The shit hit the fan not long after Antichrist Superstar hit the stores. Anti-Marilyn Manson sentiments were nothing new, of course. Back in the good old days, the British church and state reportedly hoisted a campaign to ban Portrait of an American Family - "[British Member of Parliament] Blackburn, who is also a member of the Church of England Synod," according to the September 24, 1994 edition of the Daily Insider, "thinks 'it`s appalling. I would ban this sort of thing tomorrow. It`s breaking up society." But that was smalltime dissension compared to the uproar that broke out and grew to monstrous proportions by the time Marilyn Manson`s "Dead to the World" tour began burning its path across America.
Antichrist superstar was barely stocked on the shelves when Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut denounced local recording stores for "marketing death and degradation as a twisted form of holiday cheer." Lieberman, along with "culture warriors" William Bennett of Empower America and others, confronting none other than the C.E.O. of Seagram for, according to Christopher Stern reporting for Reuters News Service on December 10, 1996, "failing to honor a promise not to distribute music with violent and profane lyrics through his MCA Music Group." Bennett reportedly held up for example the cover of the Antichrist Superstar CD and declared it "crap and filth." Empower America and other such ultraconservative organizations have been known to praise retail chain Wal-Mart for refusing to carry CDs of witch they do not approve or for carrying them only if the cover artwork and/or lyrics are changed and special edition CDs are manufactured solely for their stores. The attack against record labels for releasing artists' music (whatever next?) and against stores that sell music, for well, selling music, was to become a fullon battle waged even in cyberspace. The American Family Association announced on its web page that it was "endorsing a nationwide boycott of the Minneapolis-based Best Buy Company because of its sponsorship of the 'Ozzfest' tour witch features hate-rock group Marilyn Manson" and issued a press release on June 20, 1997, in witch Tim Wildmon, Vice President of the A.F.A., is quoted as saying, "Best buy`s promotion of this hateful act is the moral equivalent of dealing drugs to children."
The "Death of the World" tour 1996-97 kicked off on October 3, 1996, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at the State Theatre. And once the show was underway, there was no stopping the madness. Marilyn Manson, the band and the man, were to take on much more than just another tour. The Antichrist Superstar was to find himself up against the Religion Rights, and it wasn`t going to be pretty. He was attempting to play his rules on their turf, and when the Manson tour bus pulled into the Heartland`s hometowns, that famed Southern hospitality took on a decidedly unwelcoming attitude. To say the least.
Marilyn Manson, perhaps wisely, stuck to the apparently more sympathetic North at the start of the tour, playing in Illinois, Ohio, New York, Canada, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey (the October 31 gig witch proved uneventful save a bomb threat or two and rumors of Mr. Manson`s planned Halloween celebratory suicide), and Washington, D.C. The band then slipped down to the relative safety and ensured welcome of its "home state" of Florida before skipping town and leaving the good old U.S.A. to head over to Santiago, Chili, for the November 22 Close-Up Festival to play in the prestigious company of Bad Religion, Cypress Hill, and the Sex Pistols. Concerts in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, and the UK followed with the band Fluffy as opening act. It was when the former Spooky Kids re-entered America with Drill and L7 as support that the simmering stew of controversy began to boil over. Oklahoma City governor Frank Keating, who MTV News described as "surprisingly knowledgeable" about "the tragically misunderstood Marilyn Manson," declared, in the fact of the impending February 5, 1997 gig at the state fairgrounds, that the band is "clearly bent on degrading women, religion, and decency."
The beginning of March gave the clamoring American masses a breather again while the band`s traveling show popped over to Japan and then down to Australia and New Zealand. Mr. Manson, in good form, re-entered the States with a bang, tripping onstage in Honolulu, Hawaii, on March 22, landing on a sharp object (try to falling on a Manson stage and not hitting something potentially harmful), and cutting an artery in his hand. He was rushed off to the emergency room for stitches. The incident was reported in Billboard magazine, witch noted that "the accident apparently was not part of the show." Manson`s manager reportedly "called MTV News to stress that contrary to local press reports, Marilyn did not slash his wrists intentionally during the show." Who else would, due to a horrible accident, almost die and generate immediate public opinion that the near-tragedy was in fact deliberate?
