Pushing Up Daisy Berkowitz
As a founding member of Marilyn Manson, Scott Putesky helped create a rock 'n' roll monster. Now on his own, the deposed guitarist finds suing an Antichrist Superstar isn't nearly as easy as creating one.
by Jane Musgrave
I wanna grow up/I wanna be a big rock 'n' roll star ... so no
one fucks with me
Sitting at his computer, Scott Putesky gazes at a guy with straight green hair and a guitar, staring back at him through cyberspace. He shakes his head and smiles.
"God, I think she's got every picture that was ever taken of me," Putesky says as he clicks quickly through the online photo gallery. Turning away, he rolls his chair across the white tile floor of his tiny apartment and grabs a photo album that rivals anything on the Web.
Unlike the electronic photos assembled by barely pubescent teens who idolize the shock rock band Marilyn Manson, Putesky's collection isn't a product of idle fandom. It chronicles his life.
Here he is as Daisy Berkowitz, with his equally odd named Manson bandmates getting ready for a show at Squeeze. Here he is with fellow band members several years later, mugging backstage after a show in Texas. Here he is with the band, well, Putesky's not sure actually where. When you spend months on the road, it all starts to blur.
Well, not all of it. Here he is with the band outside Madison Square Garden. Here they are, about to step onto the venerable stage.
"Yeah, it was great," he says, stating the obvious about playing the New York City arena - the granddaddy of all venues that offers any band playing it incontrovertible evidence that they've made it, at least at that moment in time.
But while the pictures are undoubtedly real, something seems out of whack.
Here's Putesky sitting in a cramped one-bedroom apartment off Southwest Second Street. Here's Putesky driving a beat-up 1972 Olds. Here's Putesky in Fort Lauderdale, of all places, while Brian Warner, his former buddy who didn't know squat about making music when they formed Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids eight years ago, is living the good life in L.A.
In the past month alone, Warner, who prefers to be called Mr. Manson, has released a new video, published an autobiography and guested on the Howard Stern show. He's scheduled to appear on The Late Show With David Letterman on Thursday alongside former presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.
"I just want to put it all behind me, but it's hard to because the band's so big," the 29-year-old Putesky says, running a hand through his shoulder-length, dark brown hair.
And there's another reason it's hard for Putesky to put aside the band, the bitterness and get on with his life.
It's a little thing called money - several million dollars by his attorney's estimates - estimates that are hard to dispute.
During the six years Putesky was in the band, it made three albums - one of which went gold, while another went platinum.
Though Warner's attorneys have refused to offer a full accounting of all the money that was raked in when Putesky was in the band, his attorney says he can do simple math.
"We know there were five million records sold," attorney Richard Wolfe says. "There's $1.10 royalty paid on each record sold so that comes out to around $5 million."
While not all that money goes to the band, a sizable chunk - at least $3 million - does, Wolfe says. And even if it's divided five ways, that means Putesky is owed more than $300,000 in record royalties alone. That doesn't include other royalties he's due for writing the music, going on tour and allowing his image to be used on merchandise that adorns the bodies and bedrooms of millions of chalk-faced, black-lipped teens from Fort Lauderdale to Fargo and points beyond.
"Marilyn Manson sells as much merchandise as the Rolling Stones," Wolfe says of information he has gleaned from contacts at Billboard magazine.
And other than the $250-a-week Warner paid the band members while they were touring and a couple of advance checks for songwriting royalties and merchandise sales, Putesky got none of the millions the band made. But Warner sure did, Wolfe says.
"Marilyn Manson fashions himself as a devil worshiper. Well he's not," Wolfe says. "He's the ultimate capitalist."
And while he also portrays himself as
a deep thinker and claims his weird persona, bone-rattling music and on-stage antics are an effort to get people to reflect on the hypocritical nature of society
and their role in it, he is neither deep nor philosophical.
"He's figured out how to exploit his fans and then screw his band members out of the money he exploited from his fans," Wolfe says. "In many ways, I respect him."
But Wolfe has no time to wax respectfully about Warner's cutthroat business practices. He's on a mission for Putesky - one that should be music to the ears of all those right-thinking Christians who swallowed Warner's bait, declared him a dangerous Satanist and tripled his sales.
"I sued Luther Campbell and put him in bankruptcy," Wolfe says of the infamous rapper who also owes his fortunes to the ravings of the Christian right. "And I hope to do the same thing to Brian Warner."
