Once upon a time there was a sweet little child named Brian Hugh Warner. Brian would attend his Christian School while dreaming of working as a music journalist. Later in life Brian would use some of the wholesome images he learned in his religious upbringing to spread joy to his legion of fans. He would even grow up to be a reverend! This Brian Hugh Warner sure sounds like one upstanding citizen! Of course, Brian Hugh Warner would not be what the world would soon know him as, and the Reverend he would one day become was not in the Church of Christ but rather the Church of Satan. How did a Christian School boy grow up to be the Antichrist Superstar? Find out as we ask just WTF Happened to Marilyn Manson!
But as always we must begin at the beginning and the beginning began on January 5, 1969 in Canton, Ohio. With his strict Christian upbringing, Warner grew up with a deep appreciation of the things he was told he wasn’t allowed to enjoy, such as Metal Music. He would relocate to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where he went to Community College while working towards a degree in Journalism. One of his early writing gigs was for the Florida based music magazine 25th Parallel where he would interview several prominent artists. Warner and guitarist, the late Scott Putesky, would start playing music together with Warner writing the lyrics while Putesky wrote the music. Warner would then adapt the stage name Marilyn Manson, combining the first name of Marilyn Monroe and the last name of Charles Manson, and the duo would form the band Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids and would quickly gain a following around Southern Florida due to their bizarre stage antics like having naked women nailed to crucifixes and children in cages. Their shows would constantly sell out and they would sign with Sony Music shortly after, although Sony would quickly take back their offer, but Manson would use the money they earned to record more demos while shortening the bands name to just Marilyn Manson. Those demos would attract Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails who would sign the band to his vanity label Nothing Records, a subsidiary of Interscope records, and produce their debut album Portrait of an American Family (1994).
After Portraits release, Manson and his band would work on an EP that was originally meant to just be remixes of the song Dope Hat, but once all the pieces fell into place, they had an album with several cover songs, most notably a cover of the 1983 Eurythmics classic Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) which would produce an MTV Video Music Award nominated music video and would be Marilyn Manson’s big break into mainstream popularity. Manson says the idea for the song came when he was on LSD at a house party and that while the song was playing, he hallucinated a slower, meaner version of the dance classic. Of course, with the albums themes of childhood abuse, drug use, domestic abuse and psychological abuse, it was met with plenty of push back from parents groups & conservative lawmakers who said the lyrics contained on the EP celebrated “some of the most antisocial and immoral behaviors imaginable” while saying that record labels who sold this type of music had the blood of children on their hands. The Ep would chart at 31 on the Billboard 100 and be certified Platinum by the RIAA.
It was around this time that we would start to see Marilyn Manson t shirts on all the scary gothic metal kids in the hallways of school. You know how it was, there would be some kids in Limp Bizkit shirts, some in Korn but the baddest of the bad metal head kids displayed Manson on their wardrobe and depending on what kinda kid you were, this would help you know if you hang out with them or not. I also recently saw a meme which was a meme about how back in the day we didn’t need memes or social media to spread the rumor around the world that Manson rumored some of his ribs to the he could bleep his own bleep… all we needed was word of mouth to share these untruths. It was a beautiful time to be alive.
All of this controversy only helped Marilyn Manson as his next album 1996’s Antichrist Superstar would be met with even more outcry from Christian Fundamentalists and politicians. The formation of the album was reportedly exhaustive as Manson and the rest of the band would deprive themselves of sleep while going on massive drug benders as a way to help create an album that felt violent and hostile. They would choose The Beautiful People as their lead single which would garner enough fandom that when the album was released on October 8, 1996 it debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200 on its way to selling over 7 million copies worldwide with Rolling Stone Magazine awarding them the Best New Artist honor. The band would embark on a tour to promote the album that was picketed at every city by religious groups.
