TAMPA — If there is any place that might understand an erratic, grandiose multimillionaire with a reputation for hard partying and no job, it is Florida.
So it was no surprise that actor Charlie Sheen mostly basked in a heroes welcome when his Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option tour came to the St. Pete Times Forum Friday.
Walking though the crowd, flanked by superstar bodyguard Chuck Zito and wearing a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey, Sheen faced an audience that had seen all the press about the train-wreck tour stops, watched all the oddball TV interviews and webcast rants and came anyway.
They had come to worship at the feet of the Sheenius. Or to get front row seats to an on-stage meltdown of titanic proportions.
"I'm sweating like a gerbil at a Richard Gere convention," Sheen offered, before taking off the jersey and giving it to a woman in a low-cut blouse — who promptly pulled down her top and showed her chest in appreciation.
"You know you're at a Charlie Sheen show when it's Good Friday and there's nudity," he quipped, noting later "It's Great Friday."
And so the tone of the night was set, falling somewhere between raucous frat party and high-velocity NASCAR race. Some fans came to watch a star they admired show off his psychic scars onstage; and some came jut to see an accident.
But Sheen, a born performer underneath the runaway narcissism and outsize appetites, surprised his audience again, presenting a more coherent night than many expected. He had help, including comic Jeffrey Ross, Filter guitarist Rob Patterson and local radio personality Mike "Cowhead" Calta.
Most of the onstage patter was seriously X-rated, as Calta asked Sheen whether he still, um, pleasures himself. The two gloated over film critic Roger Ebert's cancer, noting that Ebert and former partner Gene Siskel once criticized Sheen's role in Wall Street.
Ross, a renowned celebrity roaster, provided the most entertainment of the evening, saving Calta's interview segment by popping on stage to "roast" Sheen with a hilarious stream of acerbic put downs.
Most of his punch lines couldn't be reprinted in family newspaper, but a smattering included suggesting that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has a better chance of getting his job back than Sheen does of rejoining the CBS sitcom Two and Half Men.
"You made your dad ashamed to share the same fake name with you," Ross cracked, in a biting reference to Sheen's actor dad Martin, born Ramon Estevez. Later, he said he was performing a "comedy intervention" for Sheen, whose live shows have dissolved into a hail of boos and demands for returned money at previous stops.
If there was a train wreck portion of the evening, it came when Ross invited people from the audience to ask questions of the star. Unprepared and more than a little inebriated, most selected for the honor didn't actually have questions — a fact which irked Sheen tremendously.
Forum officials put the attendance at 1,839 in a venue that had a capacity of 3,000. Ushers let people move forward to better seats while outside disappointed scalpers sold tickets for as little as $20.
Sheen ended the night with a passionate plea for the crowd to help him get his job back, telling the audience "with your support, with a room filled with love, we are going to get my job back.''
And though the erratic show left some fans grousing, others complained because it wasn't enough of a train wreck.
"I wanted more yelling and more going wrong," said Desiree Greico, 18, of Bradenton. "This was almost too organized."