For Criss Angel, with the good came the bad -- the horrible, in fact.
As he was on the verge of announcing a new stage show in Las Vegas called "Mindfreak Live," he got a phone call that changed his life: His then 20-month-old son, Johnny Crisstopher Sarantakos, had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a common type of cancer that strikes children.
"I broke down," he told Wonderwall.com, recalling that moment five months ago.
With his son living in Australia, Criss immediately canceled a string of his Vegas-based Cirque du Soleil show, "Believe," to fly across the world to be with Johnny.
Fast forward to the present day: Johnny is "technically" in remission and doing well, his father says. Criss also has a new Las Vegas show set to officially launch on June 23 and, because of Johnny's diagnosis, the former A&E star also has a new purpose in the world.
On the day that his new show "Mindfreak Live," was formally announced, Criss spoke exclusively with Wonderwall.com.
Q: How will "Mindfreak Live" differ from "Believe?"
A: "It's 18 years in the making. It's what I always wanted to do, and to have this opportunity to bring to Las Vegas the most mind blowing magic revolution and an experience like this is really just amazing. People are going to see the state of the art lighting, pyrotechnics, lasers, 3D immersion experiences and the most revolutionary illusions that the world of magic has ever seen."
Q: What illusion are you most excited to showcase in the new show?
A: "I have more magic in this show than any magic show in the history of my show or any other magic show ever. One of the things I've been working on is this brand new levitation where people will see me float in ways that are impossible to date, until now. People will see me float in a way that will keep their mouth open and in awe and wonderment."
Q: People have used a lot of titles for you over the years. What's your favorite?
A: "I've been called so many things. I don't care what people say as long as what I'm doing is provoking a response, good bad or indifferent. I want to move people with my art in some way. In 'Mindfreak Live' it truly will connect with people in the purest form and that is the form of emotion. This show is scary, it's seductive, it's ominous, it's funny and it's heartwarming."
Q: While you were planning this, Johnny had a battle of his own…
A: "Last week I was with my son in Australia and he's going through a very difficult Chemo block. It's called delayed intensification and it's one of the hardest blocks to get through. But, my son is incredibly resilient and brave. The thing is, no child should ever go through this… It's a horrendous situation and there needs to be a voice to really perpetuate awareness, funding and research so that no child ever has to go through what my child and so many other children go through day after day.
Q: Being in the public eye, how are you lending your voice to this?
A: "On Sept. 12 we're having big event called Help Heal Every Life Possible and it's going to benefit the Johnny Christopher Children's Charitable Foundation. One hundred percent of every dime that's raised will go to pediatric cancer and children and research and treatment. There will be a celebrity auction, followed by a show that's going to feature the biggest celebrities on one stage on one night for one incredible cause and I'm very excited. I think this is why I'm blessed with success, to do a greater good in the world. I'm just honored to do this with so many talented people and, on behalf of my son, who, god willing, will be on stage, I hope that we can make a difference and change the fate of children that have cancer and how they can be treated."
Q: How is Johnny doing?
A: "He's doing great. He's technically in remission, although he has to go through three years of treatment to be assured that the cancer is truly gone, which is incredibly difficult. The hardest thing for me is to leave him. He can't travel. His immune system is so low that he has to remain in Australia for treatment, but we're hoping by September he'll be able to come out to Vegas. The most important thing in my life is my son and trying to do something with his illness that will help more children in the future."
Q: What was it like to heard the news that he had cancer?
A: "It's the words that no parent wants to hear. I broke down. We're making a documentary called '1095,' which is the amount of days he has to go through treatment, and '1095' really showcases what it's like for the family and for the child. It really is going to give an inside look. All the money that's raised from that documentary will also go to children's charitable funding for research and treatment. That's my mantra right now, pediatric cancer.
Q: It sounds like you've found a silver lining in all of this..
A: "You got to. You get dealt a hand in life and you either choose to let it crush you or you rise above it, and I choose to take lemons and make lemonade."
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