Manson would get his first taste of the big screen when he appeared in David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997) as Porno Star #1 and would follow that up by appearing opposite his then girlfriend Rose McGowan in 1999’s Jawbreaker playing “The Stranger.” Soon after Manson would release his next album Mechanical Animals (1998) that featured such hit tracks as the Grammy Nominated The Dope Show, Rock is Dead which was featured on the soundtrack toThe Matrix, and the controversial I Don’t Like The Drugs (but the drugs like me). It would seem the controversy had paid off, as this album would debut at number 1 on the Billboard 200 charts. The album is meant as a bridge between their first album Antichrist Superstar and their next album Holy Wood and would represent a shift away from industrial metal and more into a mix of 1970’s style glam rock and electronic music. The cover of the album, which features Manson as an androgynous naked character named Omega, would go on to be named one of the 50 greatest album covers of all time by several publications. Of course despite that high praise, retailers K-Mart, Walmart and Target all refused to sell the album due to its controversial packaging.
It would seem Manson was on top of the world, at least the rock world. But it would all hit mass hysteria when on April 20, 1999, two cowardly high school kids entered the halls of Columbine High School and mercilessly killed 12 of their fellow classmates while wounding 24 others. In the aftermath of, what at the time was a very rare occurrence, the media had to push the blame on something or someone, so the religious groups and politicians who had hated Manson and his music since day one, used it as an opportunity to place the blame on him saying that his lyrics and performances influenced these people to commit such a heinous act of violence. Headlines littered the airwaves such as “Killers Worshipped Rock Freak Manson” and “Devil Worshipping Maniac Told Kids to Kill.” Even after it was reported that the two people responsible for the attack actually were not fans of Marilyn Manson’s music. The band would ultimately suspend the last five days of their tour out of respect for those affected by the tragedy, but none of that mattered, Marilyn Manson was labeled the one responsible for this tragedy, something he has opened up about in the years since, appearing in Michael Moore’s Academy Award winning documentary Bowling For Columbine saying that he felt like a scapegoat for an unexplainable tragedy. And he surprisingly came off as well spoken thoughtful individual.
It would seem the controversy did take its toll on his album sales as his next album 2000’s Holy Wood would take on the controversy of the Columbine tragedy head on with the track titled The Nobodies, however the album would peak at number 13 on the Billboard 200, despite releasing their biggest international hit ever with the cover of Gloria Jones’ hit Tainted Love which would be featured on the Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack.
By 2002, Manson would start looking to change things up. He would start off by collaborating with Marco Beltrami on the score for the big screen film Resident Evil. He would also appear in front of the camera in a surprisingly good performance in the true life crime story Party Monster (2003) before releasing his next album The Golden Age of Grotesque which would see Manson experiment with swing and burlesque music, combined with his established dark and heavy metal roots. That combination seemed to pay off as the album would debut at number 1 on the Billboard 200, but still pushed the boundaries you would expect from Manson as the album featured artwork of a young child holding a gun. The album would produce several hit songs including This is the New Shit which was featured on The Matrix Reloaded soundtrack.
After releasing a best of album titled Lest We Forget which also featured a new cover of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus, Manson would take a bit of a hiatus from music as he pursued other interests. He would appear on hit TV shows such as Californication and Eastbound and Down while providing the voice of Shadow in ABC’s fantasy series Once Upon a Time. He would also often times poke fun at his own persona when he voiced himself on the MTV series Celebrity Deathmatch which was actually launched with an episode featuring Charles Manson vs Marilyn Manson. By 2005, Manson seemed to be completely disillusioned with the music industry saying that he didn’t want to make art that record companies are just turning into product, he just wanted to make art. He had shown a penchant for combining music and film with his vast library of visually stunning music videos and would express interest in playing Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s rebooted Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a role that eventually went to Johnny Depp, who says he used Manson as inspiration for the character. While at the time Manson was trying to put together his own theatrical film titled Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll where Manson would play the Alice in Wonderland writer, however the film has been stuck in developmental hell since 2004.
In 2007 the 36 year old Manson went public with his relationship to actress Evan Rachel Wood would was 18 at the time. Of course this couple confused everything. Evan Rachel Wood appealer lead a fairly sheltered life but then she entered the world on hollywerid, she felt the need to break free and rebel and she did so by cranking it up to 11… one should not just go from sweet innocent child to being with Manson, there are steps you should take to prepare for such things but no, Even just went for little girl to Manson’s play thing… and later Evan would say that she was “horrifically abused” by Manson for years, included tutor, rape and sexual grooming. Allegedly…. we have to say allegedly. We will talk more about this later.
