In most jobs, an employee accused of setting fire to the office one day and physically threatening a business associate two days later would likely be in a heap of trouble, to say the least.
But if the job is rock 'n' roll and the employee is none other than Marilyn Manson, he may well be able to brush the controversy aside as just another week at the office, according to industry insiders tracking the shock rocker's latest escapades.
"People careening out of control is part of the attraction and intrigue," said Seth Hurwitz, a principal partner in the Washington, D.C ., promotion firm I.M.P. and owner of the famed 9:30 Club. "The only thing that would deter me [from booking a show] is the safety of a crowd."
If all goes as it has in the past for Manson, the ever-controversial rocker may actually elude punishment for both a Nov. 21 incident, in which he was accused of setting fire to a dressing room and trashing four hotel rooms in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and an incident two days later involving an altercation with Spin magazine editor Craig Marks.
Spin's parent company, Vibe/Spin Ventures, announced Wednesday that it plans to pursue criminal and civil actions against Manson, including pressing charges of assault and harassment. Marks alleges the rocker's bodyguards choked him while Manson threatened him backstage at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.
Despite the potential for 29-year-old Manson (born Brian Warner) to wind up in court, Hurwitz said any promoter who now shies away from booking Manson is probably in the wrong line of work.
"That's like asking a batter, 'If a wild pitch came near your face, would you still come up to bat?'" he said. "That's the nature of our business, and the danger element is a part of it."
Representatives of Manson's Interscope label did not return repeated calls for this story.
The controversy doesn't seem to have helped Manson's album sales any. Currently in Europe to support Mechanical Animals, Manson saw his new glam-influenced record slide 20 places down the Billboard 200 albums chart to #97 last week, despite the hit single "The Dope Show"(RealAudio excerpt). It's fallen 45 spots in just two weeks. He next plays in the U.S. on New Year's Eve at the Joint in Las Vegas.
Michael Hirschorn, editor in chief of Spin magazine, said the alleged assault on Marks may have been a publicity stunt by Manson. He acknowledged that it's doubtful the singer would be harmed by prosecution or litigation.
"There's not much you can do to a guy like that," Hirschorn said. "Even if the guy gets sent to jail, it only increases his outlaw stature. There isn't any downside. If there's a cash settlement, he's got more money than he knows what to do with, and a criminal record is like a badge of honor."
Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the trade magazine Pollstar, which tracks the concert industry, said it's unlikely Manson would be hurt by the recent allegations.
"I suppose if it became a pattern, it would have an impact, but promoters who do Manson know it's not going to be an easy promotion," Bongiovanni said. "In Marilyn Manson's case it's probably to the band's advantage if people are uncertain what's going to happen. From an audience's perspective, not knowing what's going to happen, and the rebelliousness, is part of what Marilyn Manson is."
While Hurwitz and Hirschorn predicted little fallout from the alleged incidents, 28-year-old Jim Kenefick of Hamden, Conn., webmaster of the unofficial Marilyn-Manson.com website, registered his dissatisfaction with Manson's behavior in an e-mail.
"He's been surrounded by yes-men for so long I'm quite sure he doesn't ever hear the word 'no.' When Spin dared to say that word to him, I'm sure it set off some drug-induced temper tantrum," Kenefick wrote.
"His behavior offstage (or in this case backstage) doesn't influence my opinion of his art. It affects my opinion of him as a person ... not that I think he cares for one millisecond. What I would like to see in the future is more Marilyn Manson and less Brian Warner, insecure kid trying to prove he's a big shot."
He's not the only fan searching for reasons for Manson's actions.
"Maybe he just goes on rampages for the hell of it," Evan Moore, webmaster of another unofficial Manson website (SeemsLikeSalvation.com), said in response to the arsons. "Manson's back, I guess. Nothing's really happening, so he is trying to make a mark somehow."
Kenefick's and Moore's disappointment notwithstanding, Hurwitz said it's Manson's dangerous behavior that gives him his character. It's a large part of what his fans rely on and what they look for, he added.
"It's more desirable not to have incidents than to have them, but in the rock business unpredictability is a major part of the appeal," Hurwitz said. "In certain cases people pull over to look at an accident. I'm sure if people thought they could stand on a corner and see an accident, you'd have a corner full of people."