View Full Version : ANGEL UNAWARE: A Crissmas Story
12-15-2011, 06:41 PM
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware...
Six AM Pacific Standard Time in Las Vegas, Nevada. A bone-chilling forty degrees, still pitch-dark save for the glow of neon from the Strip. The apex light of the Luxor pierced the winter night like Luke Skywalker's light-sabre, shooting high into the stratosphere at nearly eight hundred candlewatts. Daylight was still two hours away, but for the revelers and gamblers who had stayed up until the wee hours to debauch themselves in the pleasures Sin City had to offer, it was time to go back home or whatever hotel in which they were staying to sleep it off. For those who preferred the comfort of a warm bed and the pleasure of a good night's sleep, it was the beginning of a new day.
One of those in the latter group had just awakened in his luxury suite in the Luxor Hotel and Resort to the incessant beep of the small alarm clock on the nightstand. An arm snaked out from under the heavy down comforter, the hand attached to it shut off the alarm, and a bleary-eyed Criss Angel pried himself from the warm coccoon of the king-sized bed, yawning and coughing. He stretched his stiffened limbs to get the blood circulating in his system, then stumbled to the bathroom, clad only in his CK briefs. Every muscle in his body ached from the exertion from last night's performance of Believe, his live show starring Cirque de Soleil that he had spent fifteen years creating, developing and refining to see it come to life. It was his magnum opus, the culmination of a lifetime's experience. But, as he stumbled stiffly to the bathroom to shower, performing two shows a night took its toll on his physical well-being, even though he kept a rigorous fitness program to stay in shape.
Criss stripped off his briefs and cast them aside. Naked, he stepped into the shower, turned on the shower and let the hot water massage his aching back and shoulders. The sharp stream pounded against his flesh, easing away the stiffness, while the warmth soothed him as he leaned on one arm against the marble-tiled wall. This would be the only quiet moment he would have all day; after this, he would be subject to the itinerary set out for him by his manager, Dave Baram: production meetings, rehersals, casting calls, photo shoots; taping of his show, MindFreak; meet-and-greets with his fans, the Loyal; planning meetings, interviews with the press, and all the other chores and duties required of his time and talents. He did not resent it, at least not a great deal. It was the life he had chosen for the sake of his art, and he was too disciplined to play prima donna and cast it all aside just because he didn't feel like working that day. He didn't become a five-time Magician of the Year winner by shirking his responsibilities. He was a professional, and made damn sure everyone knew it.
Reinvigorated, he turned off the shower, toweled himself dry, then padded back to the bedroom to dress. Outside, it was still dark, though a hint of dawn's early light could be seen in the east. Criss flipped through the long rack of clothes hanging to one side of the bedroom and settled on his usual outfit of tattered jeans and long-sleeved muscle shirt. He had always been a casual dresser, disdaining the tie and tails ensemble of magicians past, preferring denim and leather accented with a generous amount of heavy pendants and diamond rings, the style of the times. Some of the pendants he wore cost as much as thirty thousand dollars, almost as much as his late father's yearly income from his restaraunt business. Such expensive jewelry made a stark contrast against the background of his ragged apparel, but it was a style all his own.
As he pulled on his clothes, a soft miaw caught his attention. He looked down and saw his cat looking up expectantly at him. Criss smiled down at the grey and white tabby he loved dearly. "In a minute, Hammie," he said. "I'll get your breakfast as soon as I'm dressed."
He finished lacing up his combat boots and headed for the small kitchen space of the suite, consisting of two counters, one serving as a bar, the other hosting the small sink and fridge. Criss opened a cupboard and took out a can of cat food. He opened the can, dumped the contents into Hammie's usual food dish, then tossed the empty can away in the trash. He refilled the kitty water dispenser with fresh water, then went to the tiny fridge for a breakfast shake. He had no time for a sit-down meal--he had a lot of work to do today, starting with that pile of paperwork in his office, and the sooner he got started, the better.
He downed the breakfast shake, tossed the container in the trash, then grabbed his fashionably shabby denim jacket and headed out of the suite to his office on the main floor of the hotel. He checked his large, diamond-studded watch: six-twenty-seven AM, a late hour compared to his father's four AM schedule, but still early enough to get some work done. Whoever thought that being a celebrity meant rock and rolling all night and partying every day was sadly mistaken. Long hours of stress and strain trying to produce a successful--and profitable--show was more closer to the truth. And Criss Angel, Las Vegas' most famous illusionist, was living proof of that.
The hotel lobby was empty, save for the receptionist at the front desk who smiled at him as he passed. Everybody was either still asleep, just beginning to wake up, or crawling home to bed after whooping it up all night. Criss strode toward the giant black pyramid through one of the corridors connecting the tower where he lived. It was better than going outside in the cold, and safer, too: no risk of overzealous fans ganging up on him inside. As much as Criss loved his fans, they could be a nuisance at best, or a threat at worst. He knew there were obsessive types who stalked celebrities, love-struck predators who would stop at nothing to possess their heart's desire by any means necessary--even murder. It was a tragic side effect of the Cult of Personality, one he took great pains to guard against.
No stalkers or fans accosted him that morning, however, as he made his way to his office. The only sounds he heard came from the security office during Chief of Security Lucas Macaffey's morning briefing. Criss couldn't make out the details, but he knew it was the usual show-no-mercy-and-take-no-prisoners spiel he gave to the men and women under his command. He ran a tight ship, he reminded everyone again and again, and God help the guard caught slacking on duty.
"Big Luke" Macaffey had the voice of a foghorn at full volume, and he wasn't afraid to use it. A former supermax prison guard, Macaffey semi-retired to the less stressful post of the hotel's top cop after a back injury from a prison riot sidelined him. Felix Rappaport, the Luxor's CEO and President, wasn't particularly fond of his heavy-handed tactics, but he did appreciate Macaffey's efforts to insure the safety and security of the guests and staff of the hotel, casino, and the resort in general. During Big Luke's tenure, there hadn't been a single robbery or burglary in the entire hotel, a record of which Macaffey prided himself. Still, Criss wished he would lighten up a little--this was a hotel, not an army base; people come here to relax and have fun, not be drilled into submission. If only he would be less rigid and more human...
Criss approached the Production Office entrance. No one had shown up yet; it would be another hour and a half before the regular staff arrived. He unlocked the door, switched on the lights and stepped inside. On his executive assistant's desk was a large Manila envelope addressed to him, stamped with the approval from the postal inspectors who had run it through the X-ray machine in the mail room to detect any letter bombs, anthrax spores, or other bugaboos created in the post Nine-Eleven world in which he now lived. He picked it up and carried it to his desk, tossing it onto the pile of correspondence waiting for him that morning. He knew what it was already, so there was no real eagerness on his part to tear into it.
A quick cup of coffee later, Criss sat down and opened the envelope. It was a screenplay of a holiday made-for-TV movie he had promised some Hollywood producer he would consider appearing in if his already full schedule would accomodate it. Angel Unaware read the title on the cover. Criss smiled to himself. Talk about typecasting, he joked inwardly. He opened the script and read the summary of the plot on the first page: a spoiled, self-centered heiress planning a huge Christmas party for the cream of society runs across a homeless bum (played by Criss) who is really an angel in disguise; through magic, he shows her the error of her selfish ways and makes her more charitable toward the poor and homeless. Trite, rather cliche, but kinda fun to read anyway, he thought. Better than rehashing Scrooge or any other of the usual Christmas characters.
From skimming over the script, he found his role rather small, just a few appearances in the first few scenes, then brief dialogue with the main character. A few days' shooting, then he was done, according to the producer. Maybe he could squeeze it in somehow. Might be fun. He had some acting experience under his belt already with his CSI: New York episode starring himself as Luke Blade, a psychopathic magician who murdered his two assistants in imitation of his magic acts, so it wasn't as if they weren't throwing him in front of the camera untutored. MindFreak season number five was over and done with, and he knew the Loyals wanted to see more of him, so this would be his Christmas present to his fans. The more he thought of it, the more he liked the idea of doing the movie. By the time he finished reading the script, he had made up his mind to call Dave and tell him to schedule time for filming.
Criss set aside the script and tackled the rest of his paperwork, mostly tedious routine: insurance claims, statements, invoices, permit forms, and the like. The movie could wait, he figured. For now, he had to take care of today's business. Success bought responsibility, and Criss never shirked responsibility, no matter what form it took.
12-15-2011, 06:44 PM
After a long morning of planning and production meetings, Criss and his manager, Dave Baram, broke off for lunch. In keeping with his fitness training, Criss dined on a low-fat chicken stir-fry, deftly manipulating the chopsticks from the styrofoam take-out container to his mouth. Dave stuck to simpler American fare, a Caesar salad eaten with a plastic fork.
"So, what did you think of the script?" Dave asked Criss.
"Yeah, the screenplay for the TV movie."
Suddenly, Criss remembered. "Oh! Oh, yeah! The Christmas one!"
"Yeah, so, did you read it?" Dave pressed.
"Yeah, I kinda skimmed through it," Criss replied drily. "Sounds like fun. It's not a big part, granted, but..."
"Well, you don't want it to consume all of your time, you know."
"Well, no" Criss conceded. "But I think I can make it work."
"So you agree to do it?"
Criss picked up a piece of chicken with his chopsticks. "Don't see why not? I mean, it's different." He pointed the sticks in Dave's face "But I want to do the special effects with no camera tricks," he insisted firmly. "If I'm gonna be in it, I can't short-change my audience by cheating."
"I'll take it up with the producer," Dave promised. "If you can pull that off, you'll have one helluva movie!"
"It's gonna be one helluva movie," Criss echoed confidently, "because I'll be in it!"
Dave winced at this bit of self-aggrandizement. "I'll call the producer and tell them you're interested. As for comp, well..."
"That I'm gonna have to negotiate," Dave told him. "You want your usual fee, or..."
"My usual fee, no less," Criss insisted. "Take it or leave it."
Dave nodded. "Got it."
Satisfied, Criss took another mouthful of stir-fry. "So, when does shooting start?" he asked.
"Two weeks at the earliest," Dave answered. "Depends on your availability."
"I'll have Eliza check my schedule and go from there."
"Okay, but you have to show up earlier for costume fitting."
Criss was amused at that. "Costume fitting?" he laughed. "Why do I have to be 'fitted' for a costume? I play a homeless bum, for chrissakes! Put on a few raggedy clothes and that's it!"
"Correction," Dave said, "you play an angel that looks like a homeless bum. You reveal your true self at the end, remember?"
Criss thought about it. "Hm," he grunted. "Guess I forgot that part."
"You'd better read that script a little more carefully," Dave advised. "You'll be doing a reading for the producer and director before we seal the deal. If they don't like you, they'll find someone else to do the part."
"They'll like me," Criss assured him. "They practically wrote this with me in mind, so why would they choose someone else? If they don't like me, then (bleep) them--find someone else or scrap the whole thing!"
Dave looked at Criss irritably. "Just don't let your ego get in the way, okay, Criss?"
Criss smiled. "Relax, Dave," he said cheerfully, "it's gonna be all right! We'll have a great movie for the holidays, don't worry about it! I'll give them the performance of a lifetime, I promise!"
"All the same," Dave persisted, "don't go on any ego trips over this. It's a TV movie, not a major Hollywood production. Do your own stunts if you want, but don't go prima donna on anyone, okay? It's not good for your image--or mine!"
"I'm not gonna go prima donna, Dave."
"Good. You'd better not, or else."
Criss eyed Dave warily. "Or else, what?"
Dave leaned closer, staring his star client squarely in the eye. "Or else I'm gonna kick your ass all the way back to Long Island, New York, that's what!"
Criss laughed out loud, thinking his manager was being facetious. Dave, however, remained grim. "I mean it, Criss," he said seriously. "I ain't gonna stand around while you lord it over the whole film crew. You won't be in charge of this movie, you know; you'll be under someone else's direction, not your own like in your live show or your series. So, you'd better whittle down that ego of yours and be willing to take direction during filming, or else!"
"Okay, fine," Criss aquiesced. "Hey, I've done TV before, rememeber? CSI: New York? I can take direction just fine."
"That was years ago, Criss," Dave pointed out.
Criss shrugged. "So?"
"So, you weren't in charge as much as you are now" Dave said. "Ever since you launched Believe you've been running the entire show in more ways than one. You can't bring yourself to relinquish power now."
"I'm not that power-mad, Dave," Criss protested.
Dave shook his head. "No, but all the same, check your ego at the door when you're working with the director, okay? He's in charge, not you, got it?"
"Okay, I got it, I got it!"
"Good." Dave set aside his salad container. "Now, I'll call the producers and tell them you're interested in the movie. We'll set up an appointment for you to meet them, give them a reading of the part, and go on from there." For the first time that afternoon, he smiled. "You'll do great, Criss," he said. "Just remember what we talked about, okay? No one likes a stuck-up angel."
"I'm not stuck-up, Dave!" Criss argued. "I'm just confident in my abilities to do this thing."
"Right," Dave said, eager to end the discussion. "It's time to get back to work, me in the office, you on the set. I'll talk to you later."
The two men rose, shook hands cordially, and parted. Don't know what Dave's got a bug up his ass about, Criss thought. I'm not gonna go 'prima donna' like he said. It's just a few days' shoot: I do my part for a few hours and I'm outta there. I'm not gonna go demanding a luxury trailer or anything! Besides, I owe it to the Loyal to do this. I'm doing it for them more'n for me. It's gonna be a great movie; I'm gonna make damn sure it will be!
