Tiger Blood? Adonis DNA? Warlock from Mars? Bi-Winning? I don’t have any better idea of what any of these things mean than I did before, but I did hear them yelled over and over and saw them on hundreds of t-shirts that were selling like hotcakes. I also heard such enlightened phrases as “cocaine rocks” and “F**k CBS” and lots of other phrases that “aren’t parlor talk” as my grandmother would say. In fact, I heard as much from the crowd as I did from the star of the show himself. And all of it was definitely locker room or barnyard talk as opposed to parlor talk. I’m cool with that. I’ve never been described as having delicate sensibilities when it comes to an off-color or inappropriate joke. I mean, I’m friends with Ali for pete’s sake. I’ve already heard all there is to hear. As expected, the people watching was worth the price of admission and, as always, fate smiled on my choice of seats.
I can’t say I’ve actually followed the Charlie Sheen spectacle closely, even though I do love a good spectacle. I used to watch Two and a Half Men every once in a while and liked it. My favorite character is Berta, by far. Interesting and useless fact – her real name is “Conchata”. Sometimes I wonder why stars don’t use their real names for their characters more often. I have seen Charlie Sheen in lots of movies of course, as I’m sure all of you have. My earliest memory of him in a movie is the excellent cold-war-turned-hot flick Red Dawn (1984). Shortly thereafter, he showed up (little did we know playing himself) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as the “boy in the police station”, then Wall Street, Platoon, Terminal Velocity, Young Guns, Major League (again playing himself but with the name Ricky Vaughn). I’ve seen snippets of the interviews he’s done recently – where he mentioned that he had tiger blood and adonis dna. While they do provide some humorous soundbites, to be honest, they just left me feeling sorry for him and his family. He’s clearly struggling and I am sure it is hard for his friends and family to see it and not be able to help and I’m sure it is scary for him. His kids are really the innocent victims. I hope they have other adults around them who can show them a different path in life. I hope he pulls out of this for himself and them.
As you know, sometimes other people have suggested a NTM for me to try. In this case, a friend I work with did not specifically suggest this as NTM. What he said was “Hey, are you going to the Charlie Sheen thing tonight? It seems like the kind of thing you would do.” Technically, I’m his boss, so when I decide if this was meant as an encouragement of my quirky side or an insult I’ll let you and him know if he still has a job. I had planned to go to an Astros game that night. For those of you who haven’t been following the Astros like you should, we’ve clawed our way to 9-15 and are in sole possession of the strategic 6th place in the NL Central – we’ve got the Cards right where we want them. Upon learning that Charlie’s Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour was making a stop literally 3 blocks from my office, I decided that this was definitely a new thing and that I would try to get a ticket. Thanks to Ticketmaster and Visa, I had a ticket printed out about 2 minutes later. The tickets ranged from about $40 to $90, but you could pay for the VIP package for $750, which included meeting Charlie and some other perks I did not read too closely. To any of you who are asking yourself “Did he do it? Did he pay the $750?”, I say “Shut. The. Front. Door.” Do you think I’m crazy? My first pickup cost less than $750. I’d still be driving that pickup too if it hadn’t completely fallen apart – several times. I did decide to splurge a bit and get a good seat so I was about 12 rows from the front and smack in the middle of the stage. I knew I would be close, but when I got there, even I was a little surprised at how close I was going to be to the goings on! Perfect.
Of course, I am not an expert but I do truly think that Charlie Sheen has some mental problems and probably some addiction issues. I truly have no judgment of him about that – I just think that’s sad and I hope he finds a way to get better. I think that he probably has people around him who are seeing his current problems as just another chance to make a buck and he probably has people who disappeared as soon as he became a liability or a risk. I did think quite a bit about whether or not I felt comfortable being part of making a spectacle of someone who has mental problems. In essence, I was paying to gawk at someone who is falling apart. Yes, the show was going to go on whether I went or not, and I am not responsible for Charlie Sheen’s well-being. But, I wouldn’t go see dogfighting and justify it by saying “well, it was going to happen whether I went or not, and they aren’t my dogs, and I didn’t make them fight.” In the end, my decision to go ahead and see the Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour, was distinguishable from dogfighting for a couple of reasons – (1) Charlie Sheen is a grown man who has chosen his path in life and he’s choosing to do this tour – he’s not a captive animal who has no choice in the matter, and (2) the main reason I wanted to go was to see what the crowd’s reaction to him would be – not because I have or will ever take pleasure in his unraveling or his hurting.
The show started at 8, so I got there and got in line outside about 7:30. I’ll try and sum up the crowd – lots of Ed Hardy, lots of barely-covered large fake body parts, lots of slicked back hair, lots of very short skirts (some unfortunate), lots more old people (my age and older) than I expected, lots of people on dates, lots of media, mostly white people.
I got inside and there was already a long line forming for souvenirs. I did not see anything I couldn’t live without. T-shirts with some of Charlie’s more famous phrases from recent interviews seemed to be the hottest sellers. I got a beer and found my seat. Most people were still in line for t-shirts or beer so I sat alone for a few minutes. A young lady and two young guys came in and sat on my left. I said hello, but they weren’t interested in visiting. Next came the people who would be sitting on my right, and here’s where the evening really took off.
