Christopher Nicholas Sarantakos (born December 19, 1967), better known by his stage name Criss Angel is an American magician, musician, mentalist, hypnotist, escapologist, stunt performer, and actor. He is best known for starring in his own television show, Criss Angel Mindfreak. Early lifeCriss Angel was born on December 19, 1967, raised on East Meadow, Long Island, New York and is of Greek descent. Angel grew up loving music, had a love for playing drums, and has always had an interest in magic. His parents are John and Dimitra Sarantakos. His mother hails from Mystra, Greece. He has two brothers, Costa and JD. One of Criss's biggest influences has been his father, who died from carcinoma of the stomach. According to his interview with Larry King before Halloween in 2007 he was an altar boy in the Greek Orthodox Church as he was growing up. Criss Angel first became interested in magic at the age of 6, when his Aunt Stella showed him a magic card trick. Two of his biggest magic influences are Harry Houdini and Aldo Richiardi. As a teenager, Angel performed at birthday parties, at night clubs, at home to entertain his family, and at private events. Early in his magic career, magician James Randi designed Angel's professional business card. Criss received magic lessons at his local magic shop in New Jersey by Ian Wagner. Criss received personal instruction in Gosoku Ryu with World Champion and 7th degree blackbelt Shihan Grant Campbell, who has been inducted into the Karate Hall of Fame and Inheritor of the style Ryuei Ryu. Angel played in an Industrial music band called AngelDust with friend Klayton Scott (Celldweller, Argyle Park) who produced, co-wrote, and helped arrange the music for his show, Mindfreak. In 2002 he married JoAnn Winkhart. She filed for separation in 2006 and for divorce in 2007. Magic careerAngel performed World Of Illusion at Madison Square Garden in 1998. Criss then scored an off Broadway show titled "Criss Angel Mindfreak," which ran up until January 6, 2003 following a run of 600 performances at The World in The World Underground Theater in Times Square. He also starred in several television specials. Criss Angel won the Academy of Magical Arts' Magician of the Year award in 2005 and the IMS Magician of the year in 2001 and 2004. He has even revealed the methods for many of his tricks to viewers at home on TV and in videos, although the effects revealed are usually very simple such as making a toothpick disappear, picking a pocket, or making a Styrofoam cup float. Angel discusses magic and his life in Mindfreak: Secret Revelations (published April 24, 2007), which became a Los Angeles Times best seller. Angel is scheduled to appear in a new illusion-based Cirque du Soleil production at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, with an expected opening date in August 2008. The countdown clock featured on Angel's official website is counting down to September 30, 2008 as a premiere. Angel has recently stated that there are plans for this attraction to run for 10 years, including 4,600 shows with a possible 5 year renewal option of his contract. In July 2007, NBC signed Angel and Uri Geller for Phenomenon, a show airing on October 24 that searches for the next great mentalist. Angel does not believe Geller has any paranormal abilities.