Criss made a mental note to read the script more carefully that afternoon, see what illusions he could come up with to make it more effective. I'll be saving the producers a wad of cash by doing my own magic, he told himself. They ought to thank me for that. I'll never stoop so low as to use camera tricks, nosirree! I'll bring my own brand of magic to the screen! That'll impress everybody! Yeah, this is gonna be the best holiday movie ever!
12-16-2011, 04:32 AM
Criss in egomanic yea right!!!
12-17-2011, 10:57 PM
"Beautiful!" Dave Mifflin, the director, exclaimed after Criss gave his reading of his part in the movie. "Great job, Criss! This is gonna be the best holiday movie ever!"
"Thanks," Criss said simply. "So, when do we get started?"
"Gimme two weeks to complete the casting call, and I'll get back with you," Mifflin told him. "Your manager says you want to do your own special effects. Think you can handle it?"
"Think I can handle it?" Criss repeated sarcastically. "Of course I can handle it! Just let me go over the script and I'll come up with something spectacular."
"Ah, that'd be great, Criss!" Mifflin gushed. "If you can pull this off, we'll have a movie no one will ever forget!"
Criss smiled a little, then rose to his feet. "Love to stay and talk, but I gotta get back to the Luxor. I got a live show to do in a few hours. You have my number if you need to reach me?
Mifflin nodded. "Good," Criss said. "Just contact my assistant, Eliza, if you need to leave a message or whatever."
Mifflin nodded again. "Got it," he said.
They shook hands, agreeing to keep in touch. Criss walked out of the director's office with the script under his arm, glad that the reading was over. Everything went fine, just as he told Baram. That movie was practically tailor-made for him--why would they choose anyone else for the part? He planned to read the script more carefully when he had the time, try to create the appropriate illusions for the particular scenes they called for. Nothing too complicated, just awesome enough to make the story a little more magical.
For the moment, however, he didn't have the time. First things first, he had to do a live show at the Luxor, and he needed to focus on the evening's performance. Tomorrow, for sure, he would go over the script. By next week, he was confident that he would have his ideas for the movie firmly in place. And he was going to wow them.
Two weeks went by. The shooting for Angel Unaware began five AM Monday morning in the Luxor atrium itself. Felix Rappaport, the president of the hotel, gave the producers permission to shoot in the atrium, provided they did not take up too much time in filming so as not to disrupt the usual business of the hotel--or Criss' performance schedule, for that matter. The Luxor's biggest star may be in Mifflin's movie, but he was still under contract with Rappaport and his investors. "Don't wear him out," Felix told the film's producers. "He's worth a hundred million dollars to us."
The producers agreed. The lights and cameras were set up by the shops which had agreed to serve as setting for the film, the actors got into costume and make-up, while the hotel staff steered clear of the set per Mr. Rappaport's orders. Other cameras, more discreetly concealed on the ceiling, oversaw the whole production, viewing it on monitors in the security office, just to make sure there was no trouble.
Criss sat in the make-up chair of his own dressing room, covered up to his neck with a plastic sheet, submitting to the powdering, brushing, painting and primping of the make-up artist, Marjorie Houghton. With delicate skill and light touches of her vast array of cosmetics, she transformed Criss' handsome features into a craggy-faced wretch of the streets. His costume, consisting of a dirty, ragged tweed jacket, faded cotton trousers and worn-out penny loafers, topped off with a dark-blue knit ski cap, completed the picture. Criss could not help but be amazed at the transformation when he looked in the mirror in the dressing room.
"Wow!" he gasped. "That's awesome!"
Marjorie smiled. Criss rose from the make-up chair and crossed over to a small sofa by the far wall to go over the script again. He had only one speaking part in his first scene, but mostly he just had to stand there, looking grim, staring at Denise Harwood, the self-centered wealthy heiress played by Nomi Porter, the newest Playmate to grace Hugh Hefner's mansion. Slim, blond, glowing with a California tan, Nomi's reading of the part had been described by Mifflin as "sugar and spice with a touch of arsenic", perfect for the snobby socialite in the film. Criss, on the other hand, found her more affable in real life, even funny at times, but very professional when it came to acting. She's gonna go far in Hollywood someday, he thought. I can't wait to work with her.
But wait he did, for almost an hour and a half before he was called onto the set. "Hurry up and wait" went the old Hollywood adage. An actor would be told to be on the set at a given time and not one minute later, only to be stuck in the dressing trailer for hours on end, fully made up, waiting for the call to do the scene. Criss whiled away the time going over the script again, making notes on the pages for whatever illusion he planned to use for this scene or that. His face began to itch, but he dared not scratch it for fear of ruining the look Marjorie created. When the hell are they gonna call me? he wondered irritably. C'mon, people! I got a life to live here! I can't sit here all (bleeping) day!
A knock on the door caught his attention. "Criss! You're wanted on the set!"
Finally! Criss set aside his script, rose from his seat and left the dressing room. As he entered the atrium, he was stunned by the amount of camera equipment, nearly twice that of his own series, their lenses pointing in every direction. All this for a TV movie? he wondered. What do they use for a real one?
He crossed the atrium to where the director, Dave Mifflin, was sitting. Upon seeing Criss, Dave happily leaped out of his chair, lavishing praise upon his make-up and costume. Criss brushed it all aside. "Let's just get on with this," he said impatiently. "I've been waiting over an hour in my dressing room."
"Okay, okay," Mifflin said just as impatiently. "Now, in this scene, Denise is leaving the building. You're standing there--" he pointed to a spot farther away down the service corridor "--and you're just as still as can be, staring at her. She sees you, and she freaks out. When she turns around, you're gone. Got it?"
"Got it," Criss said. "You got the lighting like I told you?"
"All in place," Mifflin said.
Criss nodded. "Good."
"Okay, places everyone!" Mifflin called out.
Nomi/Denise picked up her shopping bags and took her position by one of the shops. Criss the homeless bum/angel in disguise took his by the service corridor, right where he could be seen. "Ready?" Mifflin shouted. "Aaaaaaannnnnd action!"
Nomi/Denise juggled her shopping bags and her cell phone as she walked out of the shop. "No, no, no!" she shouted angrily into the phone. "I said I wanted a Douglas fir, not a spruce! Can't you get a simple order like that right? Okay, good! Make sure it's an eight-footer, and be sure it's fresh--I don't want any needles in the carpeting. And did the holly garlands come in yet? Do they have the red berries on them? Good!"
She caught a glimpse of Criss standing near the darkened service corridor, his eyes fixed upon her, magnetic, hypnotic, yet frightening all the same. Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, he faded into the darkness. Nomi/Denise paused, nearly dropping her bags, her blue eyes wide with fear. An insect voice over the cell phone kept calling her name. "I-I-I'll call you back," she stammered into the phone, then closed it with a trembling hand.
"And cut!" Mifflin shouted. "Did you get all that, guys?"
The camera crew nodded. Criss emerged from the shadows while Nomi set down her packages. "That was fantastic!" Mifflin gushed. "Criss, you really blew me away with that disappearing act! And Nomi! You were a natural! A few more takes like that, and we've got it!"
Criss was stunned. "A few more? I thought we nailed it in one take!"
"Criss, we got to get different camera angles, close-ups, things like that before we get a completed scene," Mifflin explained. "It all gets put together in the editing room, just like your show, remember? You want this to be perfect, don't you?"
Criss sighed. "Okay, fine," he aquiesed. "Just remember I got my shows to do, too, you know. I'm on a tight schedule as it is."
"You'll be fine," Mifflin assured him. "Just do what you did before, and you're out of here." He turned to the stage hands. "Reset the corridor lights! Get that light over there! Places, everybody!"
Criss sighed. "This is gonna take longer than I thought," he said to himself.
Nomi came over and laid a hand on Criss' shoulder. "It's okay, Criss," she said. "You're doing fine, really." She laughed a little. "I gotta admit you really scared the hell out of me over there."
"Thanks," Criss muttered. "I think."
Nomi smiled. "Now, let's do this," she said encouragingly.
Criss smiled back at her and returned to his spot in the corridor. Two stage hands stepped away quickly after readjusting the lighting to make room for him. He took his position and waited, setting his features the way he had rehersed. It was going to be a long morning's shooting for just a few minutes of film, but with Nomi, he felt it was worth it.
12-18-2011, 03:59 AM
I could exactually see Criss as a bum or did I see that during season four of Mindfreak
12-18-2011, 02:45 PM
Criss did play a street guy named Zane. Very, very cool illusions he performed as that character! One of them was with Sandra. :)
12-18-2011, 05:04 PM
The shopping scene went well. Mifflin was finally satisfied with the results and called for a fifteen-minute break before shooting the next scene. Criss invited Nomi to his dressing room for a bottle of water and a bit of light conversation. Nomi, desiring to get to know her co-star better, happily accepted.
In the privacy of Criss' dressing room, the two sat together on the small sofa, sipping spring water and going over the scene they had just completed. "So, tell me, seriously," Nomi said, "how did you do that disappearing act in the hallway?"
Criss held up an admonshing finger. "A good magician never reveals his secrets," he told her.
"Aw, come on, Criss," Nomi pleaded. "You can tell me. I swear I won't tell a soul."
He leaned closer to her. "You swear?"
"Cross my heart and hope to die," Nomi replied, crossing her bosom with a finely manicured finger.
Criss looked around conspiratorially, then leaned toward her ear. "Before I do the trick," he murmured.
"Yes?" Nomi said eagerly.
He paused for effect, then said, "I cover my whole body with invisible ink."
Nomi slapped Criss on the shoulder. "Oh, you do not!" she exclaimed.
Criss laughed out loud, enjoying his joke. "You are so full of it!" Nomi said. "Invisible ink! Phfft! No, seriously, I want to know how you really did it!"
Criss shook his head. "Sorry, not telling," he said.
Nomi pouted. "Fine!" she said petulantly. "Be that way!"
Neither spoke until they finished drinking their water. Nomi looked at Criss a little more genially. "Oh, by the way," she said casually, "Holly says hi."
Criss turned his head. "You still see her at the mansion?" he asked.
"No, not at the mansion," she replied, "but she still keeps in touch with Kendra and everybody."
"Oh, that's nice," Criss replied drily. "If you see her again, send her my regards."
He drifted into a melancholy reverie. Holly. Holly Madison. Hugh Hefner's--and Criss'--former girlfriend. They had been so happy together, Criss and Holly, but their respective careers got in the way of their relationship. In the end, they had to break it off. There was no animosity between them; they still remained on friendly terms. It was just a scheduling conflict, they told the press; they just couldn't get together as often as they wanted to. Still, Criss felt a twinge of sorrow at the thought of losing Holly. She had been the first woman with whom he had had a serious relationship since his divorce several years ago.
Nomi looked at Criss, concerned. "Criss? You okay?"
Criss shook himself back into reality. "Hm? Oh! Oh, yeah, I'm okay," he said, putting on a brave front. He quickly changed the subject. "So, how's Hef doin' these days?"
"He's fine," Nomi said. "Still parading around in those silk pajamas. Pretty spry for an eightysomething-year-old man."
"Well, when you're surrounded by beautiful women all day, you'd be 'pretty spry', too!" Criss retorted, laughing.
Nomi smiled a bright, beautiful smile with perfectly straight, pearly white teeth. She looked straight out of a Pepsodent ad, he thought. He wondered if she had done any modeling before landing in the Playboy Mansion. Most likely she did.
"So, what did you do before hooking up with Hef?" he asked casually.
"Oh, the usual," Nomi replied. "Photo shoots, clothing ads, movie extras, things like that. Then I auditioned for Girls Next Door, and I made the cut." Her smile took on a nervous twitch. "I'm still not used to living in such luxury," she admitted. "I've lived in one-room apartments most of my life, just barely able to make the rent. I always seemed to be one step ahead of living on the street. Now, I'm living in this ginormous mansion, with servants and butlers and everything. It's like a dream living at the Playboy Mansion, but there are times when I feel I don't deserve to be there, know what I mean?"
Criss laid a hand on Nomi's shoulder. "Nomi," he said gently. "Don't sell yourself short. I'm sure you worked hard to get where you are right now. If you didn't have the talent and the determination to make it, you wouldn't be where you are right now. Hell, you wouldn't be here making this movie if you didn't! You're not just another pretty face, Nomi. You got something special about you that goes beyond looks. Make the most of it."
Nomi's eyes shone with tears. Criss smiled tenderly. Their faces approached each other as if under their own power, their lips drawing nearer and nearer like two magnets, their minds empty of all thought save each other's presence, closer and closer, feeling each other's warmth, their hearts beating faster in anticipation...
A knock on the dressing room door jolted them apart. "Criss! Nomi! You're wanted on the set!" someone called out.
Criss swore under his breath as he launched himself off the sofa. Nomi rose after him, as disappointed as he was. "Well, I guess it's back to work," she said resignedly.
She took a quick glance in the mirror to check her make-up and primp her hair. Criss didn't bother checking his. He was supposed to be a bum, and bums don't care about their appearances. "You go on ahead," he told her. "I'll catch up with you later. I gotta take a leak."
Nomi flashed her dazziling smile and left the dressing room. Criss regretted using the "take a leak" phrase in front of her. It made him sound vulgar, uncouth; he should have used something more discreet, more polite. Oh, well, it was too late now, he thought. She didn't seem put off by it, though. Maybe she used it herself.