I met John, who was sitting next to me and shook his hand. He’s about my age and is just a regular looking guy. He likes my beard. With John, were a young man and woman, I’d guess in their mid-twenties. John and I talked for a few minutes and he explained he had just driven in from Austin. He also explained that he was in the adult film business. Of course I’m sitting next to an adult film maker at the Violent Torpedo of Truth Show! He went on to explain that his wife had a internet webcam show that he produced but he also made other adult movies and produced other webcam shows. At some point he turned and was talking to the couple that came with him. I looked around and watched some other people for a bit – the theater was starting to fill up. I decided to ask John some more about his job and I turned toward him….he was sort of leaning toward me with his back to me and holding up his iphone up. I could not see what was happening on the other side of him, but I could see in his iphone what he was taking a picture of. The young lady who had come with John and his friend was holding up her top and John was taking a picture – actually several pictures. Now, I’ll grant you that this seemed like odd behavior, but he is a an adult film maker right – I mean, this is what he does. His family has to eat, right? I decide to play it cool and act like this sort of thing happens to me all the time. The 30 or 40 other people around us who saw this young lady’s bare chest did not make the same decision. The catcalls began and would continue throughout the night. The young lady responded by flashing her chest to strangers all around her – I’d say she probably did it 30 times during the evening (does that count as 30 flashes or 60, huh – interesting question). I think her most memorable moment was when Charlie asked to have the houselights turned on, and the camera was directed right in the middle of our section. Broadcast on the huge screen right behind Charlie was this girl, sitting one seat over from me, standing on her chair, pulling up her shirt and showing the entire theater her, umm, err, torpedoes of truth, for probably 10 seconds. If you were at the show, and had not been so distracted by her during that camera shot, you would have noticed John and I laughing so hard we could not sit up straight! She then yelled “Charlie Sheen saw my boobs” for probably 2 minutes, to which someone behind us yelled “honey, everyone saw your boobs.” Her parents must be so proud.
John and I had lots to talk about. It turns out that John bought his tickets last minute like I did and he got three, one for him and his buddy who was there and one for his wife. But then his wife, the webcam star, said she wasn’t interested so his buddy brought this girl he had recently started seeing. John’s wife drove the group from Austin and went to Applebee’s to read a book while the other three were at the show. As it turns out, only a few minutes into the car ride, John and his wife revealed what they did for a living, and the young lady said she had always wanted to be an adult film star. She wanted John to take some pictures and put them on his website, so John shows me some more pictures from his iphone. It’s a photo series of the lady sitting next to John and another lady taken at various recognizable points between Austin and Houston (Buc-ee’s Truck Stop, La Grange City Limits sign, and the Houston City Limits sign for example). I asked John who the other lady was and he said “my wife.” I had to ask – John and I were getting along so well I figured he’d be honest with me. I said “John, doesn’t it feel a little odd to be showing a stranger topless pictures of your wife?” He said, “it used to, but she loves having her webcam show and so I know it doesn’t bother her, so why should it bother me.” I like John because he’s comfortable with himself. We had very interesting discussions about how sad Charlie’s situation really was. Like me, John came because he wanted to see how the crowd would react. He thinks it’s sad to see someone, anyone, in such denial and in such a bad place.
Now, let me give you a little run down of the actual show. Charlie comes out wearing an Astros jersey with the name “Vaughn” on the back. A nice nod to one of my favorite Charlie Sheen characters – and a nice recognition of the local sports team (or maybe it’s just that Astros jerseys are some of the cheapest to pick up these days). While clips from some of his movies play, he walks the entire aisle around the downstairs portion of the Verizon Theater giving high fives and hugs. He makes it on stage and it sort of goes down hill from there for Charlie. He’s almost exactly 8 years older then me – and he looks thin in an unhealthy way, he looks old, he sweats a lot and his face looks sunken and there’s something unsettling about the way his eyes look. He just doesn’t look good. People yell things and he responds, sometimes cleverly, but mostly with just ridiculous “because I’m winning” type statements. Charlie talks about how CBS tried to take his heart, “but it wasn’t available” and they tried to take his backbone, “but that wasn’t available” and finally they tried to take his soul “but that sure wasn’t available”. He gives the Astros jersey to a woman sitting near the front who happens to be celebrating a birthday that night. There is constant yelling from the audience – so much so that it is sometimes hard to hear. There’s a guitarist on stage over to one side who occasionally plays a little riff or background music. There are two wingback chairs and a little table between them with water and sports drink bottles. He invites a former UH baseball player on stage. The player has recently battle leukemia (it’s now in remission) and Charlie starts out by saying what a cool guy this is but then turns it back to being about him and says something like “now you can see what happens when something like leukemia or bad things like in my life run into winners like me and this young man – they lose.” Really Charlie – did you just compare you screwing up a $2,000,000 a week gig by getting stoned and committing domestic violence to a college student who is battling leukemia? This fell pretty flat with most of the crowd, and even the baseball player on stage seemed to feel a little awkward about it. Charlie gave the kid the UH shirt he’d been wearing. Charlie also spends a lot of time talking bad about Detroit and the media. John and I discussed our chagrin at the fact that about 1/3 of the crowd really seemed to think of Charlie as a hero – as someone who was living life on his own terms and showing everyone else how to be cool.
