humanity through her (then living) brother Harold, a gay man, who came out to his family at the age of 19 — a brave move, she says, both for those times and for a teen with a Sicilian Italian father. Her father’s reaction to Harold’s coming-out, she recalls, was impressive. He said, “I don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks, you’re my son, and I love you, and if anyone has a problem with that, they better come see me!”
Bertoldi adds, “It was then I knew what kind of people I was raised by, and they were beautiful human beings.” She affectionately calls her now deceased mother, father, and brother her “God Squad.”
Her mother was raised in a Catholic orphanage, under brutal conditions, and never held the horrific experiences she encountered there against God. The family found strength in their religious beliefs and themselves.
“My mother and father were married in the 1950s, she was Irish, he was Italian, and back then it was considered a mixed marriage, and they had their own struggles. But I was lucky, my mother was spiritual woman, and I was raised to trust God and decide for myself what I wanted to believe in. Which works out perfectly for someone who hears dead people.” Her father’s father had this ability too, so her parents were prepared for it. Bertoldi herself says she was never frightened by her abilities. As a child, her mother would sometimes ask her to help people, if she knew a friend who had lost someone.
But for the young medium, it was her brother Harold (“a beautiful person who was ahead of his time”) who finally convinced her to go public with her gift. “Harold was such a good person — he had a friend who went to jail, a black man with two small sons, and my brother raised those boys from the time they were little. He was doing the gay parenting thing before it was even acceptable in society the way it’s becoming today.”
Harold wasn’t without his own struggles. He was attacked by several men one winter night in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. They beat him so badly, she recalls, they broke his leg and left him unconscious, in a snow bank, for dead.
When Harold woke up in a hospital bed, Bertoldi said to him, “I hate that this happened to you, I’m so mad at the people that did this. I hate them! Aren’t you angry?”
After looking at a cross on the wall, Harold told her, “If the Lord can forgive the people for what they did to him, then I can forgive these guys for what they did to me.” So, no, Harold wasn’t angry. He found strength in his beliefs.
Harold died in 1991 of AIDS complications, and, Bertoldi insists, he spoke to her from “the other side” soon after, telling her, “We need you. We need your voice. We need you to deliver our messages.”
Bertoldi also knew that she could help people. With her signature keen sense of humor, confidence, and support from both sides, she was ready to do good in the world.
It was then that Bertoldi came forward and in a way came out publicly about her abilities. She was nervous about it. She had a mainstream job as a receptionist, but Harold’s message had an impact. So too did her husband, who told her, “Listen, you took calls from the second floor all your life; now you’re taking calls from the top floor!”
Despite the husband, Bertoldi says she’s “just a half bag of doughnuts short of being gay, ” referring to her 50-year friendship with her best friend, Mushy, who is also married.
“Mushy told her third husband, ‘If you even think about coming between her and I, you’ll go before she goes.’” She says she would never be able to do what she does without Mushy by her side. “There’s nobody who knows me better, she knows everything about me, and I’m comfortable and safe in her company. We do everything together, she’s involved in every aspect of my work, and I’m very fortunate because she is somebody I can trust. We’re each other’s family.”
Her latest book, Inside The Other Side, is, in fact, dedicated to Mushy. She says her gay friends often tell her that she and Mushy are “as married as you could be possibly be.”