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

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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

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