Criss Angel is one of the boldest, awe-inspiring magicians and illusionists of his generation.
Over the past 25 years, he has walked on water, escaped a coffin burial and had an SUV drive over him on a bed of nails.
But the 52-year-old Las Vegas resident doesn’t visit Atlanta often.
Angel will perform at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Tuesday, January 14. (Tickets here.) In an interview, Angel (real name: Christopher Sarantakos) said he can't remember the last time he was in town.
In any given year, he spends 40 weeks at his home base of Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas and eight weeks on the road. Even when he's "off," his mind is never off.
“If I’m on the beach, I’m working,” Angel said in a recent interview. “If I’m on a plane, I have a notebook. I have a lot of things I still want to do.”
Sadly, his five-year-old son Johnny Crisstopher recently had a cancer relapse. Johnny was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 and had been in remission. Angel is contractually obligated to fulfill shows through March but he is deliberately keeping his calendar open after that for his son's sake.
“He just had a bone marrow biopsy,” Angel said. “Things are moving positively, thank God. There are good days and bad days. I’m just waiting to find out his prognosis.”
While Angel can’t control his son’s cancer, he does plan to hold a major fundraiser in Vegas later this year to raise at least $5 million for pediatric cancer research. All costs related to the fundraiser will come out of Angel’s pocket. Every penny raised, he said, will go straight to charity.
Angel considers himself an entertainer with broad skill sets and his Vegas show and his road show reveal his yin and yang, he said. His Vegas “Mindfreak” show is a cutting edge “immersive” experience with 3D video and lights and no shortage of razzmatazz, he said.
His “RAW” show at Cobb will be the opposite: intimate with plenty of audience interaction. “They’ll get to know me,” he said. “You’ll get to meet my three sides: Criss Angel, Christopher and Xristos. Criss Angel is the performer. Christopher is who I am with my family and friends. Xristos is a little crazy, a little out there.”
He’ll re-create some of the tricks from his popular A&E show “Criss Angel Mindfreak,” which aired from 2005 to 2010.
“I have never watched the stuff that aired,” he said. “I never have time. People know more about my show than I know. I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish with more prime-time hours of magic on TV than any other magician.”
But that TV show ended a decade ago and he feels he has come up with newer, more inspired illusions and tricks since then.
“I’ve grown exponentially from then,” Angel said.
In 2018, he was given tha lifetime achievement award from The International Brotherhood of Magicians, an honor bestowed to just five acts since the group was founded in 1922.
“It’s pretty incredible to be in that top echelon,” Angel said. “I’m really proud of my work now.”
Given the physical rigor of some of his escapes over the years, he admits that he can’t do everything he could 20 years earlier. He said he now stretches regularly and does a lot of mixed martial arts. “It takes more time to recover from injuries at my age so I work hard to prevent them in the first place,” he said.
In 2013, while elevated upside down four stories over Times Square, Angel escaped from two straitjackets as a noose and 50 pounds of weights threatened to snap his neck. While he completed the task, he ripped the biceps from the bone and had five-hour surgery to repair it with seven anchors and screws. He was out of commission for ten weeks.
Angel refuses to give up on straitjacket escapes and the Cobb show will feature one that will pay homage to Harry Houdini and feature an escape from a crate.
While he often makes his tricks appear effortless, he said he takes calculated risks every show. “People do watch me with skepticism,” he said. “That’s cool. Even when they watch it live, they don’t realize that things can happen, that I can hurt myself. It’s the danger factor that keeps them on the edge of their seats.”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.