March 29, 2011 by Dan Patton
Charlie Sheen flashes across the screen. Accusations, threats, drugs, sex: the meltdown proceeds. Like the morning jitters after an all night coke binge, regret obscures what few laughs rose above the destruction. Yet we can’t stop horkin’ it up.
Successive episodes of career-killing stupidity have turned the media into an unofficial Charlie Sheen relief fund. If he succeeds in releasing his long-suppressed inner-”fricking rock star from Mars” — as he recently warned on a morning talk show — public outrage will reach critical profitability. No one should be more offended by this than David Bowie.
David Bowie is the original Rock Star from Mars. He created the concept and held the title during the early 1970’s while performing in the guise of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust.
Although technically never claiming to be Martian, there is ample evidence to suggest, even confirm, that Mr Stardust was a galactic celebrity. An androgynous crowd-pleaser with “screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo,” he sported a “snow white tan” and fronted a band called The Spiders from Mars. The album that describes his Rise and Fall — featuring songs like “Moonage Daydream,” “Starman” and “Suffragette City” — gains credibility with the same meteoric thrust that Charlie Sheen loses it. If that’s not the definition of a Rock Star from Mars, I don’t know what is.
And neither does Charlie Sheen.
That’s because, when Charlie Sheen says “rock star,” he means “sitcom star.” For the most part, fine: he once had the role to back it up. But when he shot his mouth into outer space with a reference to Mars — in effect, comparing his self-proclaimed imaginary rock-stardom to David Bowie’s universally acknowledged actual rock stardom — the planets shifted. They formed a cultural gauntlet, a musical challenge, an artistic battle royale: the disgraced former fraction of Two and a Half Men versus the venerable contemporary Thin White Duke.
Now, the planets must be realigned.
When David Bowie played Ziggy Stardust, he was a rock star from Mars. He performed all over the planet and made it okay for future bands to wear mascara and still get laid. By women. Most importantly, his lyrics foretold Ziggy’s self-inflicted doom, whereby the star “made love to his ego, got sucked up into his mind” and was fatally ripped apart by his own fans.
Before long, in classic rock style, the fantasy rang true and the glory fled: Mr Bowie woke up in LA one morning, blew his nose and noted that, “half my brains came out.” But the mess did not prompt him to blame others; instead, he moved to Berlin and recorded the legendary albums “Low” and “Heroes” and produced Iggy Pop’s highly acclaimed solo effort, “The Idiot.” For years afterward, he dismissed footage from the Ziggy era as embarrassing and, when he finally did check it out, called it “hilarious.”
On the other hand, Charlie Sheen appeared on a talk show one morning, ran his mouth and did not notice that all of his career came out. The leftover stink makes it offensively clear to all but him: you cannot be a Rock Star from Mars until you stop being a douchebag from Hollywood.