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 --...
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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.

This clearly hurts. "It's bogus," Putesky says. "I don't use the name Daisy Berkowitz, and I don't expect anybody who knows anything to use it."

"That was a character!" Klein persists. "It was your character then."

Fine. But putting forth a new image, of course, obligates promotional photos.

"How you wanna look for photo shoot?" Klein asks. "Let's start thinking now. You wanna come off as, you know, John Q. Normal? Is that good? Is normal good?"

Putesky was by far the most conventional-looking of the Spooky Kids. During the band's upward spiral, he dyed his hair green and appeared in public with his eyebrows shaved off. But lately, Putesky cultivates a close-to-traditional appearance that's just shy of clean-cut. His usual outfit starts with dress slacks, a nice shirt, and sensible shoes. His hair is mom-friendly. He's about as likely to be mistaken for the ex-guitarist with Marilyn Manson as is Katie Couric.

"I don't know -- we'll see," Putesky says. "Nothing's gonna be totally normal."

Maybe shave off the eyebrows again? "How about just one?" Klein suggests jokingly.

No way, Putesky says. "You always look worried or surprised."

"People want to see before and after," Klein says to a visitor. "If he looks normal like this, I don't know if people will get it."

Putesky is quiet for a long minute, lost in thought. Klein takes a conference call. Suddenly -- even though his eyebrows have since grown back to sub-Brezhnevian parameters -- Putesky does look worried.

"Oh, no!" he says. "You know what I'm seeing? 'Marilyn Manson just came out with a new record of his old stuff.' No! No, that won't happen, right?"

On April 28, 1990 -- which also happened to be Putesky's 22nd birthday -- John Tovar, a portly, narcoleptic, cigar-puffing, well-regarded rock manager whose clients included the Mavericks and Nuclear Valdez, was thirsty for a beer. He headed for Miami's Churchill's Hideaway, the Little Haiti dive where all local acts play at least once. He walked in and said hello to owner Dave Daniels, ordered a Bass ale, then joined about 30 stragglers in the other room waiting for some unknown band to play its very first show.

"They took the stage, and they were horrific," Tovar recalls in his thick accent, mostly Cuban but flecked with Iron Curtain intrigue. "They didn't have a drummer, just a drum machine. There was this tall lanky guy. I thought, 'Man, these guys are terrible. '" Picture one guy who'd previously played bass for an INXS cover band (Putesky), a wanna-be writer who'd penned a few short stories (Warner), a bookish keyboardist (Perry Pandrea), and a chubby hairdresser (Brian Tutunick), tentatively trying out a trio of would-be songs.

Tovar asked Daniels who the band was and laughed at their asinine name. He left after enduring three songs. But that December, he was driving on I-95 in Fort Lauderdale listening to ZETA's local program hosted by Glenn Richards. "He played the strangest thing I'd ever heard," Tovar recalls, a song called "My Monkey." Again, he wondered, "Who are these guys?"

"And there you have it, the most requested song, and the most popular band in South Florida right now, Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids!" Richards' voice boomed from the radio.

"Holy shit!" Tovar said. He picked up his cell phone and called Richards.

"It's true," Richards said. "They've become really popular in a very short amount of time. You should manage these guys, John -- they're going to be really big!"

"Glenn, I just saw them six months ago, and they were horrific!"

Richards talked him into going to see the band again the following week. Just before Christmas, Tovar drove to the Button South. It was midnight on a Thursday. Immediately, he could tell that the band had become a huge local draw.

"What surprised me is that the parking lot was full -- packed," he remembers. "There's about 300 kids, and they all looked like the band! They're all in costumes; they all have makeup."

The kids carried lunch boxes and wore Dr. Seuss regalia favored by the Manson clan. To Tovar, it looked like a crazy circus. "I thought, 'This is amazing! A marketing dream, this kid!' He took the stage, and I was blown away. It was like three or four of my favorite artists all rolled into one. It was Morrison, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, OK? Put all that together with Kiss and you have Marilyn Manson."

