08-30-2011, 08:38 PM
School started right after Labor Day. I managed to arrange my class schedule so I could get out earlier to have more time to get ready for work. It was pretty exhausting, balancing work and school, leaving me only Sundays to have any semblance of a social life. I did my homework at my hostess station during performances, interrupted by the occasional phoned-in reservation or a greet-and-seat customer. Criss wasn't too thrilled about my doing schoolwork during business hours, but what could I do? I had to keep up with my classes and pay the rent at the same time.
We had a really bad scare around mid-September. It was midweek, just after what the President had designated "Patriots' Day" after Osama bin Ladin turned September eleventh into a day of infamy. We didn't have much rain that summer, even on Memorial Day--and it always rained on Memorial Day weekend as far back as I could remember. The grass was dry as hay, and watering bans were in effect. August and September is usually the two months of the year for brush fires, but this year we were all extra vigilant.
I was in my fourth period history class when the windows seemed to fog up all of a sudden. Then we smelled burning grass. The principal announced over the PA system that we were to evacuate the building through the back doors, as the school lawn was on fire. We were to leave in a quiet and orderly fashion, not to panic, but to remain calm and file out without pushing or shoving. Yeah, right. We didn't care if the whole building was on fire. We were getting out of school early, and that was all that mattered. We threw our books into our lockers and headed out the doors as if it was the weekend. It was a welcome break from the dull routine of classes, at first, but once outside, the smoke choked and blinded us, making it difficult to find our way home. Those who took the bus had it easier than those of us who walked. I heard the fire department sirens wailing closer and closer to our school.
My school uniform stank from the smoke, and I spent the better part of the afternoon washing it out in the kitchen sink. Of course, I got a call from Mom asking me if I was all right after she heard about the fire at school. I assured her I was, I got home safely, and not to worry, I was fine. She once again insisted I come home to the safety and the security of the family bosom.
"Mom," I said to her, "I am home."
Time flew by so fast for me, being busy as I was, that it was October before I knew it. Criss planned two special Hallowe'en shows on the thirtieth, one for the kids to take place in the early evening, and a special midnight show for the adults. Thankfully, it fell on a Friday night that year, so I wouldn't be too wiped out. A good number of parents made reservations for the matinee. The midnight show was SRO, mostly older teens and twentysomethings who wanted something different than the usual costume party.
Dressed in my gypsy outfit, I welcomed the families to the matinee. Criss kept it clean, as he always did for the kids, startling and delighting them with his illusions. He made snakes and other creepy-crawlies appear, but kept a distance. He borrowed a "magic wand" from a little girl dressed as a fairy princess, and used it to make a rabbit appear from a box. It made me wonder what the CBB was so uptight about.
The midnight show, on the other hand, was outright spooky. There were the same snakes and creepy-crawlies, but this time Criss produced them from women's handbags! Then there were the acts too gory to be shown on stage during regular performances--guillotines and swallowed needles and razors. Fake blood (or was it fake?) splattered the stage. No one's going to sleep tonight, I remember thinking.
One evening in November, Criss called a staff meeting before opening the Castle for the night's performance. We all assembled in the theater area, the only room with enough chairs to seat everyone. A black-haired, black goateed man stood beside him.
"Everyone," Criss said in a loud voice, calling us all to attention. "I have good news and I have bad news, depending on how you take it. First of all, I have been offered a contract to perform in Las Vegas. I'll be performing at the Aladdin Hotel for a few years, so I can't stay here in Boren anymore."
I was heartbroken. Criss is leaving me! I thought. He's going to Las Vegas and I'll never see him again! Oh, God! Why? It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears. I wanted to rush up to him, throw my arms around him and beg him to stay. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him, how much he meant to me, how much he had changed me from a timid child to an independent adult in the space of a few months. Instead, I just sat there in stunned silence.
"This is my friend, Max Crowley," Criss introduced the sinister looking character beside him. "I am happy to report that he will be taking over as general manager of the Magic Castle. You'll be answering to him from now on."
One of the wait staff waved his hand for attention. "You still own the Castle, Criss?"
"I am still the owner of the Magic Castle, yes," Criss replied. "Max, here, will be managing it, that's all. He's a really great guy to work for. He had a magic club of his own in LA before the earthquake in two thousand six."
"Are we ever gonna see you again?" I blurted out.
"Oh, I dunno," Criss shrugged. "Maybe. I gotta keep an eye on my investments, you know. Who knows? I can always come back." He smiled mischeviously, but my heart was too heavy to smile back. I felt my whole world crashing down around me that night. I had to force myself to be cheerful and pleasant for the customers, even though I felt like crying. I was losing the one man who had changed my life forever.
To this day, I don't know how I managed to get through my senior year of high school with Criss gone to Las Vegas. I remember seeing him on TV during a special about Las Vegas magicians. He seemed so happy, so successful. I cried throughout his performance, I missed him so much. I still do.
I did get asked to the prom by one of my classmates who worked at the Magic Castle. At first, I actually wanted to say no, but changed my mind, realizing that this was the last year, and I'd be moving on after graduation. I'd been working too hard at school and the Castle. I needed some fun.
Some fun. The Boren High School Senior Prom was just like those teen socials I used to attend, only more formal. The music had been prescreened by the teaching staff for "inappropriate" content, and it was heavily chaperoned, no close dancing, no revealing dresses. My friend, Andrea Woods, and her date, Brandon Pitt, were crowned Prom King and Queen. That was basically the highlight of the whole evening. The dance ended at eleven PM, just in time for curfew. I had beeen better off going to work that night.
I managed to reconcile with my parents in time for graduation. We sat through the numbingly dull speeches and received our diplomas from the principal. How I wished Criss had been there! We filed out to the strains of "We May Never Pass This Way Again". Once outside the gym, we tossed our graduation caps in the air. It was over! We were free at last! Yet, for me, the parting was bittersweet. If only Criss had been there. He was the one I wanted to thank the most for giving me the strength and courage to grow up.
Criss, I know you are too far away to hear me, but I just want to thank you for all you did for me. If it wasn't for you, I would still be stuck on that treadmill I called my life, imprisoned in this one-horse town, working some dead-end job. You bought me freedom. You bought magic to Boren, reviving it from its dull, grey existance. I'll never forget you.
It's been two years now since I left Boren to come here to UCLA. I am majoring in cinematography, interning with a small, independent studio, learning all I can about filmmaking. I had to quit my job at the Magic Castle to come here. It was hard leaving the one place I really loved, but to follow a dream, one has to make sacrifices.
I am planning on doing a documentary for my Master's degree about Criss Angel, if he'll let me. I'd like to go back to the Magic Castle in Boren and record the history of it, from its inception to the present day, including all the controversy surrounding it. I would even interview Mrs. Shook and the former members of the CBB. It's a story worth telling, but, as with anything dealing with Criss Angel, you have to see it to believe it.