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Manson Family Feud

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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."

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton