Charlie Sheen's Indefensible Road Show

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A dispatch from the Violent Torpedo of Truth tour

Charlie Sheen_APCharlesSykes_post.jpg

AP/Charles Sykes


Oh, Boston. Hide your face. Simmer with shame, Boston, beneath this dull Spring rain. Last night you were a drunk girl; you were a pumped oaf; you were unspeakable. Charlie Sheen came to town with his rancid, ramshackle rip-off of a spoken word show—and you loved it. Sort of. You sort of loved it. You booed in parts; a discerning portion of you chanted "Buttfuck-er! Buttfuck-er!"; many of you left early. But when Charlie's leather-coated compére, the appalling Simon Rex, asked "Hey how many of you guys follow Charlie on Twitter?!" you dim-wittedly whooped.

To recap: As a younger and fresher man—about six weeks younger and fresher—I enjoyed the rampant oratory of Charlie Sheen. Meltdown, they said, after his first salvo of interviews and radio rants, but to me he looked dry-roasted, charred by illumination, demolishing his questioners with a terrible withered intensity. And the language! Just when it appeared that the loony right had secured a monopoly on pure American bombast, here was Charlie, slinging it like Ted Nugent: "I'm dealing with fools and trolls and soft targets. It's just strafing runs in my underwear, before my first cup of coffee." Excellent. "You know what's bipolar? The Earth." Tremendous. Some kind of cultural apotheosis, too, it seemed: an escaped Ego, arrogating to itself this free-floating and apparently infinite communicative power. Zarathustra Supernova, on 20/20. I dug it. I chin-strokingly defended it.

But now I have tasted the Violent Torpedo of Truth, and I see that I got taken. Suckered, duped, gulled. Sheen's roadshow is indefensible. To begin with—unlike YouTube scavengings and Twitter feeds—it costs money, which raises the question of value. In Boston, at least, last night, it went like this: lazy Q&A with his asshole crony Simon Rex; a Blind Date-style contest to find the third Goddess (Charlie already has two, you remember) with hapless ladies from the audience getting cheered or groaned at; the microphone passed into the front rows ("Charlie! What's gonna be on your tombstone, man?"); and Charlie stalking in baggy circles, talking rubbish. The format was morning zoo meets motivational seminar, and the atmosphere was pissed-on carnival. Sad moments for civilization: Charlie leaving the stage halfway through while we—an entire arena—sat and watched his latest YouTube thing; Charlie taking a fumbling, minutes-long inventory of the contents of his bag; Simon Rex trying to get him to talk about hookers and Heidi Fleiss; Charlie exhorting the bemused winner of the Goddess contest "Aren't you excited, just a little bit? C'mon! Fake it, like I do!"

"Tiger blood," "Adonis DNA," "Defeat is not an option"... Virally exhausted as of last month, these catchphrases somehow still managed to be applause-lines. Charlie told us that we were "a movement." But what were our demands, our burning imperatives? For what purpose had we gathered? Slowly the vision revealed itself: "Everybody loves you, Charlie," said Simon Rex. (Cheers.) "Everybody wants you back on Two and a Half Men." (Louder cheers.) Yes, we wanted him to be rehired by CBS. That was our motive desire. To watch him again on his shitty blow-dried hologram of a sitcom!

But all good things must come to an end. Smolderings of dissent were heard in the arena's upper steppes. "I want my money back!" shouted someone. Charlie, in the night's single instance of good timing, decided to wrap it up. "A couple of thoughts before you go..." It would be nice to report that at this point the pits of nihilism opened up beneath us, like the Sex Pistols at Winterland—their last show, Johnny Rotten coiled in rodent disdain: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" But no. As hundreds politely filed toward the exits, Charlie moved unheckled into his extra-rubbishy wind-up ramble. "Don't you want to scream in the face of your oppressors?... They tried to take away my money, my soul, my titanium fucking spine..." He was talking about CBS again. God help us.

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James Parker is an Atlantic contributing editor.

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