Either Charlie Sheen has lost his mind or he only wants you to think he has; it’s still not clear. If it’s the former then it’s a sad story not worth much in the way of coverage, which is why you haven’t seen us write much about it. But after last night’s live show in Detroit, it feels a bit more likely that this is all just a game and that Sheen really did lose a bet to Joaquin Phoenix when it comes to who could out-fake-crazy the other, so to speak. How’s that, you say? There’s just no other way of explaining the fact that he chose a brutal audience like the one he had to know he’d find in Detroit for his very first show. It’s almost as if he knew the kind of reaction he’d get there, and he wanted a ridiculous negative spectacle right off the bat just to stir the pot.
Consider this: when musicians are gearing up for a nationwide tour, they often try out new songs or new things at local shows around Los Angeles, sometimes shows at backstreet venues which aren’t even advertised, just to assure a crowd which won’t wig out. The only people who find out about such shows are core fans who dig for such stuff, and on top of that, the people in a town like LA know how to act around celebrities. After all, there’s nothing like performing in your own proverbial back yard in front of an audience of people who are largely all trying to make it in the entertainment industry themselves; they get it even when they don’t get it. And so what did Charlie Sheen do? He went and started off in Detroit, which he himself referred to as being the “most honest” city in America prior to the show.
Sheen is not a touring musician, but he’s been in the industry long enough to know how these things work. If he were looking for an open minded crowd, he’d have started the tour in his backyard. Instead he picked a hard-nosed, out-of-luck city in which he had to know there were going to be people who showed up just for the chance to boo him, regardless of his material. It’s possible he really has lost his mind to the point that he thought he could win over a tough-crowd city on night one, despite from what we hear was a barely cobbled-together live act on his part. But it seems just as plausible that he was looking for the negative reaction, looking for the early boos, wanting the “Charlie Sheen booed off stage” headlines which would invariably be written whether it quite played out that way or not. Much in the way Joaquin Phoenix wanted people to hate his music, hate him as a musician, boo him off stage.
Then again, Phoenix didn’t go and throw away a multi-million dollar paycheck like Sheen did by getting himself dropped from Two and a Half Men. Phoenix probably did cost himself some future roles, either due to casting directors irrevocably thinking he’s insane, or from them believing that he’s too damaged-goods career wise to take a chance on him even now that they know it was all an act. But the risk Joaquin took probably didn’t feel as immediate as the one Sheen did, which he had to know would cost him millions immediately. Then again, one has to wonder how many more years Sheen’s sitcom was going to be around anyway. If a former bad-boy movie star finds himself trapped in a cheeseball sitcom near the end of its run, wondering just how he’s ever going to regain his movie star momentum after one too many years of being associated with laugh tracks, trying to convince the world you’ve lost your mind and getting conveniently fired from the show in the process is one way to go about trying. Sheen’s purported substance abuse issues keep making you think that it can’t all be an act; someone under the influence can’t be secretly crafting a plan this wicked-smart. On the other hand, those “issues” could all be part of the act as well. After all, Joaquin Phoenix had the world convinced that he was under the influence of something during his faking-it rapper period. Could Charlie Sheen really be pulling the biggest hoax of the century?