Marilyn Manson's name is being evoked by politicians these days with the same fervor with which they used to mention Monica Lewinsky and Kenneth Starr.
Ten U.S. senators sent a letter last week to Seagrams, the company that owns Manson's label, Interscope, asking it to stop distributing to children "music that glorifies violence."
On Thursday, former vice president and current presidential hopeful Dan Quayle criticized Seagrams during a fund-raising event in Alabama, according to the Associated Press. He suggested publicizing the names of the company's board members, so "maybe their neighbors can go to their fancy cocktail parties and make them ashamed" of their support of Manson and other rock bands, the AP reported.
Earlier in the week, the Fresno, Calif., City Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning music that promotes "anger and hate." The resolution's author, Councilman Henry Perea, said, "If people were on the street and engaged in some of the same behaviors that [Manson] demonstrates onstage, they'd probably be arrested."
Manson's name is likely to be evoked again when Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., chairs a Senate committee hearing Tuesday on the effects on children of violence in music, movies, video games and other media.
Marilyn Manson, frontman for the goth-turned-glam rock band of the same name, hasn't commented on any of these developments, all of which have come in response to the high school shootings April 20 in Littleton, Colo. The two teenagers, who authorities have said killed 12 classmates and a teacher at Columbine High School before ending their own lives, were fans of Manson's music, according to numerous media accounts.
A publicist at Interscope said Friday that Manson had not yet seen a copy of the 10 senators' letter and was unavailable for comment on it.
But earlier in the week, when he announced via his official website that he was cancelling the final five shows of his U.S. tour, Manson (born Brian Warner) said, "The media has unfairly scapegoated the music industry and so-called goth kids and has speculated -- with no basis in truth -- that artists like myself are in some way to blame. This tragedy was a product of ignorance, hatred and an access to guns."
Seagrams spokesperson Todd Hullin said Thursday the company had received the letter that day and was in the process of reviewing it. He did not return calls Friday.
The letter to Seagrams CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., which was signed by eight Republicans and two Democrats, said, "As you may know, several news reports have indicated that the young killers often quoted and mimicked one of your artists, Marilyn Manson -- as did the young murderers in several other student rampages that occurred last year.
"Manson's songs glorify death and human destruction -- and his lyrics seem to eerily reflect the carnage of the recent rampage," the letter continued. "Out of respect towards the 13 innocent victims of Colorado ... we ask you to strongly reconsider which lyrics the Seagrams corporation chooses to legitimize and popularize."
The letter was initiated by Brownback. The other signatories were Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, both R-Colo.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark.; Rick Santorum, R-Pa., Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, both D-N.D.; John Ashcroft, R-Mo.; and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
Investigators in Jefferson County (Colo.) have yet to say whether they've found clear evidence the alleged high school killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were fans of Manson and two other bands they reportedly followed: KMFDM and Rammstein.
A county spokesperson said last week that investigators removed CDs, along with many other items, from Harris' and Klebold's homes during searches April 21. But Friday, Deputy Wayne Holverson, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, said a list of those CDs has yet to be released.
Manson, who used gothic imagery when he first became popular but more recently has adopted a glam-rock image, has angered critics with such song titles as "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" (RealAudio excerpt) and "I Don't Like The Drugs (but the Drugs Like Me)" (RealAudio excerpt).
Last week, his shows in Minneapolis and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, drew protesters. His critics also made themselves heard in Fresno and in Reno, Nev., two cities where he'd been scheduled to perform before he cancelled the rest of his tour. In Cedar Rapids, where the tour ended Wednesday, he ran into seemingly unrelated trouble: He ended the show early, apparently upset at the sight of a large smiley-face sticker onstage. Twenty-three fans were arrested while allegedly trying to damage his tour bus afterward.
Ticket sales for the tour were slow. Pollstar, a concert-industry trade magazine, listed a 15-city average sale of 6,430 tickets, and Editor in Chief Gary Bongiovanni said that includes cities where Manson played a double bill with Hole. The latter band dropped off the tour after nine shows for reasons that were not entirely clear but that, reportedly, were partly due to differences over the sharing of production costs.
Bongiovanni said protests have probably cut into Manson's ticket sales, though he added past Manson tours haven't generally produced sell-outs. Metal icon Ozzy Osbourne and theatrical rocker Alice Cooper, who attracted protesters of their own in past decades, endured the same fate, Bongiovanni said.
"It's interesting to note how these things are cyclical," he said. "Certainly, the Marilyn Manson tour was star-crossed, for want of a better word."
Brownback has invited the heads of several record companies to Tuesday's hearing before the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation committee. Representatives from various record labels, including Virgin, Warner Bros. and the Seagrams-owned Universal Music Group, did not return calls for comment.