Seven Questions With Criss Angel

The magician on his son’s cancer, the HELP event and 'Mindfreak Live!'

Criss Angel and SonMany people know your son Johnny, who is 2, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) last year. How’s he doing?

He’s doing remarkably well. He’s still doing his chemo every day now. It’s a three-year treatment; you’re never really out of the woods. With cancer and chemo, it’s obviously poison you’re putting into your body, and the side effects down the road—heart disease, learning disabilities—are a great concern even when you’re clear of cancer.

How much does he understand what’s going on?

He’s such a young kid, he doesn’t know what’s normal and what’s not normal. All the kids that he sees primarily are the kids in the hospitals. That’s what he knows. We keep him occupied, we keep him motivated—we just got back from Disneyland. He loves Mickey Mouse, and he had a blast doing that. Johnny has so much love. He’s so courageous, and he’s just a happy boy. These treatments, specifically the steroids, really alter his personality, and he changes into a boy that is not Johnny. The steroids give him these fits of rage, but it’s something he has to do and go through for the big picture—the outcome of his health.

Has anything about this experience surprised you as a father or as a consumer of health care?

It’s changed my life. I see these children who are so innocent who are dealing with life and death every moment of every day. There’s no voice for these kids. One child every two minutes is diagnosed with cancer. Even though I’ve been working with children since 2001, I can’t believe that there is so little funding going to these kids and the horrendous situations they’re confronting.

The amount of caring and love and outpouring from the families that are going through this and understand the process—there’s a bond between us all. It’s an experience that can’t help but change your life, and I’ve made it my mission to be a voice for these children and to raise awareness and raise as many tens of millions of dollars as we can to put toward research and treatment.

Tell me about the HELP (Heal Every Life Possible), an all-star show and celebrity auction benefiting the Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation for pediatric cancer research, treatment and ultimately a cure.

My mission was to put together an event using the blessings I’ve been bestowed to have these relationships with people such as Jerry Lewis, Tony Orlando, Wayne Newton, Siegfried & Roy, Lance Burton, Gordie Brown, Terry Fator, Carrot Top, Flavor Flav and others. All these incredibly talented people are coming together for this cause. Unlike many charities, 100 percent of every cent raised will go to research and treatment. I’m funding every expense, including the credit card fees when people make donations, out of my own pocket.

This (event and silent auction) is about these children and to get the world to know about this disease so that everybody can participate in making a difference. It can happen to anybody, it can happen to anybody’s family and it’s about time that we stand shoulder to shoulder and fight for these kids.

Has Mindfreak Live!, which launched at Luxor this year, been what you hoped it would be?

Beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve had big dreams about Mindfreak Live! and what I’ve always wanted to create onstage … and how to put them together in an experience. We have 3-D immersion, lasers, revolutionary illusions and a new soundtrack all coming together in this interactive experience that really embraces and boasts the latest entertainment technologies. Even my own (previous) BeLIEve show was a dinosaur compared to this show. I’ve never been involved in a theatrical production where the audience is freaked out, creeped out, laugh their asses off and also shed tears all in the same show.

What is your goal with TR!CK’D, set to air next month on A&E?

It’s the craziest, most in-your-face unique magic experience. There are more than 30 different effects in the hourlong special. It’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever done. I guarantee it will set the new bar with how we see magic on television. Gary Oldman, Miles Brown, Andrew Dice Clay, Dee Snider, Richie Sambora, Vince Neil, Chuck Liddell, Frank Mir and Randy Couture are all on the show. You’ll see celebrities buggin’ out. There’s no fat in the show; it’s all just the moments that you want to watch that would be viral clips.

With all that’s going on, describe the sense of satisfaction you’ve had in organizing HELP?

It is such a beautiful feeling to be a grain of sand on the beach among so many people who are trying to make a difference. I might be the conductor, but it takes an army. I have an incredible army that’s working tirelessly to put this together. Cirque du Soleil and Luxor have been absolutely amazing in helping facilitate this by providing the venue and the staff.

I’m making time. This is the priority. This is the most important event of my life because it’s truly something that goes beyond the superficial garbage that consumes your life and puts in place the things that are important—love, health and happiness.

Criss Angel HELP

Sept. 12, 7 p.m. $100, Luxor, CrissAngelHelp.com

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