Thursday, May 23, 2013 | 1:42 p.m.
Six hours before Criss Angel’s “Buried Alive-Cement Grave” stunt on the Strip on Wednesday night, his fan army of Loyals began to arrive. They grew to the point that an hour before his planned 10:30 p.m. arrival, rival magician Nathan Burton used Twitter to report there were 10,000 and more dangerously crowding areas and roads in and out of The Mirage.
To add to that headache for Metro Police, high winds had picked up to more than 30 mph, prompting Clark County’s Department of Air Quality to demand building sites take immediate precautions to curb flying debris of sand, cement powder and other objects. That instantly caused additional problems for TV cameras set up by the cement mixer on the Strip.
The crowd was initially moved into five separate staging areas for their safety in an attempt to lessen the growing traffic tie-ups. I joined Criss backstage at the Luxor after his Cirque du Soleil show “Believe” as he prepared for the dangerous demonstration.
He was calm, meditative and doing breathing exercises. “I’m ready to roll,” he told me, showing me his chest and back that had been bruised and torn from the stunts he’s already pulled off for this new Spike TV series to debut this fall.
However, as we packed up for the RV to drive over to The Mirage, the first of a series of warning phone calls arrived. There were major safety concerns with the size of the crowd. There were concerns about flying debris. There were concerns about positioning a standby ambulance at instant entry and exit points.
Criss was ordered to hold in place while officials, Metro Police and Spike TV producers discussed how to resolve the unexpected and growing issues. I watched Criss as he pleaded on the phone to go ahead, but after an hour of negotiations, the demonstration was officially shut down.
A sad Criss asked me to pass on his message to his army of Loyals: “I’m so honored to have had such an enormous crowd turnout, but I am very disappointed that we were shut down and could not go ahead with the demonstration. The thousands of people who turned out went beyond anything officials anticipated.
“We’ll reschedule ‘Buried Alive-Cement Grave’ with the appropriate number of police in place to comply with their public safety guidelines. I really appreciate the loyalty of my fans and am sincerely sorry for any inconvenience this might have caused anyone.”
Next up for the “Mindfreak” magician is a flight to Florida on Tuesday for another dice-with-death scenario. He will be shackled and caged in an alligator swamp in the Everglades. He has to escape the locks holding his arms, legs and neck before the cage is lowered into the water.
“The level of danger increases each step of the filming for his TV series. He’s pushing the envelope where it’s never gone before. Spike is ecstatic with what he’s shot already because it’s incredible television,” one of the producers told me. “But his safety and the safety of his fans have to come first in a case like this.”
Criss still has to catch up on two postponed stunts: last night’s “Buried Alive” and then also walk 100 feet high blindfolded in duct tape across two pieces of a broken steel beam in the empty landsite opposite Luxor. He promised me that he will reschedule both when he returns next week.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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