I want you more when you're afraid of me/I will break you
inside out/You are mine, you are mine
Putesky says he didn't wake up one morning in his unexpectedly jobless state and think, "Hmmm. Nothing to do today. Guess I'll file a lawsuit against Marilyn Manson."
For nearly a year after he left the band, he says he tried to contact Warner to set up a band meeting, get back some of the equipment he'd left behind and talk about how to divide up the money the group made.
When Warner repeatedly ignored his calls, Putesky says he had no choice but to go to court.
"I got fed up and the next step obviously is to sue," he says.
Putesky isn't the only former Marilyn Manson member to take the band to court.
Brad Stewart, who was known as Gidget Gein during the three years he played bass for the group, also has a lawsuit pending in Broward Circuit Court seeking the same thing Putesky is after: to be paid for his work.
Stewart negotiated a settlement in September 1996, but Warner never honored it. Under the terms of that agreement, Stewart would have gotten $17,500 in cash, 20 percent of any royalties paid for recordings and for any songs he had a hand in writing and his share of any other royalties or fees the group earned while he was a member. Further, the settlement allowed him to market himself as a former member of Marilyn Manson.
Although the deal collapsed, Stewart's Fort Lauderdale attorney, John Bradley, says a new one is days away from being penned.
The deal is so close, Bradley says, he doesn't want to make any public comment about the lawsuit, Stewart or Marilyn Manson that could queer the deal.
Besides, he says, Stewart is satisfied. "There's no emotional distress going on here. Brad is off on his solo career. He's hooked up with some heavies in New York. I think Marilyn Manson is going to find out they fired Keith Richards from their band."
But while the basic issues are the same, both legally and emotionally, Putesky's suit is far different from the one that Stewart filed three years ago.
For one thing, Stewart left the band in 1993, long before Marilyn Manson became a household name. Further, Stewart was just a guy hired to play bass. He played with them until they cut their first album. Then he was fired.
Putesky, in contrast, came up with the idea for a theatrical band whose members would adopt the first names of female sex symbols and the last names of serial killers. He wrote the music. He played lead guitar. He was, along with Warner, the heart, soul and guts of the band.
While Warner couldn't be reached for comment and neither his Miami attorney Robert Dunlap or his Los Angeles attorney David Codikow returned phone calls, in old interviews Warner readily acknowledged that the creation of Marilyn Manson was a team effort, and that he and Putesky were the team.
Last year in an MTV interview, Warner said Putesky left the band because he didn't understand the band's concept and didn't like the fans. When Putesky confronted Warner about his comments during a chance meeting at the South Beach club Groove Jet, Warner explained, "I was drunk," Putesky says.
In his recently released autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, however, Warner continues the theme of the MTV interview and viciously trashes Putesky and everyone else who touched his life. The nicest thing he says is that he actually respected Putesky for leaving the group to do what he wanted to do instead of bowing to his plans for the band. But the rest of the book is peppered with brutal characterizations of Putesky, criticizing everything from his musical talent to his sexual prowess to his inability to hold his liquor.
Putesky says he is long past caring what Warner says about him. And, he says being mentioned, even with sophomoric derision, is far better than being ignored.
Not that anything in the book can be believed, Putesky says, even though he hasn't read it. That's because everything Warner does, like his stage act, is intended only to evoke a reaction and he doesn't care who or what he hurts. "To him, it's all just a joke," Putesky says.
Looking back, he says he can't believe what happened to Warner either personally or professionally.
"I'm amazed we got signed, much less had a following," he says.
He still remembers the night he and Warner met at a party and began exchanging ideas that eventually led to the creation of the band. Both agreed on the concept of a band that poked fun at the media's dual obsession with beautiful women and deranged serial killers. Further, both agreed that it should be a theatrical band that would focus on industrial music, which was just coming into vogue.
For Putesky, it was another band. For Warner, it was his first.
At the time the two met, Warner was working as a freelance writer for several South Florida entertainment magazines. While he'd written lyrics and had longed to be in a band, until he met Putesky he never had the opportunity.
"I gave him the opportunity to be what he wanted to be despite lack of training or natural talent," Putesky says.
But although Warner didn't have any musical skills, he had other talents that Putesky readily admits catapulted the band from the nightclubs of South Florida to the national stage.
Having written for local entertainment magazines, Warner had connections in the music industry. One of them was Trent Reznor, mastermind of Nine Inch Nails. Warner was able to use that connection to persuade Reznor to let Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids open for Nine Inch Nails when they played at the now-defunct Club Nu in Miami in July 1990 - less than three months after, Marilyn Manson had their first gig.
