The guest had arrived at Manson’s rented house in the Hollywood Hills. Manson gestured that he should sit between Manson and Twiggy. Down below, you could see Los Angeles twinkling out of the darkness, but Manson didn’t look. He had looked out the window enough. Perhaps too much.
This evening, he and Twiggy — Manson’s principal musical collaborator, his housemate and closest friend — had hospitality on their minds. They would play the guest their music. They would put him in a long blond wig. They would watch Chevy Chase movies together. They would drown a guitar. They would let him see their prized photo of Lionel Richie. They would do their best to show him a good time. Maybe he’d understand.
There are some things Marilyn Manson would like you to understand. He has changed. Don’t get this wrong — there will be no apologies offered or regrets expressed in the pages that follow, at least not about any of those things for which apology and regret have most often been demanded.
But he has changed. The character he became during Antichrist Superstar was emotionless and cold, and that was very much how he was himself. Maybe that’s how he had to be to muscle his way to celebrity and attention, but he has not stayed that way. For one thing — and I don’t think even he is sure of whether this is a cause or a product of the changes within him — he seems to have fallen in love. “I’ve learned to have a sense of empathy,” he says. “I really feel people’s pain now, almost on a weird supernatural level where it really affects me if someone is upset about something, and it will set off a huge depression.”
As is his nature, now that he has started feeling, he is overdoing it. “It’s almost like if I was a machine or an alien and you granted me some human emotions; they’re not working right because I just got them for the first time and I’m not learning how to use them properly,” he says.
The story of a man beginning to feel emotion is, in part, what his new album, Mechanical Animals, is about. When Manson began to feel emotion, he began to despair about how little emotion most humans feel. They — we — are the mechanical animals of the title. He imagined a story. A man is somewhere far away — maybe in space, maybe on drugs, maybe just high in the Hollywood Hills — and he is looking to come back. He is looking among the mechanical animals for the thing he needs to make himself whole. He calls it Coma White.
Though, naturally, it’s more complicated than that. And a lot sadder.
Manson, a more considerate host than his many detractors would have expected, had noticed the guest’s preferred drink when they had met briefly the previous night. He fumbled with a Corona, to no great effect, then announced a little helplessly, “I don’t know how to open beer bottles.” Twiggy took over.
The record had been finished a couple of days earlier. Manson handed the guest a sheaf of neatly typed lyrics inside a manila folder. Only when the music started did the guest realize how awkward this might be. Secretly, the one part of Marilyn Manson’s canon that he had not always been so enthusiastic about was the music. Between the few fine songs, there was too much death-metal riffing, distorted shouting and industrial rancor; he had few problems with Manson styling himself as the Antichrist, but rather more with Manson’s role as the anti-tune.
Happily, this was different. From the beginning it was easy to like and exciting to hear. The guest stared around the room. There were anatomical models and charts of anatomy and physiology. Next to the video player was a shrunken Mexican voodoo head. On the wall, framed, was Marilyn Manson’s first “Rolling Stone” cover and a poster from “The Doom Generation,” the film which Manson’s old girlfriend had shown to him and which had sparked his attraction to its leading actress and his current girlfriend, Rose McGowan. The guest thought about the cute grotesqueness of that situation: that his old girlfriend had identified with McGowan, and in doing so had drawn Manson’s attention to her. And that, in the end, Manson had simply cut out the middle man.
Half the songs were staccato glam romps; the other half were darker, weirder and more beautiful. The sixth song, “Speed of Pain,” sounded sad and brutal and creepy in the best ways. Its title referred to something Manson had read about: that scientists were trying to make computers react organically, like human nervous systems. The idea was that machines would be able to react to the speed of pain in the way that humans do. That interested him — that you could maybe outrace the speed of pain. Another way to run away from your feelings. In the song, the singer was failing to outrace the pain his love brought him and ended up declaring, “I hope that we die holding hands.”
“It was meant to be somewhat of a love song,” Manson said, a proud grin leaking onto his face. “So that’s how it comes out for me.”
As the ninth song — “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)” — revved up, Manson announced, “You can’t hear the next song without doing drugs.” He and Twiggy gathered around the rivulets of cocaine arranged on a CD case, but the guest demurred. It seemed inappropriate to submit to his hosts’ will and choreography on demand.
For whichever reason, Manson was getting chattier. He explained that half the songs — the pumped-up glam ones — were the hollow anthems of a group called Omega and the Mechanical Animals. They had stomping riffs and sing-along choruses, and they also served as satires about the way the world looked at Marilyn Manson; the hollow anthems of rock stardom. The others — the spacier, more somber ones — told the story and carried the sadness.