He shook off his faux pas and headed for the men's room down the corridor. He wished he had a private lavatory installed in his dressing room instead of having to make the trip down the hall to go to the bathroom. Maybe later he could talk to Felix Rappaport about--
"HEY!!" a man's loud voice shouted down the corridor.
Criss whirled around and saw Chief of Security "Big Luke" Macaffey standing not two yards away. "You can't go in there!" he bellowed. "That's for hotel guests only!"
Criss was flabbergasted. "But...!" he protested.
"But nothin', pal!" Macaffey snapped, grabbing Criss by the collar of his ragged tweed coat. "Clear outta here--now!!"
Macaffey shoved him toward the service exit. "I said MOVE IT, buster!!"
"But I'm Criss Angel!!" Criss cried out desperatly.
"Yeah, and I'm Wayne Newton!" Macaffey sneered. "Now, beat it!!"
"Macaffey!" Criss screamed. "Hey!!"
Macaffey flung Criss out of the service entrance. He landed with a thud onto the concrete, scraping his hands as he tried to break his fall. He scrambled to his feet and made a run for the service entrance, but it was too late--the heavy metal doors slammed shut, locking him outside. He hammered on the doors with his fists. "Macaffey!" he cried, "It's me! It's really me, Criss Angel! I live here, remember? Somebody open this door!"
No answer. "Son of a (bleep)!" Criss spat, slapping his palms against the metal doors. "Now what the hell am I gonna do?"
It seemed his only option was to circle around to the front and get in that way. The camera crew in the would recognize him for sure, he figured. Macaffey's so gonna hear it from me after this! he thought bitterly. He is so fired for this!
Criss trudged along the perimeter of the hotel, mentally damning the Chief of Security for throwing him out of his own home with every step. Along the way, he caught a glimpse of his own reflection in one of the mirrored panels of the giant pyramid. He sniffed in rueful amusement at his image. Great job, Marjorie, he thought. You really made me look convincing enough to be mistaken for a real homeless bum! I just hope I'm not too unrecognizable when I get back inside.
He made it to the front of the hotel, but as bad luck would have it, there was Macaffey, patrolling the entrance, two of his men flanking him on either side. "There's a vagrant in the area!" he bellowed in his foghorn voice. "I caught him inside the hotel! I threw him out on his ass, but if you see him around here, you nail him! We can't have any bums scaring off the guests! President's orders!"
President's orders? Did Macaffey already report him to Felix? But he must know that they were shooting a movie in there, and that he, Criss Angel, was in it. How was he going to get past Macaffey's goon squad and back inside the hotel? He wished he hadn't left his cell phone in his suite; Mifflin had insisted that Criss divest himself of all things modern, from his cell to his watch, in order to make his character more "believable". Criss had agreed, not anticipating the emergency he now faced.
A flash of hope burst into his mind. His keycard! He still had that with him, didn't he? He felt around his ragged clothing for the keycard that would prove his true identity and allow him back inside. But with every empty pocket he reached into, hope faded into despair. He then recalled he had left it in his billfold, and his billfold was with his personal assistant, Tom, for safekeeping. Oh, Jesus! he groaned inwardly. I am so screwed right now!
He glanced toward the main entrance where Macaffey's men patrolled. In his hobo costume, he would be nailed for sure, and he didn't want to risk facing the wrath of Big Luke again. By now, the chief would have alerted his troops to watch out for the "vagrant" on the premises, so he could not get into either of the side buildings, with or without his keycard. With no cell phone, no keycard, no wallet, and no money, he could not contact anyone inside for help. Dear God, he prayed. What am I gonna do now?
12-18-2011, 05:16 PM
I think that make-up went overboard
12-20-2011, 07:31 PM
Meanwhile, back inside the hotel, Dave Mifflin was frantically pacing around the atrium. "Has anyone seen Criss?" he called out to everyone within earshot. "Where the hell is Criss?"
Nomi Porter spoke up. "Last I saw him, he said he was going to the men's room."
"Somebody go find him!" Mifflin ordered. "We gotta start shooting as of right now!"
"Now, calm down, Dave," Nomi said soothingly. "I'm sure he'll turn up soon. He probably got sidetracked by his other manager or something. Or maybe he got mobbed by his fans."
Mifflin turned on her. "That's supposed to make me feel better, Nomi?" he said, exasperated to the point of hysteria. "We got a deadline to meet! He doesn't have time to play celebrity here! I'm gonna go to the office and see if he's there."
He spun on his heels and stormed off the set. The nerve of that guy! he said to himself. Keeping me waiting like this! He knows damn well we got a deadline to meet! He'd better have a damn good reason for not being on the set!
Using the glass panel as a mirror, Criss ripped off his worn cotton shirt and rubbed his face vigorously to remove the make-up Marjorie had so painstakingly applied. It left his face smudged and greasy, but it was still more or less recognizable--he hoped. Now maybe I can get back inside, he said to himself.
He pulled on his greasy shirt and worn-out tweed jacket, steeled himself for the conflict to come and strode to the main entrance. "Hey, guys," he greeted the two guards on duty as he approached. "Uh, I'm kinda stuck out here--"
Before he could draw closer, however, the two guards rushed him. "Vagrant on the premises!" one radioed in, while the other kept Criss at bay with a drawn pistol. Criss could only stand there, perplexed.
"Wait a minute!" he cried out. "It's me, it's me!"
"You'd better clear outta here, mister," the guard with the gun ordered him, "or you're gonna hafta deal with Chief Macaffey--and you don't wanna deal with him, I can tell you that!"
"Guys! It's me!" Criss insisted. "Criss Angel! Remember? I'm shooting a movie in there and I gotta get back on the set! Call Dave Barum if you don't believe me! Call Felix Rappaport! He'll vouch for me!"
The armed guard didn't budge. "You ain't Criss Angel, and you ain't no movie actor," he growled. "If you don't want your sorry ass hauled off to jail, you'd better get moving!"
"Chief's coming," his partner announced.
Criss glanced through the glass-paneled doors. Even from a distance he could see the steam shooting from Macaffey's ears. Home or no home, Criss did not want to tangle with a man who had guarded Nevada's worst of the worst in a supermax prison for fifteen years. When Big Luke was mad, it was politic to run.
And run Criss did, back around the giant pyramid where he had been thrown out. He could hear the chief's bellowing threats a quarter of a mile away as he sprinted down the sidewalk. Geez! he thought. I wiped off the make-up and they still didn't recognize me! What the hell is wrong with those guys!
When he judged himself a safe distance away from Macaffey, he sat down on the curb to think. He wished he had his cell phone, or at least fifty cents for a pay phone to call his assistant, Tom, or Eliza, or even his manager, Baram. But they were all in the Luxor, and he was probably a mile away with no way of contacting them. Who could he turn to now that he had been virtually evicted from his own home?
He began to grow hungry, and the need to urinate became a burning agony. Maybe he could find a public restroom somewhere, he hoped. He looked down at his hobo suit; no one would permit him entry dressed like he was, that was for sure. He'd have to find the nearest tree or something and go behind it. Once he had relieved himself, he could think more clearly and figure out how to get back to the Luxor.
Criss rose from the curbside and began to walk, keeping an eye out for a suitably private spot to empty his aching bladder. I gotta get back to the Luxor, he said to himself. I gotta do my scenes for the movie. After that, I gotta live show to do. Most of all, I gotta use the bathroom like right now!
He looked up at the desert sky, accented by the city outline. Somebody, somewhere in this huge metropolis had to come to his aid. But who? And where would he find that person? God, he prayed. I need you more than ever, because I am really screwed right now. Help me get back to the Luxor. I don't care how You do it--just get me back before showtime! I don't want to spend the rest of my life wandering the streets of Vegas! I need help, and I need it bad!
12-20-2011, 11:54 PM
Know that feeling where you got to go and can't find a place to go
12-21-2011, 05:33 PM
Lost in thought as well as where his feet took him, Criss found himself in an unfamiliar part of Las Vegas. At least to him it was unfamiliar. The entire neighborhood, if such a friendly term could be applied to the run-down collection of man-made structures, was a concrete and cinderblock wasteland populated by those unfortunate souls who had given up hope of a better life. Broken bottles, dog turds, food wrappers, fast food containers and cigarrette butts littered the cracked sidewalks lining the graffitti-streaked walls. Some bore the menacing symbols of local gangs in the area, while the rest was sheer defacement. Police sirens wailed in the distance, and the air reeked of rotting garbage and human urine.
Broke, hungry and in need of a bathroom, Criss kept walking on, searching for any sign of someone to help him. He made futile efforts to ask passersby for assistance, but they just brushed by him, turning their faces away from him, avoiding him. They don't know who I am, he thought. They think I'm just another homeless bum on the street. If I came to them dressed as Criss Angel, I bet they'd be all over me like a cheap suit!
Hoping against hope, Criss entered the first liquor store he saw. He approached the owner standing behind the counter. "Excuse me, sir," he said politely, "but could you help me? I need--"
The owner did not give him a chance to explain, but pulled out a Louisville Slugger from under the counter. "Beat it, you bum!" he snarled, brandishing the bat menacingly. "I don't give out handouts!"
Criss raised his hands helplessly. "But, I just--"
The owner raised the bat to strike. "I said beat it!"
Criss made a hasty retreat out the door, frightened and bewildered. My God! What the hell happened to charity and good will? he wondered. America always bragged about being a Christian nation. Why the hell don't they practice what they preach?
His stomach growled, his bladder kept tugging at him, threatening to burst. His feet ached from walking in the worn-out shoes that had been part of his costume for the movie. "At least it's not raining," he said to cheer himself up.
In a vacant lot not too far away, Criss saw a group of homeless men huddled around a tiny campfire burning in an cheap aluminum roasting pan. They seemed to be cooking something in a flimsy metal saucepan; someone in the group stirred whatever was in it with a broken wooden spoon. From the discarded cans lying to one side, he could tell they were cooking pork and beans. Hungry and still shaken from the encounter at the liquor store, Criss approached the group hesitantly.
"Hey, guys," he greeted them timidly.
The four men looked up at him, more out of curiosity than resentment. "Uh, you know where I can find a restroom around here?" Criss asked. "I really need to go."
One of the men, a fat black man in dirty winter overalls, pointed to a far wall lined with scraggly shrubbery, the only greenery Criss had seen since his arrival. "Down the path there, first bush to your left," he directed him.
His companions laughed. "Don't use the second bush," another man in a faded camoflage jacket said. "That's the ladies' room!"
More laughter. Criss laughed with them, nervously going along with the joke, then turned and walked down the worn, narrow goat path leading to the shrubbery-lined cinderblock wall that reeked even worse of urine. He ducked behind the bush, undid his trouser fly and emptied his swollen bladder against the cinderblock wall, nearly collapsing with relief as he did so. He felt no shame in it. He was a guy after all; he had relieved himself outdoors numerous times before, once at a golf course while taping an episode of MindFreak. He remembered the chagrined look on Dave Baram's face as he did so, an image that cheered him a little in his present predicament.
With one problem solved, he focused on his next bodily need: food. He had had nothing but a breakfast shake that morning and the bottle of water during his break from filming, and he was starving. Still, he still felt a twinge of guilt about asking four homeless men to share their meager rations with him, a man of wealth and means, even though that wealth and means were still back at the Luxor and he had no access to it. But the foursome around the campfire welcomed him into their circle, pulling up an extra milk crate for him to sit on. "Don't often we get company," the big black man said jovially.
Criss sat down on the crate, grateful for this small hospitality offered to him. "Thanks," he said simply but sincerely.
A scoop of pork and beans swimming on a chipped plastic plate that he guessed had been salvaged from a dumpster somewhere was passed to him, accompanied by a metal spoon with sharp, jagged edges, presumably from being dropped into a garbage disposal. Criss accepted the poor meal graciously and began to eat, taking care not to lacerate his mouth with the spoon.
The man in the camo jacket turned to him. "So, what's your name?" he asked.
The men snorted derisively. "Oh, yeah, right!" the camoflage man sneered, twirling his finger around the side of his head. "Criss Angel! You ain't no Criss Angel."
"But I am, really!" Criss protested.
The four men laughed. The big black man pulled out a tattered box of playing cards from his pocket and handed it to him. "Here!" he said. "You think you're Criss Angel? Prove it!"
Criss set aside his plate of beans and took out the cards. They were smudged, creased and worn from years of handling, but they were still usable. He fanned them out in his hands, gathered them up again smoothly, flicked them from one palm to the other, then tossed one into the air and deftly caught it. The four men were impressed. "Pretty cool," said the big black man.
The cards fanned out again. "Pick one," Criss instructed him.
The big black man hesitated at first. "Go ahead, Burt!" the camoflage man encouraged him. "Go for it!"
Burt drew a card and hid it from Criss. "Now, place it back in the deck," Criss told him.
The card was replaced in the fanned-out deck. Criss shuffled them again, then asked, "What was the card you drew?"
"King of Spades," Burt replied.
Criss handed Burt the deck of cards. "Can you find it in the deck?" he asked.
Burt shuffled the whole deck, but could not find the King of Spades. "What the hell happened to it?" he asked, puzzled.
"Well, maybe it disappeared," Criss surmised, "or maybe--" he reached behind Burt's back. "--it's right here." He pulled out a card, the King of Spades, from behind Burt.
