Best Of '99: Lawmaker Says Marilyn Manson Puts Fans Under Spell

Fresh from shock rocker's concert, Michigan state senator warns that performance could emotionally scar youth.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Thursday, April 22.]

Marilyn Manson had fans as young as 12 "under his control" in a Michigan arena

Wednesday, according to a state legislator who went to the show to research the

shock rocker.

State Sen. Dale Shugars said he was surrounded by "very normal kids" who may still be

feeling the effects of the show and not even know it. "I think there's something going on

that you can't see from the outside," he said.

The concert at the 12,000-seat Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.,

took place in the wake of a horrific school shooting Tuesday in Littleton, Colo., that left 15 people dead,

including the two teenagers whom authorities say were the shooters.

Numerous press accounts of the massacre have suggested the two suspects'

fondness for gothic rock acts, including Manson (born Brian Warner) and

industrial group KMFDM, had some effect on their actions.

Shugars, a Republican from Kalamazoo, Mich., bought tickets to the show as part of the

research behind a bill that would require parental-warning notices on some concert

tickets and advertising. But afterward, he added his voice to those who have sought to

make a connection between certain rock 'n' rollers and the shootings that happened in

Colorado on Tuesday.

"We're having an alarming rate of killings in schools, and youth violence and an increase

in drugs," Shugars, the 46-year-old parent of one daughter, said Thursday (April 22). "I

would say that though they're not all to be blamed on a shock entertainer like Marilyn

Manson, I think he promotes it and can be part of the blame."

A Manson spokesperson said the rocker could not be reached for comment. But in a

written statement issued earlier Thursday, Manson called the shootings "tragic and

disgusting" and offered condolences to students and their families.

Wednesday's concert was Shugars' first Manson show, and likely his last.

"This whole thing is part of a drug-cultural type of thing, with a subculture of violence and

killing and hatred, and anti-family values, anti-traditional values, anti-authority," he said.

His bill would require parental warnings on concert tickets and advertising for any

performer who has released an album with a warning sticker within the previous five

years.

He said Wednesday's show only underscored his commitment to making the bill law.

During the concert he saw, Shugars said, Manson had fans under his control as he

acted out a sequence that the senator said glorified the killing of a police officer.

One free-speech activist said the devotion of Manson's fans is not a

matter of being controlled by the singer.

"All that says is that he has a loyal fanbase," said Kenny Moore, vice president of Rock

Out Censorship. "They're really into the music."

Moore decried attempts to link Manson to the Colorado slaying as opportunistic. "Bodies

hadn't been pulled out of the school and people were saying, 'Music did it, music did it,' "

he said.

Like many concert-goers, Shugars arrived for the Manson show with a group of friends,

with tickets he'd paid for. His cadre, however, comprised not fans but policy advisers, a

local police officer and the state senate's sergeant-at-arms.

Seated in the back of the arena, earplugs in place, the group watched as Manson and

his namesake band played such songs as "The Beautiful People"

(RealAudio

excerpt) from Antichrist Superstar (1996) and cuts from

last year's Mechanical Animals.

The show began with Manson wearing what the senator called "satanic wings" as the

singer leapt from a cross that was eventually set on fire.

Later, Shugars said, Manson recounted a dream sequence in which sex acts were

performed on him by police officers before Jesus Christ descended out of a sky made of

LSD and told him the real name of God is "Drugs." Manson then launched into "I Don't Like the Drugs

(But the Drugs Like Me)" (RealAudio

excerpt).

The fans around him "were very normal kids for the most part," Shugars said. "There was

a percentage that dressed very differently from the way you and I would dress, but most

of the kids acted very politely."

After the concert, they filed out of the hall in an orderly fashion, the senator said. But he

questioned whether the show was actually over after Manson stopped playing. He said

at least some of the kids could be affected emotionally by what they saw and heard long

after their ears have stopped ringing.

And that, in his view, is something parents need to be warned about.

"Minimally, we should at least put a notice to parents who are responsible for young

people to know that there's harmful types of lyrics that are being addressed at these

types of concerts," he said.

Shugars said he hopes his bill will be passed by the State Senate's Committee on Local,

Urban and State Affairs and put before the full Senate before summer. On Thursday

he addressed his colleagues in the Senate's chambers about what he'd seen at the

concert, hoping to draw support for the measure.

But such efforts only provoke performers such as Manson, who are promoting not

violence but rebellion, Moore said.

"They see the reaction they get from conservative groups and they're coming up with

things to spark controversy," he said. "The more people push for censorship, the more

bands say, 'Let's just see about that,' and they do more just to spite."