I had many dreams last night, most of them better than this one, but I remembered this because it was the last one I had and it was related to my plans for tonight.
I was invited to a premiere of Marilyn Manson's new movie. I had it in my head that this was a major media event, that there would be crowds, etcetera. The venue was a large but crummy apartment in a renovated warehouse in a crappy part of town. The inside was poorly furnished. Instead of the mob of leather- and PVC-clad pseudo-goths I would have expected, there were eight or nine geek types in t-shirts and shorts and jeans. Our host, looking more like his alter-ego Brian Warner, was shirtless and without makeup. Everyone sort of slouched around; it was a grouping of his personal friends. He popped a videotape in and we watched it. It was pretty standard amateur stuff... mildly interesting film clips and what looked like primitive Amiga animation, with a very thin story holding it together. We watched this for about ten minutes while Brian bummed around in the kitchen, as though he had better things to do. When it was over we all agreed that it was pretty weak but didn't tell him that.
Outside in the parking lot of the building were two or three trailers, each of which was covered with promotional material for a particular band. I got the idea that the bands lived in these trailers, and that Manson was giving them money so that they might advertise themselves so ostentatiously. Clearly a lot of money had been spent on promoting obviously bad bands. In the background someone played basketball.
Back in the real world, I was preparing to attend the premiere of Marilyn Manson's art show in a gallery on Hollywood Boulevard. I envisioned it, oddly enough, as a real art show, in a quiet, serene white-walled gallery. The invite said that Manson would be present all during the first night, and I had an image of a rather nervous Brian Warner sitting by, sitting on his hands, in fact, wondering how his new form of expression would be taken by a discriminating public. I certainly didn't think that it would just be a huge pig-pile for his fans. I mean, who else is going to attend a Manson art show? But this wasn't something I'd thought through very well.
I'd just dyed my hair so it was stunningly red, the hue that seems to draw the most compliments. I didn't set out looking for compliments, I simply wanted to attract attention of any kind, but now I've got a good thing going I'm not going to turn it away. I'd also cut and bleached it and my hair was more or less at its optimum. I intended to go all in white. I knew, as well as I knew anything, that Manson's fans would be all dressed in black-- black PVC, black sackcloth, what have you --so to differentiate myself from them I would wear all white, except for the black New Rock boots, my weakness, and my only show of wealth if anybody was paying attention.
I hurriedly circled my eyes with discreet shadow and eyeliner. I felt bad for trying to get out of the house before Paul got home and possibly asked to come along, but this was between me and Manson. I did not want companions.
The Armenian cab driver was nicely ruthless and got me there pretty quickly. The Armenians own the whole damned town and several of the ones surrounding... it's one of the unspoken secrets of the movie business. But I wasn't concerned about the time. I had intended to arrive fashionably late, maybe linger when the place had emptied out. I wasn't going there to meet Marilyn Manson, I should point out. I didn't think this was the time for that. If somehow we ended up speaking, I would accept that as it came. But I only wished to observe him. I had never actually seen him in the flesh. I also felt that, considering all that he had done for me, albeit unknowingly, I at least owed him serious consideration of his painting.
Between my dark glasses and the tinting on the cab window it was impossible to read street numbers unless they were illuminated. But I needn't have bothered, because the gallery made itself plain. A line of fans stretched from the entrance and around the block. Fans. No patrons of the arts. Well, few patrons of the arts. I was not so sure it was a good thing that the cab driver reversed and dropped me off at the head of the line. Out of the back seat I rose, the proud peacock, and I trudged along the line of people to seek out its end. Everyone there had obediently dressed in black... or it could have been the dark glasses. A few people were clothed in what would be called ordinary dress.
Was there a burger place nearby? That was my first priority. I would ask Manson this when I reached the gallery. On second thought, I would ask a curator. Manson wasn't from around here. I was ravenous. I should have eaten before going there. I thought about getting out of line and finding a Carl's Jr., but the way things were looking I might not have gotten in later.
I was surprised at the line, but it would help to keep me anonymous. Sheer numbers of dedicated fans would wear down anyone's recall. Who were these people? The fading star, many of his hardcore fans replaced by wannabees. Was I witnessing his last gasps? I know I shall ascend. Is it my fate to crush him, my inspiration? I think it's unfortunate but I don't feel that I mind.
