08-30-2011, 07:54 PM
Well, the citizens of Boren had plenty to say about that particular issue of VERVE magazine--most of it unprintable. Either they were young and female and hopelessly in lust with Criss Angel, especially that partially nude shot of him, or they were older and more conservative (read: uptight), and condemned him for such "lewd" conduct. The article itself did nothing to change anyone's opinion about Criss. Indeed, it seemed to confirm their desires for or their worst fears about him. The only ones who benefited were the publishers, who claimed that the June 7th issue was their most popular to date, and Criss himself, who welcomed the publicity, or notoriety, depending on your point of view.
By mid-June, Boren was in an uproar about our controversial illusionist. Some "concerned citizens" wanted him out of town, believing he was just too radical for conservative Boren. They did not wish him any harm, just to take his business elsewhere; this was no place for Criss Angel (if that was his real name, which they doubted), and his "wildness", to put it politely. He did not reflect their Christian and family values, they stated; that nude photo of him in a community magazine was an affront to decent citizens, offensive to families with young children, especially. How dared they publish such "pornographic" fare in a family magazine? many wanted to know. Some even went so far as to demand to be removed from the mailing list.
Others rose to Criss' defense, mainly my own classmates. Lighten up, people! they said. Criss Angel didn't do anything wrong. He didn't do anything illegal. That "nude" picture of him wasn't even that offensive; the corporate media showed a lot more flesh in their ads for their products than Criss did in that one photo. Besides, Boren's economy was benefiting from the Magic Castle; local merchants reported an increase in business since it opened. So what if he looked a little wierd? Criss Angel was a much needed shot in the arm for this lethargic little city. They should award him a medal, not drive him away. Criss Angel rocked!
Of course, there was an undecided minority who couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about, so they minded their own business and stayed out of it. They had their own problems and couldn't be bothered by some magician in that old castle on the outskirts of town. These unconcerned citizens sat on their front porches and read the paper or whatever, waiting for the dust to settle and everything to get back to normal.
When school closed for the summer, my mother tried ever so subtly to get me to quit my job at the Magic Castle and find some more "respectable" employment.
"You know, Janey," she would say, "if you like movies so much, you could apply at that video store on Columbus. Mrs. Shook heard there was an opening there."
"Well, Mrs. Shook can go apply for it herself," I would retort. "I have a job I like at the Magic Castle."
"You remember Robin and Chuck Allman, don't you?" she'd say later. "Well, they just opened a pet store downtown, and they are looking for part-time help. Maybe you'd be interested?"
"No, Mother, I am not interested. I like working at the Magic Castle." I would tell her. "Call cousin Evon, she's the animal lover."
"Oh, look! Here's an ad for--"
"Mother! Will you stop it already?" I finally snapped at her. "I'm staying at the Magic Castle, and that's that!"
Mom stared at me, appalled that I had taken such a tone of voice with her. Yet, strangely enough, she did not snap back. I was as tall as she was now, so I could look her straight in the eye without having to crane my head upward, nor she had to stoop down to my level. Then I noticed a change in her face, subtle yet definate. It was as if she saw me as a different person, a total stranger, instead of the little girl she had borne and raised. She did not seem to recognize me for a moment. Then, her head quivered ever so slightly, and she left the room, completely bewildered over what her daugher had become.
On top of his performances at the Magic Castle, Criss did street magic during the day, performing before everyday people on the sidewalk, in cafes, and whereever he could get a captive audience. Children flocked to him, eager to relieve their summer boredom with some free entertainment until the ice cream man showed up. "Hey, Criss!" they'd call out. "Do some magic! Do some magic for us!"
And Criss would oblige, making coins appear and disappear, levitating playing cards and other objects, even popping a balloon to make a bird appear. Their favorite trick was the coin-behind-the-ear routine. He'd pull a quarter out of each kid's ear, and they'd be so blown away by it that each wanted a turn. "Do me now! Do me now!" they'd plead. Criss did his magic, the kids got a quarter--great deal, if you ask me.
Sometimes Criss would go sit in the picnic area and do card tricks for the road crew on lunch break. No matter how many times those sweaty workmen tried to figure it out, Criss would always one up them. The park echoed with four-letter exclamations of astonishment as Criss executed yet another feat of card magic.
"Y'know, I used to know a guy who would go into bars and do card tricks for money," a worker told him one day. "He was so good, he'd clear about five hundred bucks a night. That was how he made his living. Two, three nights, and he was set for the week."
"You ever do that?" another worker asked him.
Criss shook his head. "Nah. Tell you the truth, I'm not really a big fan of card magic," he confessed.