In 1993, they were the first band to sign with Reznor's fledgling Nothing Records, a subsidiary of Interscope, and they cut their first album, Portrait of an American Family. The next year, they began touring with Nine Inch Nails and other national groups such as Danzig, and also had amassed enough fans to support a tour of their own.
Putesky readily admits that Warner's marketing savvy led to the group's near overnight success. "As much as I can say things against him and as bitter as I am, I still give him credit for selling the band."
Warner learned quickly, or perhaps knew instinctively, what got the media's attention. Ripping up Bibles while on-stage in Salt Lake City. Feeding rumors that live chickens were killed on-stage. Being ordained into the Church of Satan. Setting drum sets on fire or heaving band members, including Putesky, off the stage.
But while some of the stunts were fun and preplanned, more often they were nothing more than temper tantrums, Putesky says.
Even his memory of playing Madison Square Garden is marred. Three songs into the set, Warner became enraged that drummer Fred Streithorst, a.k.a. Sara Lee Lucas, couldn't keep the beat. So, he turned his mike stand into a sledgehammer and destroyed the drum kit.
"This was to me, I don't know what to call it, it was ridiculous," Putesky says. "It was totally unnecessary. I thought it was inexcusable."
The place was packed - between 10,000 and 15,000 people had paid good money to see them perform. And although they weren't the headliners, the audience expected to see the warm-up band play more than three songs.
Initially, of course, the audience enjoyed the sideshow. "They thought it was pretty cool ... until we didn't come back."
And, he says, the on-stage antics often were just ways to get back at band members for defying Warner. He remembers playing The Academy in New York City on New Year's Eve 1995. Earlier in the day, during a sound check, he and Warner had an argument.
At the end of the show, he says Warner grabbed his guitar, smashed it and shoved him off the stage.
"Sometimes it was for show, but this was personal," he says. "I remember getting off the stage and I was livid. It was the closest I ever came to hitting him."
Three months later, while in New Orleans recording what would be the group's third album, Antichrist Superstar, it became clear that Manson not only wanted Putesky off the stage, but out of the group.
"We went to the studio and did an overview of what we'd be recording," he recalls. "Two of my songs got dropped. When I protested, Manson said, 'I don't care what you want.'
"Then, during the recording, everyone else was in the studio four or five days a week. I was asked to come in two days a week. My gear was getting mysteriously broken. I tried to talk to Brian who had gone to New York. I talked to our manager Tony and said I needed to talk to Brian. I never got a call back. I just got fed up."
So, in May 1996, he hopped on a plane and headed back to Fort Lauderdale, expecting that after six years someone would call and the problems would be resolved.
"I did quit but no one said, 'Hey, wait. Stop. We can work things out.'
"Initially, I was glad to get away, but I was scared of what I had just done. I had no backup plan," he says. "That's as good an example as anything of how desperate I was to get out of the situation."
White trash get down on your knees/Time for cake and
What happened to Putesky seems to be nothing more than classic rock 'n' roll. Boy creates band, boy's band gets discovered, band goes on tour and cuts record which make lots of money, boy leaves band penniless.
"Generally people get into music doing it because they're interested in music, not business," says Fred Goodman, a former Rolling Stone reporter who last year wrote a stinging rebuke of the music industry titled The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce.
"You're 19 or 20 years old. You want to make a record. Someone lets you and it generates lots and lots of money. Then you find out that contractually you're not entitled to your fair share," Goodman says of the pattern that repeats itself again and again.
"Bands start learning about business when it's too late," he says.
Dan Salmasian, who teaches a class titled Rock 'n' Roll in American Society at Florida Atlantic University, agrees. "Most musicians are notoriously bad businessmen," he says.
The gold-covered streets of the music industry are littered with the bodies of performers who have been stabbed by those who were supposedly working to help artists make it rich.
"A lot of singers' careers were ruined at least for a while because they had to make up money that was legitimately owed to them but they never got," says Bill Schurk, sound recordings archivist at the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Little Richard, Bo Diddley, James Brown, Lena Horne, Billy Joel, even The Beatles. Rock 'n' roll historians tick off the names of ripped-off artists like they're reciting a shopping list.
But in most cases, they agree, artists are ripped off by record companies or managers. Years after the fact, Little Richard had to file suit to regain rights to songs he had written that he unknowingly signed away to unscrupulous record companies. Billy Joel is still fighting to recoup an estimated $90 million he claims his manager stole from him.
But the historians couldn't think of an example where one member of a band ripped off his or her fellow performers.
