|Loyal Written Art For all Criss Angel or non-Criss Angel related written artwork.
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
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.
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
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.
Last edited by Veritas; 12-25-2011 at 04:08 PM.
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
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."
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Hartland, MI
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.)
Join Date: Aug 2011
12-27-2011, 05:15 AM
Same to you Veritas
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