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Clearwater needs permits before hotel imploded with illusionist inside

Illusionist Criss Angel is a star on the A&E show Mindfreak.

Illusionist Criss Angel is a star on the A&E show Mindfreak.

CLEARWATER — Shackled inside a doomed hotel packed with explosives, illusionist Criss Angel will have to free himself, fight past obstacles and make it to the roof to escape in a hovering helicopter.

And as of Friday, local officials said the only thing standing between the Las Vegas-based cable TV magician and a July 30 date with destiny were a couple of pieces of paper.

"If they get the permits, he's coming," Clearwater city spokesman Doug Matthews said. "I'm fairly confident we're moving forward with this, and I don't see any reason why it won't happen."

A spokeswoman for the A&E cable television network, which shows Criss Angel Mindfreak, was less willing to commit herself.

"Clearwater is definitely one of our favorites," said A&E's Emily Spitale, who was not at the meeting, but "this hasn't been run up the flag pole and definitely not approved" at this time.

Still, Clearwater officials were optimistic after a 90-minute meeting Friday between representatives of the show, the A&E cable network, the city and the developer of the old Spyglass hotel property on the beach.

The 9-story hotel, known for its 100-foot -tall mural of a hot-air balloon, is being imploded to make way for a mega hotel.

"He's going to be in the building when they do the demolition, and somehow he magically escapes to the roof and is whisked off into the darkness," Matthews said.

The performance would be televised live, a first for Mindfreak, about to launch its fourth season.

"I wouldn't do it, but the publicity would be fantastic," said Vice Mayor George Cretekos, who did not attend the meeting. "Things like that are always amazing because I don't know how they do it and obviously he's not going to reveal it to us."

For Angel, 40, it would be latest in a series of bold stunts — setting himself on fire, scaling the side of a building and piercing his back with hooks and dangling from an airborne helicopter.

Born Christopher Sarantakos, the modern-day gothic version of Harry Houdini, learned his first magic trick at age 6 and has spent virtually his whole life performing, including 600 off-Broadway performances in New York before creating Mindfreak in July 2005.

But before he entertains here, the city must issue a demolition permit, and Pinellas County must sign off that all asbestos has been removed from the building.

Matthews said he figures the city can secure a demolition permit within 10 days.

Then developers need to submit a demolition notice to the Pinellas County Air Quality Division at least 10 days prior to the implosion. Officials there will then go into the building to make sure it's asbestos-free, said Peter Hessling, air division director.

Hessling said developers informed his department that the asbestos was supposed to be removed by last Wednesday, but he didn't know if it was complete yet.

He said it would take county officials "about half a day, maybe longer," to check out the site. He said he thinks the work could be complete in time for a July 30 demolition.

City officials say they aren't quite sure how Clearwater made the list of cities the entertainer considered.

Angel's representatives declined to comment.

"This is a unique opportunity and one that rarely, if ever, comes around," Matthews said. "In most cases, you have communities actively soliciting for these things, but in this case they came to us.

"This is an opportunity to put Clearwater Beach on a national stage."

Matthews said the city now is working out security and parking issues. He said if the event goes off, then the public is encouraged to watch, but will have to stay at least 500 feet away, a perimeter that could push some spectators into the water.

That means there could be a big crowd along Coronado Drive.

"I can tell you that A&E and Criss Angel are very serious about making this happen," Matthews said. "They want to be embraced by the community."

Clearwater needs permits before hotel imploded with illusionist inside 07/11/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 7:54am]
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