Burt was amazed. So were the other three, who laughed and applauded as Criss held out the card before them, illuminated by the faint glow of the tiny fire. "Is that your card?" he asked Burt.
Burt laughed and nodded. "Yeah, that's it, that's my card!" he said, still chuckling. "Yeah, you him! You him! Yeah, you him all right! Yeah, you him!"
He extended a beefy hand to Criss. "Name's Burt," he said. "That's Dennis over there in the camo."
Dennis waved. "That old guy there is Marvin," Burt continued.
"Hey, Marvin," Criss greeted him.
Marvin simply sat there, gaping at him. "You gotta yell," Burt said, "he's hard of hearin'."
"Hey, Marvin!" Criss repeated loudly.
"Yeah?" Marvin spoke through toothless gums. "Whaddya want?"
"I just wanted to say hi!" Criss said, leaning closer to the old man.
Suddenly, Marvin understood. "Oh, okay. Hi."
"And the guy in the blue?" Burt continued. "Well, we just call him Buddy. Don't know his real name."
"Well, why don't you just ask him?" Criss suggested.
"Buddy's been livin' out on the street so long, he forgot," Burt explained. "He's bit of a mental case. Don't know much about him, except he done time in jail. For what I dunno."
Criss looked at Buddy with a mixture of pity and trepadition. "Buddy?" Criss called out to him tenatively.
Buddy stared at him with big blue eyes and a wide, maniacal grin, a Cheshire Cat grin. It intimidated Criss even more. "Do some more!" Buddy demanded.
"Do some more what?" Criss asked.
"Do some more magic with them cards!"
"Buddy, let the man eat, okay?" Burt insisted.
"(Bleep) you, man!" Buddy snapped, rising to his feet. "I wanna see some more magic with them cards!"
"Buddy, chill out, willya?" Dennis pleaded. "We'll do some more tricks later. Now, sit down and eat!"
Buddy was not so easily placated. He tossed the pot of beans across the lot and lunged at Criss. "I wanna see more (bleeping) magic with those (bleeping) cards, mother(bleeper)!" he screamed.
Burt and Dennis rose to subdue him. Buddy took a clumsy swing at Criss. Criss instinctively recalled his martial arts training; he grabbed Buddy's arm, twisted it around his back and pinioned it behind him. Buddy struggled to free himself, but Criss was too strong for him.
"Now," Criss said calmly, "you gonna behave yourself, Buddy?"
"Leggo!" Buddy sputtered angrily. "Leggo of me!"
"You'd better simmer down, Buddy," Burt admonished him, "or Criss here's gonna break your arm off."
Buddy fought back furiously, but could not break Criss' hold on him. Finally, exhausted, he crumpled to the ground, panting. Only then did Criss release him. "Now you just simmer down, there," Burt ordered Buddy. "Can't have you attacking people like that. You'll end up back in the slammer, you know that?"
Buddy curled up in a ball on the concrete. "No! Not the slammer!" he whimpered. "I don't wanna go back to the slammer! Don't let them take me back there!"
Criss wondered what horror Buddy had endured during his imprisoment: Beatings from the other inmates--or the guards? Or sexual assault? There were rumors of such brutality behind bars. Or had there been something far worse, some inexplicable trauma that had pushed him over the edge, reducing him to the pathetic wreck lying on the concrete? Whatever it was, the damage was done; Criss could not help but believe Buddy was beyond all hope of redemption.
Burt went to retrieve the bean pot. "Looks like no one's gettin' dinner tonight," he said ruefully. "That was our last can of beans."
Dennis looked down the street. Suddenly, he brightened. "Hey!" he shouted. "It's the shelter van! We can get somethin' to eat there!" He whistled through his fingers and flagged down the jitney bus rolling down the street. "Yo! Over here! Hey! Over here!"
Burt sighed. "Shelter van, huh," he grunted. "Probably Sanctuary trolling for homeless people."
"Sanctuary?" Criss echoed. "Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless?"
"Oh, you heard about that?" Burt deadpanned.
"Yeah, I did an episode for MindFreak there once," Criss told him.
A sudden flash of inspiration came to him. He knew the minister who ran the place, Pastor Bob Beaman. Surely he could help him get back to the Luxor, or at least let him use the phone. For the first time that day, things were turning out for the better.
The jitney slowed to a stop at the curb. Dennis waved his companions. "C'mon, guys!" he shouted. "Let's go!"
Criss dashed for the bus and clambered in, to the surprise of the driver, a middle-aged black woman with thick dreadlocks dangling from her head. Dennis dashed back to help Marvin up onto his feet while Burt trudged reluctantly to the curb. Buddy still remained curled up on the concrete, unaware of what was happening. We just can't leave him out there, Criss thought. We just can't.
He turned to the driver. "Hey, hold on a minute," he told her. "I'll be right back."
Criss dashed out of the bus and toward the cowering figure on the concrete. "Come on, Buddy," Criss cajoled. "We're gonna get something to eat, and you'll have a nice warm place to sleep."
"I'm not going back to the slammer!" Buddy wailed.
"No, you're not going back to the slammer, Buddy," Criss assured him. "You're going somewhere where they'll take care of you. You won't have to live out on the street anymore. You're going home, Buddy. Home."
Buddy looked up at Criss, his tears leaving streaks in the dirt on his face. "Home?"
Criss nodded eagerly. "Home."
Buddy uncurled himself and struggled to his feet with Criss' aid. "Now, come on," Criss said, guiding him, "the bus is waiting."
The two made their way to the jitney's open doors. "Is this the bus home?" Buddy asked.
The driver, accustomed to transients' bizarre behaviors, humored him. "Yeah, this is the bus home," she replied.
Buddy stumbled up the steps into the jitney and took a seat. Criss sat opposite; as much as he wanted to help him, he could not stand the man's stench. Marvin and Burt sat adjacent to them, the latter less than thrilled to be on board.
The doors of the bus folded shut. The driver shifted it into gear and drove off toward the shelter. Criss stared idly out the window. Everywhere he looked he saw poverty and despair. There seemed to be a pawn shop on every corner, the only legitamate business thriving in the neighborhood. He saw groups of young men congregating on steps, in alleys, or streetcorners, identifying themselves to each other with arcane handsigns--Criss recognized them as gang signs. Two gang members were engaged in a shoving match; the bus passed them by before he could discern the reason for their dispute. He heard more police sirens, but couldn't see a single police car anywhere.
There are two sides of Las Vegas, he recalled Father Stefan, pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church tell him once. The side you see, and the side you don't see. The side you see is the one the travel brochures show you, the glitz and glamor, the luxury and wealth. The other side is one I see every day, the one of poverty and violence, of gangs and drug dealers and prostitutes. That is the side no one sees, or even wants to know exists.
Well, it existed all right, Criss acknowledged. He knew it existed even before all this happened. He had seen it himself when he taped his show at Sanctuary. But he had seen it through the controlled environment of the shelter, not out on the streets. This was not the image of homelessness he portrayed in his episode of MindFreak, where everyone got a free meal and a bed to sleep in, and attended services on Sunday or classes in the evening. This was poverty in the raw, the recession at its worst: no camera could capture the misery he saw passing before his eyes as he rode to the shelter. For all of his talent as a magician, he could not make it disappear.
12-21-2011, 11:06 PM
Loving re-reading this story! BTW....does anyone remember which episode of Mindfreak that Criss played the character of Zane, the homeless guy? For the life of me I can't remember which eppy it was. :confused:
12-22-2011, 12:06 AM
loving re-reading this story! Btw....does anyone remember which episode of mindfreak that criss played the character of zane, the homeless guy? For the life of me i can't remember which eppy it was. :confused:
season four episode: 24 hour birthday bash
12-22-2011, 12:53 AM
season four episode: 24 hour birthday bash
Thanx Rachel! Was wracking my brain trying to figure out which eppy that was! :D
12-22-2011, 04:12 PM
"He's not in his office, he's not in his suite, he's not anywhere!" Mifflin fumed at his assistant, a skinny, bespectacled youth named Max, as he paced up and down the set. "Did anyone contact his manager, what's his name, Baram?"
"We contacted Mr. Baram, sir," Max answered deferentially. "He claims not to have seen him all day. Mr. Angel has a live show to do in two hours or so, he says, and wants you to find him ASAP."
"Oh, he wants me to find him!" Mifflin retorted sarcastically. "As if I don't have enough to worry about, I gotta play baby-sitter to a magician?" He spun on his heel to pace the other way. "You tell Baram that--"
His tirade was abruptly cut short with his near collision into Dave Baram himself. Mifflin halted just in time to keep from crashing into him. "Tell me what?" Baram wanted to know.
Mifflin drew a deep breath to calm himself. "Baram! Thank God you're here!" he gasped in relief. "You found Criss yet?"
"That's what I was gonna ask you," Baram replied. "No one's seen him since this morning."
Mifflin threw up his hands. "Oh, Geez!" he groaned aloud. "We've had to shut down the whole day's shooting because of Criss' little disappearing act! Everything was right on schedule until this happened! God! I am so pissed!"
"You're pissed?" Baram shot back. "Criss has a live show to do in two hours, and if we don't find him, we're gonna have to cancel! Do you know how much money we stand to lose if we do?"
Mifflin glared at Baram. "You!? We're the ones who are gonna lose our shirts over this if we don't get this thing made!" He turned to Baram again. "You'd better find that guy or we're gonna sue him--and you!--for breach of contract! Got it?"
Baram stood firm, unintimidated by the irate director. "Are you threatening me?"
"I ain't threatening you, Baram!" Mifflin replied. "I'm telling you!"
"Do your damndest, Mifflin!" Baram challenged him. "Do your damndest!"
Meanwhile, the cast and camera crew watched as the situation grew more tense by the minute, fearing the two men would come to blows; a few retreated for whatever safety they could find in the shops or restaraunts in the atrium. From the service corridor, Chief of Security Macaffey had witnessed the altercation between the director and the manager and strode over to put and end to it once and for all. His mere presence partnered with his foghorn voice restored order in an instant. "All RIGHT!" he bellowed. "Break it UP! What the hell's going on here, anyway?"
As he was better aquainted with the hotel's top cop, Baram fielded the chief's question. "We can't find Criss Angel, that's what the hell's going on here," he replied. "He disappeared after filming a scene for the movie Mifflin here is making. You know the hotel better than anyone: have you seen Criss anywhere?"
"No, I ain't seen him," Macaffey replied. "And I ain't got time to go looking for some celebrity having a hissy fit over some movie he's making! We got homeless bums runnin' all over the hotel, and Mr. Rappaport don't want them scaring off the guests! I just chased one outta the hallway over there, tryin' to use the men's room."
Baram was bewildered. Mifflin was livid. "You MORON!!" he stormed. "That WAS Criss Angel!! He was in costume for the movie!!"
"Are you sure?" Macaffey asked, still not quite grasping the severity of the situation.
"YES! I'M SURE!!" Mifflin screamed. "You just threw out our biggest star because of your INCOMPETANCE!"
"Listen, don't you talk to me like that, mister!" Macaffey warned him. "I'm the chief of security here!"
Baram came between Mifflin and the chief. "Look, Big Luke," he said, trying to remain calm. "You and your guys had better go and find Criss, wherever he is, and bring him back, or all three of our asses are gonna be in a sling, understand?"
Macaffey simmered down a little. "We'll find him," he grunted, then strode away to the security office. How the hell was I supposed to know it was Criss Angel? he ruminated as he went. It sure as hell didn't look like him! Even the guys out front didn't know who it was! It couldn't have been Criss Angel; if it is, then it's really gonna be my ass for sure! I just hope he's the forgiving type!
12-22-2011, 11:52 PM
"You and your guys had better go and find Criss, wherever he is, and bring him back, or all three of our asses are gonna be in a sling, understand?"
Forget that think unemployment line ;)
12-23-2011, 03:17 PM
The jitney pulled into a fenced-in lot next to a large windowless cinderblock building, its white-painted exterior covered with black spray-painted graffitti. The street-side of the building had been repainted to read SANCTUARY SHELTER For The HOMELESS. Though the sign itself was cheerful with its brightly colored lettering, the place itself still seemed grim, almost fortresslike, even without the razor wire coiled menacingly on top of the chain-link fence.
Criss looked around inside the bus: Burt sat grimly in his seat, grudgingly resigned to his fate. Dennis was picking at his fingernails, oblivious to everything around him. Old Marvin slumped in his seat, dozing. Buddy simply stared into space, completely zoned out. The driver steered the jitney with the ease of long practice, her face expressionless, bored from hours of driving. To her, the five men in the bus were just human cargo to be delivered to their destination.
He himself had been to the shelter, but as a performer, a celebrity, accompanied by his entourage of camermen, technicians, assistants, and bodyguards (at Dave Baram's insistance because he feared gang violence) with all the comfort and safety money could buy. He had seen the residents living there, had talked to them, performed before them, even handed out lollipops to the kids, but at the end of taping he had returned to his luxury suite in his customized SUV, his staff and assistants at his side. Now he was alone, no staff, no assistants, no money, no anything except the hope that he could use the phone inside the shelter. For the first time in his adult life, Criss felt helpless.
As the jitney passed through the razor-wired fence and cruised toward the main entrance, a metal-framed door that simply read ENTRANCE in block-stenciled letters, Criss had the same sense of doomlike foreboding convicts have when first entering prison. No wonder Buddy freaked out when Burt mentioned the slammer, he thought. I'd be freaked out, too!
