Board Backs Down From Bid To Block Marilyn Manson

North Carolina venue authority decides against fighting shock rocker's upcoming show, saying it's his basic right.

Once again, Marilyn Manson has the First Amendment to thank.

The constitutional law protecting free speech has nipped in the bud any efforts to block

the shock-happy glam-rocker's upcoming show in Charlotte, N.C. But a Wednesday

(Oct. 21) hearing on the event has sparked a debate about potential concert-ratings for

the town.

"They're hiding behind the First Amendment," said Greg Keith, vice chairman of the

board that oversees the 2,600-seat Ovens Auditorium, where Manson is scheduled to

play to a sold-out crowd Nov. 10. "We don't have any recourse. If we had some recourse,

I can promise you we'd take it."

The seven-member board of the Auditorium, Coliseum, Civic Center Authority held a

hearing Wednesday morning to discuss Manson's show at the city-owned auditorium.

Although one member described the board as unanimously opposed to the show, board

members decided against trying to block the performance, due to Manson's likelihood to

win any resulting court battle on free-speech grounds.

The hearing represented a potential snag in plans for the shock rocker's 20-date North

American tour in support of his new album, Mechanical Animals -- a tour set to

start Monday in Kansas City, Kan. Manson already faced opposition from city officials to

his planned performance in Syracuse, N.Y.

Of three citizens who spoke at the Charlotte meeting, two women were opposed to the

goth-turned-glam rock singer, whose recent single is titled


music/Marilyn_Manson/The_Dope_Show.ram">"The Dope Show" (RealAudio

excerpt). One man supported it on a free-speech argument.

One of the women carried petitions containing about 400 signatures against the concert.

She suggested the board consider adopting a rating system for future music shows.

"The board asked us to look into the possibility of establishing that type of policy," said

Mike Crum, executive director of the authority. "They asked us to look into whether

there's anything else out there like that on a national or a local basis."

A number of states have considered concert-ratings in the past year. A proposal to add

parental warnings to concert materials is underway in Michigan.

Keith said that, as a Christian, he is offended by such past Manson stage practices as

tearing up Bibles onstage. Manson has also been knwon to wipe himself with the American flag. The Manson

hearing consumed 45 minutes of the three-hour meeting.

Buying out Manson's contract -- essentially paying him not to play -- was not an option,

Keith said. A buy-out was arranged for a Manson concert in Columbia, S.C., during a

1997 tour, but Keith acknowledged that tickets for that show had been selling poorly.

Because the Charlotte show is sold out, he didn't expect that Manson would accept any

buy-out offer.

The hearing marked the second time in as many weeks that Manson's tour has raised a

red flag with public officials. Last week, Syracuse, N.Y., Mayor Roy Bernardi, along with a

legislature official from upstate New York's Onondaga County, said they would consider

blocking a Manson concert in Syracuse's Landmark Theater by denying it a necessary

permit or withholding funds from the venue.

Critics in other cities on the tour, however, have been relatively quiet. In Richmond, Va.,

and Kalamazoo, Mich., for example, some activists representing both sides of the issue

who had spoken out on Manson's 1997 Antichrist Superstar tour did not even

know he is touring this fall.

Some Manson supporters are even breathing a cautious sigh of relief that the

Mechanical Animals outing may come off with relatively few hitches.

"I think it will be easier this time because in so many places his right to free speech has

been upheld," said Nina Crowley, executive director of the Massachusetts Music Industry

Coalition, a censorship watchdog group. "Legislators learned that getting national

exposure as a censor is not a particularly attractive option."

The Charlotte board also discussed the possibility of monitoring future bookings but

dismissed the idea after recognizing that blocking any event based on the content of its

message could be fought successfully on free-speech grounds.

"It comes back to the same issue: censorship," Keith said. "Who's to decide who can

come and who can't come? Do you not have the Ku Klux Klan? Do you not have Louis

Farrakhan? Do you not have gay events? Do you not have Marilyn Manson?

Unfortunately, the First Amendment protects performances by Marilyn Manson, which we

disagree with tremendously."