Crowd boos Charlie Sheen as actor's rambling stage debut bombs
It took about 25 minutes for the audience to really turn on Charlie Sheen.
Tickets for the first night of the imploding star's Violent Torpedo of Truth tour in Detroit had sold out within minutes of going on sale and some were changing hands at more than $1,000 (£621) ahead of the event.
But it was clear almost as soon as Sheen took the stage that his hastily arranged attempt to capitalise on internet notoriety had backfired badly.
Or maybe just for the audience. As the tiger-blood swilling, catchphrase-invoking actor cried out over the booing: "I already got your money, dude."
The show, a rambling, self-aggrandising monologue interspersed with video clips from Sheen's career and appearances from the curvaceous female models he calls "goddesses", proved to be every bit as shambolic as the star's recent behaviour. "I am finally here to identify and train the Vatican assassin locked inside each and every one of you," he said, in the first of a string of incomprehensible declarations. "I'm a giant leaky bag of mayhem." And then, as the restless audience struggled to follow his rant: "Is anybody else as confused by this s*** as I am?"
Though Sheen has no experience of performing a one-man show, the reason he had become the hottest ticket in town is obvious. No celebrity meltdown has played out in such extroverted fashion as his. He has taken to the airwaves to denounce his firing from the sitcom Two and a Half Men and set up his own YouTube channel and Twitter account for voyeurs of his bizarre antics. Odd catchphrases, like his insistence that he is "winning" and his endorsement of a drink he calls "tiger blood" have seeped into the public consciousness.
It had even started to look like less of a descent and more of a transformation, less like madness and more like the emergence of a brilliant new bad boy brand of the internet age. Whatever it was, the audience in Detroit concluded, it isn't funny anymore.
What began with standing ovations quickly turned to heckling and audience walk-outs, and Sheen was forced to curtail anecdotes and fight to be heard over the noise. At one point he told them: "You paid your hard-earned money without knowing what this show was about." Then he appeared to suggest that he doesn't know either: "It's an experiment."
Audience members were brutal in their assessment of the show. Inside, the crowd chanted: "Refund." Outside, Linda Fugate, who paid $150 for two seats, walked up the street, yelling: "I want my money back!" She told a reporter: "I was hoping for something. I didn't think it would be this bad."
And on Twitter, film analyst Scott Feinburg parodied Sheen's use of the catchphrase "winning" to sum up the general mood: "Charlie Sheen... #Losing?" Professional critics were, inevitably, also scathing. "Call it 'tiger blood' or 'Adonis DNA' if you will. Just don't call it entertainment," wrote The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney.
Now that the torpedo of truth is officially a bomb, it prompts questions about the rest of the tour. Sheen was scheduled to do another sold-out performance last night in Chicago, followed by 18 more across the country. On Twitter, in his most recent tweet, composed live on stage in Detroit, Sheen still sounds upbeat. "The most honest city in the world honors the most honest man in the world," he wrote, appending a picture of the cheering audience from the start of the show. Since then, though, there have been no updates.
But 20 minutes after the show had ended, as some 750 die-hard fans lingered in the theatre, Sheen returned to the stage along with his goddesses. Posing for photos and to answer questions, he conceded: "This is an experiment. We're working some s*** out."