The bus jolted to a stop. The driver rose from her seat. "Okay!" she called out in a bored tone, "Everybody out! Go in through the door over there, one at a time!"
Criss stood up and clambered out, glad to be out of that prison van. Burt helped Marvin out of his seat and guided him down the steps, encouraging him to take his time and not fall. Dennis hopped out as casually as a commuter getting off the city bus; it was obvious he'd taken this route before. Buddy simply sat there in a catatonic state, unwilling or unable to move. It took some impatient prodding from the driver to get him conscious again. "Come on, buddy," she insisted. "Get a move on! We ain't got all day, you know!"
She pulled Buddy onto his feet and shoved him out of the jitney. The poor, deranged man looked about himself, zombielike, bewildered at the change of scenery. Only when he saw the razor wire did he react hysterically.
"NO! NOOOOOOOOO!" he screamed. "I DON'T WANNA GO BACK IN THE SLAMMER! I DON'T WANNA GO BAAAAAAAACK!"
Howling in terror, Buddy tried to make a break for it, but it was too late--the chain-link gate had rolled shut, penning him inside. He tried to climb the fence, but Burt and the driver pulled him back down again. Buddy fought back furiously, struggling to free himself, still screaming. Criss could only stand there and watch helplessly as Burt and the driver tried to subdue him.
There was a sudden metallic clunking sound as the metal door swung open, revealing a tall man in clerical garb. Criss knew at a glance that it was Pastor Bob Beaman, one of the founders of Sanctuary Shelter; they had met during the taping of the shelter episode. He fought the impulse to rush up to him and beg for aid; Buddy's rantings were creating a bigger problem at the moment.
"What seems to be the problem here?" the pastor asked Burt and/or the driver.
"Buddy thinks he's going back to prison," Burt explained through gritted teeth as he held Buddy in a hammerlock. "He saw the razor wire and freaked out."
"Okay, let him go," Pastor Bob ordered.
Burt released Buddy from his chokehold, but kept close just in case. The driver simply returned to the jitney to park it in the garage for the night. Buddy glared at the pastor with wild, angry eyes. "You ain't lockin' me up again!" he cried, grabbing the pastor by the lapels. "I ain't goin' back in!"
"Now, now, Buddy," Pastor Bob said in a soothing tone. "You aren't going back to prison. We're here to help you, to take care of you. No one's going to lock you up any more, okay?" He drew Buddy closer by the shoulder. "Now, come on, let's get something to eat, okay? You must be hungry. You hungry, Buddy?"
"I ain't goin' back in!" Buddy insisted, refusing to move.
"No, Buddy, you aren't going 'back in'," the pastor assured him. "You're just here to get something to eat, okay? You're still a free man, to come and go as you please. We just want to take care of you, that's all."
Buddy still refused to move. Realizing this was going nowhere, Criss decided to act. He pulled out the worn deck of cards Burt had given him and held them out before Buddy. "Hey, Buddy, look what I got!" he said enthusiastically as he shuffled and fanned the cards expertly, tossing one in the air and catching it. Buddy watched with child-like wonder, his tantrum subsiding. "You like that?" Criss asked him. "Huh? If you go inside, I'll show you some card tricks just like before."
"Show me some tricks," Buddy demanded. "I wanna see some more tricks."
"I can't show them to you out here, Buddy," Criss said. "We gotta go inside. The light's better there."
Buddy complied, following Burt and the others into the shelter. Pastor Bob smiled at Criss. "Quite a feat there, son," he said, impressed. "You're practically another Criss Angel."
"Pastor," Criss said. "I am Criss Angel."
Pastor Bob stared at him in surprise. Criss could tell he didn't believe him. "Look, I may look like a homeless bum, but it's really me, and I need your help, like, right now."
The pastor looked closer at Criss' make-up smeared face. "My God!" he exclaimed. "It is you!"
Finally, someone recognizes me! Criss thought. "Yes, it's me! Can you help me get back home?"
"What happened to you?" the pastor asked him in astonishment as he looked over Criss' shabby clothing. "You lose all your money or something?"
"Wha--? No! No, nothing like that!" Criss replied. "I was shooting a movie at the Luxor. They made me look like a bum that's an angel in disguise. I was going to the men's room when the chief of security, Macaffey, saw me and threw me out of the hotel. He thought I was a real bum, and he had his men chase me off. I found Burt, and Dennis, and Marvin, and Buddy over there in a vacant lot, and together we got picked up by the shelter van. Is it okay if I use your phone to call my manager? I got a live show to do tonight."
"Okay, you can use the phone in my office," Pastor Bob agreed. "Don't worry, we'll get this mess straightened out yet."
Criss nearly fainted with gratitude. "Thanks, Pastor. I totally owe you for this."
"Not a problem," the pastor replied lightly. "That's why we're here."
Criss followed him into the shelter. Pastor Bob chuckled, shaking his head. "You got yourself into one sorry mess, there, son," he said.
"That's an understatement, Pastor," Criss retorted.
12-23-2011, 09:32 PM
I think someone should give the make-up an award if the guards at The Luxor didn't even recognize Criss :)
12-24-2011, 02:55 PM
Meanwhile, back at the Luxor, the situation regarding Criss' disappearance had escalated to code red: the entire security staff scoured the hotel grounds from the Sphinx statue in front of the pyramid to the loading docks in the back, searching for the missing magician. The staff up in the video surveillance room reviewed every inch of tape for any clue of Criss' whereabouts. Eliza, Criss' executive assistant, kept dialing his cell phone number over and over again in a vain attempt to reach him, until the housekeeper assigned to his suite, when questioned later in the day, claimed to have found it on his nightstand.
"That's not like Criss to leave his cell and his wallet behind like that," Eliza said. "He always has them with him no matter where he goes."
Only later would Mifflin recall that he had told Criss to leave his personal belongings in his suite so as to "add realism" to the movie. At that moment, however, he was too busy shooting around Criss, taking close-ups of Nomi, the shops and the decor of the hotel, all the while calling the production office for the latest news about Criss. Baram, meanwhile, fumed in his own office, worried and angry about this sudden disappearing act his star client had pulled. It's all Macaffey's fault! he fretted. Didn't that son of a (bleep) know it was Criss Angel? Now that poor guy's out there looking like a bum and God knows where he is!
Tom, Criss' personal assistant, had dutifully contacted his employer's family. Criss' brothers, JD and Costa, joined by their cousins, George and Phil, aided the search. Dimitra, the family matriarch, simply sat in the lounge area of the production office, outwardly calm but deeply worried about her missing son. Eliza juggled her time between her own duties, searching for Criss, and keeping Dimitra company. She offered her tea and sympathy, trying valiently to dispel the elderly woman's fears with words of encouragement. "Don't worry, Mrs. S.," she said soothingly. "They'll find him. He couldn't have gone far."
"Yes," Dimitra murmured, "they'll find him. He's has lots of friends here in Las Vegas; I'm sure one of them will help him come home again."
"Of course they will," Eliza agreed optimistically. "He'll be home soon, I know he will."
By the second hour since Criss' disappearance, the news of the crisis had reached the desk of Felix Rappaport, who quickly demanded an audience with Macaffey, Mifflin, Baram, and Tom the assistant. With their hearts sinking to their stomachs, they made their way to the president's office, bracing themselves for a perfect storm of administrative fury.
Rappaport kept his anger in check as he eyed the four men standing in front of him. "Would somebody please explain to me just what the hell happened here?" he asked with forced calm, drumming his fingers impatiently on his large glass-topped desk.
Mifflin stepped forward. "You see, it's like this," he began, "I had Criss made up to look like a homeless man for the movie. We took a break from shooting; Criss went to the men's room before returning to the set, and (bleep)-for-brains here--" he pointed to Macaffey "--goes and throws him out of the hotel! Now we're without our leading man, I'm falling behind schedule, Baram here says he's got a live show to do tonight, and we're all up (bleep) creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle, because your security guards drove him away from here!"
Rappaport turned to the chief of security. "Macaffey? You got anything to say about this?"
Macaffey cleared his throat. "Well, first of all...sir," he began quietly, "I take offense about being called '(bleep)-for-brains' by this two-bit filmmaker here. Second, I honestly affirm that I did not know that the vagrant I caught going into the men's room was indeed Criss Angel" He chuckled a bit. "I do acknowlege, however, that whoever made him up to look like that did a helluva job. Swear to God, his own mother wouldn't have recognized him! I sure as hell didn't."
Rappaport was not amused. "But you did have him thrown out of the hotel, didn't you?" he pressed.
"Under the circumstances that I honestly believed him to be a vagrant trespassing on hotel property," Macaffey replied officiously, "I did evict him from the premises. And so did two of my men who were patrolling the main entrance," he added. "We were acting under your orders, sir, even though it turned out to be an unfortunate misunderstanding."
Baram snorted. "Acting under orders," he sneered bitterly. "They said the same thing at Nuremburg!"
"Did you inform the two men who drove Criss away from the main entrance about who he really was?" Rappaport asked.
"I did, indeed, sir, once it had been brought to my attention," Macaffey replied. "They were understandably upset about it. However, since they were acting under my direct supervision, I claim full responsibility for all this."
"Yeah, you'd better, you son of a (bleep)!" Baram muttered under his breath.
Macaffey turned to Baram. "You say something, mister?" he growled.
Baram was about to tell Macaffey just what he thought of his militaristic methods when his cell phone deedled in his jacket pocket. He whipped it out in a flash and flipped it open, not even bothering to see who was calling. "Hello?" he said anxiously as all present waited expectantly.
Suddenly, Baram's face became animated. "Criss!!"he screamed into the tiny transmitter. "Where the hell are you?!
"I'm at Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless," Criss replied over the office phone. "You know, the place where we shot episode two? I got picked up by the shelter bus and taken here. Can you come and get me?"
A brief pause while Criss listened to Baram's agitated babble. "Okay, okay, Dave, chill out, willya? Eliza's got the directions on file somewhere; you can ask her. Just come and get me, okay? Fine, see ya later!"
He hung up the heavy receiver back in its cradle. "He told me to stay where I was," he said Pastor Bob. "Like I got anywhere else to go."
The pastor smiled. "Well, since you're here, you might as well make yourself at home," he said jovially. "They're serving lunch in the cafeteria--might as well grab a bite to eat. We don't set a fancy table, but we got some pretty good grub."
The rumbling in Criss' stomach seconded that motion. "Thanks, Pastor," he said. "I'm really hungry right now."
He turned to leave the office. "Just a word of warning, though," Pastor Bob spoke up.
Criss turned back. "Like what?" he asked, perplexed.
"Sister Eunice is on duty in the cafeteria today," Pastor Bob told him, "and she's really strict about sayin' the blessing before eating."
"She won't let you take a bite until you do, so if you don't wanna get jabbed by those needle-sharp fingers of hers, you'd better say grace before you dig in."
Criss nodded. "Got it."
12-24-2011, 03:01 PM
A long line of hungry residents inched along the food counter, sliding battered plastic trays still wet from the dishroom far in the back. They picked up styrofoam plates of mass-produced food, ladled with assembly-line precision by the volunteers behind the steam table, and moved on at the same slow pace. The kitchen assistants known as "runners" dashed to and from the kitchen to take away empty steam trays to the dishroom and bring in more food. The residents shuffled off with their trays bearing their primary if not their only meal of the day.
Criss observed this grim process from his position in the chow line, as some of the residents called it. He stood between his friends Burt and Dennis. He had no idea where Marvin or Buddy were; he guessed they were far in the back of the line, or at least hoped they were. He approached the stack of wet plastic trays that had just been delivered from the dishroom by some pimply-faced teenage volunteer with iPod headphones plugged into his ears. He neither noticed nor seemed to care that a celebrity was standing in line; it could have been the President himself standing there and he would not have spared him a single glance.
For that one single moment, Criss felt like a nobody. Dressed in his hobo costume, he was just another hungry mouth in a long line of hungry mouths snaking through the double doors of the shelter cafeteria. No one seemed to remember that only a few months before he had been entertaining them with his illusions and passing out lollipops to the kids. They had been his audience then, cheering and applauding him, totally captivated by his every move. Now they didn't even recognize him, much less care. He was lost in the crowd of impoverished, homeless people crushed by the misery of their lives and their environment to notice the presence of a major celebrity in their midst.
He looked at the servers at the steam table. Except for an eldery lady in a mesh hair net spooning out lumps of meat, the other three behind the counter were also teenagers, two girls and a boy about fifteen or sixteen years of age. Curious, Criss turned to Burt. "I see they got a lot of high-school kids working here," he commented as he picked up his tray.
"School's got 'em doin' thirty hours of volunteer work so's they can graduate," Burt explained. "It's supposed to make them more 'socially aware', an' 'involved in the community', an' all that bull(bleep). To them, it's just an inconvenience, like jury duty; they don't stay long after their hitch is done. I know they'd rather be out partying than doin' KP here at the shelter. They don't give a (bleep) about us."
Criss noticed a slim girl with honey-colored hair handing out half-pints of milk to the residents, smiling at them as she did so. He pointed her out to Burt. "She seems to be enjoying it," he said.
"She's faking it," Burt scoffed.
"Maybe not," Criss countered. "Maybe she really likes helping the homeless."
