The Hills returned; Lindsay Lohan has, too. The dream of the ‘00s is back—mostly in revival or reboot form, with slight alterations to retool nostalgia for the current age. Criss Angel, Mindfreak, the suzerain of illusionist culture, never had to leave to be missed. Instead, he’s spent the last 40 years performing magic, the last 20 enjoying the aftermath of celebreality fame (Mindfreak ran from 2005 to 2010), and the last 15 hosting one of Las Vegas’ preeminent shows at Planet Hollywood. I know all of this because on a recent Friday night at New York City’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, during a performance titled Criss Angel Raw: The Mindfreak Unplugged, the titular talent walked the crowd of more than 1,500 through his biography, cleverly interspersing personal information between transfixing moments of empty-calorie entertainment.
I do not recommend reading on if you are attending one of his upcoming tour dates in Iowa, Wisconsin, or Illinois. But maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe there’s no reality, just this world of illusion.
Here’s every time I felt legitimately mindfreaked (where mindfreaked is loosely interpreted as “shocked, deceived, mind-blown or gin drunk”) while attending the limited engagement in Times Square:
1.) When I emerged from the subway, realized the venue was across the street from the new Jezebel office, and thought “welcome to the neighborhood.”
2.) When I purchased a $15 cocktail simply titled “MINDFREAK” that was mostly orange juice and grenadine.
3.) When I found my seat and saw that VIP meet & greet holders, diehards known as Loyals, were taking pictures in a straight jacket onstage as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” played overhead.
4.) When I learned Criss Angel fans are called “Loyals.”
5.) When the show didn’t start until close to 8:30 and I learned Criss Angel runs on punk time.
6.) When my friend Hannah turned to me and suggested “the real Mindfreak were the friends we made along the way.”
7.) When the show began with a montage to Criss Angel’s successes, all of which were dated from, like, 2001 to 2010 (he was the answer to TWO questions on Jeopardy, which is more than most people could ever hope to accomplish).
8.) When I realized in the introductory video montage that Criss Angel is a sentient Von Dutch trucker hat that has managed to bypass any sort of hiatus or reunion and kept the nu-metal dream alive.
9.) When the montage ended and the next video clip played: this time, it was Criss Angel in Insane Clown Posse-esque corpse paint, attempting to murder Korn’s Jonathan Davis as they serenade each other. My nu-metal joke from a few seconds ago was too on point. Am I psychic? Am I... the magician?
10.) When Criss Angel’s first illusion appeared to be swallowing the razor blade pendant I bought at Hot Topic in 2003, and then swallowing a GoPro so we can see the metal blade pierce his throat, and then pulling both out while vomiting blood into a bucket... When I realized that this might be two hours of just really gross antics.
11.) When Criss Angel told us he’s from Long Island. My boyfriend is from Long Island. Is Criss Angel my boyfriend?
12.) When Criss Angel made his first joke about “no collusion” after introducing one of his assistants as being from Russia.
13.) When I realized Criss Angel hasn’t changed his haircut or even his fringe since 2001. Is it a weave?
14.) When Criss Angel shot a crossbow and hit a playing card mid-air, the very same a fan selected from an airborne deck of 52.
15.) When Criss Angel showed us the flyer from his first show ever, at Rockville Centre in 1982, and I’m confronted with the reality that Criss Angel is 51 years old, and I have a crush on him in the year 2019.
16.) When Criss Angel started telling jokes, ranging from poor parenting to looking like a young Rick Springfield. He uttered, “That’s what she said.”
17.) When Criss Angel made us watch a video of him undergoing shoulder surgery after a failed stunt involving being suspended, in a straight jacket, adorned with a fifty-pound weight.
18.) When Criss Angel attempted to recreate the stunt on the stage in an unplugged fashion: buckled tightly in the same jacket, and shoved into an industrial case. He escaped, no medical attention required.
19.) When Criss Angel pivoted to close-up table-top tricks, reminding me that I literally paid $60 to see magic performed two hundred feet away.
20.) When Criss Angel said he once hung from a helicopter by fish hooks and instead of trying to recreate it on stage, pivoted to lodging a woman’s iPhone into an empty bottle of vodka and making a tarantula appear in front of another woman who just seconds prior said her biggest fear was spiders.
21.) When Criss Angel left the stage, but only for a muscular Frenchman named Stefan to do card trick choreography (it was beautiful) and a “comedian” named Mike Hammer whose jokes, as far as I could tell, were exclusively sexist and ended with kickers like “there’s a new movement,” in regards to #MeToo. When my eyes rolled back into my head, it, too, felt like an illusion.
22.) When Criss Angel almost gave a fan his Rolls Royce as part of an extensive trick and then... did not give a fan his Rolls Royce.
23.) When a woman pulled from the audience said her biggest fear was “money,” and everyone laughed, and Criss Angel failed to make money appear. Instead, she found a snake in her bag. It was undoubtedly the best joke of the evening.
24.) When I read the New York Times review of RAW after attending and realized all of this was preordained and I’m a gullible sucker who loves a good illusion but will never again attend a magic show. I would, however, absolutely recommend you attend.