By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Cut to Marilyn Manson, in a room set aside for the formal interview. Fingertips touching, he sits on a couch in tea-ceremony quiet. Unlike Twiggy, he moves slowly and rarely. Their pairing recalls other rock polarities: Jagger-Richards, Lennon-McCartney. Two candles on a coffee table slightly offset the dusky dimness. Every feeble ray of light is drawn to his pale skin, so he emits a slight glow.
Manson has dragged a gauzy black T-shirt and black pants over his delicate, lanky frame. He looks younger than 32. His nose is large and witchy, dominating a gently pointed chin on an elongated-egg head. His thin black hair, parted in the middle, hangs straight down to his Adam's apple. He has no eyebrows, but you don't notice the absence at first, just the wide-open effect it produces. The white contact lens in his left eye looks almost natural in this light; the right eye is indeterminately colored. His whiteface makeup has been washed off, and his skin is clear considering the routine pore-clog.
Most of Manson's facial communication comes from the subtle movements of his slightly off-center mouth, which is full-lipped but not large. When he smiles, it's just a flicker in a corner, like a geisha, showing no teeth. His voice is low, his enunciation very soft. He speaks slowly, but gets a lot in. Tonight he's got a froggy throat and a sporadic light cough. Caught a touch of something?
"A little touch of the rock & roll lifestyle." It's unclear whether Manson means the nightly shredding of his vocal cords or something else, but he says he's had his throat examined, and the docs have given him the thumbs-up. "You make your body a place where germs and diseases don't want to live by filling it full of alcohol and drugs," he chuckles. "Then you'll be fine."
Manson is the last to downplay his drug consumption, and when the subject of journalism comes up, he says he admires gonzo inventor Hunter S. Thompson -- met him a year or so ago and keeps in touch. He says Thompson is still drawing vigorous professional and physical breath despite a reputation for excessive substance intake. "I think there's some sort of preservative in the lifestyle. It kind of keeps you in suspended animation. When you stop, then that's when it all comes winding down for you."
Manson was even a journalist (rock) himself for a short time; he simply redirected that energy into his music. "I feel that there's still a strong amount of journalism in what I do, because I'm really just looking at the world and giving people my opinion."
In his opinion, the world sucks. Manson sees a lot of people oppressed: for being young, being different, having sex, liking violent entertainment, liking drugs. Manson enjoys sticking the oppression back up the oppressors' asses, pointing out that the godly folk who want to ban sexual and violent images are always quoting a book that's filled with sex and violence; that they kneel before a symbol as brutal as any; that religion and television, as John Lennon once sang, are dope, too; that repressing outsiders has always been the way powerful people have reinforced their own power.
These aren't original messages. You might even say they're obvious enough to be hardly worth sending. But the fact is, almost nobody, especially (no surprise) in mainstream media, is sending them. So it's interesting to observe not just the knee-jerk anti-Manson vitriol you'd expect from right-wingers, but the sniffy dismissals he's been getting recently from such sources as Spin ("a seventh James Bond movie without any new gadgets") and The New York Times ("stuck, writhing in the amber of his mass-marketed ghastliness"). Quite apart from failing to appreciate the artful balance Manson has struck between his own growth and his audience's expectations, critics often don't look beyond the top layer of shock and blood. If they did, they'd find him harder to dismiss.
For one thing, the shock and blood are damn good; Manson has thought out his image far beyond the level of all previous rock splattermongers, many of whom have sunk to cartoonhood by drawing themselves as one-dimensional ghouls. As Manson told Robert Hilburn in 1998, "Everything I express comes from the same place . . . taking the opposites and putting them together." So he's tagged himself Charles Manson and Marilyn Monroe, and given his band similar names that match mass murderers with female entertainers, while also recognizing murderers' entertainment value and goddess worship's subtextual morbidity. He brings the same approach to critiques of religion, politics, history, marketing, media, parenting, sexuality, love and morality. Frozen in amber though he may be, Manson will not soon run out of material.
HE USED TO CALL HIMSELF THE REVEREND MANSON in his earlier days, when he was more interested than now in emphasizing his honorary ordination by Anton LaVey into the Church of Satan. But he's no soapbox preacher or sloganeer. Or Satanist, really. He's more of a poet.
They slit out throats Like we were flowers And our milk has been Devoured
--"The Speed of Pain"
Your world is an ashtray We burn and coil, like cigarettes The more you cry your ashes turn to mud It's the nature of the leeches, the virgin's feeling cheated
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