Burt said nothing more but grabbed his plate from the top of the steam table and went on his way. Criss picked up his dinner, still keeping his eyes on the milk girl. He inched closer to her, noticing how pretty she was, especially when she smiled. Burt was wrong, he thought; this girl genuinely enjoyed helping those less fortunate, even if it was simply passing out small cartons of milk.
He approached the milk girl, who handed him a carton of two-percent milk. "Here you go," she said cheerfully. "Enjoy your meal."
"Thank you very much," Criss replied, returning her smile with his own. "So, what's your name, anyway?"
"Well, Jessie, you just brightened my day."
Jessie looked at Criss carefully. "You look awfully familiar," she said suspiciously.
Criss was about to reveal his true identity, but felt Dennis' finger poke him impatiently in the shoulder. "Hey!" he said. "Quit flirting with the help--you're holding up the line!"
"Okay, okay!" Criss picked up his tray. "See you later, Jessie."
He carried his meal into the low-ceilinged cafeteria, crowded and deafeningly noisy. The tables were arranged in long rows, like high school or prison. No sooner was a seat made vacant than it was taken by someone else. Babies and small children sat on their mothers' laps as they were spoon-fed mashed potatoes or other palatable fare. Table manners were practically non-existant--the majority of them simply shoveled the food into their mouths with forks or spoons clutched tightly in their fists, aided by grubby fingers. The whole room reeked of bland cafeteria food, dirty clothes and unwashed bodies. Stone-faced matrons, the "church ladies" Dennis informed him, patrolled the perimeter, enforcing the grace-saying rule to the letter. "They're like the shelter's personal Gestapo," he said in Criss' ear. "You don't say grace, they'll nail your ass to the wall."
He pointed out one cadaverous old woman in a high-collared calico frock. "That's Sister Eunice," he said. "She's the worst of 'em. Keep as clear of her as you can, dude. She's like the wicked witch of the west around here."
"Don't worry, dude," Criss said, smiling mischieviously. "I can handle her."
Burt, Criss and Dennis managed to score three seats together at one end of a long table, Criss at the end, Burt and Dennis on either side. They had barely lowered themselves into their seats when, as bad luck would have it, the grim spectre of Sister Eunice materialized before them like a malvolent spirit. "Y'all remember to say the blessing," she intoned in her grating, nasally voice.
It was not a reminder, it was a command. Criss could see why Dennis and the other residents feared this woman in the high-collared dress dragging all the way to her bony shins: she was tall and gaunt, the flesh on her face barely clinging to her skull. Her mouth, if the slit below her nostrils could be called that, was creased into a permanant disapproving frown. Her thin gray hair was tightly bound into a neat little knot at the back of her head, emphasizing her skull-like features even more. A pair of piercing eyes glared at the three men through gold-rimmed bifocals perched on the bridge of her thin nose. Dennis had been right to compare her with the wicked witch of Oz; Criss could picture her in a black peaked hat, riding on a broomstick with a black cat sitting on the straw behind her.
Burt, however, was not intimidated. "Can't a man sit down to eat without you botherin' us?" he griped. "Ain't gonna make no difference if we pray or not. Food's the same either way."
"This is a Christian-run shelter, sir," Sister Eunice sharply reminded Burt, "and we say the blessing before eating."
Burt leaned over to Criss. "This is why I hate comin' here," he said, jerking his thumb toward Sister Eunice. "Everything here's so church-oriented, you can't turn around without someone shovin' their Bible down your throat! Can't even get a decent meal without her strong-arming you to pray."
"So?" Sister Eunice pressed. "You gonna say the blessing or not? You don't eat until you do; only heathens and animals eat before sayin' the blessing."
"Okay, so, I'm a heathen," Burt retorted, picking up his fork.
"Don't you eat one bite before sayin' the blessing!" Sister Eunice said sharply.
Criss rose to the rescue. "Sister Eunice," he said politely, "since my friends here are incapable of saying grace themselves, allow me to cover for all three of us."
Sister Eunice's sharp features actually softened a bit at this request. "Very well," she agreed, "you may."
Criss sat down, bowed his head, closed his eyes, folded his hands, and recited a traditional blessing of the food--in Greek. Burt and Dennis looked sideways at him, uncomprehending the strange language he spoke. Sister Eunice, for her part, wondered if the young man sitting before her was speaking in tongues. He ended with a quick "amen", crossed himself in the customary Greek Orthodox manner, and raised his head, suppressing the urge to laugh at the bemused expression on Sister Eunice's face. "Well, that's how we said it when I was growing up," he protested innocently.
Rationalizing that the Lord understood all tongues, Sister Eunice made a barely susceptible nod and left. Once the odious figure of the church lady had departed, the three men burst out laughing. Burt gave Criss a high-five for his joke. "You the man, Criss!" he guffawed. "You are the man!"
"Just what the hell did you say, anyway?" Dennis asked.
"Oh, just a traditional Greek blessing, that's all," Criss replied lightly.
"Well, it was Greek to me!" Burt quipped as he dug into his meal. "I didn't understand a (bleeping) word you said."
The meal of ground-up chicken meat and overcooked pasta was lukewarm, but it was filling. The mashed potatoes were the processed kind, covered with watery tan gravy. Dessert was a small spoonful of runny applesauce spilling onto the tray. I ate better in high school, Criss thought. At least we had pizza now and then.
He looked around the cafeteria. He knew the economy had taken a nosedive in recent years, but he had no idea there were this many homeless people in Las Vegas. Had the number increased since his last visit, or had he simply not noticed? Guiltily, he forced himself to admit the latter; he had only met a small handful during taping, fewer still made it on camera with him. Saddest of all were the number of children living in the shelter. All they wanted was a home of their own, with food on the table and decent clothes on their frail little bodies. Criss recalled with shame that all he gave them during taping were lollipops; they had enjoyed the treat, sure, but they needed more, much more.
Again he recalled Father Stefan's words about the two Las Vegases, the one everyone saw and the one nobody saw. Nobody saw this side of Las Vegas because they didn't want to, Criss thought. Everybody here is in total denial; they want everyone to see what they want them to see: the neon signs and bikini-clad models and rolling dice coming up sevens for everybody. As far as they're concerned, these people here don't exist--they just sweep them aside like trash on the street, shove them into this warehouse where they can't be seen, and pretend they don't exist. Out of sight, out of mind.
But who were "they"? Criss' conscience spoke up inside him. Who were "they" who swept aside these unfortunate people just because they were poor and homeless? Who was in denial of their existance? The city govenment? The hotel and casino owners? The citizenry?
Or, perhaps, himself?
Criss set down his fork and gazed at the sea of wretched humanity before him in the cafeteria, scarfing down tasteless, watery meals as if they would be their last. He had always considered himself to be unselfish and caring, giving his time to sick children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation and entertaining the troops and their families at various military bases. But he always had a home to go to, his luxury suite at the Luxor, filled with expensive electronic games and other toys he had purchased during his career; where his every whim had been fulfilled, whether for extravagant jewelry or customized cars and motorcycles. These people had nothing but the clothes on their backs and the will to survive, even if it meant coming here to an overcrowded shelter for a watery meal and a cot to sleep on. Las Vegas made billions of dollars in gambling revenue and ticket sales for their shows, including his own. Couldn't they spare a few million improving the lot of these poor people?
Dennis nudged Criss with his elbow. "You okay, man?" he asked.
Criss made a brave face, hiding the maelstom of emotions swirling inside him. "Yeah, man, I'm okay," he replied. "Just thinking, that's all."
"That can be dangerous," Burt quipped, chuckling.
Criss feigned a slap at Burt. "(Bleep) you!" he sneered.
12-25-2011, 03:53 PM
Eliza nearly jumped out of her chair at the sound of Dave Baram's frantic yelling. She barely had time to catch her breath when Baram barrelled into the production office and straight toward her desk. "We need the directions to that homeless shelter we were at for episode two!" he demanded. "And we need them now!"
"Yes, sir," Eliza replied nervously as she slid her computer mouse over the pad with a shaking hand. "Okay, here it is," she said. "Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless. It's on C-- Street in North Las Vegas. Shall I print out the directions for you?"
"You do that!" Baram ordered her. "We gotta go rescue Criss!"
Eliza was puzzled. "Criss? What's he doing all the way over there?"
"It's a long story," Baram replied impatiently. "Just print out the map and call the parking attendant to bring a car around. And call the shelter to tell them we're coming to pick up Criss. He's got a live show to do in two hours and we ain't got much time to waste."
"So, that's how I ended up here," Criss said to Burt and Dennis as they sat in the cafeteria. "I figured coming here was my only option to get back to the Luxor in time for my show tonight. I'd still be wandering the streets if it hadn't been for you guys. I mean, you were the only people who showed me any consideration since I got tossed out of the hotel."
Burt laughed, shaking his head. "You really got yourself in a mess of (bleep)," he chuckled.
Criss merely shrugged. Dennis looked around the partially deserted cafeteria. "Well, we'd better clear outta here," he said. "Lunch is over, and they don't like us hangin' around when they're tryin' to clean up."
The three men rose from their seats and made their way toward the double doors. "Hey," Dennis said to Criss, nudging him with his elbow, "here comes your girlfriend."
Criss turned and saw Jessie the milk girl coming up to him. "She's not my girlfriend," he hissed irritably at Dennis.
"So how come you were flirting with her?" Dennis argued. "Cradle snatcher!"
"(Bleep) you, Dennis!" Criss spat as he turned away from him. "You're full of (bleep)!"
Dennis smirked and walked out of the cafeteria with Burt. Criss stayed behind and waited for Jessie to come bouncing up to him. "Hi!" she said cheerily.
"Hi, yourself," Criss returned. "Nice to see you again."
"Nice to see you, too," Jessie said, still smiling. "I'm sorry, I can't help it, but you seem so familiar to me. What's your name?"
"Would you believe me if I told you I'm Criss Angel?"
Jessie was startled at first, but quickly regained her bearings. "Let me see your arm," she demanded.
"The one with the circle-A on it."
Criss felt like kicking himself. Oh, Geez! Why didn't I think of that before? He removed the tweed jacket and tore the right-arm sleeve of his shirt from the seam, revealing his famous logo branded into his arm. Jessie stared at it in awe. "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "It is you!"
Criss picked up the jacket and put it back on again. "Yeah, it's me," he said simply.
"Ohmigod!" Jessie squealed. "I so wanted to meet you! I saw all your episodes of MindFreak, and I so wanna see Believe." She calmed down a bit. "So why are you here dressed like a homeless person."
Criss sighed. Here we go again! "I was shooting a TV movie and got thrown out by security because they thought I was really a homeless bum," he explained. "I ended up here because of my two friends I was sitting with."
Jessie whipped out her pink Nokia cell phone. "I got my cell phone here!" she said eagerly. "You can call the Luxor for help!"
"Thanks, Jessie, but I already used the office phone" Criss told her. "Dave's coming to pick me up soon."
Slightly disappointed but not at all offended, Jessie put her phone back into her pocket. "Well, at least you got through to them," she said.
Criss looked at the huge clock on the wall next to the double doors. "Look, I gotta go now, and I know you gotta get back to work, so I'll let you go, okay? Thanks for the milk!"
He gave her a quick hug and turned to leave. Jessie giggled nervously. "'Bye, Criss!" she called out after him as he left the cafeteria. "I'm really looking forward to your movie!"
But Criss was already gone. Jessie went through her assigned tasks spaghetti-legged and dreamy-eyed. I met Criss Angel! her mind kept repeating over and over again. And I'm the first to know he's making a movie! Oh, God, I can't wait to tell everyone on the fanboards!
Criss walked down the long corridor to the reception desk in the lobby, hoping to see his manager there to take him back to the Luxor and end this waking nightmare once and for all. "Excuse me," he asked the receptionist on duty, "but I'm waiting for a Mr. Dave Baram to come and pick me up. Is he here yet?"
The sullen woman behind the desk deigned to look up from her copy of People magazine. "No," she replied brusquely, then returned to her magazine.
"Well, geez, sorry to bother you," Criss retorted sarcastically under his breath as he walked away from the desk to the row of chairs lining the wall. He sat down, threw one leg over his knee and waited for Baram. The receptionist continued reading her magazine, oblivious to his presence.
The minutes dragged on. Criss became so bored that even a copy of Awake! left on the small side table by a Jehovah's Witness became a welcome distraction. He flipped through the small pamphlet-like magazine, admiring the artwork but disdaining the end-of-the-world message it illustrated. One article pertaining to Christmas caught his eye: What is Christian about Christmas? read the title. From what he read, absolutely nothing seemed to be the answer. He knew Witnesses did not celebrate Christmas or any other holiday, but what really rankled him was their anti-charity stance; they believed that Jehovah alone provided for everyone's needs, so it showed a lack of faith to donate anything to anyone, no matter how needy they were.
Criss tossed the magazine aside. Screw 'em! he said to himself. If no one donated anything to anyone, there'd be a helluva lot more poor people out there dying from starvation! If it wasn't for Christmas, no one would even know the meaning of charity! And these people call themselves Christians? As far as I'm concerned, people are more 'Christian' during Christmas than any other time of year! It's too easy to sit back and say God's gonna take care of everything. God helps those who help themselves, huh? Well, I say God helps those who help others, like Jessie and Pastor Bob and all the other volunteers here at the shelter! And from what I've seen, these people need God's help more than anyone!
"You okay, Criss?"
