by Chris Shugart
I think it’s safe to say that the Viral Media Index of the Charlie Sheen meltdown has finally subsided to a non-toxic level with his public antics no longer contagious nor risking further infection. Unfortunately for Sheen, he may now be discovering that being a huge media sensation doesn’t always translate into market viability. Just because you can successfully transform your talents into a traveling freak show, doesn’t automatically make you boffo at the box office.
Following his well publicized firing from the successful CBS TV series “Two and a Half Men,” Sheen has hit the road with a national tour featuring his own brand of, well, whatever it is he does now. He calls the show “My Violent Torpedo of Truth,” if that gives you any clue. Where is he going with this? Not exactly to Mr. Rogers neighborhood, I’m guessing.
The entertainment media was eager to report that Sheen was selling out venues around the country faster than a Lady Gaga Monster Ball concert. The problem was that the only actual ticket sales “figures” that anyone could cite were those coming from Charlie Sheen’s own Twitter page. When you’re a legend in your own mind, the facts are whatever you decide them to be.
Just days ago, a contributing journalist for CNBC, Jane Wells effectively debunked all of the Charliemania hype. As it turns out, there are plenty of unsold tickets, so much so in fact, that secondary ticket outlets such as StubHub are offering tickets at less than face value. So much for the Charlie Sheen Comeback Tour.
There’s an eerie parallel here, from which Charlie might like to take heed. In 1966, the show biz career of comedian Lenny Bruce was deteriorating as a result of drug abuse and an obsession with his legal battles over obscenity charges. During this time his club performances often included details of his encounters with the police, rants about his court battles, and tirades against fascism. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it?
On June 25, 1966, at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, Lenny Bruce performed his last gig. Concert promoter Bill Graham described Bruce as “whacked out on amphetamines” and thought that Bruce finished his set emotionally disturbed. A week later Lenny Bruce was dead of a morphine overdose.
Let’s hope that Charlie Sheen learns a couple of things while he attempts to reinvent his show biz repertoire. Lesson One: No matter how far over the top you try to take your talent, the audience still has to be willing to buy whatever it is you’re selling. Lesson Two: Achieving success, whether it’s in entertainment or any other professional field, is pointless if you can’t survive the journey.