Angel oversees details as minor as the price of fixing a straitjacket used onstage, h i tt i n g t h e r o o f when he learns it will cost $250 to fix, twice the price of a new one
remains a partner on Live! “But if anyone can pull it off, it’s Criss.”
There’s no questioning Angel’s desire to succeed. In 1998, as a 30-year-old, he performed a 12-minute routine from morning to night, 50 times a day, at a Halloween convention in New York’s Madison Square Garden. In 2001 his mother, Dimitra, took out a $360,000 mortgage on her house to help him mount an off-broadway show, the original Mindfreak. After a 14-month, 600-performance run, Angel says he repaid the mortgage and banked more than $1 million.
In 2003 he moved to Vegas to focus on TV. After landing specials on several networks, he introduced a series on A&E in 2005, also called Mindfreak. It incorporated solemn, psychedelic scenes of Angel wandering in the Nevada desert like a peyote shaman with six-pack abs. Many of the actual tricks, though, took place on Vegas sidewalks, where the star appeared to levitate and vanish. The show took off.
“Criss came in with ideas [to which] we’d say, ‘No f---ing way you can do that on TV,’ and then he’d do it,” says Elaine Frontain Bryant, a senior A&E executive. She points to a trick called In Two: Angel appeared to pull a young woman apart at the waist on a park bench, as observers screamed in dismay. “It was so visceral, amazing, no box or cloak,” she says. Other times he seemed to walk on water—a Youtube version of this has gotten 52 million views—and made an elephant seem to disappear.
But Angel’s ascent stalled with Believe. “I got my ass handed to me,” he says of the bad reviews. At the end of one performance in 2009, he hurled obscenities at blogger Perez Hilton, who was in attendance. Word had reached Angel backstage that Hilton was telling his followers that he’d “rather be getting a root canal”—not a unique reaction. Believe received an overhaul. “We changed the balance to make it much more about Criss and his illusions and less about Cirque characters,” Nadal says. Reviews turned positive in 2010 and remained that way through this year. (The show wrapped in mid-april.)
In 2013, Angel returned to TV for a series of hourlong shows on Spike guest-starring the likes of rapper-actors Ludacris and Ice T, professional wrestler Randy Couture, and former NBA star Shaquille O’neal. More than 100 episodes of Angel’s programming have been licensed for airing overseas. Beyond Las Vegas, he produces and directs The Supernaturalists, a traveling revue he opened last summer that showcases nine lesser-known