Cirque du So-lame

How Did the Word ‘Faggot’ Sneak Into Criss Angel’s Terrible Las Vegas Magic Show?

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Over-hyped illusionist Criss Angel, whose Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil residency has has been marred by scathing reviews (which he so deserves), now has new reason to be ashamed of his act: He’s incorporated gay slurs into his show.

On Dec. 10 at Believe, Angel performed one of his regular stunts: Identifying the word an audience member has written down on a card, which is then placed in a sealed box, whereupon Angel “somehow” perceives what the word is and announces it to the audience before opening the box and showing the card. Except the word one attendee had written down? “Faggot.”

Cue the outrage. Reports the website GoldPlatedDoor.com:

Angel claims that thanks to a special bond between himself and the audience member (homophobia?) he has scribbled that word in a sealed box on a whim. To prove this, Angel has the sealed box lowered, and the audience member’s spontaneously imagined word is then spooled out on paper in large hand written letters for the entire audience to read.

This is not a very original trick, by the way. Penn & Teller do a similar trick except that they use a punchline strategy to control the range of words without limiting the choices enough to ruin the illusion of mind reading. And, I would bet my cats (not that Penn or Teller would want my lovely kitties) that they don’t prep their audience at all. In fact, the audience member’s total surprise at seeing the punchline written out is part of Penn & Teller’s performance.

Angel’s version of the trick, according to one source who used to be involved in the show, from the start had a lot less grace than Penn & Teller’s take: “He [Angel] would always prep the random person by asking for ‘no bad words.’ I don’t know if he still does this.” As a side note, when you consider that a “random” person is “prepped” at all you get an idea of the limits of Angel’s skills on stage when compared to his peers. Plants are much easier when they are paid actors working in harmony with television editing.

Regardless, when the audience member, prepped or not, warned about language or not, picked a term synonymous with gay bashing, Angel could easily have improvised a way to avoid what happened. Consider: Would he have allowed a racial slur to be displayed for the audience, or a slang word that refers to a specific part of a woman’s anatomy? No way. Not a chance. This word seems not to have triggered those alarms.

This is a very bizarre situation, because technically, it was not Angel who chose the word, but the audience member. And Angel — who sometimes gets kissed by men — “merely” picked the word out of the audience member’s head . As the report goes, Angel did not say the word aloud, as is customary, but did unroll the card and showed it to the audience.

After being called out on the incident, Cirque released this statement:

On December 10, an inappropriate word was selected by an audience member as part of the premonition illusion in CRISS ANGEL Believe. It was made clear to the audience that the word is not one that is used or condoned by Criss Angel or any of the artists in the show, and the emphasis on the word was deflected during the illusion. Audience members are typically not pre-briefed as to the words they can use. Since the occurrence, a protocol has been put in place in case the situation should reoccur.

But that was only after Cirque, according to GoldPlatedDoor.com, insisted “Angel himself did not say the word from the stage and they suggested that the audience member was British and meant cigarette.” Uh huh.

And if you’ve seen any Cirque show, you know there’s a huge ensemble cast of performers. Many of whom, you guessed it, are gay. Certainly they aren’t pleased. But also certain? They aren’t talking to the press. Not that they’re sitting tight. “Some dancers in the show were so offended,” reports the site, “that they demanded an apology from Angel, which the magician characteristically refused to offer. I was told, the dancers even considered staging a walkout and complained to Cirque management about Angel’s behavior.”

As if audiences needed another reason to avoid seeing Angel’s show.