The next leg of the tour, with New York Loose, Helmet, and Rasputia (a group made of three females cellists) as support, began on April 5 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Oh, and what a fuss! Glenn Walinski, director of the LaCross Center, told none other than Rolling Stone (June 12, 1997 issue) that the Manson concert "was the worst thing I`ve been through. It divided our community." The band then moved on to bring their crusade against all that is run-of-the-mil to a town called Normal, Illinois "whether it remains so is yet to be seen). Protesters turned out with bells on to show their disapproval of the April 17 concert in Jacksonville, Florida. The Associated Press released a statement from a resident of the town; a Stan Carter asserted that the rock star was "pressing hatred and dislike and violence toward Christians. This man is a slap in the face. He`s no less an affront that Nazis marching down Myrtle Avenue."
The April 20 concert at the University of South Carolina Coliseum set a precedent by actually being canceled. Unable to handle the pressure "reportedly launched by state treasurer Richard Eckstrom, who first learned about the band at a church service," according to MTV News, the college and promoter Cellar Door Productions decided to call off the festivities, and came to an agreement with the band whereby Marilyn Manson would be paid the reported tidy sum of $40,000 not to play! A bill attempting to bar Marilyn Manson from ever performing in a state facility was also introduced by state legislators. As Rolling Stone reported in their on-line "Random Notes Daily" on April 14, Eckstrom felt the band was "needlessly offensive and dehumanizing." In a curiously unclear attempt to set forth the state`s reasoning behind its anti-Manson stance, Treasury spokesperson Scott Malyerck was quoted as saying, "this group certainly isn`t live Olivia Newton-John or Blondie, and is far afield of decent music. . . . We don`t think they provide any redeeming qualities whatsoever--social, moral, or musical. And I`m a rock fan." Well, that goes without saying. What the state of the music entertainment industry would be if the main criteria for live performance was similarity to either Olivia Newton-John or Blondie (why these two artists, whose only common attribute is femaleness, have been linked in this context is not immediately evidence) is difficult to speculate, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Except, apparently, Marilyn Manson fans. Mr. Manson`s response to all this? He asked MTV, "What do you expect from a state that still flies the Confederate flag?" and succinctly labeled his detractors "fascist bigots."
A Reverend Dana Wilson of Michigan not only attempted to persuade concert promoters to cancel the April 25 Wendler Arena show, but, failing to do so, wen for second-best and, with a petition signed by 20,000 locals, put forth his suggestion that concert-goers under eighteen years of age not be allowed to attend the show without a parental chaperon (a concept Reverend Manson would no doubt greet with glee).
On more that one occasion gigs were canceled due to local protesters' pressure and swiftly rescheduled in the face of ultimately more threatening legal pressure. Despite allegations that the band was "not consistent with our community standards" by Richmond, Virginia, City Manager Robert C. Bobb (a statement in itself inconsistent as some 2,000 tickets had already been sold, presumably to members of said community), the city decided that nasty old Marilyn Manson wasn`t all that bad after all and reslated the previously nixed May 10 show. Billboard reported on May 3, 1997, that the concert was rescheduled "after city officials realized they could be violating the band`s First Amendment rights." All with a little help from the American Civil Liberties Union, who stand behind Marilyn Manson right to perform.
Ironically, the only trouble the "Dead to the World" tour has seen has been the shows; the concerts themselves have gone as the band`s attorney Paul Cambria told Billboard, "without a hitch." Booking agent Artist and Audience encourages worry-wart venue heads to check their facts by getting reports from previous concert-holders. Perhaps the most publicized hub of protest was Biloxi, Mississippi, where cries to cancel the April 12 show were particularly noisy. Bill Holmes, the director of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, was quoted in The Sun Herald on March 26 as saying, "I want to cancel the show. I`ve got people saying I`m in bed with satan." Interestingly, after the concert Holmes told Billboard that they "had no problem whatsoever" and went on to add that "We did not have one fight--not one unruly deal." Witch, to anyone who has ever attended a rock concert, is quite an unheard-of statistic. Holmes was also interviewed by Rolling Stone it its June 12, 1997, issue, wherein he noted, "we`ve done Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Kiss. But this was the granddaddy-unbelievable."