As the final song ended, Twiggy brought in a framed gold disc of Leif Garrett’s “Feel the Need” album. Garrett, one of their Hollywood acquaintances, had given one to each of them. Manson had met Garrett at a party; they bonded after Garrett put on Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot.”
“You know, those aren’t his legs on the album cover,” Twiggy said. They insisted that Garrett had told them the legs in his cover photo were not his; they were from a body double.
“Sexier crotch,” Twiggy explained.
Incidents From Marilyn Manson’s Autobiography That Reward Further Scrutiny, Number One (Page Thirty-nine): Manson’s father, Hugh Warner, told his son that he wanted to take him to a prostitute to divest him of his virginity.
“That scared me,” Manson says. “I’m not quite sure if he would have done it or not. Unless it made me cry or made me scared, my dad would do whatever he threatened to do when I was a kid. That was just his sense of humor, and I think I’ve gotten that from him. He’s always been real confronting with sexual issues; maybe he got that from his father.” (It is Hugh Warner’s father whose basement is described at the beginning of Marilyn Manson’s book.)
Manson has never discussed his book with his parents. That task falls to me.
Me: Now, I must ask you, did you really want to take him to a prostitute to lose his virginity?
Hugh Warner: [Laughs heartily] Honestly? No.
Me: So where on earth did he get that idea?
Hugh Warner: I love to bust people’s balls.
Me: So you would tell him that when he was younger?
Hugh Warner: Oh, yeah, I did tell him that, yeah.
Me: But, if he had called you on it, you wouldn’t have followed through?
Hugh Warner: No. I’m not that liberal.
Me: Well, what if he had just told you he had gone and done it?
Hugh Warner: I would have said, “Good boy.”
Tonight, Manson wore a Loverboy T-shirt from Loverboy’s 1982 “Get Lucky” tour. Twiggy’s T-shirt, which had colored glitter on it and was a gift from a member of Pantera, commemorated the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” On the way upstairs, they proudly showed their guest the framed photo of Lionel Richie they had recently stolen from a recording studio. Richie was a current fetish of theirs. Manson had depraved theories about Richie: that the singer’s peculiar cheeks were the consequence of walking around with cotton in his mouth; that his disturbingly jaunty hit “Dancing on the Ceiling” was an ode to the over-effects of cocaine. Sometimes Manson worried that Richie, whom he had seen around town, might become aware of these libelous and offensive opinions. “He’s going to end up knowing that I’m onto his cotton thing, and he’s going to accost me about it and punch me in the face,” Manson figured. “But then I’ll just take the cotton and wipe up my bloody nose, and it will all be fair.”
“Didn’t he set his wife on fire or something weird like that?” Twiggy asked. (Their love of pop trivia was not equaled by a firm grasp on, or respect for, the relevant truths.)
“I think he might have been trying to cook some macaroni and cheese when he was dancing on the ceiling,” Manson argued.
“His wife locked him up in the fireplace or something,” Twiggy said.
And, somehow satisfied, they left it at that.
Marilyn Manson met the actress Rose McGowan just less than a year ago. After he had been entranced by The Doom Generation, Manson read an interview with her in which she talked about her childhood: “that she had a strange family,” he recalls, “and her father was in the Children of God, and she had an extremely difficult time growing up with this bizarre religious cult. And I thought, `Here’s someone who I could definitely relate to.’ Someone who has been through more than me.” When he arrived on the West Coast, he told people that she was the only person he wanted to meet. It happened at a screening of Gummo. McGowan, who is perpetually late, missed the movie but was standing outside. “I met her,” he says, “and I really haven’t left her side since then.” She knew he had been wanting to meet her. “I guess maybe she went there on purpose,” he says. “I don’t know. Maybe she’ll never admit that to me.”
Me: Is Coma White supposed to be, on some level, Rose?
Manson: I think that definitely inspired it. A lot of the pain that she’s gone through, I started to feel, and the record kind of documents me coming to terms with emotions and caring about somebody for the first time. And I guess I still express the fear of doing that as well.
Me: Are you saying that you didn’t have emotions in a way that was usual for someone of your age?
Manson: I think I just tried to keep them away for so long. Just the simple fear of being hurt . . . I felt lied to so much as a kid, because of religion specifically. I thought that everybody was going to lie about something. One of my very first girlfriends had never told me that she had a kid, and that was something that made me feel afraid, because I’d been going out with her for three years. It was something big to hide from somebody. I think it was on Mother’s Day — she started crying, and I asked her why. It upset me a little bit that she was crying, but I didn’t feel sorry for her, I just felt betrayed.
