Scott Putesky, Marilyn Manson co-founder, dies at 49

Scott Mitchell Putesky, known as Daisy Berkowitz as a founding member of the South Florida goth-rock band Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, died Sunday after a long battle with colon cancer.

The former Fort Lauderdale resident who, to the end, faced his illness with grace, humor and a generosity of spirit that defined his life beyond the stage, was 49. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2013 and died in hospice care in Boca Raton, where his parents live.

Known around the world by the name of its singer, Marilyn Manson, the band first stirred to life in 1989 as the invention of Putesky and Boca Raton resident Brian Warner. With kooky names and the kinky brashness of Warner’s title character, Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids found local success and then national prominence beginning with their 1994 Trent Reznor-produced debut album, “Portrait of an American Family,” and the 1995 EP “Smells Like Children.”

While the band became famous for its theatrical excesses, it prospered in large part because of the musical credibility provided by the gleaming, industrial-gear shredding of Putesky’s guitar on early Manson songs such as “Lunchbox,” “Dope Hat” and their hit cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

Rob Elba, who played the same South Florida clubs in the early 1990s with his band the Holy Terrors, says that most musically creative songs made by Marilyn Manson came from Putesky.

“He was such an inventive player. Marilyn Manson has his fans, and that’s fine, but musicians, especially, know that the only good songs and music they had was when Scott was in the band,” Elba says. “The first two records had such interesting musicality to them, aside from all the gothness and all that. Brian may have been a good lyricist, but the whole music part of Marilyn Manson was 90 percent Scott.”

Citing “creative differences,” Putesky left Manson during the recording of the band’s 1996 breakout album, “Antichrist Superstar.” He told Noisey in 2014 that Manson and Reznor let it be known that they weren’t interested in the music he had composed.

"We had a number of unreleased songs that were contenders for ‘Antichrist’ that [Manson] didn’t want to do or Trent didn't want to record, so I was being slowly muscled out as far as my contribution,” Putesky said. He sued Manson for royalties from the six songs he is credited for on “Antichrist Superstar,” a case settled in 1998 for an undisclosed amount.

After Putesky’s death, Manson wrote on Instagram: "Scott Putesky and I made great music together. We had our differences over the years, but I will always remember the good times more. Everyone should listen to 'Man That You Fear' in his honor. That was our favorite."

In the late 1990s Putesky recorded with Fort Lauderdale alt-rock band Jack Off Jill and made several releases under the name Three Ton Gate. Jack Off Jill acknowledged Putesky’s passing on Facebook, calling him a “friend, band mate, artist, hero.”

News of his death inspired an outpouring of emotional Internet posts, with many chronicling examples of Putesky’s big-hearted willingness to share time and expert advice with young musicians, budding music writers and fellow cancer fighters. After his diagnosis, Putesky started a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover daily expenses, with a goal of $5,000. Donations totaled more than $20,000.

In an Oct. 16 Facebook post, Putesky acknowledged a downturn in his condition, but remained upbeat: “I’ve come back from this particular situation before so I know I can do it again. I have a great and positive network of friends and caregivers and simply need help with mundane things like phone bills, transportation, shipping and other non-medical expenses. I feel your LOVE and support - THANK YOU!!”

Beyond music, Putesky had an associate’s degree in advertising design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and had been creating collages and drawings with markers and colored pencil.

“Cutting through the extreme fatigue of chemotherapy, I'm working on my art nearly every day,” he wrote on his page at SaatchiArt.com. “Creating comes naturally to me and now has become good therapy for me.”

“Professionally, I don't know if he ever quite struck the balance he was looking for. But as a person, he succeeded,” longtime Sun Sentinel music writer Sean Piccoli says. “He was a rock star who was also a really decent person. He was someone you could talk to and laugh with over drinks at the Poorhouse, who told witty stories about the road, and … someone who could write prose as well as music.”

Elba says the dark gloom of Marilyn Manson was the opposite of the man behind Daisy Berkowitz, who in later life used a publicity portrait of himself with a profusion of daisies erupting from his blazer pocket.

“He was the anti of what you would think someone from Marilyn Manson would be. He was a very sweet guy, always had a smile on his face and a very wry sense of humor about everything,” Elba says of his friend of 27 years. “He was easy to stay friends with, whether he was in the band, or after he left the band, he was always just Scott. He never had the rock star aura about him.”

In March, shortly after Putesky had returned to his parents’ home after living in Connecticut, he accepted an invitation to perform a song with Elba’s band Shark Valley Sisters in a set at the Poorhouse devoted to music of punk icons the Dead Boys. They settled on the Dead Boys’ classic “Sonic Reducer,” but Putesky had a request: He wanted to sing.

“He was such a great guitar player, but he was a frustrated singer,” Elba says, laughing. “He was an OK singer, but he was an amazing guitar player. But he did great. He really got into it. Everyone said, ‘Scott is awesome.’ And he was.”

bcrandell@sun-sentinel.com

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