Well, being railed against by notoriously excitable Bible Belters is one thing, but you`d expect bigger and better of the rock 'n' rollers in New York City, now wouldn`t you? Incredibly, the latest trend in concert cancelation caught on at Giants Stadium-and even more incredibly, the venue wanted to strike Marilyn Manson from the Ozzfest '97 bill on june 15. That the original king of controversy, a man famed for biting the head off of a live rat onstage in his hay day, should put together a concert featuring the likes of Pantera, Type O Negative, and a reunion of Black Sabbath and be told that "all of that is just fine, as long as you don`t bring that horrible Manson fellow with you" is nothing short of insulting! Ozzy Osbourne`s public statement about the unfolding situation was, "nobody has the right to tell me who I can perform with. . . . This is not an issue of taste. It is an issue of civil liberty and freedom." Of course, Ozzy had dealt with the moral majority before, and takes it all with a sense of humor; as he told Rolling Stone in their May 22, 1997, "Random Notes Daily," "It makes my hart feel wonderful when I hear that these idiots are coming out of their fucking attic again. I have to laugh." On April 28 Marilyn Manson, along with concert promoter Delsener/Slater and Ardee Festivals N.J. Incorporated, filed a lawsuit against the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. The Director of Giants Stadium,, Bob Castronovo, was quoted in the May 3, 1997, issue of Billboard as stating that "we will offer [Ozzfest] a contract with our parameters in them, one of witch gives us the right to choose the groups [for the show]." On May 7 the courts sided with our heroes and ruled that the show would go on stop Marilyn Manson from performing as part of the concert nor to obstruct ticket sales in any way. The final word on the OzzFest? Billboard Bulletin July 9, 1997, ran an article entitled "OzzFest is a Surprise Success Story," nothing that "the nine shows with shock rock act Marilyn Manson were among the most successful, including crowds of 32,500 in Minneapolis and 32,000 in Milwaukee." As Manson himself told Metal Edge magazine in its August 1997 issue, the OzzFest was "great, it`s kind of like the old school coming together with the new school, because I know Ozzy`s gone through a lot of the same things that I`m going through right now."
Well, there`s nothing like a bit of outrage and protest mixed with rock 'n' roll to fire up the media. Not to be left out of a sensational story in the making, Rolling Stone featured a stamp across its June 12 cover reading "The Plot Against Marilyn Manson." The article itself, entitled "How the Christian Right is trying to run Marilyn Manson off the road" was a veritable Sixty Minutes-Style research into the convoluted and truly incredible trail of anti-Manson propaganda. Conservative groups such as the American Family Association, the Christian Family Network, Empower America, and the Oklahomans for Children and Family were reported to be circulating so-called factual information on the band via the mail, fax, and most rampantly over the Internet, including "affidavits" detailing common occurrences at Manson gigs such as "animal sacrifices, sex with dogs, rapes, and heavy drug use," to name but a few.
The American Family Association`s official web page boasted an entire section devoted to "Marilyn Manson Info" (info being an abbreviation for information, apparently in the broadest sense of the term), featuring "Media Reports & Eye-Witness Accounts of recent concerts," "Things Parents and Youth Ministers need to know about Marilyn Manson," and the "National Clearinghouse on Marilyn Manson Concerts for Family & Decency Advocates." Yet another unfounded anti-Manson claim was to be found in the A.F.A.`s June 20, 1997, on-line press release which noted that "the band`s music has been tied to at least two teen suicides." The enthusiasm with which these reports were broadcast and distributed (to the police, churches, schools, state and local governments) and the eagerness with which they were taken as gospel truth was astounding. The fervor stopped short, however, at the notion of verifying the accuracy of any of the disinformation.
The A.F.A.`s Manson-related activities and web site prompted the formation of The Portrait of An American Family Association and its own inspired website dedicated to spreading the down-and-dirty truth about Marilyn Manson, its music, concerts, and Mr. Manson`s message. The Washington State Chapter of the P.O.A.A.F.A. states on its web page that "it is our goal to put an end to the outrageous rumors and slanders that have plagued this band since its release of the Antichrist Superstar CD. By doing this we hope to prevent the banning of further Marilyn Manson concerts so that others can choose for themselves if they desire to support or criticize this unique band." The logical, responsible, and well-researched P.O.A.A.F.A. web page urges Manson fans to respond to false accusations about the band by e-mailing, faxing, writing, and otherwise spreading the word to the likes of the A.F.A. and other church and government organizations, cautioning fans to "be polite but tell the truth," and offers an educational flyer for downloading. If a Manson fan encounters a protester outside of a concert, he is encouraged by the P.O.A.A.F.A. to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of fanatical chanting and offer the flyer (entitled "Marilyn Manson Facts: What the religious rights doesn`t want you to know" and written by none other than angelynx-a.k.a Paula O`Keefe-a high-profile, intelligent, and articulate fan and on-line contributor to many a Marilyn Manson web page) as a retort.