Manson would continue to pop up in small parts in films such as Rise: Blood Hunter (2007) while also showing his comedic chops on shows such as Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job and The Soup. He would eventually land larger roles like when he had a 6 episode stint on the show Sons of Anarchy that would help him land a lead role in the independent film Street Level (2015) which was directed by Sons cast member David LaBrava, followed by appearing in the short lived show Salem. In 2020 you could see him as himself in the hit series The Two Popes opposite Jude Law and John Malkovich while he would voice The Smiling Man in the X- men Spinoff film The New Mutants and appear in 2 episodes of the hit series American Gods.
But music was always Manson’s first love, and although he hasn’t had a number 1 album since 2003’s Golden Age of Grotesque, he has continued to release a new album every 2-3 years with each album debuting in the top ten on the Billboard 200, with his last release 2020’s We Are Chaos actually hitting number 1 in Australia. He has also collaborated with some of the biggest names in music such as Nine Inch Nails, Eminem, Elton John and would receive his fifth Grammy Nomination as a featured artist on the 2022 Kanye West release: Donda.
Manson is a controversial figure with many of those controversies having to do with his on stage persona including threatening journalists, writing controversial songs like “I want to kill you like they do in the movies” a song he wrote about ex girlfriend and future fiancé Evan Rachel Wood, but he has also been the focus of much more serious accusations such as Wood testifying before Congress about her experience with domestic and sexual abuse. At the time she didn’t name any names, but in 2021 she wrote in an Instagram post that her abusers name is Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson. This was after a few other anonymous women accused Manson of sexual impropriety, something the Los Angeles Attorney’s Office declined to pursue as the claims went uncorroborated, which Manson categorically denied saying the person made them up as a way to garner interest in her Manson memorabilia she was trying to sell. But the allegations were enough for Manson’s record label, Agency and Manager to drop him, and the show American Gods to edit him out of an upcoming episode he appeared in, even though Manson maintained that Wood’s allegations were distorted and that all of his relationships have been consensual between like minded partners.
From 2021 through 2022 several women came forward alleging weird and abusive details of relationships they had with Manson over the years. In November 2021 the LA County Sheriff’s Department even raided his home with no arrest ever being made. Several women sued the artist, with most being dismissed, although one was settled out of court. But things took a weird turn in February 2023 when one of Manson’s accusers, Ashley Morgan Smithline, who was featured on the May 17, 2021 People Magazine Cover Story with the headline “I Survived a Monster,” came out and said that her allegations against Manson were made up and that she was manipulated by Evan Rachel Wood and others who told her to make up the accusations against the shock rocker. Since then, there have been no other allegations leveled against Manson and it appears all his legal proceedings have been either dismissed or settled. However, Manson has remained quiet on all fronts, simply writing on Twitter in March 2022: There will come a time when I can share more about the events of the past year. Until then, I’m going to let the facts speak for themselves.”
Very recently, like a few days ago, news broke that Evan Rachel Wood is giving up custody of her son out of fear for her family’s safety after alleged threats from Manson. So it seems like this is still an ongoing drama and we can only hope it ends well.
Marilyn Manson launched into the public world as a controversial person, an image he has cultivated and exploited throughout the years. His music and persona has made him an easy target for some people in this world who feel they have the right to tell others how they should live their lives, but Manson has always taken it in stride and continued to do what he wants. When he is attacked publicly, he just leans into it even harder on his next album. But it appears his outlandish persona isn’t just contained to the stage, despite denying any abuse allegations, he admits to engaging in things with like minded individuals that may be out of the normal. We can not say what is true and what isn’t. He is an entertainer of the highest order who puts on memorable shows for his legions of fans. And for now, as we await the next chapter in this dark twisted saga, and so it is ok to give a fuck about what the fuck happened to Marilyn Manson cuz there is a lesson in there somewhere… like don’t date Marilyn Manson… cuz he will torture you…. allegedly!