Me: So why did things change with this new relationship?
Manson: I don’t know. There’s something very tragic about her, something very classic, in a Marilyn Monroe sort of way, that just captured me. I’ve never met anyone like her, a guy or a girl. And she has very extreme ups and downs — they’re so extreme that they affect me as well. I think we have a great relationship, but it still has a sense of tragedy to it. Maybe that’s what makes it appealing in some ways, that it just seems like it has an unhappy ending to it somewhere.
Me: Do you say that to her as well?
Manson: No, but she’s very pessimistic that something bad’s always going to happen.
Me: How does it feel to be feeling more?
Manson: It’s a little like walking outside today, in that’s it’s hot, it’s bright and it’s a little overwhelming. But at least it’s kind of starting things over, and it’s not continuing in the direction that I was going, which doesn’t have much farther to go.
Me: Where would that have ended up?
Manson: Dead, probably, because it was just a path of nihilism. Either destroying myself or convincing other people to destroy me. I think my lifestyle over the past couple of years has been a long form of suicide.
Some Reluctant Reflections on the Act of Self-mutilation: One afternoon, changing after having his photograph taken, Manson slips off his top. Pale white scars crisscross his torso, the pen strokes of a foolish, inarticulate private language. He first cut himself in high school in class during the ninth grade, digging into his forearms with a pocketknife. Onstage, it has become a ritual. “I think that’s all a form of wanting to let go, of wanting to get out,” he says. It is something he thinks he will not do again. “It’s not something easily described or understood,” he notes, “though I’ve come to find that Princess Di also used to mutilate herself, and so did Emily Dickinson.” In all the time I spend with Marilyn Manson, it is during the following conversation that he seems the most uncomfortable and imposed upon.
Me: Would you do it as much offstage as you would on?
Me: Was that the same impulse?
Manson: No. I think onstage it was more me trying to show people my pain, and offstage it was just feeling it, period.
Me: This may be a dumb question, but would it hurt?
Manson: No, I never felt it. I felt it afterwards, but never when it happened.
Me: Do you remember the last time you did it?
Manson: Probably the last show we performed before moving to Los Angeles.
Me: And why do you think you haven’t done it since?
Manson: Um . . . I don’t really have an answer for that. [Grabbing for the glib evasion] I suppose I was running out of space. Maybe since I never really talked about my emotions in songs, I had to express it that way, and now that I’ve found a way to talk about it in songs, that provided a replacement. I’m guessing. . . .
Later, I recall something he had said in a different context: “I think before, I experienced a lot of pain physically because I wasn’t experiencing it emotionally.” And I reflect that this kind of personal exchange — physical pain for emotional pain — can very easily reverse direction more than once in a lifetime.
Manson got out some watercolors he had recently painted. “I can paint a picture of you if you want,” he offered.
As Manson painted, laying down grays and purples and greens, the guest first worried that the picture didn’t look like him, then worried that it did. “It’s kind of impressionistic,” Manson said. “You don’t have to take it literally. Or personally.” Manson liked to concentrate on the parts of people that stood out the most, usually the eyes or mouth. Sometimes it seemed to him as though he were actually painting their shadows. “I guess it’s the darkest part of them,” he said.
The guest pointed out that everyone Manson painted looked lonely.
“I guess that’s how I see everybody,” Manson said. “Maybe I see my own reflection in everybody else.”
One evening, I share a drink with Twiggy, who, as he talks, pulls his pale skin away from his face in straight-sided tents of material between his thumb and forefinger. It is as though it is not connected to the flesh beneath. “I know,” he nods. “My skin is really stretchy. I’m double-jointed, too. That’s just the way it is.”
Twiggy, whose real name is Jeordie White and who is the youngest member of Marilyn Manson, graduated from the Florida death-metal scene. He tells me about recently meeting Don Henley at a barbecue in Malibu, where Henley cooked Twiggy a steak. He was keen to meet Henley, because the Eagles made the great era-defining, decadent Los Angeles album of the Seventies, Hotel California, and Twiggy realized that Marilyn Manson’s current quest was in some way equivalent. “So it was kinda neat to eat one of his steaks,” Twiggy says. “He marinates it in Scotch and Italian dressing for, like, three hours and puts it on the grill.”
Twiggy’s favorite Eagles album is The Long Run. “I think there’s something to be said about that era of music when no one knew where they were at,” he says. “I think that’s where music is right now in America.” This is a Marilyn Manson theory: that rock has lost its way in the same way it did in the shadow of disco, in the late Seventies. “I have a real strong affection for when all the rock bands went kind of disco,” says Twiggy. “That weird cocaine-disco music. Kiss did Dynasty, the Eagles did The Long Run, the Rolling Stones did Emotional Rescue.” (Not that Marilyn Manson consider themselves involved in such a muddled compromise. They want, quite simply, to be the great rock band of this era.)
