Marilyn Manson Presses Flesh At Book Signing

In town to promote his recent autobiography, he moves fans by shaking hands while signing books.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jennifer Heath curled up on the busy sidewalk between the Virgin Megastore and Planet Hollywood, sobbing as she cradled a freshly autographed copy of Marilyn Manson's autobiography, "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell."

Her teen-age companions, all decked out in dog collars, cloaks and Manson T-shirts, stood around and excitedly recalled their moments of glory in front of the self-proclaimed "God of Fuck." Every now and then they stopped to ask the 14-year-old Jennifer if she was OK.

Finally, one of them kneeled down beside the Palo Alto teen. "He ... He ... He shook my hand," Jennifer cried, using her cape to clear smudged face-paint from her eye. "I'm never washing this hand again."

Jennifer was one of about 700 Manson fans who were at San Francisco's Virgin Megastore on Saturday night when the controversial shock-rocker with the ghoulish bad looks dropped by to sign autograph copies of his recently released autobiography. Many of Manson's more goth-leaning fans may have even had their dour and macabre reputations shattered when they were seen smiling after briefly meeting with their musical hero.

Clad in a black leather jacket, sunglasses, peach scarf, a rose top and red, leopard-print tights, Manson gave those behind the barricades set up inside the store a brief wave and then stood for some pictures behind the counter. Wearing an expression that alternated between boredom and disdain, Manson began signing books as the hundreds greeted him with such welcoming cheers as "I love you!" and "Rape me!" and "Join us in an orgy!" When the doors finally opened at 8 p.m. and the line began moving, those inside the store were treated to a two-hour parade of young adults dressed in every variety of latex, leather, lace, hair spray, strange piercings and Halloween makeup, not to mention the occasional "traditional" teen outfit of a T-shirt and blue jeans.

Clad in their full kabuki makeup, many exited the Virgin Megastore staring at their hand, picturing the aura that, in their minds at least, now emanated from their digits. "I have 'the touch,' " 15-year-old Roger Stein said. "I can't wait to go to school just so I can go up to people and be like 'Yo, man, Marilyn touched you.' "

The line outside the store had barely begun to form when 23-year-old Chris Anderson arrived 2 1/2 hours early. "I was surprised to see that no one else was here yet," Anderson said, more than an hour later. "I thought [the line] was going to be down the block." Just behind him stood a group of teens wearing capes and grease paint and bearing a gift for Manson: a hand-sized cardboard coffin that contained flower petals, a mutilated doll, a note and a picture of a girl. "We brought it for this friend of ours," 15-year-old Scott Kelford explained. "She couldn't be here tonight because she was grounded."

Manson's presence on his current tour to support the book, in which he details bizarre stories of his childhood, has not always been welcome, however. The Flint Journal in Michigan recently reported that neighborhood parents were concerned about a pack of Manson devotees they say have taken to dressing and acting like the warlockesque superstar and terrorizing fellow students at the local playground. The "Tiny Terrors," the paper reported, have been compared to a roving street gang by agitated officials from the Grand Blanc Middle School. As school-board member James Delaney put it, "(The) First Amendment does not protect devil worship in the eighth grade."

Manson suffered numerous setbacks on last year's "Antichrist Superstar" concert tour as well, as protesters on several occasions filed suits to try to prevent him from staging shows, citing his bible tearing among the stage antics they deemed offensive. In most of the cases, Manson was permitted to play the shows based on the artist's constitutional right of free speech.

In San Francisco, however, things went relatively smoothly with the book signing. The line outside the Virgin Megastore was divided into two parts: one for the 400 people who had purchased "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell" at the record outlet and had received a laminate that guaranteed them a signature; the other for those with a book but without a laminate. Though some banished to the second line waited nervously, uncertain if they would meet up with Manson, die-hard fans such as 20-year-old Patricia Mason kept the faith. "I drove up from San Jose," she said, "and I will get his autograph in my book."

As it turned out, most second-liners, including Mason, ended up face-to-face with Manson.

Before reaching the rocker-turned-author, fans handed their book to an assistant who then opened it and slid it in front of Manson's waiting

pen. Many took the chance to ask Manson a question or give him gifts, personal notes or business cards.

"Me and my friend had this contest: Who can steal the kinkiest thing from Sears," said 12-year-old Megan Cowly, who handed the rocker lingerie. "I gave Marilyn Manson the stuff I had and he said, 'Do you want me to autograph this?' and I said, 'It's for you,' and then he said, 'Thank you.' "

Next to Cowly stood her friend, 13-year-old Nicole Cross, who was holding back tears while trying to explain what happened when she met Manson: "I didn't get to give him the lingerie I took," she said. "But I did get to shake his hand."

Cross then sniffed her palm. "It smells like incense," she said. "I'm never washing this hand again." [Mon., Feb. 23, 1998, 5 p.m. PST]