First the U.S. automaker recession, and now this. Charlie Sheen unleashed his Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour on the Motor City on Saturday night before a crowd that greeted the actor with an adoring standing ovation and concluded with booing and walkouts. The padded and disjointed show was a hodgepodge of video clips and Sheen-isms that felt hastily assembled and misjudged the patience of even the hardest of hardcore fans. Below is our on-the-scene progressive timeline of disaster from Detroit:
7:50 p.m. ET — Lovefest: Outside Fox Theater, Melissa Shovlin and Haley Clark — two young women wearing homemade “Winning!” T-shirts (see picture below) — are asked what they expected from the show. “We have no idea,” says Shovlin. “That’s part of the excitement.” Is she concerned about Sheen’s mental state, given his recent tendency toward multimedia outbursts? “Everybody is a little crazy,” she shrugs off. She also notes, “I think in this environment, he’ll be a little more free to jump around like a snake in a chair.”
Geoff Resek, an attendee from Connecticut, declares that Sheen will use his theatrical performance “to prove he’s completely sober, because he wants to win.” In general, the atmosphere outside is irony-free: People are here because they find Sheen hilarious, because they have always found Sheen hilarious, and because they are officially in support of his “winning” transformation. They are more devoted to Sheen than the media, but they simultaneously are taking him less seriously.
Inside the theater, the program for the evening (which cost $20) features a collection of Sheen’s radio quips — “I’m on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen” — and pictures of the actor. The T-shirts are selling briskly. A popular one for $30 declares “F—ing Brilliant!”
7:59 — You cannot walk through the crowd without hearing someone say “Winning.” There are girls wearing tiger-striped pants, and assorted custom Sheen quips T-shirts. The Midwestern crowd has come from all over, devout followers of the Vatican’s most famous assassin.
8:13 — The show is supposed to start at 8 p.m. A geeky comedian who is decisively not Charlie Sheen comes on stage and begins a set. There is some booing from the audience, followed by chanting: “Charlie! Charlie!” The booing gets louder.
8:17 — The comedian starts a joke: “I found out exactly how I’m going to die–” Someone in the audience yells, “Yeah, on stage!” Note to comedians: If Charlie Sheen asks you to open for him, say “No.”
8:19 — Here is just a sample of this painful opening act: “Shouldn’t they call the defibrillator a difibra-now?” Sheen himself comes out to defend the comic, telling the audience to give him a chance. The actor receives a standing ovation. Sheen says that he’ll be right back out, and exits. The comedian continues his set. Problem: This is a rock-concert atmosphere, and nobody wants a stand-up act. They’re here for the warlock.
8:30 – The comedian has been literally booed off the stage.
8:32 — That’s weird. The lights have come back up, and the audience is waiting again. Everyone is confused — it’s not clear why the show started and then stopped again. So far, this has the makings of a disaster, the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark of celebrity stage acts.
8:53 — The show officially begins with a mock iPhone ad, advertising the “MaSheen.” This app will be used throughout the show to introduce each segment. Two attractive scantily clad women — contest winners Kelly Jean and Lisa Jaques — come on stage to sing the national anthem before a waving flag. They’re not exactly great singers. “Do it topless!” one audience member shouts.
8:58 — Film clips are playing on screen. Die Hard, Midnight Express, Taxi Driver, Animal House, Sheen’s own Platoon, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and (of course) Apocalypse Now. There’s no context, just the violent clips. One imagines it’s like being inside Sheen’s fever dream and the experience is taking on a Clockwork Orange quality.
9:00 — Two goddesses are now making out on stage. And finally, Charlie Sheen returns. He holds up a sports shirt of the style that’s worn by his Two and a Half Men character and puts it on. The audience gamely boos. The Two and a Half Men theme song plays and is intercut with a scene from a classic film of a man screaming “Turn it off!” Then Sheen grabs a Detroit Tigers shirt instead. The crowd roars and gives him a standing ovation. Regarding the Men shirt, Sheen says, “Take that out and burn it.” On video, the girls burn the shirt backstage.
9:07 — Sheen steps behind a presidential-style podium that proclaims “Warlock States of Sheen.” Guitarist Robert Patterson is playing on stage. Sheen begins a lengthy speech in his newfound Malibu Messiah semi-coherent metaphor-stuffed neo-Hunter S. Thompson style, talking about his “napalm-dripping brain.” “I’m here to solve a portion of this grand mystery,” he says.
9:08 — Sheen: “I am finally here to identify and train the Vatican assassin locked inside each and every one of you.”
9:10 — Sheen’s promises are largely incomprehensible, though they at least seem intentionally so: “Freedom from monkey-eyed…sweat-eating whores. Freedom from the dour and sour taste of malignant reproach…. I’m a giant and leaky bag of mayhem.”
9:13 – Sheen: “They took my awesome children… They took my sometimes bitchin’ job… And when they thought there was nothing left, they tried to take my heart and brain and titanium spine. But they could not.” Audience growing restless. This show is all pump-up, no narrative.
9:15 — Okay, nobody understands a word Sheen is saying. “Is anybody else as confused by this s— as I am?” he finally asks. There are roars from the crowd. “I wrote every word!” Later, a cabdriver tells me that it’s about this time that angry fans began walking out of the theater. READ FULL STORY