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Criss Angel is an awarding-winning magician who stars in the popular reality television show "Mindfreak."
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Entertainer. Criss Angel was born Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos on December 19, 1967, into a Greek-American family. Angel and his two brothers, Costa and J.D., were raised by their parents, John and Dimitra, in East Meadow, New York. Angel says that he learned his diligent work ethic from his father, a fitness junkie who owned a successful restaurant and doughnut shop until he passed away from cancer in 1998.
Angel fell in love with magic at 7, when his Aunt Stella showed him a card trick. "From that day on, I was hooked," Angel remembers. "I felt this incredible sense of power that an adult didn't understand how it worked, but I did." He practiced magic tricks obsessively, and gave his first magic show at the age of 12—at a neighbor's birthday party, for a fee of $10. While attending East Meadow High School, Angel performed frequently at neighborhood restaurants. He was a regular act at a Long Island restaurant called the Wine Gallery, where Angel says his tips "could easily clear a hundred dollars on a good night."
After graduating from high school, Angel decided to forego college to pursue a career in magic full time. His decision to skip college angered his parents. "The thought of my becoming a professional magician was unbearable for them," Angel recalled. "They had hoped their three sons would go to college and become doctors or lawyers—but not a magician!" Despite his parents' objections, Angel hit the road and began touring with other traveling performance acts. In between traveling and performing, Angel attempted to further his education on his own by studying the history of magic in public libraries. He also studied the art of mysticism, music, martial arts, and even dance. "It was a practical education, not a formal one," Angel said.
In 1994, Angel made his prime-time television debut in the ABC one-hour special, Secrets. In 1998, Criss Angel: World of Illusion headlined New York's Madison Square Garden during the city's annual Halloween convention. He performed the same 10-minute show 60 times per day throughout the entire 12-day convention. His performances there landed Angel his next major gig, a permanent show at the World Underground Theater in Times Square. Criss Angel: Mindfreak opened in 2001 and ran for over 600 performances before closing in 2003. During the popular and critically acclaimed show, Angel vanished and reappeared, made doves fly out of his hands, changed a $1 bill into a $10 bill and made audience members appear to levitate.
In 2005, Angel transformed Criss Angel: Mindfreak into an A&E reality TV series. Filmed on the streets of Las Vegas, the show became an instant success, and catapulted Angel into the realm of bona fide celebrities.
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