When someone tells you that life can change in an instant, chances are they're trying to sell you typhoon insurance.
But one particular life-changing instant has lasted for nine years and counting. It's the second in June 2004, with a video camera rolling, in which Glenn Danzig murmured, "Fuck you, motherfucker," and shoved Danny Marianino, singer of Arizona hardcore band North Side Kings, who came back with a retaliatory blow to the middle-aged Misfit's head.
It's a second that rock stars of all stripes, from Metallica's James Hetfield to nice guy Alice Cooper to ex-members of Danzig's own groups, have fessed up to replaying hundreds of times on YouTube. A second that came in as VH1's 74th "Most Shocking Moment in Music," well ahead of Sonny Bono's death and Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron's penis exploding. No kidding: This little fracas was a game-changer for everyone involved.
For Danzig, it turned a spotlight on a prima donna streak that only insiders privy to his show rider might've known about before. This year marks Danzig the band's 25th anniversary, but Danzig the man's image has been somewhat tarnished by his gift for generating negative publicity. Plenty of Danzig fans have seen the bullying tactics evidenced in that 2004 video for themselves, whether they've been kept waiting for him to start a show because someone didn't bring him a Wendy's chicken sandwich or French onion soup or they've watched him attack photographers at Bonnaroo.
For Marianino, the video was the beginning of the end of a hardscrabble decade-long musical career and an introduction to the world of Internet hate and loathing, both of which are documented to humorous effect in his self-published book, Don't Ever Punch a Rockstar: A Collection of Hate Mail & Other Crazy Rumors. While the titular incident informs the whole book, it's not 258 pages of Danzig-bashing.
"Most of the book is about me being in a small band and all the crazy shit that happens when you're on tour and you're broke," says Marianino. "And it's how people are just shitheads on social media."
People reached out and spewed hate at Marianino almost immediately after the gig. "It was that morning. By the time I got back from Tuba City, Danzig had already put out a statement that I cut him with a sharp object and fled the scene. A guy wrote me and said, 'You stabbed Danzig.'"
Up to then, Marianino had never received anything more negative than a few nasty comments left under a record review. But now there was hate, and on a much larger scale than he was used to.
"I developed a pretty thick skin just being a kid in high school, so it just carried on," he remembers. "But I'm not gonna lie and say some of these messages don't bother me. Right now, I got this girl that's driving me fuckin' mad, sending messages to people I'm friends with on Facebook that I'm a racist, impersonating me online. If she saw me face-to-face, she would shit in her pants if I came at her."
This hater, calling herself Amanda Danzig (no relation), went as far as writing a fanfiction account of the whole Danzig dustup.
"She's like an 18-year-old Hispanic girl from Austin. She's some kid being a dick, but a persistent dick — to the point where I'm about ready to press charges for harassment."
Though Danzig unsuccessfully attempted to press assault charges on Marianino — anyone on the scene with working eyes had already told police that Danzig pushed first — others were happy to fight Danzig's battles for him.
Four months after the Tuba City show, North Side Kings were playing with Madball and H20. "[Danzig's] karate school called up a club in Anaheim called Chain Reaction," says Marianino, laughing, "and threatened to come down and beat us up if we played the show." The club hired extra security and the gigs went on without a single karate chop administered.
"He's infuriated with me. I've heard stories of him playing shows where kids are wearing a North Side Kings T-shirt and he bugs out and starts shit with them.
"I blame him for the book. I wrote it a long time ago and put it away and said, 'The hell with it.' Then, in a four-month time span, he did a slew of interviews where the interviewer asked him about what happened, and he went ahead and made up a whole other bullshit story about how it was a setup."
In 2012, Danzig told LA Weekly that Marianino "was trying to get me on camera punching him so he could sue me or some shit. I forget what it was. When everyone was breaking it up, he coldcocked me. What are you going to do?"
"If that was a setup," laughs Marianino, "then he is the easiest motherfucker to set up in the world. Anybody can set him up. All I did was say five fuckin' things to him and the guy went nuts, you know? You do that to people all the time and sooner or later somebody's gonna punch you . . . It was a crazy reaction, but that's what it was."
By Marianino's estimation, Danzig gets just as much hate mail as he does, though the rocker is cushioned from seeing it.
"He's got moderators on his sites. But if you go to YouTube, heavy metal sites, he gets it just as much as I do. But he's asking for it. He's charging photographers at festivals, delaying shows over French onion soup. I'd be happy with a slice of fuckin' pizza."
By contrast, North Side Kings did a 2008 show with the Jerry Only-led Misfits and watched their cowlicked bassist take pictures with fans until the last kid left the building. "I have never seen anybody in a band do that," says Marianino. "You're not gonna see Prince at the Marquee come back and make pancakes for everybody."
"Maybe in the world of rock 'n' roll, antisocial behavior is expected, but in the small hardcore scene, you'll be playing Elks Lodges," Marianino says, painting a picture of a humbler genre. "You're right in front of people. After the show, you're selling your merch, hanging out with those same kids all night long. And then you're staying on their couch — you're in their living room and their mom is making you macaroni."
In 2008, the North Side Kings took a break after their third album that became a hiatus after Marianino's house went up in flames, taking most of the band's equipment with it. A freak fire caused by a faulty propane tank, but some Danzig fans were happy to credit their idol with a four-years-delayed reaction to what horror mag Rue Morgue called "The Beatdown."
"And that was that," says Marianino, with an air of temporary finality. His house was rebuilt, but his band stayed quiet.
Marianino has ideas for more books and scripts, but he hasn't ruled out some unfinished business with the band that brought him all this unwanted notoriety.
"I'd like to do another North Side Kings album. I have songs, but I don't have any lyrics.
"Back then, I owned a furniture store. I was dealing with customers, and I had a lot of stress. Now I work for a big corporation. When I get done and my day is over, I've got a wonderful wife to come home to and I hang in the pool, drinking wine, smoking cigars. I don't have that angst in me to write those lyrics anymore."
"It's complicated," he says, taking a happy puff from his cigar. Poolside, of course.