Q&A: Criss Angel
He needs your HELP—as in Heal Every Life Possible—and Criss Angel is hell-bent to get it. Luxor’s magical headliner, whose toddler son, Johnny Crisstopher, was stricken with a form of pediatric cancer, will stage a one-night, star-filled fundraiser by that title on September 12 to benefit pediatric cancer research. Among the celebs and headliners slated to appear: Jerry Lewis, Tony Orlando, Siegfried & Roy, Gary Oldman, Wayne Newton, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Gene Simmons, Andrew Dice Clay, Richie Sambora, Vince Neil, Carrot Top and Blue Man Group. Speaking with Las Vegas Magazine’s Steve Bornfeld, Angel discussed the event, his son’s condition, his new show, and his passion for the cause of pediatric cancer.
Johnny was diagnosed last year with acute lymphoblastic leukemia How is he now?
He’s in remission. He has a little more than two years left doing chemo and blood transfusions, but he responded very well. With pediatric cancer you’re never out of the woods because even if you’re cured, there are a lot of side effects to some kids as they grow up.
How did you react when you heard his diagnosis?
The first thing I did was break down. It brought me to my knees in tears. I’ve done so much work with these children who go through this (via the Make a Wish Foundation) and now it’s actually happening to me. I’m becoming one of those parents. Anybody can become one of those parents. All the crazy thoughts you have—how can it happen to you? I didn’t sleep for quite some time. Sobbing and praying and trying to find information was just a vicious cycle.
Why did you want to do this event?
The statistics are staggering. One child every three minutes is diagnosed with cancer. Out of every $100 that the American Cancer Institute raises, less than 70 cents goes to pediatric cancer. I’m trying to start with September 12 and raise awareness, raise a million dollars in one night, and 100 percent of every cent raised will go to research and treatment for pediatric cancer. And hopefully I’ll get in front of Congress to talk about the disproportionate amount of dollars spent for these kids. That’s my life’s mission. I’ve been blessed with a lot of success but it’s there for me to utilize it to help these kids.
How receptive have people been to helping to mount HELP or otherwise donate?
The outpouring of love from these enormous celebrities and legendary entertainers and sports figures has really been overwhelming. But trying to get people to donate? I’ve put in a lot of calls. I found people who have money don’t want to part with their money, and it’s really sad to say, it’s really prevalent. It blows my mind. But it’s going to be a historic event. I want to do this first one and then hopefully next year, it will turn into a television event.
What have you learned from being around kids in the Make a Wish Foundation?
They know what’s going on. They understand, even more than adults, that every moment is a gift. The fact that you can’t buy love, life and happiness is more apparent in these kids and how they are much more attuned to things that really matter in life. These kids have it right.
Do you spend a lot of time with them?
They have my cell number and call me. Sometimes I have the kids over my house, Sometimes I throw them a Christmas party. I go to their homes. It’s heart-wrenching to see these kids who won’t see their 16th birthday or have the opportunity to go to the prom. Even talking about it, it’s just so emotional.
What was your guiding principle creating your Luxor show?
I wanted to create the ultimate magic experience. To embrace technology that no Vegas show up to this point has. A lot of the technologies I employ in the show are not even available yet to the public. For me it was about creating a journey, the magic of emotion that would connect people and take them on a roller coaster ride. You wouldn’t know what’s happening next. Some of it would be scary, some of it creepy, some of it funny, might even make you shed a tear, but I wanted to give people tons of revolutionary magic. It’s always this puzzle you can’t figure out. I’ve never seen a show in my life, outside of being at a rock concert, where you see people standing up eight times during a performance. When you can have magic make a grown man cry, I think we’ve got something really special.