Guess who darted into the drugstore in front of my little baby and me yesterday?

Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson.

And though I wasn’t surprised to see Manson in the land of the prescription pill, I was rather ‘shocked’ by his appearance: worn and cozy moccasins on his feet, a gray sweat suit with CORNELL lettered across the buttock…nary a stitch of makeup on his newly faded, suburban face. Even Manson’s signature Goth-glam hairdo was gone, left to warm some wig stand somewhere.

He made a beeline for the cosmetics counter, desperate to avoid the gaze of those who might recognize him. Unfortunately for Manson, though, I had him pegged. And looking deeply into his big blue eye, I knew at once what he was going through.

“Come join me for a coffee,” I said. “I know at once what you’re going through”.

We walked in silence to the nearest café, where Manson took his coffee black, one last remnant of the angry artist inside.

“What do you want from me?” he asked, before committing to sit.

I smiled, and said nothing in reply, reaching instead for the leather satchel by my side.

Years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead on the street with a leather satchel. But after reading ‘the Diary’, I learned that style is but an asphyxiant; substance is, in fact, all that matters in this world. And this mature little satchel of mine kept my personals safe and organized.

One such ‘personal’ was, in fact, ‘the Diary’, and it sat well protected in the main pouch of the satchel. With some dramatic flourish, I laid it out on the table in front of Marilyn.

Now… to simply call it a Diary is a misnomer, for its very appearance had no equal before it. The pages were wildly varied in size, each lined with a different cured meat. The spine of the book, to which the pages were bound, was an actual human spine, and the back cover was perpetually hot to the touch.

Four simple letters graced the front cover of the Diary: a letter ‘D’, which hung boldly from a string…a letter ‘A’, that would spin around in circles when you smiled at it… an embroidered letter ‘L’, that was flecked with fine Spanish limestone … and a letter ‘I’, that sat humming and smoking on the bottom corner of the cover.

It was Salvador Dali’s diary. And for years, this surrealist Bible had been passed from artist to artist in their time of need.

Manson seemed intrigued. He picked up the book and opened it to an entry dated July 6th, 1932:

‘The problem’s getting worse. Where home was once the last vestige of normalcy, even my lover Gala has come to expect the bizarre. I made paella for dinner last night, and she looked at me as though I’d sold my soul! ‘How pedestrian!’ she said. ‘Paella is far too bourgeois for a surrealist genius to serve’. My God. I was hungry and tired. Can I never again be ordinary? And God help me, if I should want to make love to her in any simple manner. Our bedroom is now a vortex of pulleys, and monkeys and strange moustache waxes. I tell you…this constant struggle for originality has got me shackled. Hogtied and shackled. Literally. I had myself hogtied and shackled last night. Something’s gotta give.’

The entry was not what Manson had expected. He looked up from the Diary with a confused look in his eye. And then a tiny glimmer of hope in his other eye. It was the reaction that I’d anticipated: the very same one that I had when Gene Simmons gave me the diary last year.

“Flip back a few pages,” I bellowed. “Read on! Read on!”

Manson opened up the Diary to an entry dated September 10th, 1931:

‘I feel so silly. I really didn’t mean to paint it that way. I mean…it was just such a hot day. I didn’t mean to paint it that way at all. And now they’ve gone and declared it a masterpiece. A work of ‘surrealist genius’! When it was just supposed to be a couple of pocket watches on canvas. I figured watches were easy to paint. Gala had run out to the store for groceries (‘cuz everything in the house had melted from the heat…we lost a whole Camembert to the heat), and I went upstairs to take a cold shower. When I got back down… well, the whole painting had melted. The pocket watches had dripped down the canvas as though…well, as though the whole notion of ‘time’ was no longer rigid and deterministic. I thought it was ruined, but wouldn’t you know it – it’s up and made me a bit of a local hero. What now, I wonder?’

I decided to give Manson a little history lesson on how the Diary came into my possession. In 1950, Dali gave his diary to American painter Jackson Pollock, in a gesture of empathy that would enable Pollack to bring an end to his celebrated Drip Period. After Pollock’s death, his wife gave the Diary to ex-Beatle, Paul McCartney, who then wrote and recorded the saccharine AM hit, Silly Love Songs.

Sir Paul passed the Diary to controversial comic, Richard Pryor, before Pryor agreed to appear in The Muppet Movie. And Pryor later gave it to rocker Gene Simmons, a few scant months before Kiss appeared onstage without their iconic makeup.

Marilyn Manson flipped frantically ahead in the Diary. December 31st, 1936:

‘What have I done? I am stuck…a prisoner of my own creation. Last month, I began work on a simple oil. A rose, in a vase, on a sun-filled veranda. It was a near-perfect rendering, but apparently…not a true ‘Dali’! I had to paint genitals on the rose before my agent would even return my call. My God, I long to be free. Free to paint as I now feel. Free to once again embrace the familiar warmth of convention.’

Manson put the Diary back down on the table.

“How’d you get it?” he asked, his expression softening.

I reached into my parka and pulled out my own personal journal. Years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead on the street wearing a parka. But I’ve really bought into the whole ‘style is but an asphyxiant’ thing…

Anyways, I read to Manson from the recesses of my heart. Read aloud the truth of how I had always wanted to be a father, but did everything I could to keep it a secret. How I thought that no one would take me seriously as an artist if I fell prey to my domestic yearnings. How I thought that artists had to live selfish and unrestrained…wild and fancy-free. And how I knew that fatherhood meant responsibility. Newborn babies required constant monitoring and care, and with my work as a songwriter taking off…well, it just never seemed like a smart career move.

I read to him how, on that special day, Gene Simmons brought Dali’s Diary by my studio and implored me to read the long last entry. And how, upon reading it, everything became clear. I went home to my girl that very night, set up the pulleys and the moustache wax, and nine months later, I became a father; a father who can still write hipster music.

Manson picked up Dali’s Diary and thumbed to the infamous last entry. He paced the café as he read, tears welling up in his eyes. It was dated August 14th, 1949:

‘It’s clear to me now, after so many years of feeling trapped… True art is not about a genre or a signature style, but rather, the pure expression of one’s self at any given moment. It need not be new or original. It need not be daring or divine…or surreal! Style is but an asphyxiant, and substance is all that matters in this world. The real masterpiece is the piece that best defines the master, however impassioned or banal he or she may feel at the time. Find joy in the boring details; pleasure, in the simple colors and frail brush strokes that make each of us human. Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali.’

Marilyn Manson closed the Diary with an air of relief. He leapt up from the table with a broad smile, and bowed gracefully, first to me, and then to all the rest of the folks in the café. It was the curtain call for a man, tired of trying. Together, we two ordinary artists marched arm and arm back to the drugstore, where Manson symbolically returned his black makeup, and I tried to find my infant son, whom I had left behind in one of the aisles.

The next day in the trades, I read that Marilyn Manson had once again shocked his fans by announcing the upcoming release of an album of romantic soft-rock ballads.

Now that’s surreal.

I end this week’s Blog with another interesting musical fact:

- Only the very longest of music studios can properly facilitate the recording of a marching band -


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