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October 24, 2014

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A peek inside Criss Angel’s tricked-out, 60,000-square-foot box of magic

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  • Criss Angel, Mary Wilson and Jeff Timmons
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Seated on a bench in front of a stage where a line of dancers in leather and lace gyrate to house music is a guy wearing a ball cap sideways on his head. Around his neck is an oversize clock.

He is master magician Lance Burton, dressed as Flavor Flav.

Just a few feet away, nearly crawling across the bar, is a slightly built guy ordering a cocktail. He also is wearing a ball cap askance, and a big clock around his neck.

He is, in fact, Flavor Flav.

“Heeeeey boooooy!” he calls out, having been handed his drink. “I am (messed) up!”

A crowd of several dozen entertainment types laughs as a camera swings to capture Burton, Flavor Flav -- oh, and Carrot Top and old-time magician Johnny “The Great Tomsoni” Thompson -- all convening for a quick video clip.

What is the meaning of all this? As if by magic, Criss Angel, headliner at the Luxor since 2008 and the event’s roving emcee, supplies clarity:

“This is the future!”

Yes, it is. It also is the past, given the inclusion of such traditionally rooted magic men as not one but two Burtons (Nathan Burton also is involved in this freewheeling showcase) and the Great Tomsoni. The set is laid out like an old TV variety show, sort of like “The Ed Sullivan Show” as if Sullivan clashed with “Fantasy” at the Luxor -- and the “Fantasy” cast members were on hand, too.

But you’ll find this show nowhere on TV.

The recurring variety performances are part of Angel’s new online empire at MagicPlace.com. The next live-stream event, “Loyal Saturday,” an entertainment and interview show, is to be broadcast at noon Saturday and is free for any Angel fan (or anyone at all) by clicking on the website.

The next MagicPlace.com Party -- the wild variety show I attended at the 60,000-square-foot fun house last month -- is set for noon Aug. 25. Scheduled for that show are UFC combatant Cain Velasquez, Shaquille O’Neal (promoting his “All-Star Comedy Jam” at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel on Sept. 1), Flavor Flav, Nathan Burton (still performing his comedy-magic show at the Flamingo), comic actor Stu Stone and Golden Nugget headliner Gordie Brown.

That Angel is able to attract such an array of guests to his MF13 Studios complex (which is a warehouse tricked out with the latest in video recording gadgets and equipment) speaks to the popularity of Angel’s operation. The second all-star broadcast has drawn more than 320,000 views, making it the most-viewed Internet stream on Stickam.com (if you’re not familiar with that site, you’re not alone, but it is the equivalent of the YouTube online platform for live streaming).

Thus far, Angel has hosted five live-stream shows from MF13 Studios, including three “Loyal Saturday” broadcasts. He’s projecting as many as 1 million views by the end of the year and is adding programming this month: “MP Master Sessions,” which will be a glimpse into the latest creations and techniques for up-and-coming magicians; “The Buzz,” which focuses on news and gossip in the world of magic (and that seems a limitless vein of content); and new product releases.

The shows are uncensored -- you can say anything on the Internet -- which is why lingerie-clad dancers and Flavor Flav are in the lineup.

Angel, who logs 18-hour days as a matter of practice, continues to work intensely on improving his reach. “Mindfreak” ended two years ago, but that project is in the deep recesses of his memory. His live show at Luxor and the online operation are his focus now.

“I wrote this show at 4 in the morning,” he said during a break in the action on the show that originally aired July 14. “It’s nonstop with me.”

Moments later, he was introducing Nathan Burton, who performed his familiar “Microwave of Death” routine. As Burton finished with the elaborate illusion (which involves a microwave oven large enough to conceal an adult male), Flavor Flav called out, “Hey! Do that again!”

He’ll have to come back another time. No doubt Criss Angel has already set that up.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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