Most days — given the choice — I’d rather live one of those nightmares where I go to work naked than be seen half alive inside Life, that ultra gender-confused, hipster wannabe discoteca infernata on Bleecker Street. But on Friday the 13th I had nothing better to do than accompany my friend, Vinny, to a cocktail soiree celebrating the publication of Marilyn Manson’s new autobiography (written by Neil Strauss), The Long Hard Road Out of Hell (Harper Collins). The book, which I admit I have seen but not read, is beautifully designed, and includes many pen and ink drawings of internal organs, as well as a good variety of pictures portraying the young Manson, back when he was just geeky Brian Warner: as a baby and small child, up to his teenage years in South Florida. Manson was a very cute baby. But baby, look at him now.
I met Marilyn Manson in November of 1995 during the Smells Like Children tour, when I interviewed him in the dressing room of Irving Plaza. In those pre-Antichrist Superstar days, I was unabashedly star-struck with all his “I am the god of Fuck” posturing. My excitement at garnering such a high profile interview was only exceeded by terror at the thought he might endeavor to play “Funk the journalist” with me. I was relieved to find Manson polite, soft-spoken, and a great interview; brimming over with one highly quotable Mansonism after another (two of my favorites “The last and final Antichrist will come in the form of a Rock and Roll Star” and “Rock and Roll has always been about destruction and nihilism and the middle finger”). He was not yet the mutant freak he is today, and I considered him to be very handsome, beautiful even. It didn’t hurt that he was bare-chested during our interview, offered to hold my tape recorder when it kept falling over, signed autographs for me, and posed for a photo with his arm around me and his head resting on top of mine. I recall this as my best all-around in person interview experience. And Marilyn Manson were my favorite band.
But all that changed when Antichrist Superstar was released and it became glaringly apparent that the Emperor had no clothes. When all Manson’s fans are 13 years old, the band might as well change their name to “Marilyn Hanson.”
The small dungeon of a room was quickly packed with women who looked like vampire hookers and guys resembling anemic drag queens with bad make-up. It was about as comfortable as Coney Island High when they oversell the room. Well, maybe not that comfortable. Considering the high level of craven toadyism going on, it was sadly apparent that many of the party goers were friends of friends who worked at the club, all of them trying desperately to be liked by being seen at an industry event. Whatever. Spotted among the sycophantic throng were a few legitimate journalists, publicists, fringe celebs, and folks from MTV News. When I encountered the four members of Thin Lizard Dawn, I felt right at home. “How’d you guys get in here?” I asked guitarist Howie Statland. “My friend Neil wrote the book,” he replied matter-of-factly. I guess it really is no secret.
Manson was ushered in with his entourage to the aural assault of “Cake and Sodomy,” while I snaked my tiny frame into an unoccupied space behind the mass of paparazzi who were all over his ass. I caught a glimpse of Manson pressing slowly through the crowd while he posed for photos with his new girlfriend, actress Rose McGowan (best remembered for her roles as the dumb blonde friend in Scream and a sociopathic killer in what may be the worst film ever made, The Doom Generation). The band’s recent move to Hollywood hasn’t been good for Manson’s appearance, as he’s had a hair makeover to the tune of a shoulder length blunt cut that looks like shit. Though he appears to stand well over six feet tall, I was practically sitting on his lap at one point and I can tell you his illusion of height is owed to the really high platform shoes he wears. Under the harsh lights, his pale countenance looked especially pasty, and he could stand to put on some weight. There is no trace of the cute teenager he used to be, and even the attractive 26-year-old budding Satanist I met three years ago has faded.
One might ask: What does it benefit a man if he gain the world and lose his soul?
And one might answer: It benefits a man the world.
I think about that, and I feel somehow saddened.
I guess I was at the Life party for nostalgic reasons. Like the sweet feeling you get while listening to pop songs you loved as a kid and remembering how much joy they brought you, even though now it all sounds like so much radio Velveeta. We decided it was time to make an exit when the open bar turned out to be “free vodka and champagne only,” causing us to bag the idea of paying $8 for a gin and tonic or $4 for a soda. As we passed from the smoky room into a now deserted hallway that had previously been swarming with photographers, Vinny and I admired two glossy, poster-sized renderings of the book cover, mounted on foam core. “These are really nice,” he observed. “Yeah, they are nice,” I agreed. “We should take one.”
“Are you serious?”
“Well, yeah. Let’s take one.”
“You mean just pick it up and walk out?”
“That’s exactly what I mean.” I admit I was wanting him to challenge me to do it. I didn’t really want the thing. But it didn’t have any real value and I thought it’d make a fine souvenir.
“Okay, grab it and walk out behind me. I’ll guard you” he said. Chivalry is not dead.
I got the poster all the way home safely in a cab before the wind blew it out of my grip and it flew into some trash cans in front of my apartment building. There are a couple of little dings around the edges but other than that it looks pretty cool in an obnoxious sort of way. I wonder if I could get Neil Strauss to autograph it.