Charlie Sheen and his "goddesses" took the stage to thunderous applause Saturday night for the first leg of his "Torpedo of Truth" tour. The 70-minute show hadn't even ended when the first reviews were in, and they were brutal.
The former Two and a Half Men star showed that comedic success on the screen doesn't necessarily translate to the stage, and the capacity crowd at the 5,100-seat Fox Theatre rebelled before he left the stage, chanting "refund!" and walking out in droves.
Linda Fugate, 47, of the Detroit suburb of Lincoln Park, walked outside and up the block yelling, "I want my money back!"
She said she paid $150 US for two seats. "I was hoping for something. I didn't think it would be this bad."
Sheen's publicist Larry Solters declined to comment after the show, but Sheen reappeared after the house lights went up to thank those who remained.
Fans who gathered outside the theatre before the doors opened Saturday — some who had to fly in for the show — said they were hoping to see the increasingly eccentric actor deliver some of the colourful rants that have made him an Internet star since his ugly falling out with CBS and the producers of Two and a Half Men.
They got the ranting. It just wasn't funny.
"I expected him to at least entertain a little bit. It was just a bunch of ranting," said Rodney Gagnon, 34, of Windsor, Ont.
On Twitter, where Sheen has amassed some 3.4 million followers, some fans were already predicting a premature end for the planned 20-city tour, which was scheduled to resume Sunday in Chicago.
"Charlie Sheen thanks for saying goodbye! Piece of advice cancel the rest of your tour," someone tweeted under the name ChrstosMo.
Tour promises 'real story'
Promising to give fans "the real story," the 45-year-old Sheen kicked off a month-long, 20-city tour Saturday night, with the second show scheduled for Sunday in Chicago.
The show started well for Sheen, as the crowd stood and cheered as he and the women he calls his "goddesses" took the stage. The women, one a former porn star and the other an actress, carried signs with the words "War" and "Lock," a reference to Sheen's recent description of himself as a warlock.
"I don't see a single empty seat," he said. After one audience member booed, Sheen sanguinely replied, "I've already got your money, dude."
Things only got worse.
Among the low points was when Sheen screened a short film he wrote, directed and produced years ago called RPG. He sat in the front row to watch the film, which starred a much younger Johnny Depp. Boos were heard throughout.
"Tonight's an experiment," he said.
He tried on a bowling shirt like one his TV character CharlieHarper would wear, then took it off and had his goddesses burn it.
He then donned a Detroit Tigers No. 99 jersey, a reference to his role in the film Major League.
He told everyone he wanted them to enjoy "a night of winning."
Winning, in fact, was one of many of Sheen's catchphrases to be displayed in a video montage. Others: "Violent hatred" and "Adonis DNA."
Sheen had said rapper Snoop Dogg would perform at the show, but he didn't. Instead, the show ended with a video for a new Snoop Dogg song before the lights went on.
Audience wants craziness
Toronto-area resident Ronnie Prentice was among several fans outside the theatre who said they were hoping to see Sheen rant.
"It's kind of like a NASCAR race. You're just tuning in because you're just waiting for the accident to happen," said Prentice, 37.
Adam Hawke said he bought a ticket for the same reason. "He might be doing something really crazy," said Hawke, 47, who works in the construction business and lives in Michigan. "He's a wreck. That's half the draw."
Geoff Rezek, 69, flew in from New York to see what he believed was going to be "history in the making."
"I wouldn't miss the first show. Who knows if there's going to be a second show?" said Rezek, a computer consultant from Connecticut, who said he also bought a ticket for Sheen's show next week in his home state.
Sheen's life draws coverage
Sheen has made headlines in recent years, as much for his drug use, failed marriages, custody disputes and run-ins with the police as for his acting. His father, actor Martin Sheen, has compared his son's fight against addiction to that of a cancer patient's fight for survival.
Last August, Sheen pleaded guilty in Aspen, Colo., to misdemeanor third-degree assault after an altercation on Christmas Day 2009 with his third wife, Brooke Mueller. The couple recently finalized their divorce.
The wayward star's behavior, which included lashing out at the producer of Two and a Half Men, Chuck Lorre, finally became too much for Warner Bros. Television, which booted him from on March 7.
Sheen fired back with a $100 million lawsuit and all-out media assault in which he informed the world about his standing as a "rock star from Mars" and a "warlock" with "Adonis DNA" who lives with two "goddesses," both of whom he said would be at the Detroit show.
His unique banter and catchphrases — think "winning" — have spread over the internet and onto T-shirts, more than a few of which are expected to be sold on the tour, which wraps up May 3 in Seattle.
Bob Orlowski, a 46-year-old lawyer from Plymouth who has a suite at the theater, said there is "no way" the tour will make it all the way to the end. He said he brought six clients to Saturday's performance, thinking it would be an event, but instead witnessed a "train wreck."
One of his clients said Sheen's performance replaced a Milli Vanilli concert as the worst show he'd ever seen.
"Now he feels good about Milli Vanilli," Orlowski said.
Some among the crowd, though, defended the performance with the type of defiance that would have made the actor proud.
"I love my city, but I'm just disgusted with what happened tonight," said Sarah Cappuccitti, 31, a hair stylist from Westland.
"People needed to the shut the heck up."
Sheen has said the Detroit show, where tickets cost $45 to $80, sold out.