Marilyn Manson is edgy, groundbreaking, talented, and, some might even say, sensitive. He can also be threatening, violent, and unpredictable. Fans revere him; the religious right reviles him.
I was supposed to interview Manson last week in advance of his October 30 show at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood. It wasn’t just another interview to me. I was outright euphoric and, truthfully, a little nervous.
I admit to being a Manson fan, to the chagrin of my feminist friends and, basically, to the offense of all that is good in the world. But this one-man walking haunted house had piqued my interest in a big way. I had to meet him.
I had read the 2009 article about Manson’s fantasy of killing ex-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood, the 2001 reports of a sexual misconduct charge for masturbating on a security guard in Michigan, and more than a few stories about his longtime fixation with Anton LaVey, the Devil-worshiping author of The Satanic Bible. And these antics appear to be but the tip of a deep and foreboding iceberg of debauchery.
But I’ve also read that Manson is so addled by false news reports that he has threatened to kill music journalists who print lies about him. I was not, of course, planning to print lies, but I did plan to ask him some serious questions. I mean, if you are going to threaten people’s lives, you must be pretty pissed-off, right? I couldn’t help but wonder if it was possible that some of the troubling reports were untrue.
I imagined our interview beginning affably but then, when it got to the tough questions, ending with Manson slamming down the phone in a vitriolic rant that ended with "I know where you fucking live."
If you are not up on Manson’s discography, the video for the 2017 song “We Know Where You Fucking Live,” from the album Heaven Upside Down, is an amalgam of violence that is nothing short of appalling. Manson and a group of nuns with guns break into a home, then terrify and assault the family that lives there. I could have done without ever seeing that video. But here’s the problem:
I like the song. And I think I like Manson. And I am afraid of what that says about me.
The other interview scenario that played out in my mind was a version of something that happened to Manson himself. While studying to be a music journalist at Broward College (which I also attended), Manson interviewed his future bandmates.
In my scenario, I am interviewing Manson in person. He arrives casually dressed and makeup-free. We shoot the shit, smoke a joint, and end up going out for lunch. He is smart, witty, honest, and an ardent supporter of women’s rights. We become great friends, he confides his innermost thoughts to me, and I end up in salary negotiations with Rolling Stone.
Alas, neither scenario played out, but not for the obvious reasons. Turns out Manson either could not or would not meet with me.
I was crushed. I’ve been denied interviews with bigger names: Don Henley, Tom Petty, Alice Cooper, Bob Dylan. Why did this one bother me so much?
Maybe because with Manson, I was torn. How do you write about someone you both respect and despise?
I had to face the fact that the truths about him could shatter my quixotic fantasy and that my friends were right about him all along.
From the first time I heard the heart-pounding opening chords of “Dope Show,” I was hooked. It was 1998 and my first foray into goth nefariousness. When I saw the video, I was stunned. Who the hell was this androgynous freak? I decided right then he was a genius.
My admiration did not last long. The following year, when rumors flew that the shooters at the Columbine High School massacre were wearing Marilyn Manson T-shirts, I found myself once again questioning my dedication to him.
The T-shirt story turned out to be untrue. It soon slipped from the headlines, and I was free to love Manson’s music once again.
I have ridden this emotional roller coaster for 20 years. He makes brilliantly twisted music that hooks me but then does something abysmal that forces me to question his sanity.
Then, just when I am ready to write him off, he does something great, like his charitable work with abused teens, his Make-A-Wish visit to a child dying of leukemia, and the firing of his bandmate last year after a reported sexual assault.
To be honest, I’m not sure where I stand with Manson anymore. And that's why I was devastated to lose the opportunity to interview him.
So who is the real Marilyn Manson? Is he an esoteric artist, a marketing genius, a hateful threat to society? Or is he simply Brian Hugh Warner, a guy born in Ohio and transplanted to Florida, who is simply trying to eke out a living?
We might never know. But I won’t stop trying to find out. And maybe one day, Marilyn Manson will knock on my door, because, hey, he knows where I fucking live, right? And if he does, I hope he comes in peace and doesn’t bring along any sexually deviant, machine-gun-wielding nuns.
Marilyn Manson. 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 30, at Hard Rock Event Center at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; hardrockhollywood.com. Tickets cost $35, $55, and $90 via myhrl.com or ticketmaster.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included a factual error about the band Judas Priest. It has been removed.