After the show, Tovar went backstage and shook Manson's hand. "I told him they'd be a much better band with a drummer," he recalls saying. Within weeks, Tovar became the band's manager. "Of course, the rest is history."

Part of that time line begins at Taravella High School in Coral Springs -- a regular Marilyn Manson talent pool in the late 1980s. Putesky was a student there, as were Brian Tutunick (a.k.a. Olivia Newton Bundy) and Jeordie White (a.k.a. Twiggy Ramirez). In the very early days of the Spooky Kids, Tutunick played bass. He and Pandrea (Zsa Zsa Speck) left to form the rap-metal hybrid Collapsing Lungs. "Marilyn Manson wasn't really what we wanted to do," explains Tutunick, who now lives in Gainesville. "Who knew?"

Almost 15 years later, Tutunick keeps up with his ex-bandmates' whereabouts one way or another. "I just saw Jeordie on Jay Leno the other night," he says. White, who left Marilyn Manson in 2002, is now the bassist for A Perfect Circle.

"Before I came about, Scott basically played all the instruments," Tutunick says. "He was a major part of it." Tutunick is also a prime fixture in Demystifying the Devil, 1999's unauthorized Manson biopic starring various bit players from his past.

Warner and Tutunick were friends in high school. "Back then, he never talked about wanting to be a rock star," Tutunick says. "He said he wanted to write a book. After he met Scott, though, it all changed." He remembers Putesky not as a metal-head but as a new wave disciple whose favorite band was the Police.

Putesky doesn't recall much about his first meeting with Warner. It was at a party, he's pretty sure, in an apartment building off Miami Road in southeast Fort Lauderdale, just blocks from the Institute of Art, where he went to school. He was aware, dimly, that Warner was a writer for a new, glossy, local-culture magazine called 25th Parallel. The two exchanged numbers.

Warner remembers the encounter in more detail.

"An intoxicated, pie-faced twit with greasy brown hair flopped onto the couch next to me," he writes in The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, the autobiography he published in 1998 with writer Neil Strauss. "He introduced himself as Scott Putesky and seemed to know a lot about music making, and even better, he owned a four-track cassette recorder. I had a concept but no musical skills whatsoever, and I was easily impressed."

Not the makings of immortal musical harmony, perhaps, but that's how Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids was born. Tovar is quick to give Putesky credit for producing the group's formative works. "To be bluntly honest, Scott was always the mastermind behind the band," he says. "It was a combination of his creativity and Brian's vision that appealed to me." Some of the band's earliest songs were recorded at the house Putesky shared with his parents in Boca Woods.

"Believe it or not, it was very quiet," Sandra Putesky remembers. "He and Brian would get together and close the door, and we really didn't hear too much of anything. Scott was very ordinary compared to Brian. Brian looked weird to me. He had that white skin and long, stringy hair, and he was very quiet. He never talked. He'd just give me a nod of his head and then sneak upstairs."

Warner's friend Stewart was recruited, though he didn't play an instrument. Putesky ended up providing him with a crash-course bass lesson, teaching him the Spooky Kids' songs at the same time. "Scott was resentful," Stewart believes. "Here was someone who didn't even know what he was doing, and then all of a sudden, I'm the guy. But Scott didn't take me seriously. He thought he was the musical genius behind the band, which is not true. Though he was a good part of it."

In the beginning, when the affectation of carrying lunch boxes attained Manson family must-have status, "He didn't want nothin' to do with that," Stewart notes in Demystifying the Devil. "Me and Manson had this idea of what we wanted to create as a band, and Scott never wanted to go along with it. And he was jealous because I got more attention than him."

Image was everything in the early days. "Brad Stewart, if you look at those old pictures, is a very striking guy," Tovar says today. "In those days, he attracted a lot of girls."

Laura Simpson was a member of Jack Off Jill, another Broward-based band often considered a female version of the Spooky Kids. "Scott was a good player, but image-wise, he was hopeless," she says in Demystifying the Devil. "Brad was the image of the band."