Criss looked up and saw Pastor Bob staring down at him. "Oh, hi, Pastor," he said. "Yeah, I'm okay, or I will be when Dave gets here."
Pastor Bob sat down beside him. "You looked a little...disturbed. Anything the matter?"
"It's nothing," Criss replied indifferently. "Just had a rough day, that's all. Getting thrown out of my own home, chased off by security, then wandering the streets until I got sent here--pretty sucky day, pardon my French."
Pastor Bob nodded. "I see," he said. "Well, maybe all this happened for a reason."
Criss looked at the clergyman, puzzled over such a statement. "What kind of reason?"
"Last time you were here, you were a celebrity with all your camera crew and assistants and private dressing room and all that. And all those rings and necklaces you had on--I swear you were wearing half a jewelry store! While it was good of you to perform magic tricks for the residents and all, for you it was just another show. You sat with them, talked with them, put them on TV to show the world how much you cared about them, but you never knew what it was like to be them, to not have a roof over your head, to be scraping in garbage cans for something to eat, to own nothing but the filthy clothes on your back. At least, not until today."
"So you're saying that God set me up to show me what it was like to be homeless?"
"I wouldn't say He 'set you up'. I'd say He took advantage of that little misunderstanding you had with the security guards in the hotel to make a point."
Pastor Bob fought the urge to slap Criss across the back of his head. "Great day in the morning, boy!" he exclaimed. "Look around you! There are whole families living here without a home, without money and without hope for a better life while you live in a luxury suite in a big fancy hotel! I've seen your show, and I know what kind of life you live: you earn more money in one week than most folks earn in a lifetime! You got enough cars and motorcycles to open your own dealership! You wear enough gold and silver to make Fort Knox want to reel you in! Wake up and smell the coffee, boy! You got everything you want and then some, while these people are living hand-to-mouth! And you're asking me what point God is trying to make? What's the matter, your mama drop you on your head when you were a baby?"
Criss held up his hands as if trying to deflect the pastor's words. "Okay, okay, I get it! I get it!" he aquiesced.
The pastor eyed him warily. "I don't think you do," he said skeptically.
Criss snatched up the copy of Awake! he had been perusing and held it up for scrutiny. "You see this? There's an article in here that says it's a sin to give to charity because Jehovah or whoever is supposed to provide for everything! It shows a lack of faith to help others financially because they're supposed to rely only on Jehovah for their needs. They don't even help their own members when they're in trouble!"
"I'm aware of the Jehovah's Witness' philosophy," the pastor stated.
"Well, I say screw 'em! If not for real Christians like you, these people wouldn't stand a chance! Didn't Jesus say give to the poor?"
"He did," the pastor concurred. "But I'm not talking about the Witnesses. I'm talking about you. My question is: what did you learn from all this?"
Criss hesitated for a moment to collect his thoughts, but they were instantly scattered away again by the sound of someone bursting through the door. He saw his manager, Dave Baram, frantic with worry, striding toward him, with Tom, his own personal assistant, in tow. "Criss!" he exclaimed with relief. "Thank God we found you! Look, we don't have much time--you got a live show to do in and hour and forty-five minutes, so we gotta get going!"
Baram dragged Criss by the arm toward the exit. "Uh, thanks for all your help, Pastor!" Criss called out. "We'll talk later, okay?"
Pastor Bob merely waved in reply. "Don't forget what we talked about earlier!" he called back.
12-25-2011, 04:02 PM
Chaos erupted the moment Criss stepped through the glass doors of the hotel's main entrance: the movie crew broke into applause; Nomi, still in costume, trotted up to him and flung her arms around him, thanking God he was all right; a frantic Dave Mifflin kept demanding where the flaming hell he had been, how long he had to shut down production, and how that moron security guard Macaffey was gonna pay for his screw-up; all the while, Baram kept shepherding his star client to his backstage dressing room to get him ready for his live show going on in ninety minutes. Security was nowhere to be seen. As far as Criss himself was concerned, life had returned to its usual state of abnormal.
He did make a quick stop at the production office to see his mother. Though she was delighted to see her son back safe and sound, she was taken aback by his appearance. His face was still smeared with streaks of stage make-up, and his clothes looked even shabbier than his usual wardrobe. "Go get yourself cleaned up," she ordered him. "You look like a bum."
Criss shook with laughter at his mother's apt observation. "Mom," he said, "I'm supposed to be a bum in the movie, remember?"
He gave her a peck on the cheek and left to get ready for the show, confident he would feel better once he was in his element on stage. The ordeal of the day was nothing but a memory now; he was happy he could finally put it all behind him.
Only when the show was over and he was lying in bed that night (he decided to turn in early because he wanted to get enough sleep for filming in the morning) did the events of the day come back to haunt him. Images of the residents crowded into that warehouse of a shelter kept popping up in his mind, the crushed, hopeless expressions on their weary faces as they shuffled down the chow line to receive their daily ration of tasteless,watery food in the low-ceilinged cafeteria. The images of the children living there especially bothered him; he could still see the pain of hunger and fear in their little eyes, the joy of carefree childhood completely vanished from their pathetic short lives. No child should have to live in such conditions, he said to himself. Hell, I wouldn't let a dog live like that!
He had to do something. That much he was certain. He had to do something to alleviate the misery of those miserable wretches living (if "living" was the term for it) in that shelter. The only question was how to do it. What was the best way to help those scores of homeless people get the help they need? He had already taped an episode there, but it would not air until next season, too late for most of them. No, he had to do something, and do it now. But what?
Pastor Bob's admonition replayed in his mind: You earn more money in one week than most folks earn in a lifetime! You wear enough gold and silver to make Fort Knox want to reel you in! You got enough cars and motorcycles to open your own dealership!
Criss sat up in bed, struck by a flash of inspiration. Yeah, maybe that would work! It was worth a try, anyway. He'd donated customized motorcycles to charity before. This time, it would be on a larger scale, with all the proceeds going to homeless relief. All he needed to do was work out the details. Satisfied with his decision, he settled down to sleep. Maybe Pastor Bob was right after all, he said to himself. Maybe all this did happen for a reason.
The next morning, before filming, Criss was called into the president's office. He did not doubt that Felix Rappaport had heard about what happened the previous day and wanted a full accounting of his disappearance. Though they had been friends for almost six years now, Felix was still the boss; it was his and his investors' money that funded his show and allowed him to tape his series in his hotel. Criss was confident that once he explained the whole was a huge misunderstanding on security's part, all would be forgiven.
Upon arrival at the office, however, it looked as if Criss had to do the forgiving. Felix had summoned Chief of Security Macaffey along with the two guards who had chased him off the hotel property when they mistook him for a vagrant. "Gentlemen," the president said with the air of a school principal who had caught some students in some sort of mischief, "I believe you have something to say."
Macaffey cleared his throat. "Mr. Angel," he began humbly but officiously, "on behalf of my men and myself, we offer a sincere apology for our treatment of you yesterday morning. While we are required to keep trespassers away from hotel property, we were negligent in establishing your identity and so were under the mistaken impression that you were a vagrant. My men here were acting under my orders, so I assume full responsibility for their actions against you as well as my own. Again, my apologies for any inconvenience we had caused you."
Inconvenience, Criss thought bitterly. Nice word for it, Macaffey.Inconvenience. You damn near screwed up my life, you (bleep)hole! "Thank you," he said simply.
Felix held up a letter. "Because of all this, Macaffey here has handed in his resignation as chief of security."
Criss was stunned. One little screw-up on his part and Big Luke was quitting? That wasn't like him at all. For all his bluster and overzealousness, Macaffey had kept the hotel safe from break-ins and other criminal activity. If he did quit, where would he go? Back to the supermax prison? With his back injury, those cons would tear him apart like sharks in a feeding frenzy. A billion-dollar hotel needed tight security, and Lucas Macaffey was the man to provide it. Criss realized that even though he was upset over what he did to him yesterday, Macaffey's place was here at the Luxor.
"I never figured you to be a quitter, Big Luke," he said. "I mean, it was all a big misunderstanding, right? You didn't recognize me under all that make-up I was wearing, right?"
Macaffey's tight lips creased upward in a semblance of a smile. "Your own mother wouldn't have recognized you," he said.
Criss turned to Felix. "Look, I know Big Luke made a mistake, but he shouldn't have to quit because of it," he said. "I know he's used strong-arm tactics before, but you have to admit that crime's gone way down since he's been here. Can't you give him a second chance?"
Felix turned to Macaffey. "You willing to give it another go, Lucas?"
For the first time, Criss actually saw Big Luke smile. "I'm willing if you are, sir," he replied.
Felix picked up the resignation letter and tore it in half. "Now get back to work," he ordered the chief and two guards. "But show a little more care for the people you meet, okay? You don't know who it might be."
While his plan to help the homeless came to him in a flash, putting it into action proved to be difficult. He still had to finish filming Angel Unaware on top of all of his other commitments. Not only that, but the media got wind of his day's adventure and demanded he tell his side of the story, and no other forum proved to be as popular than on The Tonight Show.
"So, I'm in my hobo costume, see," Criss said to Jay Leno, "and the chief of security sees me, and he thinks I'm a real homeless bum, so he yells 'Hey! You can't go in there!'. I'm, like, 'but I'm Criss Angel!' He's, like, 'yeah, and I'm Wayne Newton!', and he throws me out the back door!"
Laughter from the audience. "So there I am, stuck outside the Luxor, and I go around the front, but then there's these two security guys there, and one's got a gun pointing straight at me! I see Chief Macaffey coming, and, believe me, you don't wanna mess with him! So I take off, and I'm running down the street for my life."
"Geez, you poor guy," Leno sympathized.
"Yeah, it was totally unreal!" Criss said. "I mean, I get thrown out of my own home and chased off by guards! Somehow, I kept expecting Ashton Kucher to pop up and tell me I've been punk'd!"
More laughter from the audience. "And so I'm wandering the streets, and I end up in the same homeless shelter where we taped episode two. I call Dave, who had been tearing his hair out wondering where the hell I am; he comes to pick me up and takes me back to the Luxor. So for a few hours, I knew what it was really like to be homeless. It sucks big time, let me tell you."
"Do you consider this a life-changing experience?" Leno asked.
"Every experience is life-changing," Criss replied, "but this is definatly in the top ten."
Laughter and applause. "We'll be right back with more Criss Angel!" Leno announced as The Tonight Show broke for a commercial.
12-25-2011, 04:07 PM
Despite the one-day delay, the filming of Angel Unaware was completed on schedule. Criss and Nomi worked well together for the few days he was on the set; they seemed to share a certain chemistry between them. But, as with Holly Madison, their respective schedules did not allow them time together. When Criss' scenes were completed, he and Nomi parted ways, though each promised to keep in touch. "Who knows what the future will bring?" he had told her.
When filming wrapped up around the beginning of November, and Criss had finished with The Tonight Show interview, Nomi received a message from the Luxor Hotel requesting she contact Criss Angel through his executive assistant, Eliza. Curious, she called the number written down on the pink message slip, half-expecting to get caught up in a game of phone-tag, what with his busy schedule and all. To her surprise, her call was forwarded directly to his office. To her even greater surprise, Criss answered the phone without delay.
"Hey, Nomi," he said cheerfully. "How ya doin'?"
"Good," Nomi said. "We just finished making the movie. Dave says it'll be out by mid-December. A&E has first dibs on it because you're in it."
"Figured they would," Criss said. "I'm under contract with them. Say, Nomi, I wanna ask you a big favor."
"Sure. What is it?"
"Well, it's not just for me," he hedged, "it's for hundreds of people who need help."
Nomi listened carefully as Criss outlined his plan to her over the phone. "Well, if this is what you really want to do, Criss," she said, "I'm all for it. Just do me a favor, will you?"
"Name it," he said.
"No skimpy costumes or string bikinis, okay? I don't want to be too much of a distraction, if you get my drift."
Criss immediatly understood. "Got it."
"You're gonna what?!?" Criss' eldest brother, JD, stared at him in disbelief. "I mean, you're serious, right?"
Earlier that day, Criss had summoned his family together for a private meeting to announce his plans for homeless relief. His mother, Dimitra, his two brothers, JD and Costa, and his cousin George sat with him in a corner booth of one of the Luxor's finest restaraunts. They had just ordered lunch; while they were waiting, Criss sprang the news on them: "I'm planning on auctioning a few of my cars and motorcycles to raise money for the homeless," he told them.
This sudden revelation came as a complete surprise to the family. They knew Criss loved his customized cars and motorcycles, his "toys" as he called them; for him to sacrifice any of them for charity was unbelievable, if not inconcievable.
"What bought this on?" Costa asked.
"You've been to Sanctuary Shelter, haven't you? All those homeless people crammed into that one building, eating lousy food, practically sleeping on top of one another--it's pathetic! And it's time we did something about it!"
"Waitaminute, waitaminute," JD spoke up. "Who's 'we'?"
"I mean everybody," Criss replied. "Everybody with the means to do it, that is. I got it good here--the cars, the luxury suite, the bling, everything. Don't you think it's time we shared the wealth with those who are poor?"
"Does this have anything to do with your little 'experience' as a homeless bum a few weeks ago?" Costa asked.
Criss looked directly at him. "Cos," he said, "it's more than that. I confess that my 'experience', as you call it, was a wake-up call, but I was there before, remember? In fact, we all were. We all saw the misery those people go through every day, haven't we? Didn't you want to do something to help them at the time? I know I did. I've done my best to give back to the community at large: Make-A-Wish, the Crissmas episode, the military. But I can do more than just entertain a few people. I can make a difference in the world."
