Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos (born December 19, 1967), known by the stage name Criss Angel, is an American magician, illusionist and musician. Angel began his career in New York City, before moving his base of operations to the Las Vegas Valley. He is known for starring in the television and stage show Criss Angel Mindfreak and his previous live performance illusion show Criss Angel Believe in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil at the Luxor casino in Las Vegas. The show generated $150 million in tourist revenue to Las Vegas in 2010, but has since been replaced by Mindfreak LIVE! on 11 May 2016 (the show is partly produced by Cirque du Soleil; however, the directive rights are entirely with Criss Angel). He also starred in the television series Criss Angel BeLIEve on Spike TV, the reality-competition television show Phenomenon on NBC, and the 2014 stage show Criss Angel Magicjam.
Angel has been on prime time television for more hours than any other magician in history, between his television series and various specials on cable and network television. He also holds multiple world records made during his magic performances, and was named Magician of the Decade in 2009 and Magician of the Century in 2010 by the International Magicians Society. In addition to his career as an illusionist, Angel was the lead singer for his industrial band Angeldust, which released five albums between 1998 and 2003. He also authored the book Mindfreak: Secret Revelations.
Criss Angel was born on December 19, 1967, at Hempstead General Hospital in Hempstead, on Long Island, New York. He is of Greek descent. Angel was raised in Elmont until fourth grade, when his family moved to East Meadow, New York. His father, John Sarantakos, owned a restaurant and doughnut shop. He developed an interest in magic at age 7 and performed his first show at age 12, for which he was paid $10. His main early influence was Harry Houdini. By age 14, Angel was performing throughout high school at restaurants in East Meadow, including the Wine Gallery. Angel’s first major illusion was making his mother float in their family den. Early in his career he was helped by animal breeder and reality-television host Marc Morrone, who helped Angel find and train a set of doves for his act.
By the time he graduated from East Meadow High School, he had decided to pursue a career as a professional magician instead of attending college as his parents wanted. According to the Biography Channel, “Angel hit the road and began touring with other traveling performance acts. Between traveling and performing, he attempted to further his education in his own by studying the history of magic in public libraries. He also studied the art of mysticism, music, martial arts and even dance.”
In 2002, Angel married his longtime girlfriend JoAnn Winkhart. The couple filed for divorce four years later. Although Angel was seen with his wife in the buried alive illusion (season 1, episode 6, 2005) and the body suspension illusion (season 1, episode 5, 2005), she was not credited as his wife; rather, she was listed as “Criss’s Girl”. In November 2008, Angel began dating Holly Madison, former girlfriend of Hugh Hefner. The relationship ended in February 2009. He proposed to Sandra Gonzalez on September 7, 2011 in Cabo San Lucas during a sunset dinner. They broke up shortly after. Since 2012, Criss has been dating Australian singer Shaunyl Benson. The couple have two sons together, Johnny Christopher, born 2014, and Xristos Yanni, born January 22, 2019.
As of 2010, Big Bear Choppers had produced seven custom-made motorcycles for Angel, who featured the motorcycle designers on his show Criss Angel Mindfreak. He also had a Harley Davidson motorcycle built by Orange County Choppers, which he rode in the intro filmed for Criss Angel Mindfreak. As a philanthropist, Angel created the Believe Foundation ‘Believe Anything is Possible’, and was awarded the Make-A-Wish Foundation award for most supportive celebrity on May 19, 2010. He was also awarded the foundation’s Chris Greicius Celebrity Award in 2007. As of 2016, Angel’s business interests made about $70 million in revenues annually.