Famous names come up very easily, and with a likable innocence, when Twiggy talks. The next time we meet — and on this occasion it says something about the way Twiggy carries himself that it takes two hours for me to notice that he is wearing a dress, an A-line Alexander McQueen copy he has had knocked off — he tells me that the other night he went skinny-dipping with Cameron Diaz in a hotel pool. “I thought, `Wouldn’t it be cool to be beaten up by Matt Dillon,’ ” he says.
Aside from Manson and Twiggy, there are three other members of Marilyn Manson. John Lowery, their new guitarist who is now rechristened John5, is impossibly dainty. Ginger Fish, the drummer, is, says Manson, “the strangest and quietest person in the band.” He neither drinks nor does drugs. But the band’s other great character is their keyboard player, Madonna Wayne Gacy, commonly known as Pogo. He has been in Marilyn Manson longer than anyone other than Manson.
When I first meet him, Pogo is cupping his hands, like balancing scales, to explain a recent dilemma. Such are the anguishes of being in Marilyn Manson: “I was . . . coke, blow job . . . coke, blow job . . .” he says. “Sometimes they’re mutually exclusive. It’s strange. Sex and drugs and rock & roll: Too much of any one fucks up the other two.”
One day I call him at home during the afternoon. He is sitting with a bong in his hand, watching a program on the History Channel about the German occupation of Poland. A keyboard sequence is running silently next to him — whenever he gets bored he picks up the headphones and listens in. He is naked.
Manson showed the guest what they called “The White Room.” Everything in it was white. It, too, had a view over the city. They would have parties in here, and for a while they tried to only play music which had the word “white” in it: the White Album, “White Lines” and so on. Sometimes fog came up to the window from the outside: total whiteout. White: sterile, empty, colorless, emotionless; the color of drugs; the color of medications to suppress your feelings.
This was the room they sat in to write. Mostly just him and Twiggy. For a while he considered using the title of one of these songs — “Great Big White World” — as the name for his album, but he realized that some people might misinterpret that as racist.
At those parties, this was the main drug room. “So it lived up to its metaphor,” he said. The drugs were hard to see in there. “If we went through there with a vacuum,” he said, “we could probably start all over again.”
The white room served its purposes. He doesn’t spend much time in there anymore.
Marilyn Manson had first taken Special K — the animal tranquilizer favored by humans with peculiar narcotic tastes, under the influences of which mind and body may seem to disassociate from each other — eight or nine months ago, by accident. He thought it was cocaine and had snorted plenty before he realized his mistake. By then he was at the rock-crowd hangout the Rainbow. “First I commented, `That wasn’t cocaine — that must have been something else,’ ” he recalled, “and then my legs stopped working and everything just started to melt around me and I had to be carried home. And then I sat up in my room and I couldn’t move and all I could do was just see the view, and I was kind of trapped there.”
He was scared. He didn’t know where this would take him or how far it would go. As much as he could, he tried to enjoy the terror. When he finally came back into the world the next morning, he immediately wrote a song called “Disassociative.” “The drug experience of having your mind and body really separate made me see a lot of things about myself,” he recalled. “And I kind of related that to the rest of the world and the way I feel separated, disassociated.”
Though, for the moment, he chose not to tell the guest this, he had done Special K for only the second time last night. He and Twiggy had floated together in the swimming pool. It felt like Disney World. Drugs, Manson often thought, were like amusement parks for adults. “Except,” he noted, “you don’t stand in a line — you just snort it.”
Incidents From Marilyn Manson’s Autobiography That Reward Further Scrutiny, Number Two (Pages Sixty-four through Sixty-five): In a Los Angeles hotel room, Manson found himself trying to keep Dave Navarro from “giving me a blow job as we sniffed drugs together.”
Me: What do you and Dave Navarro have in common?
Manson: Aside from drugs? He knows how to play every Iron Maiden song. He and Twiggy just stare at each other and play. They don’t say anything. I’ve been a big fan of Jane’s Addiction for many years. I’ve never been a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, though. Neither has he, I think. So we share a dislike for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, we share a like of Iron Maiden and drugs and stuff like that. I gave him one of my John Wayne Gacy paintings for his birthday. The one of the clown.
