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Manson Family Feud

Inside the conference room of the Hallandale Beach headquarters of Empire Musicwerks, the order is given to kill the lights. Label honcho Paul Klein, a barrel-bodied man with the requisite open shirt, gold chains, and slick black hair, warns Scott Putesky -- the artist responsible for this particular effort -- not to expect much from what he's about to see.

"It's raw," Klein says. "It's very raw."

A blast of radioactive guitar and jackhammer drum machine begins an offensive as a camera pans around the Oakland Park Boulevard club called the Reunion Room. The year: 1991. Someone is attempting to film a band performing on-stage. It's difficult to figure out who or what is writhing about underneath a red glow on the bandstand. The camera keeps cutting to a Lite-Brite toy blinking in a corner, its tiny colored lights twinkling with the word KILL.

The band's frontman, a floppy, bone-white beanpole, is caterwauling into the mic. He's wearing a leopard-skin jacket, and his long, stringy hair covers his face. When the locks briefly part, a familiar face peeks out. The beanpole is 21-year-old Marilyn Manson -- also known as Mr. Manson, also known, back in the day, as Brian Warner from Boca Raton. Originally, the group was called Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids.

"I can't believe we went as far as we did," Putesky says when the lights go up. "We did something really cool, and seeing [this] now reinforces that."

It's almost funny to think that Warner's assemblage of shockery and silliness, for better or worse, remains the biggest, loudest, and most dangerous band Broward County's ever known. After galvanizing local crowds in a way never seen before or since, the band abandoned the scene it created to became America's hated and feared focus of fascination. Today, the band's frontman is more famous as a lightning rod for evil, a cultural spokesman (Bowling for Columbine), and the fiancé of burlesque queen Dita von Teese than for any musical contribution. Not as funny are the folks he's left in the dust with a story to tell -- usually a sad one.

Putesky was jettisoned from the band under acrimonious circumstances in May 1996. Following a bout of legal fisticuffs, he ended up with a chunk of change and a claim to tapes recorded back before the band made its first record. Next week, through Empire Musicwerks (with distribution via Universal Records), Putesky is releasing Lunch Boxes & Choklit Cows, the first in a planned two-part series of old Spooky Kids recordings. A three-song DVD of live footage is included. "I made sure to get the rights to those," the guitarist explains, "'cause I knew they'd be archive gold, so to speak." Manson hasn't commented on the revival of his antiquities; he and Putesky haven't spoken since 1998. "I don't think he cares," Putesky says dismissively. "He doesn't like to reflect on the past."

The last song on the Spooky Kids DVD is "Dune Buggy," recorded at the Button South, a now-defunct club just down the street on Hallandale Beach Boulevard. While Manson cavorts about in striped tights, Putesky looks like any 20-year-old surfer dude. As Manson begins to warble something about a "chocolate cow" and Putesky unveils an almost-delicate twangy passage, the camera pans to a bald, frightening-looking man-child sitting on stage. Steven Bier (a.k.a. Madonna Wayne Gacy, a.k.a. Pogo), despite having been hired as a keyboardist, didn't own an instrument yet. In the early days, he'd sit up there and terrorize the crowd.

The fourth member of the Spooky Kids was Brad Stewart, a.k.a. Gidget Gein. The camera lingers lovingly over him, a long-haired looker with the shamanic magnetism of a punk-rock Robert Plant.

Putesky, still smarting from the old intragroup hostilities, has decided it's high time to use the past to open some new doors for him. And also, in a way, to settle old scores with Brian Warner. "This is my chance to be heard above his blaring megaphone," he explains.

Ironically, though, while Putesky wants to distance himself from the Manson spectacle, he needs his old job title to gain readmission with his new release. It's a touchy subject. He tells Klein he hopes the Spooky Kids disc won't end up in stores filed under the "Marilyn Manson" heading.

Klein responds with the realistic perspective of an industry veteran. "It's gonna end up in the Manson bin -- it has to," he says.

It's not the first concession Putesky has made with Lunch Boxes & Choklit Cows. In the liner notes, he pens a heartfelt thanks to the fans who helped break the band back in the early '90s, but, oddly, it's signed "Daisy Berkowitz" -- a name that Putesky usually takes considerable pains to distance himself from.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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