by Kurt B. Reighley
St. Martin’s Griffin
I love surprises. And what a delightful surprise it was to find a copy of Kurt B. Reighley’s new book, Marilyn Manson, in my mailbox this week. Unlike the self-serving Neil Strauss-penned biography that hit the stores to much fanfare and faux controversy this past winter, Marilyn Manson takes a more journalistic approach to unraveling the rather complex personal and professional history of the self-professed Antichrist Superstar. I’d say it’s the most entertaining and heart-felt biography on a band since the Led Zeppelin tell-all, Hammer of the Gods.
Expanding on information culled from Manson’s many previously published interviews, coupled with first person accounts from former band members, friends, and iconoclastic voices within the Manson camp, Reighley digs up some heretofore untrod-upon dirt. A prime fountainhead of juicy insight is Veronica Kirchoff, a Seattle-based club promoter and music journalist, once graced with the mixed blessing of running both Satan’s Bakesale and the Marilyn Manson Family; the band’s merchandise business and fan club, respectively. Kirchoff met Manson when the band was still known basically as Trent Reznor toadies, wrote about him, got to know him as a friend, and later fell under his employ. Through her two-year relationship with Marilyn Manson, the man and the band, she was privy to both his endearing “personal geekiness” and ambition-fueled machinations. She is one of several “I knew him when” voices that add vibrancy and perspective to Reighley’s engaging narrative.
Also not shy about spilling the beans is guitarist Scott Mitchell, formerly known as Daisy Berkowitz, who, with Manson, founded the band in 1990. Now living in Florida and working on various projects, Mitchell is currently suing Manson and the band’s lawyer for a litany of professional contract infringements. Mitchell remembers meeting the teenage Brian Warner and thinking he was a “big geek,” but being attracted to his unusual poetry and willingness to be endlessly experimental. “He had never played in a band before, and had no musical experience,” Mitchell recalls of Manson, “He just wrote… weird poems, and I liked what he wrote, so I thought he could do that.” At the time, Mitchell admits, he “never thought it would go anywhere.”
Sour grapes aside, the book is not a post to which Manson is tied as the whipping boy of those who have grievances with him. Reighley remains objective, and gathers a diverse, representative faction of both those who laud Manson as a creative genius and great musical visionary, and those who see him as a heartless megalomaniac. The reader is allowed space to draw his or her own conclusions. And regardless of any justifiable bitterness on the part of someone like Veronica Kirchoff, she is empathetically portrayed as an individual who cared for Manson and was later kicked to the curb when the baggage she represented grew too heavy for him to bear. Ultimately, Kirchoff, one person among many who involved themselves with the rising star, became a casualty of Manson’s swelling ego and voracious single-mindedness. “Everybody knows the name Marilyn Manson now,” she is quoted as saying, “and that was his goal.” Remarkably well-researched, Marilyn Manson is loaded with inside dope and previously obscured personal facts, making for a deeply engrossing page-turner that will enthrall fans and skeptics alike.