Manson describes the song “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)” as “the most hollow anthem on the record.” “Dave Navarro played the guitar solo over the ending,” he grins, “and everyone’s heard the rumors about Dave Navarro and his relationship with drugs, which I won’t get into. But the sheer pop-art idea of Dave Navarro, shirtless, playing guitar solos while three black gospel singers are singing the refrain `I don’t like the drugs but the drugs like me,’ and then suddenly Leif Garrett walking into the room — a surprise visit — was, I think, one of the more memorable moments in rock & roll history. What took place after that can’t be said; the music can only make you feel it.”
One afternoon, Manson puts Navarro on the phone to me and sits there while we talk. Navarro gives his side of the blow-job incident. “I didn’t see it that way at all,” he says, “but it didn’t really matter because, to me, the whole thing was really fucking funny. To me it wasn’t an issue as to whether or not something like that had taken place. Put it this way — he was sucking on my fucking nipples that night. The reason it came out even in the book was more of a spiteful stab at me based out of fear and rejection. Why would he feel the need to lash out at me with homophobic rage? I think he felt rejected.”
Me: Did he suck nipples well?
Navarro: The funny thing about that — the whole time I thought it was Billy Corgan. And then I opened my eyes and, to my dismay, it was this guy.
He goes on to say that Leif Garrett wasn’t actually there the night they recorded “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me).” A debate ensues, and Manson eventually concedes that this may be true. Looking a touch sulky, Manson mutters, “I like it the way I told it better.”
Navarro has suddenly gone weirdly serious. He returns to what he calls “the book situation and the head situation.” He says he and Manson have been lying. “There was a point where we had discussed how amusing it may be to spread a rumor wherein we were homosexual lovers,” Navarro says. “I think that might have been his moving forward with that plan. But I got mad with him about something else so I put a halt to the plan.”
There was no nipple-sucking?
“No, of course not,” he says impatiently. “The truth is what I just told you. I don’t care what you print, but the truth is, no.”
Before I go he tells me this: “On a personal level, I really like hanging out with those guys, but I don’t trust them any farther than I can throw them. You do the math.” This may be wise. At the very moment when Navarro is offering sweet compliments about Manson into my ear — “I think he’s really fucking brilliant,” he coos — he is unaware that Manson has taken the phone cord and wrapped it round his arm, an amused grin on his face, and is pretending to shoot up with an invisible needle.
On one particular afternoon, I find Manson monumentally depressed. “It’s one of those things that kind of comes on and there’s no explanation for it really,” he says. And then he explains plenty.
He feels smothered and overwhelmed. It makes his body shut down. He feels like running away. He doesn’t really want to go back to his Hollywood house. It feels cluttered and used, like he’s been there too long: “There’s just too much stuff, too much information, too many things there. I need to start over, and you can never clean a house enough to make it seem right.” He likes the way a hotel room resets itself like a time machine, so that you have a new room every day. Now he has been in the same room so long, it is making him feel as though he is stuck on the same day.
He feels like he’s slipping into a weird frame of mind. He feels far away from everything. Distant from his girlfriend. From everyone. He feels sucked dry. He’s been sequestered for so long making the record, and now everyone is feeding on him.
He has felt like this before, but then he would feel numb, and he would ignore it. Now he is tuned in to everything, and it is so much worse. He feels pressure from his fans — that they will feel he has gone further and further away from them — and worries they won’t know that he still does this as much for them as for himself. The parts of the record that are satiric — which have their cake and eat it — will be misunderstood as purely self-aggrandizing. That’s a misinterpretation he expected, but he’s feeling its burden.
Stardom doesn’t help. It makes him feel more alienated. Like a freak show. People love you because they are scared of you. Or intrigued by you. “There’s always a chance,” he says, “they’ll have the same reaction they would to a spider and they just want to smash you.”
Me: Does it offend you if you become America’s freak show?
Manson: It doesn’t offend me, because I think I’ve put myself in that position, but I just feel more vulnerable to it now than before. I guess the only thing I can think of is that I feel more like a spider. I suppose people are afraid of them because they’re afraid they’re going to get bitten by them, but then once people realize that they are bigger than they are, and they can step on them . . . [smiles] I never really thought about what the spider was feeling.
In person, Manson usually seems delicate, in an otherworldly kind of way, but his voice is deep, and though he is stretchily thin he looms imposingly. His eyes assume their variety of adjusted iris-and-pupil shapes and colors only when he is to be photographed, but he seems the same without them: Dark glasses and the right attitude do just as much. In his presence, you feel a sense of threat, but it’s an uneasily diffuse one: You can’t be sure whether he is more likely to destroy the world, destroy himself or give you an Indian burn.