A lady from the gallery walked down the row, asking us to make room on the sidewalk, or else 'they' would come by and shut the show down. 'They' undoubtedly meant the police. Maybe it's normal for that many cruisers and police bikes to drive through Hollywood on a Friday night, but it seemed every time I looked up there was a cop. I would track them until they left my presence.
As I watched various goth flavors stroll by to the least-favored position in line, it became clear to me that I was the only person all in white. I stood out. I had hoped to be distinctive but not obvious, but I had clearly not succeeded. The hair was a bit of a giveaway as well. Perfect red, and very high, very big. I was foolish to dress this way. I will be noticed, be remembered. But I wanted to be seen. This was according to the command of my subconscious, which knows more about what I'm doing than I do. I kept wondering what people thought of me, the obvious incongruency in a crowd of self-styled outcasts.
I caught sight of an obviously damaged girl, plodding along the curb and clutching at the loose sleeves of her toy straitjacket, and had a moment of lust. The weird among the weird, or the very fey, were the ones who grabbed my attention while I waited. She is my kind of person. I've spent many years among the damaged and can't shake the affinity. Ahead, someone who had already been in and out said that the cheapest poster was $20. Is Manson simply grubbing for money? That's a reasonable price for a print, I suppose. The fan also says something about being searched. I hope they don't take my tiny Polaroid from me. I'm rather fond of it. I only brought it in case of a possible conversation, to add his face to my collection of totems... I never seriously expected to use it, which is why I left the digital at home.
After 45 minutes in line I conceive of the possibility that I might not get in. I didn't feel disappointment at this prospect. I suppose my mistake was in thinking this would be an actual art show opening rather than a fan autograph-signing circus. Girls are chatting ahead. I'm always in line behind the loud girls. Strange. "If you don't have a poster you can't see him. You can see him but, y'know, you can't talk to him unless you buy a poster." How terribly cheap. Is this a rule?
9:15. For over twenty minutes the line has not moved, and I am still well around the corner from the gallery. I think I am not going to get in. About every ten minutes I'm seeing someone on the street almost get hit by a car. The marquee of a passing bus alternates its line number with 'Good Evening.' Limos full of drunks who wish to be seen as stars pass by frequently... they yell out the windows of their coaches at the little people. By 9:30 the line has started moving more regularly, at about ten-minute intervals. They must have changed the search policy, realizing nobody was going to get in if they kept that up.
I round the corner. Some girl tearfully freaks out, sounding as though she's had a religious conversion. She talks about how nice Manson was. 'He shakes your hand!' And I'm not sure if she was begging to be readmitted for another go or just speaking to a friend, in the throes of fanatic ecstasy. I thought of telling her that it didn't matter, that she should follow me instead. She dropped out of earshot. A car pulls up, and out gets a classic punker with an absolutely huge mohawk. There are those who have bigger hair than I. I am standing over Alfred Hitchcock's star when this happens.
Eventually a Korean guy offers to take my picture. I say 'no, thanks' and block his view with my notebook. The people around me seem confused... surely I must want to be photographed. I'm sure the guy's used to it in this town. I'm not sure why I spent so much time on my appearance... no one is going to get a good look. Unless I end up in the morgue. I doubt I'll look my finest by then.
The line is surging slowly but regularly now, and I sense I am either going to be one of the last admitted or one of the first turned away. As I'm putting my thoughts to paper, a guy comes up next to me from the street. He's clean-cut, sanely dressed, and he proffers a card.
"Hi, I'm from 'Dog Eat Dog.'" he says.
"Huh?" I look up.
"'Dog Eat Dog.' It's a television show."
"Oh," I said. "I don't watch TV." I tried to go back to my writing.
"It's a game show," said the man, still aiming his card at me until it had the desired magical effect. "Contestants can win up to twenty-five thousand dollars."
"I've already got $25,000," I replied, starting to sound irritable, "but thanks for asking." I returned to my writing, dismissing him. He wandered away, muttering, "Yeah, because I regularly carry that much with me." Why was he annoyed? I was the one who had forgotten what I'd wanted to write.
Before me, on the back of a t-shirt, was 'In a scene of no values.' My thoughts went to Lovecraft's headless, handless revelers from the poem 'Fungi from Yuggoth,' like the dork that I am.
The line started to slow again, but before long I could see the entrance and the huge bodyguard standing outside it, and then they were letting me loose.
