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
Manson's art has always shown a special connection with youth -- consider song titles like "The Hands of Small Children," "Kiddie Grinder" and "Sweet Tooth." David Lynch, whom Manson has called his favorite filmmaker and to whose hallucinatory Lost Highwaythe Antichrist contributed music and a bit part, says Manson and Twiggy, invited to his workplace, got along great with his kids.
"And that says something about them right there," says Lynch. "An excellent houseguest, Marilyn is. And completely professional, just fantastic, to work with. Y'know, he's an artist, and he's, I think, a very gifted modern musician." Lynch also describes Manson as "a regular guy."
"That," cracks Mary Sweeney, Lynch's film producer and editor and the mother of one of his sons, "is the pot calling the kettle black." She kiddingly refers to Manson as "Uncle Marilyn."
Manson even writes songs like a child. "If you operate under controlled chaos, it puts you back in a very primitive, childish state of mind," he says. "Because when you're a kid, you don't really think about the rules. And that's how I play as a musician. 'Cause I'm not schooled, and I couldn't even name the notes on a piano, but I can play melodies and I can write things. But I do it like a kid, and I find that that is something that keeps me going, and it's also artistically something that just keeps your imagination open. You're not limited. You just do it, and sometimes you come up with your best things."
One nakedly emotional passage in The Long Hard Road out of Hell describes the day, well into the second trimester, when the abortionist's forceps terminated the gestation of a child Manson and Missi might have had. Would the Antichrist ever want offspring?
"I always feel like I have a whole room full of 'em every night." That's Manson's stock answer, and partly true. Then he amplifies. "But a part of me really does. I'd like to think I'd merged with someone and kind of passed on immortality in a way. But I think that could be greedy, and I think it could be selfish."
MANSON IS OFTEN CANDID. AND HE OFTEN MAKES things up, because one of his most important jobs is that of mythmaker. It's hard to tell what's "true." Classmates Jeff and Cathi Slingluff, for instance, don't remember anything about his stealing or selling contraband records. When confronted with facts contradicting his statements, he's been known to say, "I like the way I remember it better."
"He was very sweet and real quiet," says Cathi. "But I think everybody thought he was kinda weird."
"He was a very, very, very smart guy," says Jeff. "Very funny. He's the kind of guy that could be standing right beside somebody and be making faces at what they're saying, without them realizing it. Not really a troublemaker, pretty much a good kid."
Jeff does remember Brian trying to get reactions out of people -- by saying he'd stuck a Q-Tip up his cat's butt, for example. And he was obsessed with MTV. But Jeff thinks Brian got a lot from Heritage Christian School, and not at all what was intended.
"The school was a little bit nuts about music," says Jeff. "Brian and I were in wood shop together, and they wouldn't let me make a guitar, because they thought I might play rock music on it. Every week we had a chapel class, and it was, 'Burn your records. If you don't get away from your evil rock music, you're gonna burn in hell.' We'd take a month and study all the different types of rock beats and how they relate to African drumbeats that bring up rages and desires of killing and stuff like that. And sometimes I wonder if he just sat there and went, 'Whoa, that was a hot button, remember that one.' Because it would be the perfect learning ground to create the character that he is."
True/false, creator/product, genius/idiot. Flip a coin. Much of what's been reported about Manson here and elsewhere is . . . negotiable. His persona and music have a cut-and-paste quality to them. He's said that nothing new can be done in rock music. But the art form remains stocked with an arsenal of effective tools, from which Manson draws at will. He's copped to the visual and musical influence of Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses and others -- and he might as well; there'd be no point in denying it. From song to song, you can also hear snips of melodies directly pillaged from Black Sabbath, or the Beatles, or KMFDM, or Radiohead, or even War and the Eagles.
Not a problem. Marilyn Manson isn't one to flinch at being called a liar and a thief. Again, it's part of his job: agitator, trickster, destabilizer. No mythic figure should ever be too specifically defined, too clearly original. Some critics question whether Jesus ever existed, much less whether he was born of a virgin, and the confusion only makes the myth more durable. Manson's ambitions are on that scale.
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