Sandy Torres, who was writing for Rag Magazine and other local rock publications, is even more detailed. "It wasn't Brian Warner they were coming to see," she says. "It was definitely Brad. Everyone gravitated toward him. Chicks dug the hell out of him -- they'd show up just to stand there and gawk."

The performances were getting bigger and crazier by the week. "You had no clue what they were going to do next," says Torres, excited at the memory. Concertgoers still remember the time Manson chained his nude girlfriend to a cross and whipped her on-stage. "You didn't know if they were gonna have naked, underage girls underneath the keyboards or if [Manson] was gonna strip and somebody was gonna give him a blowjob on-stage. You just didn't know. So everybody came to watch."

Among the witnesses was Trent Reznor, busy perfecting his own distopian recipe of drum-machined doom with his band Nine Inch Nails. Industrial rock's first superstar, Reznor turned out to be the ideal benefactor for Fort Lauderdale's finest. Just a few months into Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids' existence -- July 3, 1990 -- the fortunate foursome was invited to open for Nine Inch Nails and Meat Beat Manifesto at a club in Miami. Warner had already interviewed Reznor for 25th Parallel and went up to introduce himself after the show. Manson claims he was tripping on acid at the time but managed to pass Reznor a tape of the early Spooky Kids material.

That evening was Stewart's first show with the band. "I'd just learned to play bass the week before," he recalls, "and here I am in front of thousands of people. So that was cool."

The following week, the band debuted Bier/Gacy, who'd finally purchased a keyboard. The Spooky Kids were strapped in and ready for takeoff.

Reznor brought music-industry credibility -- after his first Nine Inch Nails album remained on the charts for a year, record companies looked at industrial rock with dollar-sign eyes. Interscope Records gave Reznor his own record label, and he opted to make Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids his first signee. Manson brought controversy to the equation. The band built up a massive following at clubs such as the Plus Five in Davie; Squeeze, Rosebud's, and the Reunion Room in Fort Lauderdale; and the Button South in Hallandale Beach. In November 1992, Reznor flew Warner out to L.A. for strategic talks. The next year, the rest of the band joined him to begin recording their first album, Portrait of an American Family. They dropped the Spooky Kids surname.

Next, bassist Brad Stewart would have to go too.

"It was Christmas of 1993," Putesky recalls, "and Brad -- Gidget Gein -- was being fired for the second or third time for being a junkie and not showing up. And playing really horribly live. But Brian just loved him. He was his little pet. It just killed him to have to fire him."

An appendix to Demystifying the Devil features an interview with Stewart. He admits to having been addicted to heroin and even says he OD'd twice.

Today, Stewart maintains that while he hasn't seen Demystifying, "I'm glad I'm not in the band anymore. I'd be dead now, probably." Stewart says he's been clean for three years.

He was replaced by White, one of Warner's best friends. In fact, throughout Long Hard Road, Warner doles out affection for Stewart, White, and Bier at length (Bier is the sole original Spooky Kid with the band today), but by the time the band was firmly under Reznor's wing, Warner seemed to have doubts about Putesky.

"At first, it was a friendly but casual, professional relationship," Putesky says. "When labels started looking at us and we developed a following, though, I think any friendship aspects left Warner's mind."

Today, Putesky isn't on speaking terms with any of his old bandmates.

"I don't have anything against him," Tutunick says of Putesky. "We're just not friends."

Of course, Stewart and Putesky were rivals from the beginning.

Apart from these schoolyard concerns, a musical rift had developed. The conceptual leap from lunch boxes to anti-Christ superstars notwithstanding, Putesky wasn't part of Warner and Reznor's inner circle, which had taken control of Marilyn Manson. This is painful for Putesky to talk about, but he does, cautiously. He readily admits that Warner's sheer force of will had catapulted the band into the headlines and 20,000-seat arenas.