"What's that for?" asked the guard, pointing to my notebook.
"This is an art show, isn't it?" I said. "It's for taking notes." He nodded and let me pass.
Once inside, I found it was virtually impossible to actually observe the paintings for the line of people around the rooms, waiting to have their merchandise signed by Marilyn Manson. Almost no one was viewing the paintings which were ostensibly the point of this gathering, which their idol had taken the trouble to display. "You can't really see the pictures, can you?" I remarked to a girl in a suit who was obviously trying to do what I was doing. She was in agreement, though sounded more pissed off than I was. But if my entire reason for being there was to view the pictures I could have easily come to the gallery sometime the following week.
Holding court. In accordance with the theme of his latest album he has 1930s crooner-type German music playing. I'm sure not a one of his fans gets it yet. Absinthe is nearby him, conspicuously. A small lamp upon the table is not flattering. It picks out the lines in his face, the pouchiness that I dread the onset of in my own looks. Heavy makeup around eyes, lips, tendrils drawn up onto his forehead and down over his cheeks. When you meet a celebrity you're supposed to be stunned into disbelief by their presence, to lose your ability to breathe, and there was a sense of disbelief, but no more than anyone else I'd known through photos and video. Ashy's cold heart is immovable. Come to think of it, I didn't feel elated to be in a crowd of kindred freaks. Perhaps when they all worship me I will feel something.
The paintings are for sale, of course. Some are decent, most are unremarkable, the style fairly consistent throughout. Perforated watercolor people. I do like them, but they are not a new epoch in modern art; they are of interest only because they were painted by Marilyn Manson, rock star and controversy pole. I bet he used Arches watercolor paper, because that's what you use when you mean business.
And I stand fifteen feet away, directly in front of him, the dotted line of autograph-seeking fans obscuring and revealing him as I take notes. I am unsure what I am looking at. This person has pointed me in the correct direction, given me a working plan, and yet I can't help but feel that he himself is losing his way. Do I feel bad for him? I suspect I haven't time for that. Like most human things it has nothing to do with me.
He's wearing a sort of military/brocade jacket. I've made the observation that whenever a rock star-- Adam Ant and Michael Jackson come to mind particularly --dons a faux military jacket, insanity and failure are soon to follow, uncannily. His haircut is like mine. Not stacked up, but the same pageboy 'Leo' cut that I guess is supposed to make him look more Weimar. Odd that I latched onto that simultaneously, the 1930s Berlin interest. I seem to be inadvertently dogging his every step. I don't think he knows what he's doing, either.
I can't shake the feeling that he's descending. I suppose it's no concern of mine; I have decided our paths will not intersect in any meaningful fashion. But as a hero, as an artifice that I have built around the man, he has served and continues to serve admirably. I am using Marilyn Manson, and I still feel a little sad about it. But I feel I'm a harmless parasite in this specific instance. And maybe all I'm sensing is the general corruption and despair of show business.
A goateed man in a suit and spectacles said "That's a nice watch," when I checked the time. It was in fact a cheap timepiece I picked up from JC Penney, though nice-looking and especially gratifying to my watch-lust because it was wholly mechanical. "Who are you writing for?" he asked.
"I'm writing for myself," I replied. He accepted this answer with bemusement, as though I was holding out on him. "And I presume that means you're writing for someone." He was; he was writing for a local college paper.
"We'd be very happy to publish anything that you've written," he said.
"Do you have a card?" I asked. He dug around for one, wrote his email address on it, and offered it to me. "We're 'networking' in the middle of an art show," I said. "How crass." The man laughed and said that there was a four-page color section of the paper where they could print my photograph. He eyed my hair as he said this. I told him I'd keep it in mind, which I've learned by now is media speak for 'fuck off.' I said it anyway. This exchange took place in plain sight of our host, who was probably interested that a couple of reporters had turned up to review his scribblings.
On the opposite side of me from the reporter was a dwarf having his photo taken with attendees, Manson serving as the backdrop to each tableau.
After putting a few more words to paper I left through the back, through the bunches of people who inexplicably were there to watch whoever exited, and grabbed another cab. The Jamaican cabbie had no patience for the cruisers on Hollywood Boulevard and we soon were pounding home over the interstate. I tipped too much, climbed upstairs, took off my heavy shoes and drank a lot of Jagermeister, still unfed.