Houston is not Detroit, at least when it comes to Charlie Sheen.
Sheen's tour stop in Houston last night wasn't a wash-out, a bomb, or the expensive meltdown that most in town had hoped for. In fact, he was embraced at every turn by fans of all stripes, with men and women alike fawning over him like he was a surviving Beatle, or at least someone in Motley Crue.
You can make a few assumptions about Houston taking Sheen in with such open arms. One being that his core audience isn't cynical like the rest of the country and can take him for what he is, or had made himself out to be.
The other angle you can take is that you live in a city with low cultural standards, where stupidity reigns on high. Believe either one or neither, but the man nearly sold out the venue, and had most every ass in each seat holding a piece of merch he was selling in the lobby.
I was there with the Sheeniuses from beginning to end, cradling my cellphone, a camera, extra batteries for each, and an open mind. I'm not a warlock or a goddess, but I like a good, batshit, American story. Here's the Twitter play-by-play...
Sheen's got a tour bus. Wait, three. This tour rolls three deep.
Drink specials here inside Verizon are geared towards the entertainment, obviously. Yes. Tiger's Blood? Of course it's vodka and Red Bull, numb nuts.
"Goddess" panties on sale at the merch booth, but probably not "game" worn.
People made "Winning" shirts to wear here, or bought weird knock-offs online. This is the real deal.
Band of blonde girls looking kinda porn-y in the smoking section out front. Future would-be goddesses, or just girls with deluxe passes to the tanning salon?
Crowd is somewhere between a metal show and a comedy show. Very male. Lots of very pretty chicks. Feels like a circus, or like an Andrew Dice Clay show in the late `80's, or what I can imagine one would have been like. I was seven when he was popular.
Show opens with television and film clips on a HD screen onstage. At first we see Sheen clips from recent TV interviews.
Embattled theme is overpowering, with rugged outsider icons like Travis Bickle, Dirty Harry, Sam Quint, and lots of Apocalypse Now making the cut after. A fucking live guitarist is onstage. Sheen walks through crowd, back to my section and I high-five him.
He's onstage, and yells "Houston we no longer have a problem. I'm fucking here."
He's wearing a red University Of Houston shirt under his custom Rick Vaughn Houston Astros jersey, #99.
"I'm fucking winning," playing the hits already, like a well-oiled machine.
This is his national victory lap. Everyone here is happy.
"Run for president? How fucking radical would that be. At least I was born here," he says when someone yells about a presidential bid. "I guess it's the next logical step."
Now we're talking about baseball. Major League 3 happening maybe. He ignores the true third movie in the series and bashes the direct sequel.
"Any warlocks in the house?" Talking about U Of H baseball practice, as he's pacing the stage, thinking. Guitarist places riff off "Cocaine" to the delight of everyone.
Brings out a U Of H baseball player onstage who just beat leukemia. Remarks later that some ticket money is going to tsunami relief.
Talking shit about that first, biting, angry Detroit crowd. Mass chant of "FUCK DETROIT" passes quickly.
"Houston wants me, I can feel it."
This is a surreal pop culture moment. Bagging on other cities now. Houston seems to fully engulf the guy. No anger. This crowd is all but free of cynicism, and completely on his side.
He's claiming the media will misconstrue this show. You are reading my live tweets, so that won't happen. The show is very much free form. He sold this tour, sight unseen, and it sold well. Jeff Ross out now to roast Sheen. This will be good, and venomous.
"Greetings enablers!" shouts Ross from behind a podium.
Sheen smoking onstage, and Ross asks aloud, "How do you roast a meltdown?"
"Your career is so shot to hell you should change your name to Selena," snipes Ross at Sheen. Half the crowd gasps then laughs, or vice-versa.
Sheen doesn't look all that bad. Just skinny, not druggy, like a guy who is on a fad diet. At the beginning of this Sheen debacle in the winter, he was very much looking like an addict. Not now.
Ross is ripping on recently departed Bree Olson for filming porn scenes with black guys.
Roast is done and Charlie is roasting Ross now, with "I lost a goddess and gained a lard-ass."
Audience Q&A about to happen, which Ross adding that entrants must have "have gigantic tits."
About fifteen people onstage including some very goddess-looking chicks. Buxom-blondes, namely. A smattering of guys.
He's not a punchline to this crowd, he's more of a hedonistic legend, or a libertarian folk hero. He's tapped into something that this crowd needed. He's not political.
There's a man onstage that looks just like Duane Allman, and he asks Sheen what planet has the purest cocaine. "Planet Fucking Houston," replies Sheen to a roar.
This crowd is a microcosm of the side of Houston you probably hate. UFC-looking guys, very plastic girls, assorted everyday people. Lots of drunken groups of guys. Small clans of smoky blondes.
A lady who could have been my junior high science teacher is trashed onstage and makes out with Sheen for two seconds. Is that making out or just orally attacking?
No one is leaving this show. He's getting loved. Where are the hecklers?
He ends on a very hopeful note, sad about losing his kids, Two & A Half Men, but seeming to feel like he can get them back somehow. He thanks us all and the show is over. The Snoop Dogg song "Winning", recorded for Sheen, plays us out.
I wait by the buses after the show to mix with autograph hounds and super-fans holding movie stills and baseballs for Sheen to sign, to get a sense of Sheen Nation. An older Hispanic woman screams "I love you Charlie!" in odd intervals even when he's not present or even in view. She's trying to give Sheen's security team a note imploring him to help her father get a Medal Of Honor. Lots of groupie gals catting around.
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Like I said before, to a section of the country he's a fucked-up glimmer of hope in a world of "moral Nazis" and liberal alarmists. The response to the Obama rip was evidence enough. Sheen is not just a hash-tag or a YouTube clip, he's an ethos.
The women here want to sleep with him, and the men want to be him, or maybe even help him screw those women. Folks on Twitter will complain that I am leaving out his criminal past of abusing females, but I'm just covering a show, not prosecuting him in court.
I wonder what other celebs could do tours like this. Lindsay Lohan? It's a first as far as I can tell. Don't know if anyone has this captivating skill he does. Sure there was Conan O'Brien last year after the NBC unpleasantness, but he is a comedian who is used to performing nightly on the fly, and Sheen is an embattled actor who deals in written scripts. Maybe Anna Nicole, Tonya Harding, and John Wayne Bobbitt could have done something on this scale.
I don't agree with his lifestyle personally or morally, but it's a hell of a story, and my opinions don't matter. He's the gonzo best-case scenario that Hunter S. Thompson strived for. Sheen's story is an interesting one to say the least, and a lesson in just what social media can do in 2011. Winning or losing.