And Reznor, with the Nine Inch Nails juggernaut at its commercial and critical peak -- was the Svengali/sherpa who took Marilyn Manson the rest of the way.

"Reznor was friendly to everyone," Putesky says, "but his concern was Brian."

As the band's ascendance continued, Putesky says his alliance with Warner deteriorated. Long Hard Road Out of Hell details much of this. A two-night stand at Madison Square Garden allowed Putesky to live the dream of every wannabe rock star, but the memory is tainted, he says. "That was great. But as far as my relationship with him went, I felt things crumbling. After the shows, there was a big VIP gathering, and lots of celebrities were there. I mean, David Letterman and John F. Kennedy Jr. were there watching Nine Inch Nails. But it was just Trent and Brian. The rest of the band was shut out of the festivities."

During another show, Putesky contends, Warner broke one of his guitars and pushed him off the stage.

The final meltdown happened at Reznor's compound in New Orleans, where the band assembled to work on the second Marilyn Manson album.

"At first, I was being shut out of recording sessions. And when they were in there working on songs that I co-wrote," he says with a brittle laugh, "that doesn't make you feel very good."

His bandmates, fueled by cocaine and bad vibes, began a more overt campaign of harassment. First, the four-track machine used on the old demos was destroyed. "Somebody -- nobody will take credit for it -- put it in the microwave at the studio in New Orleans," Putesky says. "And the drum machine, they literally threw it out, or lost it somehow." His monogrammed Daisy Berkowitz guitar picks were mysteriously fused into a melted mass.

During the sessions for Antichrist Superstar, more of Putesky's equipment was ruined. A beat-up copy of a Fender Jaguar was his favorite -- he'd glued it together after it'd been broken, and it was featured in the band's video for "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This.)"

"It was a unique guitar to have," he says. "I was in the studio, and they were all in the control room, and I'm playing guitar," Putesky relates. "At the end, Trent says, 'Do it again, but do it more like this.' We went through this three times, and he says, 'Hold on. I'll come in there. Let me show you what I'm talking about.' So I take my guitar off, hand it to him -- and he smashes it. Just to fuck with me. Then he laughed and left the room."

Even nastier humiliations ensued, rendered with vivid, urine-stained detail in Manson's book.

Understandably, by this point, Putesky was at wit's end. "And when I brought this to Manson's attention," he says sharply, "he was not available."

Warner wouldn't budge. "By then, it was like having to make an appointment with your spouse," Putesky recalls. He called a meeting with the band and its management. "Everybody was able to be there for that," notes Putesky dryly. "And I said, 'This sucks. I'm quitting.' And the general reaction was, 'We understand. OK, bye.' And that's what really burned my ass. I was like, 'You're letting me?'"

Warner bought Putesky a one-way ticket back home to Fort Lauderdale. "I hate flying too," he says. "And I'm sure I was hung over."

The album Marilyn Manson completed without him, Antichrist Superstar, entered the Billboard charts at number 3. The video for "Sweet Dreams" -- which included Putesky -- evolved into a hardy MTV staple. The band was able to tour overseas for the first time. "And I had my passport before anybody else in the band," Putesky notes glumly.

And, the story goes, Warner went on to have his ribs surgically removed so he could fellate himself, retroactively star in the hit TV sitcom The Wonder Years, and enjoy sex with toddlers and puppies in ritual on-stage orgies. Somehow, he found time to single-handedly orchestrate the Columbine massacre.

Putesky returned to a small apartment in Fort Lauderdale demoralized. No backup plan awaited. "I was definitely down for a long time. I didn't know what to do next. I initially felt like I'd made a mistake. I felt a certain amount of regret. Yet if I'd stayed in the group, the success of the record wouldn't have improved my situation in the band."

Worse, the achievement of Antichrist Superstar meant that Manson's image was unavoidable. Friends and acquaintances bombarded him with questions. T-shirts and videos taunted him everywhere he looked.

