Criss Angel is making news, and he has some amazing news of his own to share: son Johnny Chrisstopher is cancer free! The 54-year-old magician and illusionist announced on Monday that his 7-year-old son, who has been battling Leukemia, was officially in remission and rang the bell at the hospital declaring victory. Angel marked Johnny’s incredible milestone by releasing a documentary titled 1095 – which is the number of days his son was in treatment. The documentary is a soulful and emotional journey through what it’s like to watch your child battle cancer – and what other families are going through right now.
Being a father is a difficult job. You have to worry about providing money, love and safety for your child. Like motherhood, fatherhood is an all-encompassing journey that you never really complete – it lasts as long as you live. Fathers often struggle with feeling like they do enough: do I provide well enough? Am I loving enough? Am I keeping my child safe? Imagine wondering those things, making it through the day only to find your child is about to face a battle you can’t protect them from – cancer.
Angel, known for his outrageous outfits and Vegas shows that employ illusion and a mastery of stage entertainment to ply magic to his audiences, strikes a different tone in 1095 than we’re used to hearing from him. In the video, Angel’s voiceover reminds us that life is magic, and it’s all around us.
In 2015, Johnny was diagnosed with cancer. In a raw and candid interview on camera, Angel explains that his reaction to the diagnosis was disbelief. He explains, “I thought it’d happen to the other person, not to you. You know you think Criss Angel is this guy that does all these crazy things, hangs from fish hooks and floats 500 feet without any fear above the ground – and then you see me sobbing. And I can’t stop sobbing, because it’s so real. It’s not an illusion. It’s not like you’re going to wake up the next morning and everything’s okay.”
Johnny’s mom Shaunyl Benson continues, “We’ve spent most of Johnny’s life in and out of clinics and hospitals. And it’s so weird, it feels like it’s just normal now. We’re here so much, it’s kind of part of our home.” By now, Benson explains, “he knows the drill, he hates the hospital food.” Johnny received 1095 days of care to treat his B-Cell A.L.L. Leukemia.
Throughout the video, Angel and Benson explain what it’s like to watch a vibrant child with a full head of hair battle a monster like cancer. Johnny now has no hair – and Angel explains that many kids who battle cancer don’t survive, not because of the cancer, but because the treatment is so toxic by necessity. “10% lose their lives,” he shares emotionally.
After completing his three years of chemotherapy, Johnny was declared in remission in 2019. Benson explains that if you have to get cancer, the type Johnny had was the best to get, if there can be such a thing. 95% of people who enter remission with B-Cell A.L.L. will never have to worry about it again. Unfortunately, Johnny was one of the 5% and his cancer returned a year after being declared in remission. Benson emotionally breaks down explaining what it’s like to be a mother – whose job it is to protect and nurture – as your child faces something you can’t protect them from, that you can’t love away. “It was more like I’d let Johnny down.”
Also in the documentary, Johnny’s doctor and Cure 4 the Kids’ Dr. Allen Ikeda says he believes that people need to be aware of how many children are being diagnosed. A sobering statistic plays across the screen: 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year. “By getting together and making a movement, we can do better science. We can have better technologies. We can get more donations to have better clinical trials and more research for these patients.”
Angel wants awareness to be raised not just for the children who need better care but for the families who can’t afford even basic care. Angel shares honestly how he would gladly take the cancer for Johnny if he could, the love in his voice evident. The entertainer, the master of stages and illusions, it all fades and what’s left is a father who loves his child – and wishes this battle had never needed to be fought.
Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation
Angel’s goal is to raise hundreds of millions of dollars – he admits that some people might find it ambitious, but he’s going to make it happen. Angel explains, “One child every two minutes is diagnosed with cancer. Cancer doesn’t discriminate.” Angel continues, “So I want to try to be a voice for these kids. I want to try to help these families that are going through the toughest time of their lives.”
And to bring that dream to life, Angel has created the Johnny Chrisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation. The foundation’s website explains, “The mission of the Johnny Crisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, is to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and provide funds for research, treatment, and – ultimately – a cure. Unlike many other non-profit charities, 100% of your donation will go directly to this fight; NOT one cent will be deducted for ANY expenses, salaries, or overhead. Criss Angel has funded the operations of the foundation out of his own pocket since its inception in 2008. It has now become his life’s mission (after working with childhood causes since 2001) when recently his own child, Johnny Crisstopher was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 at 20 months old.”
For more information on how to donate or get involved, visit the website.
Criss Angel – Magician and Illusionist Extraordinaire
Angel is a wildly successful magician and illusionist whose stage shows draw thousands. Kids of the ’90’s remember his rise to fame.
In a statement, Angel’s team shares, “Criss Angel is the creator and star of MINDFREAK at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and the co-creator of the upcoming AMYSTIKA at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. For more than two decades, Angel has dominated the world of magic as the biggest name on the planet. From his role as star, creator, executive producer, and director of the most successful magic television series of all time, Criss Angel MINDFREAK on A&E Network, to his #1 best-selling Las Vegas stage show Criss Angel MINDFREAK, smash Broadway and tour runs of RAW, to countless critically acclaimed television specials and series, best-selling books, top-grossing retail products, music CDs and more, Angel is the most influential and imitated magician of the modern era. Hailing spectacular reviews from outlets such as Bloomberg Businessweek— who called him ‘the biggest name in Las Vegas magic,’ Angel brings ‘an estimated $150 million a year into the local economy’ (Newsweek) and generates a whopping “$70 million a year” personally (Businessweek), proving time and again that he is the most successful magician ever.”
However, Angel isn’t just a magician and illusionist. Years before Johnny Chrisstopher was diagnosed with cancer, Angel was already heavily involved with children’s cancer charities, donating his time and money to Make-a-Wish which provides extraordinary wish granting to terminally ill children. What Angel wants people to remember of him has nothing to do with the kind of magic he performs on stage – and everything to do with the magic of kindness and caring for other humans.
Angel explains,”Johnny Chrisstopher being diagnosed with cancer made me reevaluate everything. And I think the coronavirus has made the world reevaluate the things that are important, the things that we do take for granted: love, health, the people that are closest to us.”
And once Angel knew what his priorities were, he knew what he needed to do in establishing the Johnny Chrisstopher Children’s Charitable Foundation. “What I believe is that life is but the memories you create for others to remember. And I’d rather people remember me for my work that I did for kids, than the work I did as a magician.”