[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 Monday, Oct. 26.]
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- His fans came to express their undying love
for Marilyn Manson.
His foes came to show how much they despised the shock rocker and to
"save the souls" of those who praised his music and his message.
Caught in the middle of it were those who just wanted to have a
little fun for a night and found themselves in the middle of an
impromptu debate over good and evil.
"You can't reject God and not burn in hell for all eternity," said
24-year-old Charles Hockenbarger, who stood outside the Granada club
where Manson was set to perform. While he tried to convince Manson's
faithful to reject the rock idol, Hockenbarger stressed that Manson
would pay for the blasphemy he'd committed on albums such as
Antichrist Superstar (1996).
The protesters were members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka,
Kan., a conservative church that gained national attention earlier
this month when parishioners traveled to Wyoming to protest
homosexuality at the funeral of Matthew Shepherd, who police say
was likely the target of an anti-gay hate crime.
The church group sent about a dozen critics of Marilyn Manson to
protest the shock rocker's unscheduled first show of his North
American tour Sunday. The intimate performance previewing his upcoming
tour in support of the recently released Mechanical Animals was
attended by more than 600 fans from around the country.
The pre-show demonstration, which lasted about 45 minutes, spawned
numerous heated arguments between conservative protesters and the
denizens of this small, liberal college-town.
"They can believe what they want, but they have no right to judge,"
23-year-old Valerie Yelton of Overland Park, Kan., said.
Still, the parishioners shouted and held up signs in protest.
Carrying a placard that read "God Hates Fags," Hockenbarger said that
while he didn't know the sexual preference of Marilyn Manson, that
wasn't his concern. "What I care about is that he's got this mass of
impressionable youth to mold, and he's teaching them to be perverts."
Across the street from the demonstrators, hundreds of Manson fans
waited to gain entrance to the Granada club. Some fans shouted
"God of f---!" back at the demonstrators; the phrase is from Manson's
song "Cake And Sodomy."
Earlier in the evening, members of the Heartland Community Church, a
nondenominational congregation located behind the club, expressed
their reservations about Manson in a less confrontational matter.
Adults and youth-group members handed out 400 cans of donated soda
to the Manson fans standing in line. Youth-group director Chuck
Henry said he wanted Manson fans to see that while the church abhors
Manson's message, its members are not filled with hate in their
While the gesture met with a few derisive comments, many fans
were overhead thanking the church members or making comments such
as "That's really cool."
Henry said he had hoped that the shock rocker would talk to the
youth-group members about what led to what the youth-group leader
called the "hatred in Manson's voice." Although he delivered to
Manson's road crew an invitation for Manson to speak, the singer,
who arrived in town late in the day, never responded.
No meaningful dialogue between Manson fans and his detractors took
place at the local church that evening. Instead, exchanges outside
the venue between the visiting Westboro Baptist Church members and
the goth-turned-glam rocker's supporters grew intense and even vulgar.
"Hate is the only sin," said Michael Wood, a 42-year-old from Lawrence
who said he'd had romantic relationships with women and men.
"Give me some Bible [scripture references] for that smart guy,"
retorted Westboro member Timothy Phelps, 35, who held a sign that
read "Fag Love = Lust = [Death]." "You just want to get that rectum
Manson fan Jenny Zimmerman, 23, of Olatha, Kan., took a philosophical
view of the shock-rock debate, viewing rock concerts, like church
services, as spiritual experiences.
"This is how I choose to worship, by screaming and banging my head,"
Others found little in common with either side and only stopped by
to watch the spectacle in this normally quiet town.
Josh Meyer, a 19-year-old theater and creative-writing major at the
University of Kansas in Lawrence, made his mark by donning a mask
in the likeness of Chewbacca, the Wookie hero of the "Star Wars"
"Between all the religious nuts on one side, and the antichrist
superstars on the other, a little Wookie Dadaism is always welcome,"