Manson and Twiggy explained to their guest that there was a movie they always like to watch. “You probably won’t like it,” Manson warned. The movie was “Seems Like Old Times,” an Eighties farce starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn. As the opening credits rolled — the camera sweeping over the waves on the California coast to some halfheartedly funky orchestral music — Twiggy turned to the guest and asked, earnestly, “Do you like it so far?”
“Chevy Chase also reminds me of my dad in some kind of way,” Manson explained. “My dad had the same hairdo when I was growing up. And he kind of acts like him. My dad was kind of funny. . . . He’d just always say dirty jokes to teenage girls and stuff like that. I guess maybe he’s a bit of a pervert. It must run in our family.”
It was at this point that Twiggy decided to chip in. “He used to carry around a picture of my dick, his dad,” Twiggy said. “About eight years ago.”
“Tell him about when you worked at Little Caesars,” Manson encouraged Twiggy. “About one of your favorite things.”
“Which one?” Twiggy asked.
“About fucking the pizza dough,” Manson said. Twiggy looked at Manson reproachfully. “That’s good,” Manson encouraged. “I like that story.”
“That’s a terrible story,” said Twiggy, shaking his head.
“I know,” said Manson, “but I like it.”
Though he still seemed a little reluctant, Twiggy began. “I didn’t feed it to anyone,” Twiggy clarified, before explaining. “It was just, I was there by myself for hours and I was bored. So I tried fucking with the pizza dough before I cooked it. But then I threw it away. I was just bored. Something to do.” He did it a couple of times. He resisted the temptation of cooking the batch because, after he came, he felt guilty.
“Yeah,” Manson nodded. “After you come you always feel guilty.” Manson considered this for a moment. “You wouldn’t want to keep a girl around after you come, usually,” he said, “so the dough, the same thing.”
Meanwhile, Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn carried on arguing.
A Brief Examination of Warner Family Values: It is on the day when Manson is depressed that he tells me about his parents. They are both somewhat disabled from a car accident two years ago, when they were rear-ended. Not too serious, but neither of them can really work. “They were left without any sort of medical coverage or any retirement plan,” he says, “so I’ve spent most of my money taking care of my parents because I feel like they supported me when I was growing up.”
“Well, see,” says his father when I mention this, after he has made the awkward, hesitant noises of a proud parent who finds it hard to accept help from a child, “a lot of people don’t realize who he really is, and if they did, they wouldn’t criticize him the way they do.” Manson’s parents have moved back to Ohio, where Mr. Warner finds other tasks to divert him. “It’s very hard,” he says. “I was a workaholic for all of my life. I worked six, seven days a week.” He now has a hobby. “I spend my time collecting memorabilia,” he says. “Of Marilyn Manson. I have every article, every picture — in duplicate — that he has ever had his name associated with. I have in our family room every magazine cover that he’s ever been on, framed. It’s quite a museum, you might say.”
He says, “To see your son become what he wanted to become and to fulfill his dreams is probably the best dream that any parent could have. To see him perform is magical. It’s . . . he’s the salesman’s salesman. He’s the showman of showmen. And, of course, I’m a little bit proud, but that’s beside the point.” I ask him about his son’s public image.
Hugh Warner: We all need a boogeyman once in a while.
Me: Does that make you father of the boogeyman?
Hugh Warner: I’m the true God of fuck.
Me: Now, now, you don’t mean that.
Hugh Warner: Well, of course. I created the Antichrist.
Me: Well, no wonder some of your relations look at you a bit funny, if you tell them that.
Hugh Warner: No, after they read the book, certain relations haven’t spoken to us. The first chapter sort of blew everyone away. Sometimes you don’t inter your skeletons nationally. But if they truly read the book, the irony is that he became what he most feared. You know, it’s a subject we don’t discuss.
Me: I was talking to your son and Twiggy, and they suddenly announced the fact that you carry around a naked photo of Twiggy.
Hugh Warner: [Jolly chuckle] Actually, no, my wife does.
Me: Your wife does?
Hugh Warner: Yes. Twiggy is fascinated with his genitals and, you know, we collect everything, from Day One, and it happens to be a picture of him with his penis in his hand. It’s natural. I shouldn’t say that it’s carried around and displayed. It’s readily available for blackmail if need be.
Me: But was it correct that you at one point used to keep it in your wallet?
Hugh Warner: Yeah.
Me: Well, if you don’t mind, explain that.
Hugh Warner: We all have our fetishes.
Me: Yes, well, I’m beginning to think that your son is the son of his father.
Hugh Warner: Uh, we all are at one time.
Me: In what ways have you been surprised that he had all this in him?
Hugh Warner: I wasn’t really surprised that he had it all in him; I was surprised that he let it all out.
