Glenn Danzig v. The Internet
Glenn Danzig should be widely recognized as an important and pioneering figure in American music. He founded horror-punk legends the Misfits in 1977, a band who perhaps single handedly created the world where bands like Gwar, White Zombie, or Marilyn Manson could exist. The springboard to sub-genres like deathrock, death metal, and other forms of extreme music, the Misfits legacy cannot be overlooked. As a solo artist, Danzig has produced albums that have been certified Gold and Platinum, written songs for Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, and released two albums of classical music that charted in Billboards Top 10. Rolling Stone has called him a visionary, heavy metal legends Metallica have covered his songs, and he continues to maintain a large and devoted international fan base.
Nevertheless, due to the dark and ultra-serious image he has cultivated over the last 30-plus years, coupled with the rise of social media, he is most often portrayed today as the punch line to a joke. While this is a sad fact, many argue he brought it on himself.
Throughout his long career, Danzig’s image has been one of brooding darkness and relentless intensity. Often shirtless and emphasizing his muscular build, 80s and 90s Danzig was a powerful and intimidating figure. Today’s Danzig isn’t as fit as 90s Danzig. The guy is 61 years old, after all. But, that didn’t stop him from posing shirtless on the cover of his Skeletons LP that was released last year. In fact, other than his physical appearance, nothing has really changed about Danzig’s image since he bellowed his first “Whoa!” All that said, he did appear as himself on an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and last year played a character on IFC’s Portlandia, demonstrating that he does, in fact, have a sense of humor.
But, as Danzig has gotten older, the internet and social media has rapidly emerged as a veritable obsession of many peoples daily life. Other than the many positives that social media can offer, it is often the place where rumors are born and spread, where people celebrate the embarrassing moments of others, and where one’s image can be eternally stamped by a carefully timed photograph.
No one in the rock/punk/metal community has suffered more from the internet warriors of social media than Glenn Danzig. In fact, the history of Danzig and internet culture is particularly colorful.
It all started in 2004, when some dude from a band you’ve never heard of threw a weak fisted punch that Danzig sort of slipped into. The guy who threw the “punch” scurries down the hall. End of story. Nevertheless, DANZIG GETS KNOCKED OUT was irresistible click bait and the video went viral. Three years later, an equally uneventful video surfaced, DANZIG FALLS OFF STAGE! In fact, Danzig does fall off stage, but it’s so quick and obscured by darkness it really just looks like he disappears for a second. He didn’t fall on his face, he kept singing, and the video isn’t even funny. Nevertheless, “Did you see that video of Danzig falling off the stage?” was a thing.
In 2010, artist/cartoonist Tom Neely, published the first issue of Henry and Glenn Forever, an independent comic that imagined Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins as roommates who often find themselves in ambiguously gay scenarios. The comic became a cult hit and has gone on to produce several more issues (the project also spun-off a gallery showing). A few months later, an unknown individual capitalized on an incredibly unique opportunity: A chance to photograph Glenn Danzig, in broad daylight, doing something so impossibly ordinary no one would believe you if you didn’t take a picture of him buying kitty litter. Not only was Danzig buying kitty litter, he was wearing a Danzig logo t-shirt while doing it. For a guy who has always presented himself as deathly serious, maybe even pure evil, this case of vanilla became something haters would hate with never ending joy. Truth is, a photo of any rock star caught carrying a bag of kitty litter would be funny.
In 2011, the case of Danzig versus the real world became even more fascinating. If you thought Danzig buying kitty litter couldn’t be any more ordinary, how about Danzig versus his Home Owners Association? Well, not really. But, disgruntled neighbors and Danzig throwing a hissy fit? How could anyone resist? Turns out Danzig had a pile of bricks in his front yard for a prolonged period of time (there’s evidence, so much evidence) to the dismay of his neighbors who argued it was lowering the neighborhoods property value. Danzig had a dumpster delivered and went out to his front yard screaming, “Here I am motherfucker, just cleaning up my motherfucking bricks, bitch!” as he hurled the bricks into the dumpster. Not only did this story go viral, it also produced a spin-off art exhibit. That’s two art exhibits based on making fun of Glenn Danzig. Seriously, what other rocker can claim that?
At this point (the punch, the Henry and Glenn comic, the kitty litter, the motherfucking bricks), Danzig just can’t catch a break. One of my favorite music writers, D.X. Ferris, even wrote a four-part series, “Defending Danzig,” as a means to recoup some of Danzig’s street cred. Sadly, it would be only a month later when Ferris would publish a “never mind” piece. Scheduled to play 2011’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas, Danzig was in full-blown diva mode. An outdoor event, Danzig complained about the wind and requested side-barriers be built on each side of the stage, obviously setting back the festival schedule as result. To make matters worse, Danzig also wasn’t feeling well. He demanded French onion soup and a Wendy’s chicken sandwich. I’ll say it again, he demanded French onion soup and a Wendy’s chicken sandwich. Eventually, Danzig went on late and played an abbreviated show – that he blamed on the event organizers. Even metal-legends Slayer, who also played the event, couldn’t resist laughing at Danzig.
In 2012, creepy fans would continue to try to find the next kitty litter picture, but would only manage the side of Danzig’s head in an Asian market. However, there were fans present to capture Danzig going ape shit over a photographer during his Bonnaroo performance.
On tour last year, Danzig was also the victim of a false internet rumor. This time generated by a Facebook post by a bloodied fan who claimed Danzig beat him up at a show in
Toronto Montreal, Canada. Apparently, this fan didn’t get the memo that Danzig doesn’t allow photos and videos during his concerts. After multiple warnings, Danzig’s security removed the fan from the show. Whatever happened, the fan got some kind of cut on his forehead and would go on to wipe blood all over his face. Of course, this fan would post a selfie of his bloodied mug claiming that Glenn Danzig actually beat him up. The story got enough buzz to initiate a police investigation, but nothing has resulted since. And here we have more fodder for Danzig diva behavior. As the story went viral, the internet commenters relentlessly called out Danzig for “being a bitch” or not allowing photos “because he’s a fat ass now.” When in truth, it seems one nutty fan got kicked out of a show after several warnings.
Because the last decade plus has been unkind to Glenn’s image, it begs the question: Will history remember Glenn Danzig as a music legend or just that metal dude who one time bought kitty litter? More compelling perhaps, is the question: Is Danzig hate somehow a by-product of his own cult of personality?
– J. Kevin Lynch
Glenn Danzig v. The Internet