'98's Best: Marilyn Manson Foes Face Off With Fans At Club Show

High-profile conservative church-group decries shock rocker's influence on young people.

[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

opposition.

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

plugged."

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,"

she said.

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"

film series.

"Between all the religious nuts on one side, and the antichrist

superstars on the other, a little Wookie Dadaism is always welcome,"

Meyer said.