Manson showed his guest some of the house’s highlights. He explained that he snuck the Mexican voodoo head through customs because he figured it would bring him bad luck, an idea that seemed to please him. “Like the Bradys when they went to Hawaii,” he clarified. He led the guest into the kitchen. “You could look in our cupboards and see what we eat,” he suggested. “Just for the hell of it. It’s pretty bad — I can tell you right now.” There was a lot of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, many Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and powdered doughnuts in huge quantity. On the fridge door were poetry magnets, though Manson disdained them. “I don’t really approve of it,” he said. “They don’t have the words that I’m looking for. I kind of like to make up my own words.”
Opening a cupboard, he showed off his Culture Club throw rug and shared an intimacy. “Twiggy doesn’t know it,” he said, “but I put some hard-boiled eggs underneath his bed. He’ll figure it out in a couple of weeks when it starts to stink.”
The guest asked why.
Manson shrugged. “He put spiders in my room,” he explained. “We’re kind of like brothers, I suppose.”
Incidents From Marilyn Manson’s Autobiography That Reward Further Scrutiny, Number Three (Page Forty-eight): Manson would physically attack his mother: He scarred her, hit her, spat on her and choked her.
Manson: At one particularly rebellious period of my life, I was very violent with my mother, and I think it was something I got from my father, both emotionally and physically, because they were having problems and I thought they were going to get a divorce and I was blaming it all on her because he thought she was having an affair of some nature and I believed it and reacted very violently. It’s probably one of the only things I regret in life. I have very few moments of remorse, but that’s one thing I wish I could take back.
Me: How did she react?
Manson: She would just cry. She still loved me and still, you know, wanted to make me believe in her, I guess.
Her husband tells me, tenderly, that Manson’s mother is sleeping. She has been nursing her critically ill father. “She’s not up to really talking to anybody,” he says.
I mention the book episodes regarding his wife to Mr. Warner. “Most of that stuff, to be honest with you, was vague and pretty well-kept from me,” he says. “We have a tendency to hurt the ones we love the most.”
Me: When you both read the book, did you discuss it together?
Hugh Warner: Actually, my wife hasn’t read the book. No. She only read the first two chapters. She won’t read the rest. She just really doesn’t want to know. She knows, but she doesn’t want to know.
Marilyn Manson wondered what to do next.
“Hmm,” said Manson.
“Hmm,” said Twiggy.
“What would Guns n’ Roses do?” Manson wondered. “This is basically a typical night — we wander around a lot trying to think of things to do. Sometimes we’re creative and sometimes we’re not.” Manson talked about the problems of going to sleep after taking too much cocaine. “That’s what I call the routine,” he said. “When you’re sitting in bed and you’re trying to fall asleep and you’re thinking about the things you did in high school that you regret, math tests that you failed.” He flicked through some of his several hundred satellite-TV channels. “There’s never anything,” he said. “Especially when you’re on drugs. They know that you’re trying to find something to focus on, and so you can only find `Eddie and the Cruisers.’ “
Twiggy put on some music in his bedroom. “Slayer on 45,” he said. We listened for a moment. “Faster,” he elaborated.
They still needed an idea. Twiggy placed a hand on his chin. “Mmm. Let’s see,” he said, and then he didn’t say anything else for quite a while. “We could shoot the neighbors’ dogs with the BB gun,” he eventually suggested.
Manson shook his head. “Then they’d shoot our dogs,” he reasoned.
Though, on principle, Manson did like the concept. “I’d like to shoot the neighbors,” he said. He’d explain why later. For now, he had another idea.
A Discussion About Neighborliness: One afternoon, after Manson and I have been to the movies to see The Opposite of Sex, he explains that he is annoyed. Last night one of his neighbors had “some sort of salsa house party going on.” It kept him up. He supposes he’s probably kept them up before now, but he maintains that his music was better. He has a thing about certain kinds of music — salsa, reggae, country — that are “ethnic and too specific . . . it’s very related to a culture.” I point out that rock music has its own ethnicity and specificity — the culture of being white and pissed off. “Yeah,” he says, “but it’s a lot broader, I think.”
He has taken shots at the neighbors with his BB gun, though he doesn’t think he has ever hit them. Not like in the past. As a kid, he would sit on the roof and pick off passing kids. “Why aren’t adults allowed to do it?” he asks. “I don’t like my neighbors; I’m sure they don’t like me.” His downhill neighbor is the singer from Sugar Ray. “You should be congratulating me for shooting him,” Manson reasons. “He’s responsible for all things that are bad in music. And he admits it. He’s told me that he knows he’s the Vanilla Ice of the Nineties. And I almost respect him for that. But then I had to take into consideration all of the lives that have been ruined because of his music. There are people going around enjoying Caribbean-flavored music, and it’s very bad. They’re making people dress in baggy shorts. That’s bad. Wallet chains and baggy shorts and white socks. Tank tops! They approach music like sports. It’s all about bouncing your leg up and down; it doesn’t have anything to do with what’s being said.”
