Entertaining article chronicling career parallels.
I recently had the startling revelation that Marilyn Manson’s career has paralleled my own.
Well, sort of. As he was a young pup on the club scene, I was getting my feet wet in the journalism biz in college. When he broke big, I landed work at The Press and established myself as a rock critic, reviewing his shows and albums and TV appearances when needed. As you’ll soon find out, it happened a lot.
Confession: There was a time in the mid-‘90s when I regularly spun his biggest-selling album to date, “Antichrist Superstar.” I still own it. And I still don’t know whether it’s alphabetically correct to file it under “Marilyn” or “Manson.”
Anyway. I used my many opportunities to write about the shock-rocker/scapegoat/pop-cultural demon as a means of (cough) sharpening my wit (ahem) into the withering snarkiness (hack, gag) it is today. As I perused the archives, I realized there were many mentions of Manson in my work, a grotesque motif, if you will. As I segued out of music writing in the mid-2000s, Manson dropped out of the public eye, and now that I’m back on the rock beat, he’s returning to Grand Rapids for the first time in 11 years.
Although there are many points of divergence in my Manson comparison, there is a major one I would like to point out: I have never bared my buttocks to a television or concert audience. (And you’ll have to take my word for it that my derriere is more attractive than his.)
Thus, the following personal Manson retrospective. Call it “My Life with Marilyn” if you want, and it will continue when I attend his sold-out Orbit Room show Sunday. Please note: There are many holes in this narrative. There’s also a Hole in this narrative. You will soon understand this distinction.
Sept., 1994: My first exposure to Manson comes when I travel to Pine Knob (now known as DTE Energy Music Theatre) to see Nine Inch Nails on their tour for “The Downward Spiral.” Courtney Love’s grunge band Hole and Manson are the opening acts of a now semi-legendary bill. I don’t remember any of Manson’s music. I do, however, remember him wearing briefs with a two-and-a-half-foot phallic extension dangling from the front. “This guy is really going places,” I absolutely don’t think to myself. I find Courtney more frightening.
April 30, 1997: I attend a Manson concert at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo while he’s at his commercial peak. Confession: This is when “Antichrist Superstar” was regularly blaring out of my stereo. I enjoyed it. It was loud and heavy and ugly, and I liked loud and heavy and ugly things (I didn’t date much at the time). “Manson's stage antics weren't confined to expectoration,” I wrote. I compare the stage show to “Hee Haw.” It is not a great moment in rock journalism.
Sept. 4, 1997: Manson appears at the MTV Video Music Awards, a performance distinguished by his costume, which reveals his pale, withered buttocks. My therapist has since purchased a second home.
Nov., 1997: I attend an Insane Clown Posse concert. Other than white face paint, I don’t know what that has to do with Manson. I just feel the need to come clean.
Dec., 1997: During an interview with Alice Cooper, I ask the O.G. shock-rocker about the popular/controversial Manson. He thankfully can’t punch me over the phone.
Feb., 1998: I purchase Manson’s autobiography, “The Long Hard Road Out of Hell.” I devour it in a weekend, squirming while reading his stories about his grandfather’s vile sexual fetishes and his first STDs, and laughing at the immature backstage antics he details. “One of the more fascinating revelations Manson makes in his book is that he actually has parents,” I wrote.
Sept. 10, 1998: Manson wears another buttock-baring outfit on the MTV Video Music Awards. “Horror struck me like lightning,” I wrote. My therapist is spotted at a car lot looking at Porsches.
Oct. 26, 1998: I attend a Family Values Tour concert featuring Korn, Limp Bizkit, Rammstein and Orgy. “Orgy seemed like Marilyn Manson’s second cousin twice-removed as the group mixed goth glamminess with tuneless vocals,” I wrote.
