Few personalities in the annals of rock music stirred up as much discussion over their true nature than goth provocateur Marilyn Manson. A devout nonconformist from his early days as a Christian school student, Manson and an early incarnation of his band attracted the attention of industrial rock icon Trent Reznor, who produced their debut album Portrait of an American Family in 1994. Following the dirge-like cover of The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"on the EP Smells Like Children Manson broke into the mainstream with his anthem "The Beautiful People" on the 1996 smash Antichrist Superstar.
Born Brian Hugh Warner on Jan. 5, 1969 in Canton, OH, he was the son of Barb and Hugh Warner, a nurse and Vietnam veteran who later went into furniture sales, respectively. From his youth as a student at the private Heritage Christian School, Warner was enamored with the theatricality and dark personas of rockers like David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. Lanky and pale as a teen, Warner felt socially isolated from his classmates, although sales of his homemade tapes comprised of his own strange, sexually explicit songs and prank phone calls offered the young entrepreneur a modicum of acceptance. Having made additional money selling banned music albums at the Christian school, Warner increasingly found himself at odds with the administration and eventually transferred to nearby GlenOak High School, from which he graduated in 1987. Shortly after, Warner relocated with his family Fort Lauderdale, FL, where the 18-year-old spent a year attending Broward County Community College, majoring in journalism and theater. He then began to write stories and music pieces for a local lifestyle and arts magazine called 25th Parallel. In 1989, Warner met a local musician named Scott Putesky at a party and after realizing a shared, somewhat twisted view of American celebrity culture, they decided to form their own band. In a fusion of beautiful pop icons and notorious mass murderers, Warner rechristened himself Marilyn Manson and Putesky became Daisy Berkowitz. Rounding out the group were similarly themed musicians Sara Lee Lucas, Gidget Gein and Madonna Wayne Gacy on drums, bass and keyboards.
Working on a story about the band Nine Inch Nails for 25th Parallel, Manson managed to gain an interview with Nails frontman Trent Reznor, an emerging star in the industrial goth rock movement. After hearing the reporter mention his own band, Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, Reznor took a shine to the aspiring singer and later decided to further shape and refine Manson's nascent act. After dropping "the Spooky Kids" from the name, Marilyn Manson was signed to Reznor's major label imprint, Nothing Records, in 1993. Along with new bassist Twiggy Ramirez in tow, the band traveled to California to record their debut album at the Beverly Hills home of Reznor, who would also produce. Befitting Reznor's morbid reputation, the home was the same mansion where one-half of the band's namesake, Charles Manson, sent his disciples to murder actress Sharon Tate and several of her friends in August of 1969. The band's debut release, Portrait of an American Family, made something of a rumble in 1994, largely due to Manson's headline-grabbing antics during performances as the opening act for Nine Inch Nails. A proudly ordained minister of the infamous Church of Satan, Manson gleefully courted controversy with such stunts as being banned from the state of Utah for destroying a Mormon Bible during a Salt Lake City concert and being arrested for simulating a sex act on a security team member during a performance in Jacksonville, FL. Early in 1995, Manson, Ramirez and Gacy defiantly faced a shocked and scornful studio audience on a combative installment of the daytime talk show "The Phil Donahue Show" (syndicated, 1970-1996).
Wholly committed to the band's mission of nonconformity, Manson was determined to keep the band on the course he had set, no matter the consequences. During one show near the end of the tour, he informed original drummer Lucas of his termination by setting his drum kit on fire during the band's set. Lucas was promptly replaced with drummer Ginger Fish and the Manson juggernaut surged ahead with 1995's Smells Like Children EP, on which Manson eerily crooned a malevolent brooding version of The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." The nightmarish video for the cover immediately went into heavy rotation on MTV, launching Marilyn Manson - both the band and the persona - toward worldwide notoriety, if not mainstream acceptance. Manson released a second album, the operatic Antichrist Superstar in 1996, with Reznor once again producing. In another acrimonious split, co-founder Daisy Berkowitz was let go towards the end of recording and replaced by newcomer Zim Zum. The crowning achievement of the album was Manson's sardonic outcast anthem "The Beautiful People," a charting single that heightened anticipation for the CD. The subsequent "Dead to the World Tour" found Manson scaling back on the outrageous behavior that had landed him in legal trouble just two years earlier.
Controversy still hounded Manson, however, as the band found itself at the center of congressional hearings aimed at determining the potential danger posed to children by their music. In an early brush with Hollywood, Manson added a track, "Apple of Sodom," to Reznor's score for the surrealistic David Lynch film, "The Lost Highway" (1997). By the end of the year, the rock star's personal life had settled down somewhat - at least by Manson's standards - when he began dating sex kittenish actress Rose McGowan. The 1998 release of Marilyn Manson's third album, Mechanical Animals took the band further away from its experimental beginnings and embraced a more straightforward hard rock sound, with second guitarist John 5 added to the mix. The album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, proved more widely accessible than previous efforts, although some markets banned the disconcerting cover art, featuring Manson posing nude as a pale, androgynous alien. The year 1998 also saw the release of Manson's autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, co-written with Rolling Stone writer Neil Strauss. The book's curt recollections of Reznor, however, put a severe strain on the relationship with his one-time producer. Touring in support of Mechanical Animals as the opening act for Hole, the band lasted a mere nine dates on the tour before Hole pulled out, with Courtney Love complaining she was being forced to shoulder half of Marilyn Manson's exorbitant production costs. The following year was an eventful one for Manson, to say the least. By now a popular subject of the tabloids, Manson and McGowan continued to raise eyebrows when they announced their engagement on Valentine's Day, an occasion immediately followed by the premiere of McGowan's film "Jawbreaker" (1999), in which Manson had a small cameo. However, it was a horrific event thousands of miles away from Hollywood in a small Colorado town that would not only shake the country to its core, but cast a new unflattering light on Manson's music in an all too heartbreaking way.