"Really? You could have fooled me," said the first worker.
"Well, I do it anyway, because it is a staple of magic, and everyone enjoys it, so..."
"So, what do you like to do?" asked the second worker.
"Levitation, for one thing," Criss replied. "And escapes. I do escapes."
"Maybe you can tell me how I can escape getting out of visiting my wife's parents this Sunday, huh?" the second worker laughed.
Criss laughed along. "No, seriously, I'm talking straitjackets, handcuffs, ropes, chains--"
"Sounds kinky," a third spoke up.
"Get outta here!" his coworkers laughed derisivly.
"But seriously, levitation?" the first worker said skeptically. "Like, making people float in the air like on stage?"
"Yeah, like making people float in the air, or myself."
"You can float yourself in the air, huh? Okay, Houdini," the second worker challenged, "I wanna see you do it, right here and now."
"You want to see me levitate?"
"Yeah, I wanna see you levitate, right now. Right here in the park! C'mon, Houdini, betcha can't do it!"
"How much you want to bet?" Criss challenged him back.
The burly crewman thought about it for a moment. "Twenty bucks!" he offered.
The two men shook hands as his coworker whipped out their camera phones to record the event for posterity, or at least to confirm the truth to their families and friends when they told about it later when they got home.
The crew circled around Criss as he took a few deep breaths to center himself, shushing each other so as not to be distracted from what was to come, whatever it would be.
Criss sank into a trancelike state and slowly rose vertically above the hardhats of the road crew staring slack-jawed at this miraculous demonstration. The few kids in the playarea pointed out the "flying man" to their mommies, who were also astonished at the sight. They recorded it on their camera phones as the crew did, calling whomever would pick up and telling them to click on their photo display, because "you are not going to believe this!", they said.
Criss lowered himself back down to earth to the cheers of the crew. He turned to the brash crewman who had challenged him and held out an outstretched palm. "Ante up," he said.
The worker did, unhesitantly. They were still shaking their heads and expressing their amazement when the signal to return to work was given by the foreman.
"God Almighty! Did you see that guy?"
"How in the flaming blue hannah did he do that?"
"Beats my pair of jacks!"
"Anyone get a shot of him? They ain't gonna believe this back home!"
"God! I wished I had bought my camcorder! I coulda gotten it on tape!"
As a matter of fact, someone did get it on tape, just in time for the five o'clock news. Rob Papier, roving reporter for WAMD TV, just happened to be cruising by in the station's camera van when he spotted Criss Angel with the road crew while he was doing card tricks for them. Well, Criss being the man of the hour, and it being a slow news day, he pulled over and strategically positioned the camera crew to catch any action. Papier got more than he bargained for when Criss levitated in the park, and so he pulled out the mikes for on-the-spot interviews, cameramen trailing behind shouldering heavy television cameras. Those who witnessed it were all too happy to express their amazement on local television.
"It was incredible!" said one of the mothers at the play area. "I thought I'd been in the sun too long, but there he was, up in the sky, just walking on air!"
"It was really cool, the way he did that!" her five-year-old son smiled broadly before the camera. "He was all the way up there!" he said, pointing straight up to the blue summer sky.
The foreman of the road crew gave this brief statement. "Yeah, one of my men made a bet or something with him, and the rest is history. I don't know how the hell he did it, but Charlie's out twenty bucks. He's one helluva magician, I'll give you that."
I saw it myself on the five-o'clock news, and the six o'clock news, and on the eleven o'clock news at the Magic Club's large screen television in one of the banquet rooms when I was at work. Natalie Portman, one of our waitresses, shook her head worriedly.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"You know that big stink that magazine article about Criss caused?"
"Well, I think this is going to make things a lot worse."
"Ah, come on, Nattie!" I said. "Just because a few old biddies got their panties in a twist about him doesn't mean anything."
"Oh, yeah?" Natalie argued. "You haven't heard about the petition."
"Petition?" Now it was my turn to be worried. "What petition?"
"There is supposed to be a petition going around to shut down the Magic Club because of all the trouble he caused." she explained.
"Oh, for the love of...!" I groaned.
"It's true," she confirmed. "Or, at least, that's what I heard."
"Oh, Geez!" I leaned against a wall in frustration. "Does Criss know about this?"
"I don't think he does, yet. You think we should tell him?"
"No!" I answered. "At least, not yet. He's got to perform tonight, and we don't want to distract him with bad news. We'll tell him tomorrow. You got his email address?" Natalie nodded. "Good. Tell him tomorrow online. Meanwhile, we keep quiet. We don't want to spread any rumors. If there is a petition, we've got to stop it, and save the Magic Castle."