"Bull(bleep)!" Costa said, not believing Criss' little speech.
"Costa!" Dimitra exclaimed, indignant over such language.
"It's because you were homeless for a day," Costa pointed out. "It's because you saw first-hand what it was like to have nothing, to be poor and hungry and without a home. Maybe you felt some sympathy the first time around, but you went right back to your rock-star lifestyle the minute taping was finshed! It was only when you got thrown out of the Luxor did you 'wake up' to the plight of the homeless, as you said. It's not out of concern for them that you decided to sell your cars, it's guilt! Plain, old-fashioned guilt! Admit it, you feel guilty after what you went through!"
"Wouldn't you feel guilty if you went through the same thing I did?" Criss argued.
Costa did not answer, but remained sullenly silent. "Well, I think it's a wonderful idea," Dimitra said, glowing with enthusiasm and maternal pride. "I'm glad something good came out of what Christopher went through. And it'll help a lot of very poor people as well. You can raise a lot of money selling those cars of yours, money the shelter can use."
"Thanks, Mom," Criss said, smiling.
George, always the practical one, pressed for more details. "So, how are you gonna go about it?" he asked. "Direct selling? Auction? Raffle?"
"Auction," Criss replied. "That's the best way. Sell 'em to the highest bidder. We'll get more money that way."
"Where you gonna hold it?"
Criss thought about it for a moment. "Well, right here at the Luxor. The Grand Ballroom's big enough, isn't it?
"It should," George conceded. "And which cars are you gonna sell?"
Now Criss was stumped. "I'm gonna have to go over my inventory," he said hesitantly. "I haven't made up my mind yet."
"Well, you'd better hurry," George told him. "Christmas is coming up, and there's a lotta little kids in that shelter waiting for Santa Claus to bring 'em something, and you don't wanna let 'em down, do you?"
"I'm not gonna let them down, George," Criss said confidently. "I swear to God I won't."
After and hour of sitting in his office poring over his vehicle inventory list several times, Criss simply could not decide which of his cars or motorcycles to auction off for the shelter. Every two or four-wheeled vehicle he owned meant something special to him; he could not bring himself to part with any of them. Still, he had made a commitment to aid the homeless, so he forced himself to continue his search. Finally, in despair, he tossed aside his list. "What am I gonna do?" he groaned. "I can't decide what to sell!"
"Maybe I can help," a voice behind him spoke.
Criss sat up, startled. Pastor Bob Beaman stood there in the doorway of the office. "Pastor Bob!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Eliza didn't tell me you were here!"
"One: your mother got hold of me and told me your plans, so I came to see if I could help," he explained. "And two: your secretary or whatever you call her had gone to lunch, so I just slipped inside. Seems to me you're having a bit of trouble deciding what to sell at the auction."
"Yeah, a bit," Criss mumbled. "I just can't seem to make up my mind."
"Lemme see what you got," the pastor ordered, taking up the list.
He skimmed over the printout of the list of cars and motorcycles Criss owned, his eyes widening as he read on and on. "Like I said before," he said, "you got enough here to open your own dealership! Surely you can afford to let go some of these! I mean, you're only one man; you don't need to have all of these things, do you?"
"It's not a question of 'need', Pastor," Criss protested. "It's more like...sentimental reasons."
"You should be more sentimental toward your fellow man than these machines, here, Criss," the pastor admonished. "Cars are just machines; they make millions of them every day. People, however, need food and shelter. They need to live, Criss, they need to eat and keep outta the wind with good homes, feed their children and send them to school. You know, someone once said, 'Live simply so that others can simply live.'. You've made your life complicated with all this materialistic wealth, all these cars and other stuff you got, while there are folks out there barely making it as it is. So if I were you, I'd forget the 'sentimental reasons' and start liquidating your inventory."
Criss's shoulders slumped in deeper despair. "I could sell all I have and not make a dent in solving the homeless crisis," he said sadly.
"I'm not asking you to solve it," the pastor said. "No one person can except the federal government and the public at large. But you can ease the suffering and the misery these people are going through with this auction. Even if you turn just one homeless person's life around with it, you've done more than anyone else." He handed back the inventory list. "Now, whaddya say? We gonna go through with this or not?"
Criss stared at the printout sheet glumly. "I made a promise, Pastor," he said, "and I intend to keep it. I just don't know what I want to sell."
The good pastor pondered this. "I think we should let God Himself decide," he said mysteriously.
Criss looked at him, perplexed. "Huh?"
"Show me where you keep your cars," Pastor Bob requested, "and I'll show you what I mean."
12-25-2011, 04:13 PM
"Well, there they are," Criss said as he guided Pastor Bob to the warehouse where his cars and motorcycles were stored. "Now, what were you saying?"
Pastor Bob stared incredulously at the rows and rows of cars lined up neatly in the cavernous warehouse. "How many cars you got, anyway?" he asked.
"Here?" Criss shrugged. "About fifty. I also got my bikes. Wanna see?"
He led Pastor Bob to his collection of Harley Davidsons, choppers and other customized motorcycles. Their chrome handlbars and wheel spokes gleamed in the flourescent light as they passed each one. "Just how much did these things cost?" the pastor not so much asked as demanded.
Criss flushed with embarrassment, knowing the pastor would upbraid him for spending six figures for custom bikes. "A lot," he replied, trying to evade the issue.
Pastor Bob refused to be put off. "How much, Criss?" he pressed.
"A few hundred..." Criss began.
The pastor eyed him suspiciously. "...thousand." he added with a gulp.
"Mm-hmm," the pastor grunted. "I thought so."
Criss sensed another sermon coming, and he moved in to dodge it. "Hey, I said I was gonna sell some of them, okay?" he said. "I gave you my word, remember?"
"You did," the pastor concurred, "and I'm holding you to it. But since you can't decide which ones to sell, then we should let the Lord decide Himself."
"And how's He gonna do that?" Criss wanted to know.
"You gotta deck of cards on you?" the pastor asked.
Criss produced a brand-new deck of his trademark MindFreak playing cards, a bit puzzled as to why a man of the cloth would want them. "Fan them out like you were doing a card trick," Pastor Bob ordered him.
The cards were unboxed, unwrapped and fanned out before the pastor, who took one from the deck, looked at it, and smiled. "King of Hearts," he said with satisfaction.
"Okay," said Criss, still not comprehending the pastor's plan, "now what?"
"You can put the rest of those cards away for the moment," the pastor told him. "Now, this is what I want you to do: you take this card, see, and you toss it at your cars. The one where it lands on is the one you gonna sell. Get the picture?"
"That's letting God choose?" Criss said, perplexed. "Seems more like leaving it up to chance to me."
"That's what you think," Pastor Bob retorted. He held up the card above his head. "Heavenly Father," he prayed, "we ask You to bless this humble playing card, the King of Hearts, in the Name of Jesus, the King of Heaven. Let this card fall on these vehicles that You have chosen to be sold to aid those in need. Amen."
He handed the card to a bemused Criss. "Okay," he said, "start tossing."
Criss flicked the card down the row. It fluttered and landed on a blood-red Lamborghini Diablo. Criss' heart sank; he loved that Diablo, but, forcing himself to recall his promise, agreed to let it go. Pastor Bob pulled out a bar of soap and made a cross on the windshield. "That's one," he said. "Go ahead, Criss, give it another shot."
The card flew and landed on a classic Mustang convertable, then an imported Bugatti, then a huge Ford F-150 pickup. "Any more?" Criss asked, dreading the answer.
Pastor Bob thought about it. "These will do for now," he said. "Now let's see about them bikes you got."
With the toss of the card Criss lost four of his favorite choppers, including the one with the chrome skull on the handlebars and the scrollwork on the wheelframe. "Pastor," he moaned, "you're killin' me!"
"I'm not 'killing' you, Criss," the pastor said. "I'm helping you keep your promise. God has decreed these things to be sold for the poor. I'm also doing it for your sake."
"That's right. You're letting your materialism get in the way of your salvation. Remember what Jesus said to the rich man: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And you know what they say: you can't take it with you, you know."
Criss crossed his arms. "Well, if I can't take it with me, then I ain't going!" he retorted facetiously.
Pastor Bob glared at him severely. "Okay, okay, just kidding, just kidding!" Criss placated him.
"I wonder about you, Criss," the pastor said, shaking his head. "I wonder if you really learned anything from your experience last time. From what I see, I think you're having a relapse."
"Pastor, I made a promise," Criss insisted, "and I'm gonna carry it out, just like I said. I've already made all the arrangements: the auction's all set for next weekend, right here at the Luxor. It's gonna be a huge success, just you wait and see."
Criss proved to be as good as his word. The charity auction, a huge gala affair attended by the biggest names in Las Vegas (and a few lesser known ones as well), was the talk of the city. The media were all over it like ants at a picnic, taking pictures of the vehicles up for sale and the potential buyers placing bids upon them. The event headlined every entertainment periodical from People to the National Enquirer:
CRISS ANGEL SELLS CARS, GIVES MONEY TO HOMELESS.
Even the Las Vegas Sun put in their two cents' worth with an editorial cartoon in the Saturday paper, showing a caracature of Criss leaning against a fence post of a used car lot, bearing a huge banner reading:
CRISS ANGEL CHARITY MOTORS: GOOD USED CARS FOR A GOOD CAUSE!
Behind him were a row of sports coups and racing cars. It became a favorite screensaver and avatar for Loyals once it hit the fanboards.
Still, none of this mattered to Criss. What mattered was the fact that he had succeeded in raising close to a million dollars for homeless relief, thanks to the sale of his rides. He had played the celebrity to the hilt during the auction, posing for pictures with Nomi Porter, his date for the evening and hostess for the event, and granting interviews to the press. He spoke of his ordeal of being homeless for a day, of the upcoming television movie (as much as the producers would allow, that is), and how he was glad to be able to offer relief to those who had no place to call their own. "I didn't do this for myself," he stated. "I did it for the homeless, especially the kids. Yeah, there are kids out there, living on the street with their families, in cars and in shelters like Sanctuary. That's the worst thing of all, because kids deserve a better life than that."
The public response to the auction was mixed, swinging from wholehearted approval to skeptical criticism. The former were lavish in their praise, calling him "a breath of fresh air in an era of overindulged celebrities", who "truly lived up to his last name." He was "an example worthy to be followed," said others. "If all these rich celebrities would give up some of their millions to people in need, we'd end poverty forever!" one writer opined.
However, there were a disdainful few who scoffed at him, accusing him of creating a publicity stunt "just to make himself look good," as one writer put it, or that he was selling his cars just for the tax write-off; or the auction was really a scam, with very little of the money going to charity but most of it going into Criss' own pocket. Others decried giving "handouts" to the poor, claiming it "created weakness of character and a state of dependency within the lower classes.". "Stop sheltering the poor and let them pick themselves up by their own bootstraps!" one irate citizen wrote to the papers. "Soaking the rich to support the poor is communism!"
Criss tossed down the newspaper in disgust. "Communism, my ass!" he growled. "I try to help people in need and all I get is grief!"
"A lot of people think you're a hero, Criss," Dave Baram pointed out. "Lotta people wouldn't even drop a nickel in the Salvation Army bucket. You raised a million dollars--that's a helluva lot more than most people. Don't pay any attention to those Scrooges--you got more Christmas spirit in your little pinky than all of 'em put together!"
Baram held up a red Santa Claus coat. "Now get dressed," he said. "You gotta whole shelter's worth of kids to play Santa for."
Criss donned the red coat with the white faux fur trim, pulled on the Santa hat, and went out to greet the children of Sanctuary Shelter. He disdained the white cotton beard, claiming it made his face itch; besides, he knew the kids would know it was him, so why bother? He entered the church auditorium where a large group of children had gathered to wait for him. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" he called out! "Merry Criss-mas!"
The children cheered and applauded wildly. Criss passed out the presents stacked under the bottle-brush-and-broomstick contraption decorated with cheap styrofoam ornaments and tiny blinking lights that passed as a Christmas tree, wishing each and every child a merry Christmas. The presents were his own contribution, straight from FAO Schwarz (the million dollars raised from the auction was earmarked for creating a larger facility, better training programs and improved living conditions), as well as from friends and other people who read or heard about the shelter and wanted to do their part.
Baram and Pastor Bob watched as Criss interacted with the children in the auditorium. "Has he always been this good with kids?" Pastor Bob asked.
"Oh, yeah, he's always been good with kids," Baram replied. "He's been to see sick kids with terminal illnesses, entertained families of servicemen overseas. This ain't the first time he's bought toys for underprivileged children. He once bought a whole truckload of toys for this whole mob of kids at some church a few years ago. He's really a good guy, salt of the earth."
"Maybe I've misjudged him," Pastor Bob mused as he watched Criss hold a three-year-old girl on his lap. "Maybe he's not as selfish and materialistic as I thought."
"Hey, nobody's perfect," Baram said, shrugging. "He's got his flaws, just like everybody else. He drinks, he swears like a sailor, he's an adrenalin junkie, he has temper tantrums when things don't go his way--sometimes. I've worked with the guy--he's nobody's angel, I can tell you that."
Pastor Bob smiled. "That's what you think," he said.
(finis. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. V.)
12-27-2011, 05:15 AM
Same to you Veritas
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