On April 20, 1999, students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Colorado's Columbine High School and engaged in a horrific killing spree that left 12 fellow students and one teacher dead. As a stunned populace looked for some rationale to explain the act of madness, several news sources pointed to goth culture and Manson in particular as unhealthy influences. Despite later evidence that neither Harris nor Klebold were actually fans of the band, a cultural panic swept the country and Manson was vilified to such a degree that even he could not shrug it off with a sneer. A shaken Manson expressed his disgust and remorse over the tragedy and quickly canceled the tour, but unwilling to be made a scapegoat, asked parents and educators to look at their interactions with their own children before pointing the finger at artists such as himself. Looking to move on from the painful connections to the Columbine tragedy, Manson and company drew from his past in a different way with their 2000 release, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death), which marked a fusion of the band's two distinct sounds. Now as the sole credited songwriter, Manson merged his industrial thrash of Antichrist Superstar with the hard rock chords of Mechanical Animals to form a concept album revolving around Manson's trademark themes of alienation, with John 5 as the main guitarist following the exit of Zim Zum. After a very public three-year romance, Manson and McGowan officially split by early 2001, although Manson was already in the throes of a new relationship with another sultry brunette, burlesque performer Dita Von Teese.
In April of that year tragedy once again entered Manson's orbit when David Lynch's former assistant Jennifer Syme died in a car crash on her way back to a party at the rocker's Hollywood Hills home. Manson was later sued by Syme's mother, who claimed he enticed Syme to return to his house after she had already been driven home in an intoxicated state. The case was eventually dismissed. Manson headed back into the studio for 2003's Golden Age of Grotesque, once more revising his image to something akin to a goth version of 1930s Hollywood glamour, likely influenced by his relationship with the stylish retro vixen Von Teese. Though Marilyn Manson was still charting well, Manson himself seemed less an instigator of cultural outrage, than an accepted curiosity within the mainstream. With a growing interest in film and filmmaking, Manson appeared in such off-the-beaten path features as the '80s club kids docudrama "Party Monster" (2003) and actress-director Asia Argento's grim "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things" (2004). After a small private ceremony the month prior, Manson and Von Teese married in December 2005 at the historic Gurteen Castle in Ireland. The union would not last long, however, as by late-2006 Von Teese had filed for divorce, later explaining that she "wasn't supportive of his partying or his relationship with another girl." Rumor had it that the other girl was 19-year-old actress Evan Rachel Wood and endless speculation ran rampant in the blogosphere until their status as a new couple was finally acknowledged in early 2007. While Manson and Wood embarked on an on-again, off-again relationship that would linger over the next three years, the shock rocker continued his sporadic forays into acting with a turn in the little seen vampire thriller "Rise: Blood Hunter" (2007).
Looking to make his debut as a filmmaker, Manson announced that year that he would be directing a horror-tinged biopic titled "Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll," with himself in the starring role as the English author. Due to various schedule conflicts and funding issues, the project remained in limbo for years. That same year, another all too familiar scenario played out in the courts when former bandmate Stephen Bier claimed he was due unpaid "partnership proceeds" by Manson in a law suit that included such additional unsavory claims as Manson having purchased a child's skeleton, masks made of human skin and Nazi memorabilia. Inspired by his relationship with Wood was Manson's more personal 2007 album Eat Me, Drink Me, which was followed after a period of relative inactivity by The High End of Low in 2009. Neither effort, however, managed to sell in numbers approaching the heady days of Antichrist Superstar. Three years later, Manson released Born Villain, which was preceded by a promotional short film of the same name, directed by actor Shia LaBeouf. One of Manson's best-reviewed efforts in years, the album contained the Grammy-nominated single "No Reflection." Continuing to dabble with acting, Manson appeared, sans makeup, in the indie comedy "Wrong Cops" (2013), which premiered at that year's Sundance Film Festival.
By Bryce P. Coleman
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Formed the band Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids with guitarist Daisy Berkowitz; later added Gidget Gein (bass) and Madonna Wayne-Gacy (keyboards)
The band reduced its name to Marilyn Manson; named "Best Heavy Metal Band" by the <i>New Times</i> magazine
Signed with Nothing Records, the record label of Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor
Released their debut album, <i>Portrait of an American Family</i>; opened for Nine Inch Nails; bassist Gein was replaced with Twiggy Ramirez
Released second album, <i>Smells Like Children</i>; Berkowitz quit the band due to conflicting musical interests and was replaced by guitarist Zim Zum
Film debut was in David Lynch's "Lost Highway" as a pornographic actor
Published his autobiography written with Neil Strauss, <i>The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell</i>
Released the controversial album, <i>Mechanical Animals</i>
Played a minor role in "Jawbreaker" opposite former love interest Rose McGowan
Contributed to "The Matrix" soundtrack
Recorded a remake of "Tainted Love" for the film "Not Another Teen Movie"
Earned a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance for the song "Astonishing Panorama of the Endtimes"
Had cameo in Michael Moore's political documentary "Bowling for Columbine"
Cast as a psychotic drag queen named Christina in "Party Monster"
Featured in the film "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things"
Provided the voice of the alien Edgar in the video game "Area 51"
Opened the gallery, The Celebritarian Corp. Gallery of Fine Art in Los Angeles; gallery opened with a showing of Manson's watercolors