The make-or-break moment came at a beige, hotel nightclub-lounge room in Daytona Beach, circa 1994.
I was able to deftly dodge the ripped-up mini Bibles that this little-known, bizarro shock rocker named Marilyn Manson was chucking at the crowd. I wasn't worried about the broken-bottle shard that Marilyn, looking like a demonic kabuki, was dragging across his chest, springing forth a cherry-red rivulet that would've made Vampirella salivate like Pavlov's pooch.
But, as the local newspaper's rock music critic and a part-time photographer, I had to get into the trenches to get my shot, which meant walking straight into the line of fire of sweat bullets Marilyn was raining upon the front row, sprayed by his spastic gyrations.
I had to choose: "Rock 'n' roll? Or do I ditch entertainment and pop culture journalism to become an insurance adjuster?"
I made my choice. I still have the burn scar from one of Manson's flying sweat bullets to prove it.
It was the right choice.
Show me Barack Obama's iPod play list, Vladimir Putin's bookshelf, Gen. David Patraeus' TV diet or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's movie ticket stubs and I can tell you more about each person than they revealed in their last 10 policy speeches.
He who controls pop culture -- or at least has a clue about it -- controls the world.
In a phone interview some years ago, Janet Jackson revealed to me that she's a Three Stooges fan. Who knew? So, it all made sense when she and Justin Timberlake unfurled Boob-gate at the Super Bowl.
Agent Fox Mulder of "The X-Files" spoke of America's "military-industrial-entertainment complex." We ignore that complex at our peril. The truth is out there -- in our pop culture.