Why would people pay upward of $50 to watch a celebrity have a psychotic break onstage, and then complain if the meltdown isn't entertaining enough?
That's one question at hand as Charlie Sheen's Violent Torpedo of Truth tour snakes its way across the country, both delighting and infuriating fans of Hollywood's most publicly dysfunctional celebrity.
Watching the onetime star of TV's highest-rated comedy navigate his oddball performances is like seeing a man perched on a high-wire riding a bicycle, moments from toppling, only to right himself at the last moment and move forward a few more feet.
The latest lurch forward came Saturday in Atlantic City, where Filter guitarist Rob Patterson and comic Jeffrey Ross jumped onstage to help the Warlock enthrall a packed crowd in his best-reviewed outing yet.
That's right: Sheen now needs two extra guys to pull off his one-man show.
The reviews so far are similarly confused: The New York Post sniped, "Charlie Sheen stank up Radio City Music Hall like a flatulent goddess." But the Associated Press called him "an amusing, rousing mash-up of William S. Burroughs, Rush Limbaugh and Tony Robbins, sprinkled with a heavy dose of angel dust."
(Is that even possible?)
Time to ask a fan: How can you spend up to $104.45 per ticket ($86.75 plus Ticketmaster's $17.70 in fees) to watch an unpredictable, unfocused narcissist upchuck his damaged id onstage for 50 minutes or so?
Longtime Sheen aficionado Arthur Springer crowed that he bought tickets "close enough to where, if he does something crazy, I'll get something on me." For him, all this talk about addictions and bipolar disorder sounds a bit like a WWE-style head fake.
"I always loved the way wrestlers used to draw people into something that wasn't really real," added Springer, 47, of Valrico. "I think a lot of this is hype to maintain his fame and cash flow. He's a lot more of a carnival barker than we think he is."
Riiight. If you're headed to Friday's show, here are Five Things to Know Before Attending a Charlie Sheen Performance:
>> The show's success may depend on whether the audience supports him.
One thing celebrity addiction expert Dr. Drew Pinsky has said about Sheen is that, like many narcissists, he gets angry when the world doesn't behave in tune with his perceptions. So booing crowds, hecklers and folks walking out on the show will spark anger and distraction. Your best hope is if the crowd gives the Sheenius all the love he expects.
>> Some people who paid to see the show actually want him to fail.
I don't get it either. But it's obvious from the accounts of previous shows that some folks pay their $104 ready to shout him down the minute he steps onstage. Given the possibility of factor No. 1, consider encouraging the blowhards to party hard before the show starts so they're out of commission by the time Sheen arrives.
>> For Sheen, this is mostly a show about how cool it is to be Charlie Sheen.
"I had a dream that I invented Scotch tape," he told the crowd at his first New York show, according to the Associated Press. "And I performed CPR on a supermodel in a heroin coma." Your satisfaction Friday may be directly proportional to how much you would pay to hear stories like that for an hour straight.
>> If the show crashes, no one will feel sorry for you.
"NO ONE who paid money to see @CharlieSheen in Detroit deserves a refund," comic actor Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) wrote on Twitter after the first show. "They should have their credit cards seized." Consider yourselves warned.
>> However it ends, some fans will forgive just about anything.
"I would just like him to entertain me," Springer said. "Tell me stories. Give me opinions. Just don't take me for granted."
Might be too late for that one.