"Nothing jumps immediately to mind," Salmasian says.
But Putesky's attorney says Warner took a page from Luther Campbell's how-to-make-it-rich-quick cookbook.
The similarity between the two artists is stunning, Wolfe says. Both took a genre of music - in Campbell's case rap, in Warner's, industrial punk - and used it as a backdrop for media-generating controversy.
Campbell, of 2 Live Crew, peppered his songs with obscenities that inflamed the Christian right. Warner took it a step further, not only peppering his songs with obscenities but also creating an image that he was sent by the devil.
"Campbell was a genius. Warner's a genius. Where they failed is they not just screwed over their fans, but they screwed over their band members, as well," Wolfe says.
Campbell, known as Luke Skyywalker to his fans, got his due in 1994. Peter Jones, known as M.C. Shy D, received a $2.5 million judgment against Campbell for failing to pay Jones royalties he earned while he was a member of the band in the late '80s.
Though Campbell sought bankruptcy protection, Jones eventually was awarded about $1.6 million, Wolfe says.
But, he says, Jones didn't get what he was owed overnight. And neither will Putesky.
"They're stonewalling us," Wolfe says of Warner's attorneys. "Nothing's going to happen anytime soon. I've told Scott, it's going to take a long time. Get on with your life."
Prick your finger it is done/The moon has now eclipsed the
Back in his apartment on Southwest Second Street, Putesky checks the sales of his recent CD, writes songs and plans his future.
"I'm happy. I got a lot accomplished this week," he says. "I finished writing a couple of songs I was working on. ... I feel good."
For months, after returning from New Orleans, he couldn't escape his past. He was recognized by Manson fans. Friends and strangers repeatedly asked him for an accounting of what went down.
"You can't imagine how many times I've been asked what happened to the band," he says. "I want to get past the point in my life where it's here's the guy whose suing Manson to working on my own projects."
In the past year, he and three musicians teamed up to form The Linda Blairs. The three dress up in women's clothing and do covers of chick bands of the '80s, like Blondie and The Go-Go's. "It's really bad drag," he says. He wears a Girl Scout uniform he found at a thrift shop. The others make no attempt to hide the chest hair exposed by low-cut cocktail dresses lifted from the racks of secondhand stores.
The band brings the audience up on-stage for games of musical chairs. They play "Wipeout." They have fun.
There's also R.O.D. - an acronym for Rednecks on Drugs. Right now, he says, it's just a concept. He's writing music with the band in mind and it may or may not perform at local clubs.
But neither group is serious, Putesky says. In fact, the Linda Blairs haven't performed in several months.
His serious work is focused on his own band, Three Ton Gate. It's basically a one-man band whose name was inspired by Coral Castle in Homestead - a weird collection of massive rocks mysteriously assembled by a man obsessed by the unrequited love of a 16-year-old girl. Putesky writes the music. While he used a female vocalist, he plays the different musical parts, sings and mixed the music together for a seven-song CD.
Marketing Vanishing Century on the Internet, he's sold about 400 copies at $12 a pop. "I've still got fans out there," he says as evidenced by the Web pages that are devoted to him, albeit as Daisy Berkowitz. "That's fine by me as long as they're interested in what I'm doing on my own," he says.
While he's put most of the bitterness behind him, he still can't articulate exactly what he feels about his days with Marilyn Manson.
Sure there were good times, plenty of them. Memories of being snowbound in a motel in Allentown, Pa., for three days with the Orlando Magic basketball team and the cast of Sesame Street Live!, and finding out that Bert and Ernie are even weirder than Brian Warner, and that Shaquille O'Neal can drink far more wine.
But, he says, overall, he's still trying to sort it out.
"I didn't want to be a rock star. That was never my goal. If it came, it came," he says. "When it did I said, 'This is creepy. It better be worth it because this is really creeping me out.' "
So, was it worth it?
"It's hard to answer because it's asking if I miss doing something with people I now hate."
It's even hard to articulate regrets. "It's impossible to regret because it's impossible to know what I would have done. I could have been selling shoes. If I quit the band four or five years ago, they might not have even existed."
But, he says, he has no regrets about leaving.
"I'm glad I left because I'm happy. It's a little weird. But at least I'm not suspicious of the people I work with."
As for Warner, Putesky wishes him well.
"Good," he says simply when told of all the hype that now surrounds Warner with the release of his autobiography and video.
"I'm not asking for any of his money, I just want my money," he says.
But the more Warner rakes in, the better.
"That means he'll have less of an excuse for not delivering what I'm owed."