Worm a Smashing Success - Chicago Sun -Times
March 26, 1997 - By Rick Telander

(Thanks to Ellen for typing this out).

There he was once again, in your kitchens and dens and living rooms- this time from the Academy Awards presentations Monday night-sashaying across our TV screens, looking like the tallest fop in history. You want to get away from Dennis Rodman when the Bulls games are over, but you can't. You would like to move beyond his elongated strand of egocentricity. But you can't.

You would like to pigeonhole him as a buffoon, a wacko, a jerk, a fraud, a clown, boorish, puddle-deep, manipulative capitalist, and be done with him--but you can't. People won't let you. What people? Hollywood people. Book people. TV people. MTV people. Sports people. Talk-show people. Kids. Adolescents. Bored people. Angry parents. Rebels.

America, and the world it seems, is demanding more and more rather than less and less of the Worm. We thought the saturation point for public interest in cross-dressing power forwards with funny hair was reached last year.

But we were wrong. The NBA suspensions, the book, the fake wedding, the weeping on "Oprah", the hair colours, the lollipops, the commercials seemed to be enough to milk that skinny cow dry.

But no. The animal is bursting like an overfilled water balloon. And thirsty consumers are lined up to drink. Already this season Rodman has been on more TV screens than static lint.

He has another book ready to go (Can the Compleat Works of the Worm be far off?), an action toy in stores, a budding pro wrestling career in progress and a movie, "Double Team", with Jean-Claude Van Damme, being shipped to theatres next week.
So Rodman is not fading; he is blooming,
Can anyone explain? Please?

To the rescue comes none other than Billy Corgan, lead singer and founder of the Smashing Pumpkins, the Chicago-based band named 1996 artists of the year by Rolling Stone and band of the year by Spin.

The Pumpkins aren't everyone's favourtie dish, but their offering, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness", has grabbed enough listeners to become the runaway best-selling double album of the 1990s. Way ahead of, say, Michael Jackson's "HIStory".

Corgan, the gangly, 6"4, smooth-headed, ghastly pale maestro from Glen Ellyn, is a sports fan extraordinaire who often zips straight from his downtown recording studio to Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs or White Sox games.

A former hoopster himself, he lists getting cut from his high school basketball team as perhaps the main ingerdient spurring him on to rock 'n' roll devotion and eventual stardom.

The four members of "The Sportswriters on TV"-- Bill Gleason, Lester Munson, Bill Jauss and myself--invited Corgan onto our recent hour long show so we could grill him about the parallel universe of sports and music. And to see what it was about Rodman that so captivates so many young people.

Corgan began by noting that he had seen an early edition of "Double Team".

"Believe it or not, Dennis is very good in the movie," he said. "Say what you will about him, but he is a charismatic character. He walks into a room, and people are drawn to him. He has, to steal a phrase, a rock star's kind of charisma.

"It's an internal thing. I know it's easy to look at his tattoos and the way he acts and dresses, but knowing many people who are successful, as I do, I know it's an internal thing. He draws people to him like moths."

Rodman, of course, thinks enough of Corgan to have given him his Bulls jersey after the recent Seattle game, a present for Corgan's 30th Birthday on St. Patrick's Day.

Corgan proudly brought the soiled jersey to our taping, displaying the stinking thing like a rare tapestry.

"When I first met Dennis, I came in with the assumptions we all have about him," Corgan continued. "But what he is is a free spirit in a domain that is not used to true free spirits. Dennis cannot be contained by boundaries.

"The only way I'veever understood it--like when I think, 'Why did he kick that guy?'-- is that's like when I've been on stage and whipped my guitar off and thrown it fifty feet. When you play with intensity and you play from your heart, things just come out. They're not always correct. What I understand about him is that he plays so on the edge and so to his utmost that things come out that are not necessarily appropriate. As calculating as people think he is, I don't think he's calculating at all. The only thing he's calculating is about getting under people's skin. And that's part of his game."

OK then, Jauss said, how do you feel after you've done something destructive on stage?

"I look back on many things I've done and I think that's the dumbest thing I've ever done," Corgan said. "I'm talking about spontaneous acts of stupidity, where you just go berserk. I've destroyed entire stacks, $20,000 worth of equipment in a single act.
Out of anger, I asked?
Corgan shook his head.

"It's not aout that," he said. "When you, when..." He paused. "In order to play with such intensity, you take the chance that inappropriate stuff will come out. That's what I see in Dennis. He plays on the edge. He's not thinking about rules when he's playing. It's a Zen kind of freak-out." I won't say we sportswriters agreed with the rock star. But we listened. And we learned. And nobody freaked out or kicked a thing.

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