02-18-2013, 03:21 PM
While Criss and his family were attending Mass, Dave Baran, Criss's manager, was enjoying his own Sunday morning ritual with a cup of coffee and the morning paper on the veranda. He had just finished skimming over articles dealing with world events, scanned the local section, tossed aside the food pages and the classifieds, checked the box scores in sports, and finally settled down with the entertainment section. It was not for idle curiosity about the Cult of Personality that he read it, but to check for any reviews about his star client's shows or any other information he felt he should be concerned about. If there were any rumors circulating, Dave wanted to be sure to catch them and squelch them if they were too damaging to Criss's career.
There was the usual Hollywood gossip in the Names and Faces column: who was seen with whom, whose relationship was going strong or on the rocks, births, deaths, and arrests for DUI or some other offense. Just another day in Tinseltown, Dave thought. He was about to turn the page when Criss's name and photo caught his eye. Instinctivly, Dave zeroed in on it. He read the few lines connected with the grainy inch-square picture of Criss Angel inserted between them.
Charged: Illusionist Criss Angel, with assault by SilverStar CEO Monique Wesley. Wesley claimed that Angel allegedly threatened to "punch her lights out" after his mother Dimitra's hearing at Clark County District Court. Mother Angel was protesting the proposed demolition of North Las Vegas's Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church by SilverStar to make way for the new Grand Imperial Hotel, and had been arrested for criminal trespass on private property along with the priest, Father Stefan Mykolos. Charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Angel is suing SilverStar for false arrest and harrassment on his mother's behalf.
Dave read the paragraph over and over again. This could be bad, he thought. This could get really bad. Personally, he didn't blame Criss for his anger over what SilverStar did to his mother, but to threaten bodily harm, especially to a woman, could tarnish his image. Criss had been riding high for the past several years; something like this could bring him low.
He had to call Criss. He had to set the record straight, for both their sakes. Once he got the real story, Dave could undo the damage and save Criss's career--and his own. Dave reflexivly pulled out his cell phone and was about to press the speed-dial number reserved for Criss when he suddenly recalled that he was in church that morning for that special service at Holy Trinity. He had probably turned it off. Dave swore under his breath and put the phone away. He would call Criss this afternoon, when he was free of family obligations. Meanwhile, he would have to wait.
"The Mass is ended. Go in peace." Father Stefan told his congregation.
"Thanks be to God," the congregation responded in unison.
Father Stefan, the sacristan and the altar boys receded to the vestibule of the church with the same slow dignity as they came in. There were murmurs and scuffles as everyone gathered their belongings as they prepared to leave. Kris Lee struggled to reach Criss's side again, a difficult feat with the crush of bodies all around. She felt like a trout swimming upstream, fighting a current of people to reach her goal. Just when she felt as though she would be swept away, she found Criss at last, joining the flow down the aisle. With one desperate lunge Kris Lee hooked his arm and drew herself close to him. She had made it at last.
Criss was startled. "Hey, you all right?"
Kris Lee nodded. "I'm fine, Criss, really I am," she breathed. Now that I'm with you.
They joined the slow flow of bodies making their way out the doors of the church. Kris Lee took the time to take a few pictures of the church with her camera phone. She would have to wait until she was outside to take any pictures of Criss and his family; it was too dimly lit, not to mention too crowded to take pictures inside the church.
Candi, meanwhile, had succeeded in latching onto Criss's other arm and walked beside him, to Dimitra's chagrin. She had understood very little of the Greek Mass and had been separated from her idol by his mother throughout the service, but just being in the same room with Criss Angel, sharing something so very personal to him, had been the rarest of privileges for her, a singular honor that no other Loyal (save for Kris Lee, of course) would ever enjoy. It was as close to Heaven as she would ever get in this life.
