Prior to this Charlie Sheen thing, I'm not sure I would've ever accepted a ticket to an event with absolutely no indication of the content. The appeal of sheer morbid curiosity doesn't usually translate for me past the occasional peek at reality TV during channel surfing, and even then, doesn't last longer than a smidgen of an episode. Maybe that should have been my first indication that I'm not the target demographic.So was the much-hyped Sheen stage debut a violent tornado or more of an incoherent whimper? Depends on what you're into.
My date and I got our first inkling of the evening's tone immediately upon hitting the pavement toward the box office in the St. Pete Times Forum. We were behind two ladies who were clearly aspiring for that "goddess" look. From the back, it was all fried bleach-blond hair, leather, stilettos, and va-va-voom ass jeans, and from the front it was a tragic culmination of sun damage, pancake make-up, and time.
"Did y'all spring for the meet and greet?" one asked us in a grizzled voice marred by, one must presume, a lifetime of cigarettes and gin.
I managed to mutter, "Uh, no," which elicited a rather predatory smile from her and the comment, "expensive [$750], but hopefully worth it."
Later we'd see her on the video projection desperately leaping to the left in an attempt to share the frame with a woman shaking her lady lumps at Sheen for a sweaty Lightening jersey he'd worn onto the stage.
The show predictably started about an hour late. By that time, the swarm of frat-boy rejects were floating well into the overpriced beer, shouting variations of incoherent "fuck"-based phrases, and trying to start either a slurred chant or a hilariously off-kilter wave through the arena.
When the lights finally did dim, I will say the following few minutes were the most in-tune with what I was expecting. The projection monitor ramped up, a lone guitarist appeared on stage, and the most superbly confounding montage of violence, fire, the occasional Charlie Sheen movie, some Martin Sheen movies (?) and at least one hate crime flickered to life over the roar of 3,000 drunken locals, pissing themselves with the spectacle of it all.
Surely it was only going to get crazier from here.
Sheen and his entourage made a grand entrance from the rafters and we all assumed we were now off to the races, especially when dear Chuck made a point of turning his teleprompter around to face the audience so he could just wing it.
Apparently that was not a good idea.
From that point on, basically what transpired was Sheen being joined on stage by some local DJ (Cowhead?) who attempted with all his might to be edgy and cool, but just came off sounding like a jackass with all his off-the-grid "subversive" material.
In fact, this just threw Charlie Sheen into contrast as a really reasonable dude who wasn't interested in celebrating Ebert's jaw cancer, discussing having sex with Lindsay Lohan in prison and unwilling to knock on James Spader because critics once said he'd make a better Bud Fox (from the film Wall Street).
So essentially what we had here was a paid ticket to watching some desperate hack of a DJ jumping through hoops to seem cool next to a superstar who was being, at most, tolerant.
"Do you ever masturbate?" the guy asked, clearly thinking he'd just delivered the most controversial shit ever.
"Why wouldn't I?" Sheen asked, clearly a bit confused.
The audience cheered anyway and I began sincerely wishing there was an escape hatch under my seat.
It was like dishing out money to sit at a bar in Hollywood for an hour.
Every few minutes, the monotony of the most truly awful faux-Howard Stern type interview I've ever heard would be broken up by Sheen tossing shit into the audience to try to garner some enthusiasm. Once, a full Gatorade bottle, which promptly knocked some guy in the forehead and left him dazed and slightly slack-jawed (but happy!).
I can honestly say the most enjoyable moment in the evening for me was that in which the incredibly obnoxious drunken man from Boston who was seated in the row next to me had to be forcibly removed from the arena because his idiotic outbursts had actually started to disturb the show.
It was satisfying enough for me to goad my date into just taking our leave a bit early as to not get caught in the Coors-and-B.O. scented haze that would likely accompany the end of the show if we waited to rush out at the end.
I won't say this is the last time I buy a ticket for something that is a complete mystery, but I'll try to make sure I fit into the target audience next time so I don't leave wanting to harpoon someone.
As far as I can tell from this experience, either Sheen has made a full recovery, or he's just executed the most brilliant publicity manipulation we'll see in our lifetime.
My money is on the latter.