Me: Whereas the great music is made by . . . ?
Manson: [Enthusiastically] . . . by drug addicts!
Me: Who stare listlessly over a sparkling city at the dead of night?
Manson: That’s right. [Smiles] So basically I live in a neighborhood full of people who make music for assholes, and I want to burn it all down.
Me: And you live there . . .
Manson: Well, I already know I’m an asshole. I’m a different type of asshole. I’m an intentional asshole.
This was Manson’s idea.
“Our guitar player that we fired . . . ” — he was called Zim Zum; he had too many problems and not enough commitment — “. . . we’ve been meaning to set his guitar on fire. We could do that. Or we could throw it in the pool and just kind of let it drift off to sea.” It was something. But was it the right idea for the moment? The mood of an evening is a delicate thing. “Shall we burn the guitar?” he asked Twiggy.
Twiggy wasn’t sure about the whole idea. “Is it relevant?”
Manson laughed. It was perhaps a little late to start worrying about relevance. “Is it relevant?” he repeated. “I think it’s just kind of conspicuous consumption. We could take a picture of it, and then it’s art.”
Twiggy, who seemed to find this argument persuasive, nodded. “OK. All right.” No one said anything for a while after that. “I’m thinking about a lot of different things,” Twiggy said. “I’m just trying to figure out what’s worth saying. . . .” Sometimes the cocaine made him talk, but sometimes it drew him into himself and left him silent.
Manson and Twiggy couldn’t find any lighter fluid. Instead, Twiggy coaxed the guest into a fetching long blond wig, and they took the guitar out by the pool anyway. Twiggy suggested throwing it off the mountain, but they’d done that kind of thing too many times before, and the guest seemed reluctant to smash the guitar himself. Anyway, said Manson, having second thoughts, “that’s too rock.”
“We could drown it,” Twiggy proposed.
It seemed like the best idea. “Let’s drown it,” Manson agreed, and without ceremony slid the acoustic guitar into the pool. He held it for a while as bubbles hiccuped out of the air hole but let it go before all the trapped air had escaped, so the unwanted guitar didn’t sink, just floated away into the center of the pool.
“It’s kind of senseless,” Manson reflected. “But it’s good anyway.”
Twiggy nodded, and the guest nodded, too.
“We could find a cricket and kill it,” Twiggy suggested. The notion just hung there in the air, unrecognized. Meanwhile, Manson took a photograph of the floating guitar on his digital camera. “There you go,” he declared, looking at the frozen image on the camera’s digital screen. “That’s art. Now we can go and put it on the TV set and just look at it.”
But by the time the three of them wandered inside, they had forgotten all about it.
Marilyn Manson was primarily raised by his mother. “At the time, I kind of resented it, because I felt like I was a mama’s boy,” he says. “I think mothers are always afraid to let go of their sons, their only child, so sometimes they create reasons for them not to go off on their own. Hypochondria. I was always a sickly kid, and I think my mother encouraged that to try and keep me under wraps.”
When he left home, his mother agreed to look after his pet snake. There were rats she was supposed to feed to the snake, but instead she started keeping them as pets. “My wife had a big empty-nest syndrome,” Hugh Warner says, “and when Brian left, she adopted the rats to fulfill her nurturing instincts.” She now has ten pet rats, each named after people she likes. (One is called Boy George, an acquired friend of hers.) “They’re part of the family,” Hugh Warner explains.
These rats are kept in cages, but she had one prized rat, which she would take with her places. It was called Marilyn. When it died, she stored its body in the freezer. (Yes. It’s with the food. “It’s sealed, you know,” Hugh Warner points out. “Completely normal.”) They brought the frozen rat with them when they moved back to Ohio from Florida. Packed it in dry ice for the journey. They’re waiting to give it an appropriate burial, which, their own unusual logic tells them, should be at their real son’s birthplace.
When I ask their son, the pop star, why his parents are hoarding a frozen rat bearing his assumed name, he says, “I don’t have an answer for that,” and mutters something whimsical about mental illness. He reveals that his pet lizard has also been kept frozen as a keepsake, preserved by the homemade cryogenic skills and strange impulses of the Warner family, for the past six years. It is the family way. “I think,” he says, “I may end up in the freezer, too.”
This article was originally published in RS 797, October 15th, 1998.