NEW YORK Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson spoke via satellite Saturday to a crowd of 800 gathered for Disinfo.Con 2000, a convention dedicated to alternative information and theories about current events.
Manson, holed up in his Hollywood home, took on parents who blame him and his namesake band's music for their children's behavior.
"People always want to point the finger at people like me," he said.
They should blame themselves instead, or perhaps the winner-take-all attitude that kids are taught in school, he said. The "jocks" pick on the "nerds," he continued, and as long as they're part of a winning team, they get away with it.
Woodstock '99 is what happens when people try to put on a show for the jock mentality, Manson said. Organizers wanted peace, love and music, "but instead what they got were riots, fires and rapes."
For nearly 12 hours, the Hammerstein Ballroom became a forum for the disenfranchised, the conspiracy theorists, the nerds and the just plain weird.
Gary Baddeley of the Disinfo.Con sponsor Disinformation Company Ltd. said the program was designed to reflect the chaos of the company's Web site (www.disinfo.com), where fringe news and conspiracy theories are given a forum.
After Manson's 20-minute talk, sword-swallower Johnny Fox crammed everything from a Malaysian dagger to a giant surgical hemostat down his throat, finishing off with a tube of neon that made his neck glow.
Fox was followed by a videotape of "Uncle Goddamn," a drunken man whose nephews set his crotch ablaze with lighter fluid. "Goddamn, goddamn," was all the uncle (a.k.a. Robert Elmore) could say as he fought to extinguish the flames by rolling on the floor.
Joe Coleman, a performance artist from the Lower East Side, walked on dressed as a priest while autopsy videos played on giant screens to his left and right. Screaming like a preacher, he accused everyone of being sinners, then asked to borrow a lighter from the front row. He lit a fuse and smiled as his shirt was ripped to shreds by hundreds of exploding fireworks strapped to his chest.
"Thank you very much, sinners," Coleman said. "I'll see you in hell."
Not all the speechmaking was quite so over the top. Filmmaker Kenneth Anger engaged in a scholarly discussion with a professor about the works of occultist Aleister Crowley, and counterculture publisher Adam Parfrey discussed apocalypse cults and their disappointment that New Year's Eve passed without incident.
'Zine editor Robert Sterling and a panel of conspiracy experts announced which recent plane crashes were suspicious and which were not.
Genesis P-Orridge, a leader in the industrial-music scene via his pioneering work, first with Throbbing Gristle and later with Psychic TV, sang about DNA while exhorting the audience to stop having babies and to separate their minds from their bodies.
"I don't exist, so you don't have to listen to me," he said, leaping from the coffin-shaped podium to the stage below.
A Rocking Finale
Author Robert Anton Wilson attempted to explain the forces linking everything from black helicopters to drug testing to James Joyce. He also noted that July 23, 1973, the day he claims to have been visited by extraterrestrials from the star system Sirius, was the same day infamous intern Monica Lewinsky was born.
"I try to think logically, and most people think that makes me a satirist," Wilson said.
As hard as he tried to remain logical, he kept commenting on the act he followed, "The Girls of Karen Black." Five naked women three painted blue and two painted pink walked onstage in knee-high black boots, Medusa-like hairdos and Kabuki-style face paint. On cue, they began shaking cups of change for percussion, singing a slow and sultry version of the Leiber/Stoller classic "Kansas City." Then, just to show their range, one of the blue girls launched into a Joan Jett-paced thrashing of the "Titanic" song "My Heart Will Go On" as the other four shook their change.