The megasales generated by Superstar made Putesky decide to extract any and all monies Manson owed him. Because of production costs incurred during recording and touring, Putesky says, he hadn't yet seen a dime. Two weeks after leaving the band, he hired a lawyer, suing for unpaid royalties plus missing or broken equipment and to collect publishing payments. (Repeated efforts to reach Manson and his Miami-based lawyer, Robert Dunlap, received no response.)

Publishing royalties meant that for every Marilyn Manson CD sold, Scott was due a few pennies. Every time a song he performed on or wrote is broadcast on air or used in a movie, like, say, David Lynch's Lost Highway, and someone rents it from Blockbuster, Scott is owed more pennies. "It's a small amount," he admits, "but worldwide, over the course of five years, it's not that small. It's a lot of pennies."

Rumor has long persisted in Fort Lauderdale -- where Putesky owns a nice home and can often be spotted in his preferred pastime of doing nothing -- that he was made a millionaire when the suit was settled out of court in 1998.

"I've heard $15, $20, $25 million," Putesky says, amazed, "and I honestly don't know where these numbers come from. I would never say that."

The mediation took place over three days in early October 1998. During the discoveries-and-depositions, Putesky and his attorneys, Richard Wolfe and Alan Geffin, sat on one side, while Warner, Bier, and a team of six managers, accountants, and attorneys faced them.

"It was a helluva good time," says Wolfe, who still practices law in South Florida. He remembers Warner as a fierce opponent during a nine-hour deposition. "I thought he was one of the sharpest, best witnesses I've ever had the pleasure of deposing. He was smarter than his accountant, smarter than his lawyer, and smarter than his business manager."

Smart or not, Manson was vulnerable. "Even though we were literally outnumbered," Putesky says, "I felt they were showing how insecure they were. On the second day, Warner comes in and he has on the same clothes he had on the day before. I turned to Alan Geffin and said, 'We got him. '"

"What do you mean?" Geffin replied.

"He's still wearing the same clothes he had on yesterday. That means he's been out all night and probably hasn't slept. Obviously, he's worried, probably drinking and doing coke." In addition, the office's air conditioning had broken down. Two hours slowly passed, leaving everyone hot and uncomfortable. "[Manson] starting sweating, it was literally like a bright light was on him," Wolfe says. "It was great."

Putesky also played what he hoped was his trump card. His lawyers were hard-core, and they "were looking at anything, not just legally pertinent stuff," Putesky says. During Warner's deposition, Putesky's lawyers reminded him of an event that had taken place the year before.

"This was about an incident on a tour bus," Putesky tells. "Brian was looking for a cassette, and I hid it from him in the cushions of a couch. And he gets furious right away, looking for it all over the place, going to the back lounge. I took it out and placed it where he'd find it. He comes back, immediately looks at me. I guess I was smiling or something.

"Meanwhile, our tour manager has a gun. And Brian actually grabs his gun and points it at me." Putesky looks flustered at the recollection. "What's the first rule any backwoods idiot knows about gun safety?" he barks.

Warner and his attorneys weren't prepared for that tactic, and instead of denying it, Warner's expression seemed to say, "Oh shit, I forgot all about that!"

"It was psychological warfare," Putesky says. "We were using the deposition to wear him down."

Putesky settled for what he calls "an evil number." The number of the beast?

He laughs. Judging from songwriting credits alone (Putesky co-authored most of Portrait of an American Family, plus five tracks on Antichrist Superstar), the guitarist's lump sum was in the high six figures. "We cannot disclose the figure," Wolfe says adamantly. "There is a confidentiality agreement."

"It worked its way down from, like, a million five," Putesky says with a smirky smile.

Is he happy with the settlement? "Yeah, sure. Plus, I still get publishing money. But it's dwindling."

Stewart settled out of court the same year. He can't disclose the sum he lumped either. "I'm not allowed to discuss the specifics of the case. But I know [Putesky] didn't make much more than I made, because the accountants sent Scott's numbers to my lawyers by accident. You'd think we'd be millionaires off of the records we've sold, but no."

