DETROIT—Call it tiger blood or Adonis DNA if you will. Just don't call it entertainment.
Kicking off his 20-city tour April 2 in Detroit, Charlie Sheen pulled a stunt that even by his standards was a little extreme. He alternately pandered to and antagonized an estimated audience of 5,000 people at the Fox Theater in a blatantly cynical attempt to cash in on his craziness. Roughly paraphrased, his excuse for having barely worked out the blueprint for an act was, "Hey, you guys paid for a show when you didn't know what you were getting!"
What the audience got was egomania gone wild. Grandiosely titled "My Violent Torpedo of Truth: Defeat is Not an Option," Sheen's haphazard act was neither standup nor confessional memoir, despite repeated promises that he was going to dig deep and dish secrets. It was closer to a motivational seminar, but one in which the speaker was also the key beneficiary. Early in the evening, before the crowd turned sour, there was a creepy atmosphere that suggested group indoctrination into a cult.
The audience was packed with beer-guzzling fans who cheered Sheen on at first as he benignly nodded approval of the girl-on-girl lip-lock from his "goddesses," two Christina Aguilera clones who promptly disappeared.
The crowd remained somewhat supportive as Sheen launched into a rant that began with, "They took my awesome children. They took my sometimes groovy job. They tried to take my brain and my heart and my titanium spine." There were promises of "A night of pure magic, a night of winning." But despite Sheen's assurance several times, that things were about to get radical, they just got boring. When you pledge to unlock the Vatican assassin inside each and every audience member, you better deliver something.
What Sheen delivered was the overwritten, faux-Biblical preaching of a self-anointed Messiah, who views himself as the most truthful person in the universe. Maybe, but not this universe. He opened up to audience questions and then deflected most of them as too lame to merit his attention, the chief exception being from a young woman who requested to come up onstage for a hug.
Whether Sheen was thrown off by the steadily increasing hostility in the audience is unclear. But the impression is that beyond the video content that made up more than 50% of his 70 minutes of stage time, there didn't appear to be much of a plan. The Two and a Half Men debacle was referenced only in one or two indirect swipes.
Sure, some of the video mashups and rap tributes were funny, but there was little that can't be enjoyed while surfing Youtube. And the scratch remix with comic inserts of Sheen's GMA interview with Andrea Canning was a succession of self-serving cheap shots. Irrespective of the vague information supplied about the show in advance, it seems dishonest to promise a night of soul-baring and deliver a lot of rehashed Web fodder.
There's a certain trainwreck fascination in watching a meltdown in progress, but this anthropological study of the homo loco species wore very thin very fast. And Sheen appears to have known it. As the booing, and the shouts of "Loser" and "You suck" grew more insistent, and the walkouts increased, he said he would take a music break and return when the crowd woke up. Rather than the rumored guest appearance of Snoop Dogg, rapper Simon Rex appeared and barked a little, followed by Snoop performing on video. The possibility of Snoop appearing in person was nil, as he was performing with kids TV band Big Time Rush at Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards in Los Angeles at the time.
Afterward, Sheen did not return (reports that he reappeared on stage after the end are false). House lights came up. No bow. Show's over. Half the audience sat there looking stunned for a time, watching the road crew clear the stage. On the way out, I overheard someone say, "Dude, that was seriously the worst thing I've ever witnessed."
The opening montage that introduced the star threaded together clips of his father Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now with images from Jaws, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Dirty Harry, Die Hard, Carlito's Way, National Lampoon's Animal House and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, giving a pretty clear indication of how Charlie Sheen sees himself these days. That would be warrior, law enforcer, killer, psychopath and party animal. But this thrown-together, insanely self-indulgent showcase merely reveals someone far more sad and delusional.