Newsflash: Charlie Sheen's Tampa tour stop Friday wasn't a complete train wreck
TAMPA -- What struck me most about Charlie Sheen's Tampa tour stop Friday was how much of a train wreck it wasn't.
Fans know that Sheen's Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option tour has mostly been a learn-as-you-go deal, anyway, with the actor and his handlers adding elements at every stop to make up for the fact that the evening's star isn't really a stage performer.
By the time he hit Tampa, Sheen may have cobbled together his winningest combo yet, with standup comic/roastmaster Jeffrey Ross and Filter guitarist Rob Patterson providing much-needed distraction during a 90-minute show that felt about 60 minutes too long.
Still, there's is no denying Sheen's party hearty charm, which he wore like a suit of armor Friday, striding into the venue through seats at the side of the stage wearing a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey and backwards baseball cap.
The crowd itself was split into two factions, it seems; those who wanted to worship at the feet of the Sheenius, and those who wanted to see a car wreck. Their shouted combat could be summed up in a single exchange I heard:
Man (shouting at stage): "You suck!"
Woman (shouting at him): "Shut up, a--hole!"
Yup, Tampa was putting on the class for Sheen, who faced a meandering series of increasingly profane questions from local radio guy Mike "Cowhead" Calta (one example: "Do you jerk off?" Seriously.). Ross delivered the most entertainment of the night, with a makeshift "roast" of Sheen that included a wish that he help the kid on his sitcom lose weight by feeding him cocaine and pay for his trysts with prostitutes by sliding a credit card under his, um equipment.
"Your career is drowning so fast, you should be a trainer at Sea World," Ross quipped to a sea of groans from the audience. "Too soon?"
Amy Mariani, a finalist in the online contest to win a job as Sheen's intern, popped onstage, taking a picture of Sheen, drawing profaane boos from the crowd and earning a polite hug from the star. Sheen later groused about not seeing his kids, hating his ex wives and being "down to one goddess," with the departure of porn star Bree Olson from his entourage. The one goddess left, Natalie Kenly, greeted the crowd briefly, tossing t-shirts to fans and exclaiming "I'm the only goddess left standing m-----f---ers." Quite classy.
According to Forum officials, just 1,839 people came to the show, filling a space formatted to hold 3,000, and scalpers struggled to sell tickets. I met one fellow who paid more than $500 each for two tickets which included a backstage meet-and-greet with Sheen; across the street, scalpers were selling $100 seats for $20 or less.
Sheen ended the night begging his fans to help him get his job, paying upwards of $25-million annually. Seemed an odd request -- that folks struggling with a battered economy and problems of their own should crusade to help a disconnected party boy win back a job he lost with his own big mouth.
Walking out of the venue -- after interviewing a gaggle of high school girls who felt like there wasn't enough train wreck moments in the show for their money -- I passed a merchandising table stocked with shirts bearing Sheen's sayings priced from $30 to $75.
Who knew dysfunction could be so profitable?