They inched their way toward the vestibule; Kris Lee could see the bright Nevada sunshine just up ahead, beckoning like the Pearly Gates themselves. She knew Father Stefan would be waiting there; maybe he would consent to a group photo with Criss and Dimitra? She couldn't see why not. She stood in the doorway leading to the vestibule with Criss, waiting impatiently while some stout, middleaged matron insisted on bending the good priest's ear about something she could not quite make out. Father Stefan listened patiently, or appeared to, anyway; Kris Lee could sense that he thought this woman was quite a bore himself. Finally, the old chatterbox took her leave. Kris Lee let Criss take the lead; it was his church and his family, after all, and she didn't want to come across as pushy.
"Christopher," Father Stefan greeted him warmly. "So glad to see you."
"Morning, Father," Criss said politely. "Congratulations on saving the church."
"I should be congratulating you," Father insisted. "Or rather, your mother; she spearheaded the whole campaign. Where is she, anyway?"
Dimitra emerged from the crowd. "Right here, Father," she called out.
Father Stefan smiled and reached out to her. "Welcome, Dimitra. God bless you."
"And you, too, Father," Dimitra responded. "You remember my sons, JD and Costa."
The two shook hands with Father Stefan. "Nice to meet you, Father," JD said politely.
"So glad you all could make it," Father said, still smiling. "We all owe your mother a debt of gratitude for saving the church. She's very strong in spirit. You should be proud of her."
"Always have been, Father," Criss said proudly. "In fact, I wouldn't be where I am today if not for her--and Dad, God rest his soul."
Father nodded. "Of course."
Kris Lee stepped forward. "Excuse me, Father," she said respectfully, "but would you mind posing for a picture with Criss and Dimitra for me?"
Father Stefan searched for a camera but found none. "With what?" he asked.
Kris Lee held up her camera phone. "With this," she answered. "It's all I got, really."
Criss shrugged. "It's okay by me," he said. "Mom?"
"Well," Dimitra replied thoughtfully, "one picture can't hurt."
Criss posed on one side of Father Stefan while Dimitra took the other side. Kris Lee carefully aimed her camera phone at the threesome, adjusting it to make sure she got everyone within range, and pressed the "save" button. "Thanks," she said.
"Well, we'd best be on our way," Dimitra said. "Good bye, Father."
"Yeah, nice meeting you, Father," JD said, giving the priest a final handshake.
"So long, Father," Criss said, shaking hands. "And thanks for taking car of Mom."
"You are welcome," Father replied. "And don't be shy about coming back, either, Christopher. Don't let your fame prevent you from attending Mass; we're always open for you."
"Thanks, Father." Criss waved goodbye. "So long."
Father waved goodbye and turned to the next couple waiting to greet him. Criss, Kris Lee and Candi trotted down the steps back down onto the lawn, stopping by the tree.
"Well, I guess this is where we part ways, ladies," he said. "I have to join Mom and the rest of the family. Thanks for joining us."
Candi pouted. Kris Lee sighed with disappointment. "Will we ever see you again?" she almost pleaded.
Criss looked at her mysteriously. "You never know when or where I'll appear," he replied evasively. "You just have to...believe."
He turned and walked away, leaving the two girls by the tree. They watched as Criss rejoined his family and disappeared into the crowd. Candi turned to Kris Lee. "You got the picture?" she asked.
Kris Lee held up her phone. "Right here," she said proudly. "C'mon, we gotta download this on the boards. No one's gonna believe we went to church with Criss Angel!"
"Boy," Criss sighed wearily as he and the family rode in the car to Costa's house, "I'm glad that it's all over."
Dimitra looked at Criss, aghast. "Christopher! How can you say that?"
Criss looked up. "What?"
"I thought you wanted to go to Mass," Dimitra said, her feelings hurt. "Is it such a chore for you to take an hour of your precious time to attend church?"
Criss sat up. "Oh, no, Mom, no offense," he protested. "I meant that I'm glad that this whole controversy dealing with SilverStar is finally over. This whole thing was such a drain on all of us, especially you; like Father said, you spearheaded this whole protest, and now we can all stop worrying and relax."
