Criss Angel is a driven man — in both senses of the word.
Right now, he’s talking as he’s being driven to the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas where for the past year he’s performed his latest sell-out show “Mindfreak Live!” The new immersive spectacle — based on the wildly successful touring version, which played to sold-out houses across the country — replaced the critically acclaimed “Criss Angel Believe,” and its star also serves as writer, director, illusion designer and executive producer. “I’m a workaholic and driven to keep raising the bar,” he says happily.
Despite his punishing schedule — he performs nightly, Wednesday through Sunday, with eight to 10 shows per week — and the need to psych himself up for the demanding evening ahead, Angel is relaxed as he reminisces about the first time he walked up and down the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a young, relatively unknown magician. He’ll be receiving a star of his own July 20.
“I’ll never forget seeing Houdini’s star, and thinking, ‘Wow, I wonder if I’ll ever get one?’ It was like this unattainable dream back then, and now it’s coming true,” he says.
Most of Angel’s early dreams and goals have come true since then.
He’s celebrating his ninth year on the Luxor stage, and in 2018 will have completed his current 10-year contract there. Will he re-up? “I have a lot of opportunities and options, and I’m not sure what I’ll do yet,” he says.
But resting on his laurels or even taking a break of longer than a few days are definitely not options. “I sleep a maximum of five hours a day, and I work pretty much every day, as hard as I can,” he says. “I love to create and for me it’s all about constantly evolving and transforming. I want to outdo whatever I’ve done in the past and keep going in new directions. So that means setting new goals all the time, and trying to be the best at what I do, whether it’s performing on stage, doing TV, movies, whatever.”
Even in terms of performing familiar illusions “like cutting someone in half, or levitation,” Angel says he will spend years “and millions of dollars” to update the routines and make them truly spectacular for today’s audiences. “I’m constantly trying to push the envelope, and, for instance, I’ll use technology developed by NASA to help reach that goal.” Suggest that there must be some days when he just wants to relax and, say, go fishing, and he seems doubtful.
|Criss Angel – sealed in an airtight chamber and sumberged in a tank holding 2000 gallons of water in 2005 Charles Sykes/REX/Shutterstock|
“Nah, even if I have a day off I’m always thinking about work, and I don’t really have a tremendous life outside of work. It’s kind of sad, but true.” Angel’s laser-like focus on work and obsession with perfection have paid off big time, as some of his stunning career statistics vividly illustrate; he performs approximately 400 live shows per year, to an audience totaling over half a million.
His “Believe” show featured more than 40 of the most spectacular illusions ever performed, more than any other magic show in the world. He’s also performed more hours of magic on primetime TV than any magician in the history of television. More than Houdini, David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, Doug Henning and Penn & Teller combined.
His A&E series “Mindfreak” was the most successful magic show in television history, with six seasons and more than 100 episodes, and he claims the mantle of the most-watched magician in the history of the internet, with more than 300 million views on YouTube alone.
His “Walk on Water” clip has garnered over 60 million views. A clip from October 2013, “Rips Bodies Apart,” accumulated more than 18 million views in the first three weeks it was online. “I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but those are pretty big numbers in the world of magic,” notes Angel, who in 2008 also performed his A&E show’s “Building Implosion” episode for an estimated 50,000 people in Clearwater, Fla. — “the largest live audience since the days of Houdini.”
Angel, who exudes an interesting and unusual combination of supreme confidence and modesty when discussing his accomplishments, also has more than 6 million followers combined on his various social network profiles — more than any magician in Internet history. He is a successful author — his “Mindfreak: Secret Revelations,” published by Harper Collins, was a national bestseller.
The multi-hyphenate is also an accomplished musician, having produced and performed on five self-titled CDs, which accompany all his live performances and TV appearances. “The one thing that didn’t succeed the way I dreamt it was my 2006 soundtrack,” he reports. “I recorded it for my ‘Mindfreak’ show, and we had some amazing musicians who worked on it, and I was so happy with it, but then right before the album was due to come out, the label went out of business. It was a huge disappointment.” Always one to make lemonade out of lemons, Angel quickly bought back the rights and has been selling the album himself ever since.
He’s also one of the most awarded magicians and has been named “Magician of the Year” six times — far more than any other magician, and was the youngest inducted into the Intl. Magicians Society Hall of Fame.
In 2011, Angel’s brand power continued to evolve when he was chosen to co-create and appear in a commercial campaign for Orville Redenbacher’s Pop Up Bowl.
|Angel on the set of a music video with his girlfriend, actress and singer Belinda.|
His casting and appeal proved to be a huge coup for the brand as the spot was the No. 1 most recalled commercial during its campaign, topping Ford, McDonald’s and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, according to Nielsen, and getting picked up for runs in other countries. “So we’ve done a lot of very different things, and I’m very proud of all of it,” he adds.
But he rates his biggest accomplishment so far as his ongoing efforts to help children suffering from cancer through his charitable works. It’s a cause close to his heart, and his Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation (formerly Believe — Anything Is Possible), was renamed last year after his then-2-year-old son, Johnny, was diagnosed with leukemia.
“And a full 100% of all donations we raise go straight to the foundation for cancer research and treatment,” he states. “There are no deductions for the usual administration costs.”
He’s also “very proud” of winning Male Wish Granter of the Year Award and the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award for his work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, → having just granted his 50th wish.
Despite being the biggest name and draw in magic today, Angel doesn’t view himself as either just a magician or an illusionist. “I’m an artist who does magic and illusions, but also a lot of other things,” he notes. “I use magic, music, imagery, special effects — anything to create visuals that provoke emotions, for both live and TV audiences. And everything I do is a calculated risk, and I’m equally happy being creative behind the camera as well as in front.
“Right now, I’ve been directing a huge music video for [Angel’s girlfriend] Belinda, the biggest pop star in Latin America, and I also produced it and oversaw every detail, down to getting just the right lighting effects. And then in September I’m going to Argentina to do four shows.”
He does get a break in November and December when he will finally stop and do absolutely nothing for several weeks.
We’re joking. He’ll use his “time off” to do some more shows at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, where he previously sold 40,000 tickets in the premiere four-week engagement of his “The Supernaturalists.” The critically acclaimed smash reached more than 250 million people via global media over its opening weekend.
Ask Angel about the continuing appeal of magic and he attributes it to “the child that lives in all of us. It appeals to that escapism and the idea that anything is possible, and it’s a universal language.” He adds, “My approach to magic is very different from most magicians. I blur the line between reality and illusion, and that’s always been the real secret to my success, I feel. A lot of what I’m doing isn’t magic or illusion — it’s real, and I put my life on the line every time I go on stage. ‘Mindfreak Live!’ isn’t really a magic show. It’s truly revolutionary, with all the technology and 3D immersion, and it puts the emphasis on how you feel, not on ‘how did they do that?’ I want to excite audiences, and scare them and make them cry, which magic never does. It’s the magic of emotion.”
What: Criss Angel receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When: 11:30 a.m. July 20
Where: 7018 Hollywood Blvd.