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Criss Angel's hocus-pocus ticks off Vegas fans

October 2, 2008 |  6:02 pm

Crisswb Last Friday in Las Vegas, at the debut preview performance of “Criss Angel: Believe” –- the Luxor Hotel & Casino’s new Cirque du Soleil-produced multimedia magic extravaganza -- rock star illusionist and celebrity-dating tabloid mainstay Criss Angel made a strong impression with his first trick. The star of A&E’s popular street magic series “Mindfreak” enraged many audience members at the Luxor by making their cameras and cellphones disappear.

And that’s before the curtain even went up!

Upon entering the lobby, ticket holders (your humble correspondent included), some of whom paid up to $150 for their seats, had to walk through a bank of metal detectors, endure the once-over by a security guard wielding a hand-held metal detector and surrender any electronic device capable of recording the show. The producers’ primary fear: leaked footage before “Believe” gets in “final shape” for the production’s grand opening on Halloween.

Now, it should be noted that the show arrives with a reported price tag of $85 million to $100 million and sky-high expectations on the Vegas strip. Early preview performances have already suffered withering buzz –- things that will be explored in greater depth in a Criss Angel profile scheduled to appear in Oct. 12’s Arts & Books section.

But back to the Luxor fracas. While that kind of park-your-camera thing may be par for the course at movie premieres, it's almost unheard of in theater -- doubly so in Vegas, where everything that happens, stays, as the city's increasingly hackneyed tourism slogan goes. Nonetheless, everyone handed over their hardware and got a claim ticket to pick up the stuff after the show –- which is when things got ugly.

Attendee John Michalak of Los Angeles complained to the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Everybody said the biggest ‘Mindfreak’ is you’re gonna get your phone back.”

On TripAdvisor, another audience member groused that the ticket contained no warning about the confiscation of recording devices: “I would have left them in the room if that had been the case. I did not appreciate waiting 20 minutes at the end of the show to pick my cell phone and camera back up.”

On Tuesday, however, the Luxor amended its no-recording-device policy. So now “Believe” is cellphone-friendly (although cameras are still not welcome). And as evidenced by the show’s comedic leitmotif, rabbits in hats are most definitely encouraged.

-- Chris Lee

Photo credit: Trae Patton / NBC