08-30-2011, 07:59 PM
Work went well that night, no trouble to report, everyone loved the shows as always. By now, Criss was developing quite a following of devoted fans, from teenaged groupies who swooned at the sight of him, to wannabe Houdinis who blew their entire paychecks for the week buying magic paraphenaila, to rowdy hardcore types protesting their loyalty with an intensity usually reserved for big-name rock stars.
It was because of this third catagory security had to be tightened, just to keep the peace. The bar enforced a two-drink limit to prevent any embarrassing episodes during the performances, and Criss installed overhead security cameras, the "eyes in the sky" he called them, to intercept any potential threat to his safety and the customers. On the floor, a couple of black-suited bouncers patrolled the area, their Bluetooth receivers planted firmly in their ears for quick communication from the eyes in the sky to nab any troublemakers. I was instructed to report any disurbance in the lobby by pressing a special emergency button on the hostess station phone. All was safety and security within.
Outside, however, trouble was brewing for Criss. A new organzation called the Citzens for a Better Boren, or the CBB, was founded by those same upright, uptight guardians of public decency and morality who saw Criss Angel as a threat to their way of life, and determined to drive him out of their precious little town for the good of all concerned, namely themselves. A newsletter made its way to every mailbox, including ours. Mercifully, I intercepted it before my parents had a chance to read it. I tore it into the smallest pieces I could manage and flushed it down the toilet.
It did no good. Natalie's petition rumor turned out to be cold, hard fact. I had just come home from a small shopping trip when I saw a conservativly dressed woman with a clipboard leave our house and go to the one next door. I went into the house and inquired about who she was and what she was doing here.
"She was circulating a petition to close down the Magic Castle," she answered simply, as if she had signed a petition for someone running for office.
My heart jumped into my throat. "You didn't sign it, did you?" I asked fearfully.
Mom looked at me squarely in the eye. "Janey, this place is poisoning--"
"You did sign it!" I screamed. "Mom! How could you do such a thing?"
"Jane, this man is giving this town a black eye. Ever since he's been here, children have been staying out at all hours and dressing like punks. He's been steering them away from everything that was good and wholesome and turning them into witches and wizards. He's even turned you against your own parents, who love you and want what's best for you."
"Who told you all that crap? Those old biddies from the church?"
"You see? You never talked back to me like that before that man came here. You used to be such a sweet girl, and now you've become...I don't know what!"
"An adult, Mom," I finished for her. "I've become an adult. What you thought was a 'sweet girl' was just a timid little mouse who was too oppressed to stand up for what she really wanted. As for all this crap about Criss, they know what they can do with it!"
I went up to my room and threw myself on my bed. I had to fight them, I said to myself. I had to defend Criss and the Magic Castle. I was not going to let them defeat him, or me. But, how?
Two days later, I was getting ready for work when I saw my mother's face behind me in the vanity mirror. I turned to face her.
"Jane," she said, "Your father and I want you to quit your job at the Magic Castle."
I stared incredulously at her. "Quit? Whaddya mean 'quit'? I don't want to quit the Castle, I like it there!"
"What you like or don't like is not an issue here. That place is not good for you and we want you to leave it."
"It's never an issue with you, is it, what I like or don't like?" I challenged. "I'm a legal adult now and can make my own decisions."
Mom left the room. I was a bit startled at that hasty retreat. I was sure that she would have had more to say, but had left, just like that.
I went downstairs to go to work. Turned out Mom did have more to say, with Dad backing her up. They confronted me as I headed for the back door.
"Jane, you are not going to that Castle anymore, and that is final," Dad thundered.
"Dad! What is with you all of a sudden? I got to get to work, okay?" I pleaded.
"You are not going to work there anymore, young lady! You are going to get on that phone and tell them you are quitting as of tonight! Right now, young lady!"
I was aghast. "Dad!?"
"No arguments!" He handed me the kitchen telephone receiver. "Now, call him! Tell him you quit! Right now, young lady!"
I held the receiver as if it was some alien object. "But, Dad--"
"No buts! As long as you are living under my roof, you'll do as you are told!"
I was outraged at this ultimatum. I slammed the receiver back onto its cradle and confronted my angry father.
"If that's the way you want it," I retorted. "Then I choose not to live under your roof anymore."
I pushed my way through my stunned parents and left the house to go to work.
When I managed to get a moment free, I told Criss everything, about the CBB, about the petitions, about my fight with my folks and needing a place to live now. Criss was unfailingly sympathetic.
"Don't worry, Janey," he reassured me. "It'll all work out. I get this flak from a lot of people. Hey, I've even been accused of being the AntiChrist! What are they going to do to me, anyway? Burn me at the stake?" He laughed at that, then he leaned forward. "Look, I can handle the naysayers all right. You need to get your own life in order. How's about I meet your folks, and when they see I'm not the demonic figure they think I am, you all can kiss and make up, okay?"
My eyes misted with grateful tears. "You'd do that for me?"
"Sure," he repled magnanimously. "Once I convince them, they can tell the KGB or whatever--"
"The CBB," I corrected.
"Yeah, whatever they are, they can straighten them out and this whole thing will blow over. So, don't worry about a thing, hon. Everything's gonna be okay. Now, I gotta show to do, and you got customers to greet and seat."
He showed such confidence in the face of adversity, the kind soldiers needed on the eve of battle. I wished I had shared it with him.