Nov. 2, 1998: I attend a GWAR concert. The band, an underground group of former art students dressing in papier mache and rubber costumes playing heavy metal, flays a Marilyn Manson mannequin on stage. It looks a lot like a snake eating its tail. Confession: Insane Clown Posse headlined this show. As they say, it’s a living. It’s also preferable to Nickelback.
March, 1999: Manson headlines a tour with Hole and Monster Magnet opening. Tickets sales are poor. Manson and Courtney Love snipe at each other in the press. Hole drops off the tour, severely limiting my opportunity to witness an on-stage trainwreck when the package comes to Van Andel Arena. (Side note: Monster Magnet eventually dropped off, too.)
Mid-April, 1999: My former co-worker, Press rock critic John Sinkevics, goes with me to watch Manson’s show in Detroit. We write dueling columns to preview the GR show - because I was young and allegedly a Manson fan, and because he was old and allegedly was not. These days, Sink and I are still pals, both old, and we look back at this and laugh.
April 21, 1999: My opportunity to meet Manson prior to his Van Andel Arena show (a local radio station invited me to a meet-and-greet) gets the kibosh in the wake of the Columbine shootings and his subsequent media blackout. He takes the stage crucified to a cross made out of televisions while protesters picket outside. He doesn’t address the Columbine controversy. He was a “Halloween costume-shop accident,” I wrote. It’s not his best performance or stage show (or album, or time in his career, or…).
Jan., 2001: A headline from satirical newspaper The Onion marks the end of Manson’s reign as the world’s most controversial artist: “Marilyn Manson Now Going Door-To-Door Trying to Shock People,” it reads. I bookmark the story, because Facebook hadn’t been invented yet.
July, 2001: I get Manson on the phone for an interview – the first (and only) time I’ve talked to him. It’s a fascinating conversation with a guy who’s obviously very intelligent and maybe a little misunderstood. Two standout comments: “I think people underestimate the amount of thought I put into what I do. … There is meaning behind everything I do.” And in response to critics who claim he generates controversy in order to capitalize on it, he said, “Check my bank account versus that of Linkin Park or somebody who takes the type of anger I use in my music and waters it down to make it nice enough to be on TRL. That's capitalism… If being a capitalist means wanting to succeed, then I'm a capitalist. But doing it for the money? I don't think so, because I don't make enough to equal out the pain and suffering I go through.”
Aug. 2, 2001: Attended Manson’s show at DeVos Hall. He shows his bare butt again. I am numb to it. The therapy has failed. He wears a Pope hat/robe combo and tells the crowd, "I didn't teach you to be dirty (expletives), you learned to be a bunch of dirty (expletives) on your own. I just bring you together." I compared his vocals to “a legion of bats trapped in a rusty old stovepipe” (intended as a compliment) and wrote, “now that he's not cutting himself with broken bottles or letting his worshippers spit on him, it makes you wonder if his heart is still in his work” (intended as criticism).
Summer, 2003: I get chills while watching “Bowling for Columbine,” when filmmaker Michael Moore gives Manson a chance to defend himself. “If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?” Moore asks. “I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one did,” is Manson’s reply. It’s easily Manson’s most relevant and powerful public moment.
Nov. 30, 2005: Having witnessed a Dope show live (yes, the band is named Dope, and yes, it played painfully derivative quasi-industrial rock), I wrote that the band “is the sound of Marilyn Manson’s tattoos fading.” It is intended as criticism.
2005-2009: I didn’t think about Marilyn Manson much. Did anybody think about Marilyn Manson much? He apparently painted some paintings and produced Mansinthe, his own brand of absinthe, but I didn’t look at or taste any of it.
March 5, 2010: I compare Johnny Depp’s mismatched eyes as the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland” to Manson, perhaps subconsciously realizing I hadn’t written anything about him in five years.
Today: I am nostalgic, curious and admittedly a little excited to see Manson perform at a sold-out Orbit Room Sunday. “I am nostalgic, curious and admittedly a little excited,” I wrote, my career coming full circle.