On Friday night, as a possible government shutdown loomed, around 5,000 people showed up to see Charlie Sheen and his Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour as it carpet-bombed Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Overwhelmingly, they said they’d come to “get wasted” and watch "a train wreck.” They had reason to think they'd see one, as the show came less than a week after Sheen's catastrophic appearance in Detroit. But few paused to consider the possibility that paying a man somewhere around $100 a ticket to laugh at him meant that the joke was on them.
It is the perfect show for this era.
In the theater, there was a woman passed out on the floor; when a wheelchair was brought in to cart her out, she proudly stood, faced the audience, and took a bow. There were hordes of out of shape Jersey Shore cast-offs, and enough bottle blondes to keep the entire strip-club circuit of America running for the next decade.
A few C-listers were on hand to witness the spectacle, like High Pitched Erik, a sometime-Howard Stern personality. A female Daily Beast reporter asked him what he was doing there. “I want to see how fucked up he’s going to be. He likes hookers, like we all do,” Erik said. “Do you want to fuck after the show?”
Around 8:30, a comedian who was never identified took to the stage to introduce Sheen. He told people to have a good time before adding, “If somebody gets out of line, just give ‘em a smack. Especially if it’s your spouse.” The joke carried extra heft given that the man of the hour shot his former fiancé, Kelly Preston in 1990 and was later hauled into court for allegedly holding a knife to the throat of his last wife, Brooke Mueller.
Moments later, the curtain came up, and there was Sheen, clad in a New York Yankees cap and jersey. Wearing sunglasses for much of the evening’s proceedings, a chain-smoking Sheen sat in a chair next to the comedian who asked him a series of questions that mainly served as segues for a series of rant-filled monologues.
“If I want an Oscar, I can buy a fucking Oscar,” Sheen assured the crowd.
Sheen made light of his famous stay at the Plaza Hotel (and the fact that he’s no longer allowed to stay there) saying, “I put them on the fucking map.” Then he read aloud a series of fake letters he’s received from other hoteliers who want him back because of all the publicity he and his merry band of hookers generate for them. “Dear Mr. Sheen, “ one read. “Please come back and smoke more cigarettes in our lobby.” Another was an offer to rename a suite "the Warlock Room" in his honor.
Over and over, Sheen described his generous contributions to the global economy, and reiterated that he was a better human being than everyone in the crowd because of how much money he is worth thanks to his career on the CBS show Two and a Half Men, the sitcom he was recently fired from for his outlandish public behavior.
The audience responded by booing him frequently, but there they were, sitting and listening intently as he justified “possibly” throwing a chair at the prostitute at the Plaza, claiming that his $173,000 watch had gone missing and that he suspected her of stealing it. He bragged that he has 52 muscle cars and hasn’t had a speeding ticket since the '80s because he doesn’t drive them. “Driving is for drunks” he said.
Sheen assured the crowd he didn’t give a fuck about his craft. “If I want an Oscar, I can buy a fucking Oscar,” he said. He also dissed his former agent, Bill Block, saying, “You’re the 10 percenter, I’m the 90 percenter.” To prove his point, Sheen told a story about how he’d stolen a girl from Block during another hotel stay--and had a three-way with her and her identical twin. In fact, he insisted, he managed during that trip to bed the entire floor of the hotel.
There were also jabs at his brother Emilio, his ex-wife Denise, and Kiefer Sutherland, whom he claimed left him stuck with a nearly $100,000 hotel bill, accrued during a bender.
The one person he had kind words for was his father. “He’s still the coolest guy in the world,” Sheen said. “He made me.”
As the show pushed and shoved its way forward, the audience seemed to adopt the same kind of bipolar unpredictability that Sheen himself has displayed in his many recent public appearances. One minute, a horde of people were singing, “Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye.” The next, the star was basking in rapturous applause.
About 45 minutes in, Sheen brought his two goddesses onto the stage.
“What up New York?” said one.
“Love ya!” said the other.
He kissed the Goddesses, then dismissed them. “Show us your tits,” someone yelled.
In the end, it was Sheen who showed some skin. Rolling up his shirt, he displayed a tattoo on his wrist that read, “Winning.”
After less than an hour, it was over.
“I don’t know what I just watched,” muttered one woman. Others complained about how short it had been. But they’d all paid for it.
Jacob Bernstein is a senior reporter at The Daily Beast. He has also written for New York magazine, Paper, and The Huffington Post.