Marilyn Manson himself, who has never been known to give the proverbial rat`s ass what people say about him, even began to get a little pissed off at the preposterous claims of the self-appointed guardians of America`s pseudo-morals. He doesn`t mind a bit of dissension-in fact he applauds it-but would prefer for it to be remotely realitybased. As he told Rolling Stone in its une 26, 1997, issue, "I don`t have a problem with someone who opposes me or wants to try and stop a show because they think that Marilyn Manson contributes to the decay of Western civilization, or if someone doesn`t want to buy an album because they think it sucks. But these people didn`t just disagree with my message. they completely ignored my message. " In his first public retort to some of the Internetposted "reports" of his gigs, he puts himself across as much more reasonably minded than his detractors. To claims that he kills puppies on stage he states, "I like dogs, I have a dog." To allegations that he has a squad of "private Santa Clauses" who distribute drugs to the audience, he scoffs, "That is ridiculous. If I had a giant bag of drugs, I would not be passing them out, especially for free. I would be backstage doing them." Of the various violent and sexual acts of which he has been accused, Manson has often queried how he is supposed to have performed such deeds - some of which are felonies - in front of thousands of people without being handcuffed and carted off to the Big House. indeed, video-camera-wielding but inevitably disappointed members of many a police department have allegedly presided over Manson concerts in the hopes of catching an illegal act or two on tape to no avail.
To protest that his on-stage persona and behavior is outrageously indecent and offensive, Manson has an unperturbed commonsense rebuttal. "Some of it might be tasteless for some people. but then who told them to look?" he asked Circus magazine in June of 1997. "I don`t know if it`s tasteless or not, a lot of it is exciting to me. I do whatever I want, I`m discovering myself on and off stage." With an intuitive leap of reasoning, Manson has even managed to turn the tables on the likes of the A.F.A., stating in the August 1997 issue of Metal Edge, "It`s ironic to me because these people have taken such an interest in pornography and filth and deviant behavior, that they`ve obtained the ability to dream up some very perverted fantasies, and I think if they`re pointing the finger at me being sick, they should look at who`s making up the stories." In fact, Manson actually mourns the loss of innocence; as he told Metal Hammer in July 1997, "In America, nothing excites anybody anymore. I`d have loved to have lived in a time when looking up a girl`s skirt was exciting." On the other hand, he adds, "If it will make people happy to experiment sexually, then fine, that`ll make me happy, because I like to hear of people doing more than sitting in front of the TV and doing the acceptable."
As for the band`s documented views on religion, they are decidedly straightforward. "Going to confession and being 'clean' afterwards is not our ideal of how it should work. It helps people to avoid responsibility." Twiggy Ramirez explained to Circus magazine in its May 20, 1997, issue. Manson admitted to Guitar World in December 1996, "I`m very much opposed to Christianity, but most of my values are something that Jesus might have preached" and told Spin that the Antichrist Superstar album" will be America`s God`s punishment for the sins that they`ve created for themselves, and hopefully, I`ll be remembered as the person that we are against organized religion doesn`t mean we burn down churches or worship the devil. We have our own religion and some parts of it re even identical with some Christian beliefs," Twiggy told Circus. As Manson summed it up to Metal Edge in August 1997, "America has left a very dirty taste in my mouth when it comes to the idea of God."
At times, however, Mr. Manson seemed to take it all with a pinch of salt, keeping in mind that age-old showbiz adage that there`s no such thing as bad publicity, reasoning that "if people really care about fighting off so-called 'problems' like Marilyn Manson, they would actually choose to ignore us. The more they bitch about us, the more attention they give us." "I thought we were in a different day and age where people were intelligent enough to understand art and music. Apparently that`s not the case," he quipped to Metal Edge in August 1997. However, his core view on the situation is that it is a serious one indeed. As he told Metal Edge in its August 1997 issue, "it`s just gotten to the point where I feel like I`m the only one fighting for rock music in general, because these people are just trying to take away my right--to take away everyone`s right--to not only head what they want but to say and do what they`re entitled to under the First Amendment. It`s become a full-on revolution for me." Well, isn`t that just what he wanted? A revolution? And true to his prophetic word, that`s just what he`s got.
Read my Dream Book!
Sign my Dream Book!