BIZARRE MAGAZINE • RUDY HELL!
Marilyn Manson's darkest friend, magician Rudy Coby, has risen again. Prepare to be dazzled by splatterific slapstick, mutant babies and robo chicks...
The Coolest Magician On Earth is back! After 15 years in the shadows, designing tricks for his friend Marilyn Manson, Rudy Coby has picked up his chainsaw and dusted off his sexy robot assistant to resurrect his pseudo-scientist alter-ego, Labman. Sporting a lab coat, glued-down goggles and a jet-black ski-ramp hairdo, Rudy is stepping back into his camp, comicbook universe, filled with ray guns, explosions and bionic limbs.
From the late-1980s to the mid-1990s, Rudy Coby's unique, lunatic style made him the wunderkind of magic. He travelled the globe, performing for people such as Johnny Depp and Slayer, and making dozens of TV appearances that culminated into two prime time Fox TV specials, Rudy Coby: The Coolest Magician On Earth  and Rudy Coby: Ridiculously Dangerous . Labman even inspired a Dark Horse comic of the same name, in which the scientist becomes a crimefighter after discovering a four-legged atomic chicken. Yet just as Rudy's career was taking off, he vanished in a puff of smoke. Now Rudy's back in the saddle and, since 2009, he's been performing in theatres and houses of magic in the USA, stunning audiences again with his mutant babies, killer clowns and mad supervillains. Speaking from the converted morgue in Los Angeles where he lives now that he's not at Manson's place, Rudy tells Bizarre, "I cut off limbs, saw people in half and pound spikes into my face, and Marilyn Manson describes my act as 'Pee Wee Herman meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'."
Fusing cartoons, horror and magic, Rudy picked up a wand aged nine, after seeing a performance from the godfather of shock-rock, Alice Cooper.
"When I saw him on TV, being beheaded by a guillotine while he was singing, I couldn't believe it," Rudy says.
"Whatever he was doing, I wanted to be a part of it. I asked my mum, 'What is that?'
And she said. 'It's not real, it's magic'."
Rudy borrowed ideas from comicbooks and began making mini horror movies and James Bond movies on Super 8mm film.
"Magic suddenly seemed like comicbooks and movies, but for real," Rudy enthuses.
"And the next Christmas, my mum put a magic set under the tree, and my life changed."
Stealing books from the local library in upstate New York and perfecting tricks, Rudy quickly became obsessed by magic. The young ingénue began offering his services on the announcement board of the local supermarket, and became a pint-sized entertainer called 'Rudini'.
"Clients would call and book a party and a 10-year-old kid would show up when they were expecting an actual magician," laughs Rudy.
"Sometimes the kids were older than I was. I used to dress like Roger Moore in Live And Let Die - black pants and turtleneck sweater - and I was dead serious about myself. The kids weren't paying attention at the first birthday party I did. That's normal, but I didn't realise that. So 10 minutes into my half-hour set I stopped the show and said, 'If you don't appreciate my art, I'm going to leave'. And I fucking left. The mother begged me to stay, but I was like, 'No. I'm an artist.'"
Seamlessly producing linked rings and white doves by the time he was 12, Rudy was named 'Magician Of The Year' by The Society Of American Magicians - the world's oldest fraternal organisation of illusionists - and held onto his title for two years. But Rudy became bored with magic, and almost gave it up before he had an epiphany.
"Suddenly a lightning bolt hit me: If I could make magic as exciting and original as my comicbooks, then I'd have something." he says.
"I threw everything that I'd used for magic tricks in the trash and started putting together weird costumes and props, instead. I introduced the make-up and special effects I'd been using in my movies, and slowly it all came together."
Rudy's experimentation in kitsch and theatricality eventually spawned 'The Four-Legged Man', a perfect three minute routine, in which Labman strides onstage with four lower limbs, does a little dance, then produces a chainsaw and cuts off one of his appendages. After doing a three-legged jive, Labman cuts off another leg, and finally stretches himself until he's 4m tall. The act was a knockout.
