A pair of notorious lotharios have been in the news recently: Charlie Sheen in anticipation of the launch of his new sitcom, the provocatively titled Anger Management, and John Mayer, to promote his new record, Born and Raised. Not surprisingly, both men are being asked to account for their past sins, Sheen for his bizarre 15-month rampage and Mayer for a series of genuinely offensive interviews he gave in 2010. Since these guys are such cultural pariahs/lepers at the moment, they’re also lightning rods for a number of our favorite themes: judgment, self-righteousness, sin, identity, addiction, forgiveness and most pressingly at the moment, repentance (to name a few). In a nutshell, Mayer sounds pretty broken and contrite, Sheen not so much. Or is he? The guy is a live wire, to say the least. In the lengthy profile of Sheen that appeared in last Sunday’s NY Times (titled “Repentant? No Way, Man!”), we found out, in reference to his new series, “Mr. Sheen said it was important to him that the series have ‘a theme of atonement.’ The Goodson character ‘let a lot of people down,’ he said. ‘A lot of people were rooting for him, and he ended his career with his own anger.’” Eeeen-teresting. The Rolling Stone profile (sadly not available online) included a number of incredible soundbites, not all of which were completely insane:

“I haven’t gone through a psych evaluation to see what was behind the whole episode,” [Sheen] goes on, “but for, like, a two-week period I was the most famous person on the planet! Here’s why I think it had such resonance and crazy comic traction. It wasn’t ‘win’ or ‘won.’ It was ‘winning’ — the middle of an act. Clearly, a guy gets fired, his relationships are in the toilet… there’s nothing ‘winning’ about any of that. I mean, how does a guy who’s obviously quicksanded, how does he consider any of it a victory? I was in total denial.”

He stops, thinks about that, maybe hoping his thoughts on the matter will clarify themselves. After a while, when they don’t, he says, “Oh, man, what is my life? I don’t even know, dude. Here’s the good news. It was exciting as hell, being on the apex of that wave as it was cresting. Exhilarating. But, yeah, it feels like certain ripples have reached their shores.”

Anyone’s guess as to what that last phrase means. But the article goes on to quote Charlie’s father, the increasingly saintly Martin Sheen (my vote to play the father in the inevitable film adaptation of the parable of the prodigal son):

Throughout, [Charlie] never made excuses for what he was doing or hid behind obfuscations, which is one of the great things about the guy and why people like him so much and continue to root for him. “He’s an extraordinary man but deeply flawed, as we all are,” says his father. “I’ll tell you one thing about him, though. He’s never once lied his way out of a situation. He takes the rap. He’s done that all his life. His honesty is breathtaking.”

“Charlie’s as great a mystery to me as I am to myself, with no explanation possible,” Martin says. “It’ll take a miracle, but his time has yet to come. When he gets a grasp on how much he is loved and begins to love himself, everything is going to change.”

A few pages later, Rolling Stone printed an interview with Mayer, his first in more than two years. Quite the contrast:

It’s been a while since we heard from you. This is your first interview in more than two years.

I was just done. I was shut down. To be honest, I still want to be shut down. But at a certain point, you’re just feeling sorry for yourself and running.

Speaking of running – let’s go back to the winter of 2009-2010. Describe your headspace.

I think what it comes down to is that I’d stopped appreciating the rarefied air that I take up as an artist who means a lot to people. I just turned into a punk. The world of being a celebrity is emotionally very compelling and difficult to say no to, and I just took on more and more of it. It’s always the moment before somebody breaks when they act the toughest. Your adrenaline goes nuts and you go, “Bring it on,” and that’s when you’re 30 seconds away from devolving into a ball of tears…

So those interviews came out. And then what happened?

I got the [feathers] kicked out of me. I got sort of disowned. But the subsequent crash – which sometimes I call “the market correction” – kind of ripped me out of a culture that I didn’t have the strength to exit myself. It’s almost like Stockholm Syndrome. And I never would have known it if it hadn’t sent me spiraling.

P.S. The RS issue in question also happens to contain the best article written about The Beach Boys in years! Just when you thought the magazine had nothing left to offer…