[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at
1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Wednesday, Oct. 21.]
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
"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
href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get- music/Marilyn_Manson/The_Dope_Show.ram">"The Dope Show"
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
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."