"I fucking knew immediately this was it - I got a totally different reaction to it than I did from my other tricks", smiles the illusionist through his sunglasses, which he never performs without.
"With that three-minute routine, I went from being unknown to working in 80 countries."
By the time Rudy was commissioned by Fox to put together two, hour-long television specials in the mid-1990s, magic was considered passé on both sides of the Atlantic. The Paul Daniels Show had been cancelled by the BBC and the ratings for David Copperfield's CBS specials were tumbling. TV executives were looking for something fresh.
"Magic, when it's bad, is horrible," spits Rudy.
"When the head of Fox said , 'We're going to call the show Rudy Coby: The Coolest Magician On Earth', I hated every word - it was fucking horrible. Now, of course, it's so ironic that I like it. And it pisses other magicians off, too."
The title was audacious, but fair. Rudy's TV specials were warped trips into a cartoon wonderland, and his guest stars included Little Richard and The Muppets. In one of his routines, Rudy resurrected Elvis, then shrank The King, himself, and his geeky lab assistant Atom to the size of midgets, so they could all search for the missing limbs of his robot, Nikki Terminator. But Rudy felt as though magic was being cheapened by mainstream TV and decided to quit.
"I was the pioneer of magic TV specials and I walked away from them," he reveals.
"Fox was airing The Masked Magician, revealing all the magic secrets, and I didn't want to follow that, so instead I did the fringe festivals like Edinburgh and Adelaide. I'd achieved all my childhood goals and I'd burned out. And then I met Marilyn Manson..."
Rudy was intorocued to the God Of Fuck through Andrea, who worked with Rudy on his act at Club Rubber's Pimp N' Ho Ball in Las Vegas, and who was also an assistent to Manson's then-girlfriend, Dita Von Teese. She mentioned to Rudy that Manson had joined The Magic Castle - an exclusive, magicians-only club in Hollywood Hills - and wanted to put magic in his show.
"I'd always loved Manson's persona but I'm Catholic, so although I had his albums, I was too afraid to listen to them," Rudy says.
"I asked Andrea to tell Manson that his magic sucked, and that if he wanted to do tricks in his shows, he should call me."
The pair didn't meet until 18 months later, when the singer was preparing to start his Vaudevillian Grotesk Burlesk tour in 2003.
"We instantly connected like brothers and he told me, 'I want to do this thing where I cut off my head and keep singing'," Rudy remembers fondly.
"I told him it was no problem and walked out of the room, then returned without a head."
Next, Rudy showed Manson that he could stretch his arms out to 3m and, as the singer was hitting the road in the morning, he gave him the fake limbs required to do the trick.
"He was flabbergasted that someone would do that," Rudy says.
"I think the reason we're best friends for life is because - in him - I recognise the same nine-year-old kid who discovered magic."
When Rudy saw footage of Manson performing The Dope Show later that year - wearing his elongated arms in front of 60,000 fans - he was thrilled.
"The song alone is great," he says.
"The magic trick where you stretch your arms is great, but both of them together made it so much bigger than the sum of its parts. Marilyn Manson doing magic is good for magic. It elevates it from birthday party bullshit to performance art."
DIABOLIC DOUBLE ACT
For the next six years, Rudy helped design Manson's live shows, and the pair spent a lot of time together, either on the singer's tour bus, or at his house. Rudy took a room in Manson's mansion - the bloodstained boudoir on the cover of the EAT ME, DRINK ME album - and reveals that the singer is more fascinating in real life than he is on stage.
"Manson doesn't have a set sleeping time. He wakes up and wants to cause trouble creating something incredible; a painting, a new song or a crazy video that's too extreme to be shown to anybody," he tells us.
"Manson isn't putting on a show - he's Marilyn Manson 24-hours a day."
Sparking off each other, Manson and Rudy took the piss out of their private lives on stage. For Manson's Rape Of The World tour in 2007, Rudy modified his android assistant to resemble Manson's on-off girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood. During the show, the robot would strip down to her bare wires and serve absinthe to the band on stage, then Manson would sing to her detached head.