On break, I told Natalie Portman about my fight with my folks, right up to my declaration of independence to move out, and Natalie, bless her, said she could use a roomate in her two bedroom apartment to share expenses, since her sister got married a couple of weeks ago and had moved out. The share of the rent seemed reasonable enough, and it was close to the Magic Castle to walk to work, so I agreed. I just needed to go home and get a few things, then I'd be good to go. Relieved, I finished my break and returned to work with a light heart.
Criss was right after all. I thought. Everything would work out just fine. I would be more independent, and still keep my job here at the Magic Castle, working my way through college, majoring in cinematography, as I discovered in a career brochure for a local university. I'd get a PELL grant and maybe a loan or two for tuition. Once I had my degree, I'd go to LA and Hollywood and be a part of the film industry, making movies for future generations to enjoy as I had in my youth. Yessiree, things were starting to look up for plain Jane Marie Terrell.
This rosy vision of the future clouded over darkly when I heard a commotion outside the Castle. I left my station and peeped out the main doors, horrified to discover that a picket line circled around the front entrance, with people chanting for Criss to go away, and discouraging potential customers from entering. A few brave souls crashed through the picket, while others were cowed into leaving. The protesters waved clipboards holding petitions in the faces of passersby, demanding signatures.
I dashed back to my station and frantically pressed the emergency security button. The hired muscle strode quickly into the lobby.
"There's a big protest outside," I cried, "and they're driving away all the customers!"
"You call the cops," a fashionably bald bruiser names Dags ordered me. "We'll handle this."
I dialed 911 and reported the "disturbance", as they termed it. I hung up the phone and waited tensely. Meanwhile, Criss was wowing them in the theater with an underwater tank escape. I kept telling myself that he could handle it, that everything was going to be all right, just as he said, nothing to worry about, everything was okay, just stay calm and do your job, everything was gonna be allright, don't worry, everything's okay.
A few customers who had run the gantlet of protesters and succeeded in entering the Castle approached me for a table. I located the best seats I could find and escorted them onto to the floor, concealing my distress. They sat down with sighs of relief.
"What the hell is going on out there?" a man asked. "I mean, what is with those people?"
"I don't know, sir," I replied, smiling to mask my nervousness. "But we have the police on the way, so everything is going to be all right."
I made a hasty retreat back to my station. From under the heavy doors I could see flashing red and blue lights, telling me that the police had arrived. My tension eased a little. I hoped the worst was over, or at least the worst of the worst. I could not resist a small peek to see what was going on outside. I went over to the doors and looked.
The Castle's hired guns were herding the protesters off the property, meeting heavy resistance. The police shouted through bullhorns for them to vacate the premises or else. The protesters demanded their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly, refusing to budge. They had every right to be here, they argued. They saw their duty as clear, and no one was going to stop them, by God, Mom and Apple Pie.
In the ensuing scuffle, Criss Angel himself appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and fearlessly approached the mob. Someone immediatly spotted him, pointing him out for all to see.
"There he is!" a woman shouted angrily. "There's the troublemaker right there! Get him!"
The angry mob rushed forward, ready to string up Criss from a lamp post, but were intercepted by Dags and his partner, who shielded Criss with their own burly bodies like the defensive line of a football team. Criss perched himself above the mob upon a stone pillar and gave a traffic-stopping whistle through his fingers to call everyone to order.
"Hey! Everybody! Hey! WILL YOU ALL JUST SHUT THE HELL UP ALREADY!?" he shouted at the top of his lungs.
Some semblance of order was restored, though there were a few hotheads among them ready to go off again at the slightest provocation. Criss drew a deep breath to relax, gazing over the crowd of protesters.
"Ever since I've been here, I got a lot of flak from those Pharasaical types who think I am the Devil or something," he began. "I had only the best intentions of bringing entertainment here to to your town, in the best way I know how. You saw me as a threat to your way of life. From what I saw, there wasn't much life in this town to begin with! I saw it in your faces wherever I went, people who grew old before their time, people too tired and plugged into reality to let themselves dream!
"When I first saw this old castle, I felt a psychic bond toward it. It seemed to say to me, 'Bring me back to life, Criss!' And I did. I bought it back to life, sinking almost every dime I had into it, but it was worth it! I created a palace of wonder and magic in a city that had lost its sense of both, a place where dreams come alive, and anything is possible.
"Yet, you want to destroy it! You want to revert back to your old, grey ways, the same old, dull routine you call your way of life. You aren't afraid of me, you are afraid of anything different, anything out of the ordinary. I became a symbol of all your fears of whatever challenged the status quo, so you seek to get rid of me in an effort to exorcise those fears. Well, the world won't change even if you do succeed, because it's bigger than you are. Boren is not the world, it's just a microcosm of it. You adapt to it, or die--it's pure Darwin. Deal with it."
Watching through the doors, I was moved to tears by this stirring speech. I was never prouder to be associated with such a man as I was at that moment. (I kept the newspaper article in which it was printed, so that's why I was able to reproduce it here, word for word.) Suddenly, I noticed a stout old biddy march defiantly up to the pillar where Criss was standing, clutching a stack of papers in her talonlike hands.
"We, the Citizens for a Better Boren," she loftily announced, "have circulated a petition for your removal from city premises. We demand you leave here at once!"
She thrust the petitons at him. With one fluid movement, Criss snatched the papers and made them vanish in a firey flash from his fingertips. The crowd gasped in horrified astonishment at this devilish miracle. Many withdrew, fearful of what he would do next. The old biddy looked as if she would have a heart attack any minute.
But Criss stood there calmly and bravely, openly defying any more opposition. "With all due respect, ma'am," he said politely, "I think I'll stay here awhile."