Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008 | 8:03 p.m.
Hundreds of Criss Angel fans dropped what they were doing across the continent and came to Vegas this week to meet the famous illusionist. As a reward they became the first to set foot inside the theater built for Angel's soon-to-be-unveiled Cirque du Soleil show, "Believe."
Angel invited his fans, also known as "loyals," to audition for a video component for "Believe" through his Web site and MySpace blog on July 31. Winners were contacted Monday and Tuesday, leaving little time to make travel arrangements.
Stories of red-eye flights, frantic shift switching, calling in sick and the like weren't hard to find. The father of a 13-year-old Canadian fan from Prince George, British Columbia, shelled out $3,000 for airfare alone.
Through whatever means necessary, the loyalist of the Loyal descended upon the Luxor -- some on as little as 24 hours' notice – and congregated en masse for Wednesday night's filming.
Angel's older brother and "Mindfreak" regular, J.D. Sarantakos, cheerfully helped with crowd control as the contest winners anxiously waited outside Angel's gift shop. He cracked jokes and kept the mood light as the hours passed.
Fans said they were told to be there at 6 p.m., but the line remained stagnant until after 8 p.m. After several hours of waiting, the still-cheery Sarantakos received his que and moved the line of eager fans through the Luxor property, across the casino floor, down a series of hallways, and eventually, into the "Believe" theater lobby.
As the massive line made its way from Point A to Point B, confused bystanders pointed and stared.
"Where are you going?" a middle-aged man asked.
"To see Criss Angel," a female contest winner replied nonchalantly. The pretty 20-something never missed a confident stride: She had a date with an Angel and nothing was stopping -- or even slowing -- her.
Before entering the lobby, fans signed release forms and were briefed on what was about to happen: There will be no photos and no autographs, so don't ask. Scream when we tell you to but be quiet when we say so. And, for the love of God, turn your cameras and cell phones off.
When Angel finally appeared, the mob erupted. Hands making the iconic hard rock horns gesture were thrown up, true love was confessed and a few marriage proposals could be heard.
After the illusionist calmed the diehards down, he and a small crew set to work, hand-placing the, uh, "camera friendliest" in front of the camera.
Those with Criss Angel/Mindfreak/Believe tattoos went first. Branded Loyals showed off their tats and explained why they got them and what the ink means to them.
One woman fought back tears as she told how she had "believe" tattooed across her back after her doctor delivered a grim diagnosis and gave her two months to live.
The video she was auditioning for will make its public debut in about two months -- on Oct 10.
After the inked-up had their time in the spotlight, Angel turned his attention to the inkless, working his way through the crowd, asking why they love Criss Angel (yes, he used the third person), what "believe" means to them, etc.
Angel -- looking more like a rock star than an illusionist, dressed in ripped jeans, a muscle shirt and sideways ball cap -- directed the operation. He chose who went on camera, then asked fans to do another take, stand a certain way and punch it up, when necessary. Angel was as patient, gracious and friendly as he's appeared throughout four seasons of "Mindfreak" on A&E.
He personally ensured that everyone who wanted to appear on camera got a chance to do so. After filming wrapped up, he gave everyone a chance to say "hello" and give him a hug before filing out of the lobby at 10:30 p.m.
Angel fans hungry for Mindfreakiness can tune into tonight's episode of So You Think You Can Dance on FOX. No, Criss Angel is not going to levitate Cat Deeley or make Nigel Lythgoe disappear, but at least one other "Mindfreak" regular will be making a special appearance as the final four contestants take to the stage.