"Everybody on the tour thought I was on the same drugs as them, but I have OCD and can go for three or four days just drinking Coke," chuckles Rudy.
"I went from being a relative innocent to having seen it all. In Vegas, I woke up one morning in a hotel room with blood on my hands, which wasn't my own. I couldn't even remember how I got there. That's what it's like living with Manson. It was the greatest part of my life, but eventually it was time to go."
So when Rudy got a call from his old agent, asking him to perform in Paris, he was reading to fall in love with performing again. Labman returned for a few shows in 2009, and last year Rudy did a week-long run at The Magic Castle, performing an act called Magic Vs. Science. On the penultimate night, Marilyn Manson appeared - unannounced - as a mad magician. Wearing a moustache, a top hat and a cape, Manson was almost unrecognisable.
"His assistant followed him round with a smoke machine, because that's what Manson thinks magic is," Rudy laughs.
"It was totally freak-out punk rock. The next night he just watched the show, but he started to heckle, as if we were in his living room. At one point in the routine, I say, 'I can explain everything you see with one word... Science!' And when I was about to say 'Science', he yelled out, 'Anal!'. My final performance of the week became the Rudy and Manson show, and I thought I'd be banned from The magic Castle forever. It was fantastic, and the culmination of our seven years of friendship."
Dark and naughty, Rudy and Manson are like terrible twins lost in a childhood wonderland.
"I've been lucky that I haven't had to grow up," Rudy reflects.
"And it's amazing that some of my colaborators who want to be part of the insanity are as fun as Manson. I don't know where this is going, but I'm happy to be back on track, doing crazy things that people will find offensive."
The God Of Fuck reveals his secret tricks and treats
What was the first magic trick you did?
"Pro-life protestors used to gather at an intersection near my home, so I went to a magic store and bought a hand-held flash gun that shoots flames out of your palm. There was a guy who looked over 70 years old, holding a sign picturing an aborted baby. I pulled up next to him in my car, rolled down the window and said, 'I have a message from Satan', and 'Boom!' - I fired a flash cannon off in his face. He ran, and I respect the fact that someone that old could actually run. I'm assuming that he ran back to his church and told the tale to confirm that the Devil is real, but it was really great to see a guy so terrified by a magic trick that cost $21.99, which was a difficult amount of money to get, but I did steal it from a girl's purse - that was magic too."
You're a member of the exclusive Magic Castle club. Did you have to audition?
"They gave me an honorary membership because they knew I could make girls disappear and that I cause chaos on a regular basis. If they'd asked, I would've performed my favourite magic trick, which is cutting a girl in half. The big question is, which half do you want? The one that talks, or the one that you fuck? And it is dilemma. Maybe it's both, if you do it right."
What other illusions do you like?
"I discovered an interesting party trick with a Hitler/Chaplin moustache that I glued to my face once. I alternated between wearing a bowler hat and an SS hat, so I was a funny guy one moment, and a not-funny guy the next. It's fascinating how a hat can change the entire scope of facial hair - that's magic."
What were your first impressions of Rudy?
"I immedaitely dubbed him 'Vanilla Lugosi', because his hair was like a mix between Bela Lugosi and Vanilla Ice. It was meant to be insulting, but he laughed and he instantly came in with the same opinions and criticisms about everything that I have. Rudy has an amazing understanding of performance and he convinced me to bring out a lot of things I wouldn't have done at the time. That's how our relationship started - and, he also gave me a prosthetic head of his, which I later used for oral sex, but not on me, just in general... I meant moral sex."
How did Rudy influence your shows?
"Rudy has given me more knowledge about art than any other friend or colleague. At one point he just wanted to be Goebbels to my Hitler or Gala to my Dali, and that's when he lived with me. But I think that Rudy's a genius and I couldn't be happier to see he's back doing what he does. This would be a perfect picture - David Blaine and David Copperfield blowing each other, while Rudy just stands there with perfect hair."