Saturday, May 22, 2010 | 10:32 a.m.
It was one of the most emotional nights in Mindfreak magician Criss Angel’s life. When Make- A-Wish Foundation officials presented him with an award for being the most supportive celebrity with the organization’s dying children, the tears streamed down his face.
“I am a very emotional person,” Criss told me in an exclusive interview after the award presentation at Bali Hai Gold Club as cameras rolled on us for an upcoming Biography special on A&E. The program will air as Season 6 of Mindfreak begins this summer.
In recent weeks, as we have reported here at Vegas DeLuxe, the star of Cirque du Soleil’s Believe at the Luxor has been presented with several international magic awards recognizing him not only as multi-time Magician of the Year and Magician of the Decade but also Magician of the Century. Just days before the Make-A-Wish presentation, he also was given the Innovention Award for his contributions in changing the world of magic.
“All those have no significance next to this recognition and love from the Make-A-Wish kids,” Criss said. “These children make me smile from ear to ear and teach me that love, health and happiness are the most important things in life.
“I meet a child, and neither I nor they know how long they have on Earth. When I was broke and just had a dream, I always thought fame and money was the answer. But it means nothing -- it’s shallow and has no depth once you meet these kids. This is the important work to do quietly and behind the scenes. When you achieve your dream, you have to use what comes with it to help these children. I am so grateful I was raised in a family with a lot of love.
“Success for me here means the love that comes from the kids. It grounds me. This work has become most important in my life. The kids think that I’m fulfilling their last wishes and doing them a favor. But in fact they do more for me than I could ever do for them. There is no price on that because you can’t buy that.
“An innocent child just wants to be with you. That trumps any fortune, any car, any jewelry. You can’t buy that sincerity of love, friendship and affection with an innocent, pure child. It is very, very tough every time I meet them to know they won’t be with us for very long. It’s heartbreaking that I won’t see them again because their last wish is to meet me or be entertained by me before they go.
“I am so blessed to be able to do this and be asked by Make-A-Wish. I say that from my heart.”
Criss immediately donated $10,000 to Make-A-Wish at the annual dinner in the Bali Hai Golf Club Center here in Las Vegas. Nine matching donors moved by his emotional words as he accepted the award promptly followed Criss’s goodwill. That $100,000 kicked off the foundation’s fundraising auction.
The award was presented with many of the Wish Kids taking part in the ceremony.
Criss was previously recognized by Make-A-Wish in 2007 when he received the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award, given annually to its most passionate and hardworking celebrity wish granter.
Then Criss revealed that he will start his own Believe Anything Is Possible for Children Foundation this year to fund continuing Make-A-Wish activities.
He told me: “Oprah is signed on to help, and a lot of celebrity friends have agreed to help me raise money for Make-A-Wish. We want to make the world a better place for innocent children. I cried my heart out when my father died from cancer. I wish I was smarter, wiser like a doctor, to save these children from dying. I don’t deserve an award for what I do with them. I will just do anything I can, and I ask everybody to do the same.
“Caring about these kids has become my priority. Anything I can do for my fellow citizens young or old I will do out of love.”
Criss greeted the Make-A-Wish officials and posed for photos at the dinner he attended between his two nightly shows at the Luxor and after a long, hard day of filming for the new Mindfreak season.
He summed up for me: “This is what real magic is all about -- seeing a child’s face light up and forgetting completely that it may be the last time. The real magic of love and caring is made from the Man upstairs. That’s the gift from God that makes this all so worthwhile. That’s His ultimate magic.”
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.