Frenemies of the State: Face-to-Face with Marilyn Manson at Magic Castle, Shock Rocker Retracts Death Threats to Journalists (Kind of)
For a nightlife reporter, being woken up before noon on a Sunday is harsh enough, let alone having that text message be the first thing you lay your sleep-crusted eyes on. It's been nearly one year since Marilyn Manson issued death threats towards journalists via his MySpace blog, written in response to what many believed was my L.A. Weekly cover story, "Buddyhead Redux," which detailed a night of drug-fueled debauchery at Manson's hotel and in which Buddyhead founder Travis Keller essentially called Manson a coked-out fraud. Manson's threat posted on July 26, 2009 at 3:18 AM read:
I can, but do not need to defend myself. And the absurd accusations that the average press has clinged onto. If we need a nude photo of me to prove that I am far different than the soon-to-be-murdered-in-their-home press has decided to fabricate, that is easy. But if one more "journalist" makes a cavalier statement about me and my band, I will personally or with my fans help, greet them at their home and discover just how much they believe in their freedom of speech. I dare you all to write one more thing that you won't say to my face. Because I will make you say it. In that manner. That is a threat. Mm
In Rolling Stone's "Marilyn Manson Threatens Journalists After Explosive 'L.A. Weekly' Article," reporter Daniel Kreps shared his thoughts:
Even if Manson's threats are just deemed posturing, there is some journo-beating precedent that make Manson's MySpace post more serious. In 1998, Manson and two bodyguards were accused of assaulting Spin executive editor Craig Marks backstage at a concert over a magazine story.
Yeah, so you can imagine my surprise Sunday morning when that text message arrived. The night prior Manson was out supporting his close friend and old roommate, magician Rudy Coby, at the exclusive Magic Castle in Hollywood as part of Coby's "Magic vs. Science" residency. When photographer Josh "CuriousJosh" Reiss brought up last year's scandal during a conversation with Manson backstage, at first the singer didn't remember, but once it clicked Manson's response was, "The writer? I'm not mad at the writer," and an invite was extended for Sunday night's magic show to meet face-to-face (apparently because he didn't want to kill me -- or have me killed -- after all.)
Since L.A. Weekly is not a publication that abandons a story, naturally I had some questions to ask Manson about his threats, particularly why he issued them if he wasn't angry about the article. (Manson would later tell me that he thought I was a guy this whole time, so perhaps it's just the female journos who are off the hook here.)
Seated inside the Magic Castle's Palace of Mystery with Devil's Playground producer Courtney Cruz, it's a few minutes before show time when Manson arrives and I am pointed out in the small crowd. I wave, he puts his fists up and mouths, "I am going to fuck you up." I do the same right back. He laughs and takes a nearby seat. "Just kidding," he says with a smile. We shake hands. Some in the crowd stare, a bit confused.
Josh "CuriousJosh" Reiss Admiring Rudy Coby's robotic female assistant, Nikki Terminator
We begin discussing last year's controversy. As his threats implied, I mention that there were no fabrications or "cavalier" statements in the Weekly article, and that for libel reasons we didn't print the real name of his ex-girlfriend in the story, referenced to only as "snowflake" because she would hold all the cocaine at Manson's gigs.
"You should have [named her]," Manson says evenly. "What you wrote was true."
Our conversation is cut off as the show begins and Rudy Coby takes the stage fantastically wearing a lab coat, scrubs and dark sunglasses, whirling through his mash-up of comedic magic tricks like a highly caffeinated, rockabilly Max Headroom. When it comes time for "The World's Most Dangerous Card Trick," Coby asks for an audience volunteer. Manson stands up and, like a triple-dog dare, points at me: "This one right here!"
After the show we're led out of the theater and downstairs to the bar, where I notice that the smoke effects used during the performance seem to be following us. I look at Manson.
Josh "CuriousJosh" Reiss Magician Rudy Coby introducing "The Most Dangerous Card Trick"
"Everywhere I go I make someone follow me with a fog machine," he says. I'm incredulous, but behind him stands one in his entourage, holding a little machine letting out thick puffs of that maple syrup-smelling fog.
Downstairs we resume our conversation from before. Whether Manson was just drunk blogging or playing up the Buddyhead beef to be controversial, there was (and still is) nothing funny about threatening to murder journalists over an article and encouraging one's fans to do so, especially considering Manson's threatening post earned him 1,043 "kudos" (or, "likes") from his followers on the social networking site.
Josh "CuriousJosh" Reiss
So, what was he thinking when he wrote that?
"It probably wasn't smart because of the whole Columbine thing," Manson admits, referencing the 1999 Colorado high school massacre and the media scrutiny that Manson and "goth culture" faced in its aftermath.
He doesn't go any deeper than to say the MySpace threats weren't intended for L.A. Weekly, and alludes to the fact that he was probably under the influence when he wrote them. He then excuses himself to go powder his face.
"What, is your makeup caking off?" I quip.
"You're tough," he laughs, and hands me his business card before walking away.
I turn the bone-colored, heavy card stock over in my palm and read it:
PIERCE & PIERCE, Mergers and Aquisitions
PATRICK BATEMAN, Vice President
Even in the dark, I recognize it. The card is a perfect replica of the one used by the sociopath businessman in the book and film classic, American Psycho.