Heaven knows we want to blame somebody. Start with his grandfather, a fellow who kept an extensive porn collection in the basement and liked to wear women's underwear. Move on to Canton, Ohio's, Heritage Christian School, which forbade candy consumption and taught Brian Warner in sixth grade all about the manifold Signs of the Beast. It played heavy metal over the P.A. system to prove, via backward masking (playing records backward), that the devil did indeed reside in rock 'n' roll.
When a 12-year-old Brian started putting out his semi-
obscene imitation of Mad and Cracked magazines (his was called Stupid) and selling it for a quarter, they urged him to explain his buck-toothed, big-nosed, acned self, and when he threw up his hands in exasperation, they gave him "three hard, fast Christian whacks."
In a more sophisticated school, it might have occurred to someone that this foul little wretch might have some talent as a writer -- or artist or entrepreneur or something. A crash course in the High Literature of Alienation was definitely called for right about there, starting with Joseph Heller's "Catch-22," going on to Dostoevski's "Crime and Punishment," Huysmans' "Against the Grain" and "Down There," a few miscellaneous beats and Franz Kafka's short stories, all with lots of private discussion time.
The little worm might eventually have turned into a university intellectual, which, I'll grant you, leaves some questions open on its own, but at least would have spared the world a lot of groupies quite literally tortured when Brian the worm metamorphosed into drug-crazed Satan rocker Marilyn Manson.
From there, you might blame Debbie Harry, Malcolm McLaren, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and minor metallist Yngwie Malmsteen. As a rock critic for a Fort Lauderdale freebie entertainment rag called Tonight/Today, Brian Warner yearned to become famous.
"The problem wasn't the magazines or my writing but the musicians themselves. Each successive interview I did, the more disillusioned I became. Nobody had anything to say. I felt I should be answering the questions instead of asking them. I wanted to be on the other side of the pen."
A not uncommon secret desire, but once Brian Warner eventually metamorphosed into Marilyn Manson, the world would be sorry -- part of it, anyway. The other part would eventually buy enough copies of his disc "Antichrist Superstar" to debut the album at No. 3. And it's buying enough copies of his autobiography, "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell," to put it into the No. 6 spot on the New York Times best-seller list.
And while we're singling out all the Frankensteins and Igors who jolted this monster into life, let's not forget his father, who painted his face like a KISS band member and took Brian to a KISS concert. His father previously dumped a lot of Agent Orange in Vietnam and later became an anti-government activist in the Agent Orange cause, none of which was lost on his already rebellious son (who now, semi-jokingly, wonders if his own freakishness is a byproduct of Agent Orange infiltration into his genetic code).
The trouble with all this is that by the time you stop blaming the obvious candidates for all the parts they contributed to the shock monster we all know and want to hide the children from, we've undermined the very religious tenet in which Marilyn Manson professes to believe, which is "worshiping yourself, because you are responsible for your own good and evil."
The Marquis de Sade couldn't have said it better. Nor could he have thought up viler things for a shock metal rocker to do to the groupies who push their post-pubescent bodies into his world. There are many, many pages of them in Manson's "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell," almost none of them funny and most of them loathsome in the extreme.
They are the sort of sexual defilements that many teen-age boys fantasize about but thank heaven (literally) never actually do and eventually and thoroughly outgrow. (Parenthood, above all, is the all-time great show-stopper for all the out-of-control anti-social fantasy with which hormonally tortured males are afflicted. Flesh acquires an entirely different meaning when it's all round and full of your DNA in a sweet package that weighs less than 10 pounds. The terms of all philosophical arguments are irretrievably altered.)
The Marilyn in his name came from Marilyn Monroe. The Manson came from Charles, the Svengali of mass murder (and sometime whacked-out folk rocker). The former Brian Warner is under the impression that they separate into the light and the dark of the human species. Apparently no one ever told him that Tony Curtis said that doing love scenes with Monroe in "Some Like It Hot" was like "kissing Hitler."
"The Long Hard Road Out of Hell" is, nevertheless, a brilliant, if repellent, book. It's also an important rarity. Great first-person testimony from inside the bowels of rock is rarely packaged as autobiography and memoir. We usually get it by the thimble or soup bowl in songs or rock mag interviews. We seldom get it in literary form (see Chuck Berry's, John Phillips' and especially Little Richard's autobiographies for harrowing exceptions) and almost never in movies (which makes Madonna's self-portrait "Truth or Dare" one of the great curios in movies and rock).
The book is compelling, funny, cunningly designed (full of illustrations from Gray's "Anatomy") and, especially in its backstage rock tour particulars, disgusting. Those seeking dish on Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Courtney Love and Traci Lords will find some. But the interaction of rock star and groupie has seldom seemed more candidly related and despicable than it does in "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell."
Rockers have always had groupies and always will. And they will always mistreat them, simply because, for reasons of their own, those kids will virtually beg to be mistreated.
But what Manson and his bunch did to the girls and women in their orbit went past mistreatment and exploitation into humiliation and sadistic defilement, which is, frankly, hard to read about in Manson's jocular tone. The critical moment here is when one booze- and drug-saturated young woman briefly resists all efforts to revive her into some semblance of life. She lies there in underpants and bra with her neck violently snapped by a homemade torture device that Manson's buddy Tony Wiggins has created for their drug-addled amusement.
"She didn't wake up. We slapped her, screamed at her, dumped water on her. Nothing worked. This was bad. I didn't want to be the first rock 'n' roller to have actually killed a girl due to backstage hedonism.
"After three minutes, she groaned and blinked her eyes open. That was probably the last time she ever wanted to go backstage again."
That's the lesson, for those backward enough to want one. Never mind what it might have taught him about "backstage hedonism." He's too much into Sadeian freedoms (under the impression they're "Satanism") to care much.
Frankly, I don't give a fig about what onstage food fights, self-mutilations or Baroque Babylonian cluster-snarls he engages in, up to and including oral sex (which, yes, he has done on stage). I leave that to Buffalo lawyer Paul Cambria -- Manson's First Amendment attorney -- to fight the good but unpopular fight about such maximally anti-social performance.
It's in the feudal relationship of rock god to groupie that Manson has apparently explored the inner chambers of hell, and where, frankly, I hope someday he gets to find out what legal hell really is.
As the book ends, we are given his "Antichrist Superstar" road journal, in which the band's tour behavior seems only mildly curtailed. ("Backstage hedonism," you know.)
So what's Manson the self-avowed Satanist's idea of hell, you ask? Combine a bad childhood, faithless girlfriends, betraying friends, drug overdoses and music business slimeballs telling him what to do. That's Marilyn Manson's infantile, self-created version of hell.
I beg to differ. To deliberately misquote Sartre, when he's backstage, hell may just be what he does to other people.
The Long Hard Road Out of Hell
By Marilyn Manson
275 Pages, $24
From "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell":
I walked on stage that first night wearing a hospital smock from a mental ward, a black jockstrap and boots. My eyes were red and bleary from three sleepless nights. Right away, I felt something cold and hard hit my face. I thought it was the microphone, but it clattered to the floor and smashed, sending shards of glass splintering into my leg. It was a bottle from the audience. By our second song, there were bottles and refuse all over the stage and a muscled, tattooed fraternity reject in the front row was challenging me to a fight. I was so enraged at this point that I grabbed a beer bottle off the stage, smashed it on the drum kit and stopped the song. "If you want to fight me, come up onstage," I screamed. Then I took the jagged half-bottle and plunged it into the side of my chest, dragging it across my skin until it reached the other side and creating one of the deepest and biggest scars on the latticework that is my torso.