Next, Jeff Ross comes out on stage. You may not recognize the name, but you’ve probably seen him in things. He’s probably best known for his work at some of the Friar’s Club Celebrity Roasts. This is the funniest part of the show – and Charlie isn’t saying a word. Charlie sits in a chair, smokes cigarettes and Jeff roasts him. The jokes are crude and inappropriate and hysterical. This is the only part of the show that is entertaining enough to get the crowd to shut up and listen. One of the last jokes that Jeff makes is not much of a joke at all. He says that when he roasted Courtney Love, she checked herself into rehab the next day. I think I could sense from Jeff that he was hoping Charlie would do the same. The very last thing he said to Charlie before he turned the mic back over to Charlie was barely audible and I only caught it because I read his lips. He hugged Charlie and said “don’t die, man.” Maybe that was part of the act. But I felt like it was more of a message from a genuine friend who had come on this tour with Charlie to try and watch out for him and maybe to try and reach him and who was hurt by watching Charlie hurt himself. I can understand that. Charlie spends a few minutes roasting Jeff and he sucks at it.
Jeff stays on stage and they invite people from the audience to come up and ask Charlie for advice. This could have been really funny, but it wasn’t, because Charlie’s not thinking fast enough these days to be very clever. One memorable on stage guest was a 59 year old lady, who had to be high if you ask me. Her husband is working oversees so her son brought her to the show. She’s wearing a Charlie Sheen shirt over the clothes she wore to the show and clutching one of those little leather pouches that is mainly made to hold a pack of cigarettes and a lighter but has a little slot for a driver’s license and coin purse attached to it. You know, the purse for the woman who has to have cigarettes and a lighter at all times – but may want to slip in one or two very small other things. This woman is nuts and is clearly the biggest Charlie Sheen fan on the planet – she can barely gather herself enough to ask Charlie a question. It’s hard and funny to watch because she is so ridiculously smitten. Finally, she gets her question out – “Charlie, I’m 59. How can I keep my love life going as a I get older?” Charlie looks at her for a minute, kisses her on the mouth and says something like “that ought to keep you going for awhile” and sends her off stage. She was a crowd favorite.
Charlie talks a little more about how he’s going to keep winning and no one’s going to bring him down and how everything he does is for us – his loyal fans, blah, blah, blah. Then the show’s over. He shakes some hands and leaves and the lights come on. John tells me his wife’s website address and tells me that at the bottom there is a little link to email the producer and to send him an email so we can hang out the next time I am in Austin. I emailed him and I do think it would be interesting to hang out with him sometime. What a strange thing for your business card to be your wife’s internet porn site???
For some reason, this NTM got me to thinking about Saint Jude. In the Roman Catholic Church, Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and desperate cases. I’ve always liked Saint Jude. Actually, I’ve never met Saint Jude so I don’t know what I think of the man himself – he might have been an arrogant jerk. I’ll be honest – I’m skeptical about the whole sainthood thing. It’s not that I don’t believe that there have been miraculous people who’ve walked among us and done miraculous things. I’ve met some people that fit that category. I’m skeptical of the canonization process. It seems a little shady to me. What I am sure of is that I like the idea of a saint of lost causes, because to me it means that even when someone is saying that something is a lost cause, they still believe there is hope – that there is still someone who can help them or there is some way to turn this train wreck around. It’s the idea that there is always hope. I like that idea, a lot.
It would be easy to say Charlie Sheen is a lost cause, and I could easily avoid reading or hearing about him ever again if I really wanted to. In time, I’d stop thinking about him and I’d probably forget the night I describe above. I’m not responsible for him and I’m sure I’ll never cross paths with him again. I could write him off. But I choose to hope that no one is a lost cause – and to hope that Charlie will find a way back to reality and back to loving his kids and back to just enjoying life and find some peace with his own demons. I hope that for everyone. It may or may not happen – but I get to choose to hope that it can happen and that no cause is really “lost”.
As I walked out of the show, in the lobby, I heard an older woman’s voice yell (and I mean YELL), “I want a picture with that tiger blood beard.” I turned to look and the lady mentioned above who had gone on stage and been kissed was pointing at me and coming my way. Ok – I had not expected a photo op, but I’m a good sport – the person taking our picture asked if I wanted a picture too and I handed over my phone.
Shortly after the above picture was taken, this lady yelled something else about tiger blood and asked me if I had adonis DNA too. I laughed and said “sure.” And that won me this:
I texted the picture above to a friend who had asked me about the show, and his response was “you look so uncomfortable.” He might be right – or maybe that’s just what someone looks like while they are praying to Saint Jude.