The Truth About Billy Corgan And Marilyn Manson's Relationship

It's a shame, but the reality of the music industry and the public's yen for the dramatic often lead to sensational headlines that overtake what's really important: the music. Marilyn Manson is no stranger to drama overshadowing his art. Case in point: when the whole country blamed him for the Columbine High School tragedy.

His relationship with Billy Corgan, lead singer of the perennially bummed-out Smashing Pumpkins, was also fraught with theatrics at the turn of the 21st Century. In a 2015 interview with Esquire, Manson — whose name behind the makeup is Brian Hugh Warner — recounted a feud he and Corgan had a decade and a half earlier. The cause? You guessed it: a girl. Manson dated and almost married actress Rose McGowan for three-and-a-half years at the end of the '90s. (We all remember the dress she almost didn't wear at the 1998 MTV VMAs, for which she was ruthlessly slut shamed, she told Yahoo! News in August 2020.)

It's no surprise she felt confident enough to wear such a dress while on the arm of Manson. Even though their relationship didn't end on friendly terms, the two have made up since then, and she now says that being with Manson was "very instrumental in healing for me." She felt old at the time and "wanted to be young and free." Manson helped her feel that. For a while, at least.

Corgan warned Manson about his relationship with Rose McGowan

Manson told Esquire that he and Billy Corgan did squabble over his relationship with McGowan, but to call it a whole thing would really be inaccurate. "A lot of people think there was some kind of falling out," he said, referring to Corgan. "It was mostly that he wrote a strongly worded letter about how Rose McGowan would ruin my life and ruin my career if I stayed with her." In hindsight, Manson saw that that Corgan's advice was good and, ever conscious of social etiquette norms, said that "he wrote it as a letter, which is very polite." He saw that Corgan was just looking out for him.

For her part, McGowan bit back in her 2013 memoir Brave. According to Alternative Nation, she refers to the Smashing Pumpkins frontman as Manson's "whiny friend Billy" and revealed some of the strong words he used in that letter: "Going out with and actress makes you look like a p****." (That weird moment of machismo is just one of many reasons you wouldn't want to meet Billy Corgan.) But, as McGowen tells it, Manson seemed to enjoy the life of a guy who dates an actress. The two were "madly in love," with Manson "totally domestic" at home with her, painting watercolors of her dogs while she shopped online. Somehow, thinking of Marilyn Manson emulating Bob Ross at home only endears him to us more.

The music in the relationship between Marilyn Manson and Billy Corgan

Although the drama of a girl coming between two friends is what stands out in Manson's feud with Corgan, Manson goes on to reveal what brought them together in the first place. "He's the one who taught me how to play guitar," Manson told Esquire's Barry Thompson before adding jocularly: "So if it sucks or it's good, it's his fault."

As old friends tend to do, they ended up burying the hatchet further down the road and expounded further on their relationship in a press conference covered by Flavorwire, which called their bromance "a slow burner." At the event, Manson said to Corgan: "Sometimes you suppress things," and Corgan agreed that that was exactly what happened with his relationship with McGowan. Manson agreed, but said that "it wasn't the reason [we] didn't talk to each other for so long, but it was one of the factors."

As is the wont of old friends, Corgan also busted Manson's chops a little, speaking about the goth rock singer's skills on the ax. "He's awful, but he doesn't need to be great at guitar," he said. Manson joked that the guitar was basically a prop, but, as Corgan clarified, it wasn't about performing, but composing. He showed Manson the basics in order to be able to write songs without having to rely on others for the music, which, after all, is what really matters.