The Real Charlie Sheen

The "unemployed winner" tells the mainstream press to beat it, opting to share an exclusive interview and a (non-alcoholic) drink with FM.

Charlie Sheen Interview
Courtesy of Robert Maron

Charlie Sheen’s most recent sober drink of choice is chocolate milk with instant coffee crystals stirred in. With a tall stack of posters in front of him, he sits comfortably on a couch in the ground-floor lounge of Agganis Arena, talking to me as he sips his drink and signs images of himself. Surrounded by his entourage after his show in Boston, Sheen is in his element. He is cool, calm, and collected.

The brightly colored posters show Sheen as a superhero in cartoon form: his enlarged hands are in flames and his lips hold a lit cigarette. In real life, Sheen’s hands move with purpose as he efficiently scribbles “Charlie Sheen” and “win” in the same place on each poster, one after another. He takes a break from the signing and asks for his friend to pass him the ashtray. He’s been smoking all night.

After the show, he is a different man from the one who claimed to be immortal after ripping off his shirt and throwing it into the crowd only a few hours earlier. He’s also a different man from the one who broke down on the “Today Show” in late February. On stage he brags about the “tiger blood” that keeps him “winning” on “a drug called Charlie Sheen.” He asks the audience to judge the “goddess” potential of more than a dozen scantily clad women who come on stage hoping to become his third girlfriend. But away from the crowd, he tells me he’s happy with the two 24-year-old girlfriends he calls his “goddesses,” Rachel Oberlin and Natalie Kenly. He responds to my questions without hesitation and trades self-aggrandizement for self-deprecation, saying that he’s not “the brightest guy in the room.”

. . .

“So tell me more about that burger,” Sheen says. Earlier in the night he had briefly asked me about the Charlie Sheen burger that comes with a 20 ounce Coke at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage. “Does it fucking bite you back, when you bite it?” he had wanted to know. I’m in the chair to his left, the center of attention in a small room with his inner circle. He talks frankly about his addiction, his determination to move forward, and his frustration with the media’s fixation on his day-to-day-life. But beyond the prying eye of the public, Steve Han, a former paparazzo who has been hired to document the tour, films our conversation. I show my Harvard ID to prove my identity to the camera. Meanwhile, Sheen makes two chocolate milks with instant coffee, one for each of us.

“How do you like the drink?” he wants to know. We go back and forth. He asks me about how I like school and what I want to do with my life. The goddesses interrupt to say goodbye before leaving for the night. Sheen, who plans to stay in and work, tells them to “be safe” and “have fun.” We go back to talking. At some point I have to remind myself that I am with one of America’s hottest celebrities. He seems more like the father of a friend.

According to Sheen, the tour isn’t a publicity stunt, but it isn’t performance art either. The actor-turned-“unemployed winner” sees it as an opportunity to interact with his fans. In his words, the tour “is sort of an interview on steroids.” After the first show, which was in Detroit, flopped, Sheen ditched the teleprompter and switched to an interview-based format that relies heavily on audience participation. “Detroit—just a fucking train wreck man. Just bodies everywhere. Both fucking conductors totally drunk and guilty.”

His show is a hybrid between improv-comedy and a town hall meeting, and every show since the disaster in Detroit has been a little different from the previous one. “I think you’ve got to find a nice balance,” Sheen says about the trade-off between interacting with the crowd and relying on his own material. “Something happens out there. Believe it or not, it’s strangely organic,” he explains. “It’s sort of a natural ramping up of the brain scope—not the mouth wash.”

Sheen’s Twitter account says he’s unemployed, but the high school dropout still seems to work hard. He stayed up all night after the tour’s first show to completely revamp it. “It was all on me,” Sheen says. He tells me that he’s going to multitask while talking sports on 98.5 WBZ-FM later in the night, because he has work to do for a video messaging service company. He easily maintains our conversation while making drinks and signing posters. Sheen doesn’t sit still well—it’s no wonder the actor wants his job back.

Sheen says that he hopes to return to his role on the hit-show “Two and a Half Men” after his tour, which ends shortly before the show’s mid-May deadline for major casting decisions. When he discusses his plans to return—on stage and in the lounge—he adopts an unusually serious tone. “There’s been some progress, let me just say that,” Sheen says. “I don’t call the shots, but we’re making fucking progress.” If he’s not brought back, the tour may go overseas.

. . .

Following a media blitz after being fired by CBS as the star of “Two and a Half Men,” Sheen switched from interviews with high-profile journalists to the more direct medium of a live tour in order to remove the filter between him and his fans. As of now, after unflattering headlines and regrettable comments, Sheen has decided to stop talking with the mainstream media altogether; he even denies paid interview requests. But at the eighth stop on his “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option Show” tour, in America’s biggest college town, Sheen grants The Crimson’s Magazine exclusive access to one night of his superstar life: a big fuck you to the mainstream press.

“That’s how I roll,” Sheen says.

I had planned on spending the night studying for a Spanish midterm the next morning. But when Sheen’s publicist Larry Solters sent me a promising email 12 minutes before Sheen was set to take the stage, I grabbed a notebook from my desk drawer and rushed out the door to hail a cab. I soon learn that this is how the tour operates: plans are made last minute, according to Sheen’s wishes. I eventually meet his entire Boston team: the production and road managers, the media managers, the Jersey Shore star Pauly D, the former lightweight championship boxer Vinny Paz and both of Sheen’s goddesses. I stay until after the highest paying ticket holders shake hands with the man-of-the-hour, who heads to a radio station when we part ways.

“None of this is planned. I know it looks like it, but it fucking isn’t,” Sheen tells the crowd when he agrees, mid-show, to go on 98.5 WBZ-FM afterwards.