DETROIT >>Charlie Sheen was heckled, booed and eventually abandoned by the crowd at his inaugural stage show, with many of the audience members chanting "refund" and heading for the exits even before the show abruptly ended.
Winning? Not on opening night.
The first stop on Sheen’s "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option" 20-city variety show tour started Saturday night in Detroit with thunderous applause but ended 70 minutes later. In between, Sheen tried to appease his audience with rants, a rapper and a question and answer session, ultimately concluding the first show was "an experiment."
Now Chicago’s audience is wondering what will come of his second show, set for Sunday evening at the historic 3,600-seat Chicago Theatre. The Chicago Theater box office says the show is sold out, though tickets are listed for sale elsewhere online.
The former "Two and a Half Men" star learned firsthand at Detroit’s 5,100-seat Fox Theatre that show business still requires a show. The debacle called into question the fate of the nascent tour. Some fans already predicted a premature end for the month-long trek.
"No way" the show makes it through all the dates, said Bob Orlowski, a lawyer from Plymouth, Mich., who watched with six clients in a suite.
"He’s not suited for this," said Orlowski, 46. "It wasn’t funny."
Sheen’s publicist, Larry Solters, declined to comment after the show. Sheen, 45, reappeared after the house lights went up to thank the hundreds who remained.
It wasn’t clear when Sheen lost the audience, but there were many awkward moments.
Sheen, known for his wild partying and rampant drug use, said he thought Detroit would be a good place to tell some stories about crack cocaine. The remark prompted loud, immediate boos.
At another point, Sheen showed a short film he wrote, directed and produced years ago called "RPG." He sat in the front row to watch the flick, which starred a much younger Johnny Depp. Again, more boos.
But the show actually started off with a bang.
After a video montage of movie clips — Sheen in "Wall Street" and "Platoon" set to a guitar solo from Sheen friend Rob Patterson — the star emerged to raucous applause and a standing ovation. The cheering increased as the women he calls his "goddesses" took the stage.
The two women, a former porn star and an actress who live with him, carried placards with the words "War" and "Lock," a reference to Sheen’s recent description of himself.
When the goddesses locked lips in front of him, Sheen smirked. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand.
"I don’t see a single empty seat," he said.
That quickly changed.
As the showed bogged down, an audience member booed, prompting Sheen to reply, "I’ve already got your money, dude."
Things only got worse.
"Tonight’s an experiment," he said.
For some, it was an expensive experiment.
Linda Fugate, who paid $150 for two seats, left the theater and walked up the street, yelling, "I want my money back!"
"I was hoping for something. I didn’t think it would be this bad," said Fugate, a 47-year-old from Lincoln Park, Mich.
Fans who arrived at the theater — some flying in for the show — said they were hoping to see the increasingly eccentric actor deliver some of the colorful 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.
"Brutal. I expected him to at least entertain a little bit," said Rodney Gagnon, 34, of Windsor, Ontario.
Some saw something between victory and defeat.
Geoff Rezek, 69, a computer consultant from Darien, Conn., who met Sheen after the concert and received a poster, said the show needed work, but was salvageable. He believes Sheen is a consummate showman who took a risk.
"I wouldn’t miss the first show. Who knows if there’s going to be a second show?" Rezek said, perhaps prophetically. He also bought a ticket for Sheen’s performance next week in Connecticut.
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. Martin Sheen has compared his son’s struggle with addiction to a cancer patient’s struggle for survival.
In August, the wayward star pleaded guilty in Aspen, Colo., to misdemeanor third-degree assault after a Christmas Day altercation with his third wife, Brooke Mueller. The couple have since finalized their divorce.
Charlie Sheen’s behavior, which included lashing out at "Two and a Half Men" producer Chuck Lorre, finally became too much for Warner Bros. Television, which fired him 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" with "Adonis DNA."
After one of the sustained booing moments, Sheen tried to calm the crowd.
"Come on, guys. You paid to see me," he said. "… You gave me your hard-earned money without knowing what this (expletive) show was about. I’m here now … and I’m willing to open up."