In 1999, Putesky's girlfriend won tickets to a huge rock fest in Australia. The guitarist ended up in the audience watching his old band perform. As reported in Alternative Press, Manson found out and became incensed. "Call every hotel in Sydney," he demanded. "Ask for a big boil-faced monkey -- with a lot of my money." Later, he told a reporter, "He took me for a couple of bucks in the lawsuit. He got some ambulance chaser who said, 'These guys are millionaires! Let's sue the shit out of them!'"

Stewart also retained the rights to use the Gidget Gein trademark. "It was a business decision. The name is part of me. What I'm doing now -- that's Gidget Gein doing that." He markets a variety of art under that appellation, much of it disturbing and macabre. In fact, yesterday he drove to Oakland Park to rendezvous with a Czechoslovakian she-male model. "It was like a John Waters movie," he says. "She lived in a trailer park with her lover."

Stewart is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the Palm Beach County coroner, picking up bodies. The excursions prove exceptional fodder for his grisly mill.

Stewart derides Putesky for trying to resurrect the Spooky Kids.

"Nobody even gives a shit about that anymore," he lobs. "It's not that big of a deal -- anybody who wants that stuff already has it."

He says he still speaks to Warner "all the time. We're friends now -- everything's cool." But he just can't imagine the Dark One will give a flying fuck about the Spooky Kids reissue. "I doubt he'll say anything," he says, "but I'll mention it to him."

Scott Putesky lives in a stylin' little bachelor pad, but it's not a cheesy condo on the beach. Instead, he lives right on the edge of downtown Fort Lauderdale in a small but sharp, 1936, Mediterranean-style jewel that has been refinished to the nines. Turns out he's into collecting antique furniture. Evidently, Putesky possesses something Manson has never been closely associated with -- taste. Strolling through his tropically landscaped backyard, he stops to pick up his cat, just waking from a nap under a palm frond.

The inside of the home, with old wood floors and warm, sponge-painted walls, is fireplace-cozy. Putesky's guitar collection is scattered about, and he's saved almost every flier, sticker, photo, and any other Manson memorabilia in hard-bound volumes that sit on a shelf in his office. It's hard to believe that this level of historical significance could be accessed via a rock band armed only with lunch boxes, a drum machine, and a desire to piss people off.

Among the curios: a guitar made from a Ouija board, with little skulls for knobs; photos of Scott hobnobbing with a tipsy Reznor; hugging annoying MTV presence Kennedy; Polaroids of anonymous half-nude bodies on hotel-room beds; candid snapshots of his former friends.

As ridiculous as these old relics now appear, they're tokens of a time when Manson's famed unrealness was slightly more real.

Manson's career simmers slightly less than hot lately. In fact, for one dwelling so close to hell, he's awfully lukewarm: The band's last two albums sold poorly, and the last few tours have been less successful. In September 1997, he'd proclaimed his band "the biggest in America," and his one great album, Mechanical Animals, made that claim temporarily believable. But the consensus among the paying public indicates that his stock has plummeted.

Even Torres, once a self-proclaimed fanatical fan, gradually grew weary of Manson's musical output. She didn't even buy the last two albums. "It's almost past its prime," she says of the band. "The pissed-off teenager thing? They've kind of outgrown that."

To be fair, Putesky has kept busy since his excommunication from Marilyn Manson. He spends time every day writing and recording his own songs. But except for a brief stint selling guitars at a big-box music store, he hasn't worked a single day since the settlement. That constitutes a victory -- if not against Manson, then against "the man." "Still, I don't like it when people say, 'Oh, you don't work,'" he complains. "I feel the need to be busier."

Although he's tried to make contact with his old lead singer only to be rebuffed, he's trying not to hold a grudge.

"This is his first and only band -- let's make a note of that," he points out. "But I won't say that he's stupid. His is a P.T. Barnum talent. He's very close to being famous for being famous. And that means he sucks."

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