Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson's in-store appearance Tuesday night at the Virgin
Megastore in midtown Manhattan, N.Y., was the scene of a near-melee as New York City
police officers struggled to control angry fans who had been turned away from the store.
About 3,000 people showed up at the Times Square store, hoping to have their copies of
Mechanical Animals, the much-anticipated new release from Marilyn Manson,
signed by the band. But only 500 or so people actually made it into the store; the rest had
to wait outside as Virgin store security told them that they might be allowed in later.
Apparently, fans were agitated at having to continue waiting on the crowded Times
Square sidewalk. Many had arrived early -- some as early as Monday night -- to get in
line for the signing, which was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the first day of
the album's release.
By 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, at which time it was apparent that most of the fans wouldn't be let
in, much of the crowd had dispersed. But a group of about 300 remained, angrily
chanting "Manson! Manson!" and pressing up against the glass doors of the Virgin
Megastore, holding their silver-colored Mechanical Animals CDs up in the air.
One young man jumped on top of the crowd and body-surfed his way to the front of the
In a tense moment, an older man, shouting, "She's my daughter," managed to work his
way to the front of the crowd, where he yanked his daughter from the throng as she
screamed, protesting the apparently embarrassing parental removal.
Things grew nastier when Virgin security allowed a handful of the angry fans to enter the
store. Crowds then rushed the entrance, forcing security to lock the doors.
A team of 10 New York City police officers arrived at 9 p.m., dragging blue barricades to
cordon off the unruly crowd.
But even the police presence did little to quell the protesters' anger. Virgin store security
shouted at the crowd to remain orderly, while the police tried their best to clear the
sidewalk so that hundreds of tourists -- some filming the scene on video cameras -- and
local residents could walk by the store.
Nor did the police seem to know what all the fuss was about; few even knew who
Manson is. "He's a heavy-metal freak or something, right?" asked Officer Hernandez, a
member of the K-9 unit, who would not give his first name, and whose police dog, Dino,
was waiting nearby in the officer's air-conditioned patrol car.
If it were mayhem outside, inside was pure order. The band, situated in the basement of
the Virgin Megastore, sat behind a table in a black, cloth tent-like structure, quietly
signing copies of the album and chatting with fans. Sporting his new glam look of slick
red hair, orange-tinted glasses and a pink triangle etched on his forehead, Manson was
joined by his bandmates, multi-instrumentalist Twiggy Ramirez, guitarist John5,
keyboardist M.W. Gacy (also known as "Pogo" or "Madonna") and drummer Ginger Fish.
Fans filed in and out of the tent and were quickly led back upstairs by Virgin security
officers. Many in the crowd were dressed in Manson style, wearing black, goth garb or
hot-pink boas and silver dresses and sporting metal piercings through eyebrows, noses
No cameras or recording devices were allowed at the signing. One young man who had
sneaked a video camera into the store managed to film the band as he walked by the
table; seconds later, he could only watch as a guard grabbed his camera and
confiscated the tape, which he crushed in his palm for added effect.
Nevertheless, the lucky fans who had made it into the store were overjoyed at having
seen the band in person. Standing on the sidewalk outside, signed CDs in hand, fans talked
about their experience.
"I told Pogo, 'Keep up the great work,' " said Shane Siegfreid, 21, an Ocean City, N.J.,
resident. "And he said, 'What are you talking about? I have the easiest job in the world.
All I do is hit a key!' "
Some fans were particularly excited about meeting Manson's bandmembers. "Marilyn
gets all the attention and the girls sweat Twiggy 'cause they think he's hot, but I like
Madonna [M.W. Gacy] the best," said 17-year-old George Torbycz, from Floral Park, N.J.
"I'd like to see interviews with other members of the band."
Other fans who showed up at the store shunned the long lines and appeared nonchalant
about getting inside for band signatures. "I don't really care about an autograph," said
Broden Dearin, a 19-year-old from Princeton, N.J. "Marilyn seems really intelligent. I'd
want to sit down and have a conversation with him."
When the mob of still-remaining fans was finally told at 10 p.m. that Manson had left the
building and that the signing was over, the crowd's exit from the sidewalk -- under the watchful
presence of police -- was orderly, if emotional. Two female fans broke down and cried.
One police officer, who refused to give his name, blamed Virgin store security for the lack
of crowd discipline.
"The [Virgin security guards] are just dumb weightlifters," the officer said. "They should
have put up the barricades sooner -- and let us do our job."
"We have a great relationship with the New York Police Department," said Christos
Garkinos, vice president of marketing for Virgin Megastores. "The in-store went off great.
There were a lot of people there, but that's what we expected and they were well-behaved and the stage was incredible. The ads said that the first 400 people who bought
the CD were guaranteed to have it signed by Manson, and we tried to accommodate as
many after that as we could."