Dimitra nodded, still not convinced. "I see," she replied skeptically.
"No, really, I swear," Criss insisted. "This Mass was a celebration of the church's victory over SilverStar. It was a victory celebration for you and all those who protested alongside you, and I would not have missed it for the world. You earned it."
Dimitra nodded again, giving Criss the benefit of the doubt, and let the matter drop. Soon they would be at Costa's new home for a nice family dinner and she could enjoy being with her children and grandchild without the intrusion of television cameras or photographers. As Christopher had said, they could all stop worrying and relax.
The family rode in peaceful silence, occasionally taking in the view of the passing landscape. It was a rare, quiet moment for them all, away from the glare of lights and the intrusive lenses of camcorders. For that one day, they could be just like every other family in America--Mom, three sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. It was a welcome relief for them all.
Criss heard his cell phone go off in his pocket. Annoyed, he pulled it out to see who was calling. The tiny screen read DAVE B. What the hell did he want now? Criss wondered irritably. He punched "answer" and put the phone to his ear. "Yeah, Dave, whaddya want?"
"Criss, we got trouble," Dave said.
Criss sighed in frustration. "Can't it wait?"
"Criss, SilverStar's CEO is charging you with assault!" Dave told him. "It's all in today's paper!"
Criss was puzzled. "Assault? Whaddya mean, assault? I didn't lay a hand on her!"
"You threatened to 'punch her lights out', or so it said in the paper," Dave said.
"I didn't say that!" Criss insisted. "She's lying! When was this, anyway?"
Dave paused while he read the article again. "It says it was the day of your mother's hearing," he told him. "after she was aquitted."
Criss searched his memory of his encounter with Monique that fateful day. Something clicked inside his head like a YouTube video and the scene replayed before his mind's eye:
I wish you were a man for about five minutes.
Why? You prefer men?
No, so I could punch your lights out! You had no right to have my mother arrested like that!
Oh, Jesus, Criss groaned inwardly. "Look, Dave, what I said was I wished she was a man for five minutes so I could punch her lights out," he explained. "I wouldn't hurt a woman, no matter how much I hated her! I know I was really (bleeped) off at the time, but I'd never hit her, honest to God! I was quoted out of context!"
Criss could hear Dave sighing over the phone. "You know, Criss, this could seriously hurt your career," he said seriously. "I got to do a lot of damage control because of this. Monique Wesley's more powerful than you think; she could ruin you, personally if not financially. Now, if what you told me is true, I'll do my best to smooth things over, but for the time being, don't say anything to the press about this. I don't want you making things worse."
"It's Monique who's making things worse," Criss argued. "She's the one who started this whole mess! It's her fault, not mine! If she expects me to apologize for what I said, she's got a long wait ahead of her!"
"All the same, Criss, just lay low about all this," Dave pleaded. "I don't want this to become a full-blown scandal, not at this stage in your career. You just opened Believe, and your show's doing great in the ratings. Don't do anything to blow it, okay?"
"I'm not going to blow it, Dave," Criss insisted. "And don't worry about Monique Wesley--I'll handle her myself when we get to court."
"Still, in the meantime, just keep quiet about this," Dave begged. "Don't make it worse than it already is."
"Dave, relax," Criss said. "It's all gonna blow over soon. Just tell them what I told you and everything will be fine. If it will make you feel better, I won't talk about it to the press, okay?
Criss could hear Dave sighing with relief. "Thanks, Criss. Talk to you later."
Criss flipped off his phone. Costa turned to him. "What was all that about?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing," Criss replied.
"Sounded like something to me," Costa persisted.
"Look, I'll explain everything when we get to your house, okay? It's too complicated to go over here."
Costa said nothing more but settled back in his seat. From what he had gathered through Criss's one-sided conversation with Dave Baran, Little Brother was unaware that he had put his foot so far in his mouth he was choking on it. He only hoped that he could save him in time.