curmudgeon, the ultra-meanie of alt.satanism, the force behind The Press and
MANINBLACK, Reverend André Peter Schlesinger of the Church of Satan was a
man who lived life on his own terms, without compromise—ever.
Peggy and I met him when he worked for Herman Slater at The Magical Childe, the occult shop in Manhattan’s Chelsea area that was ground zero for anyone interested in the outré. Dressed in his spiffy green horn-buttoned alpine jacket, the tattooed bloke with the full ginger sideburns and close-cropped hair blended herbs and carved candles for Herman’s many and varied customers. We got to know him on our visits, bonding over our Satanism as we were all unafraid to speak up for Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan during a turbulent time in our history.
André was one of the proudest men I’ve ever known. RE/Search had published “Modern Primitives” in 1989, revealing a tattooing and piercing renaissance that shocked many not in-the-know. At a time when tattooing was not legal in NYC (it was forbidden from 1961-1997), he was part of that new wave, with his elaborate skinhead ink, and his ampallang piercing. He’d be quick to show that stainless steel barbell to any gals who caught his eye. He was a very private individual concerning his personal life, though open with Peggy and I when he felt the need. Anger often arose within him, rocket fuel for creative undertakings where he’d find avenues for its release. Ritual was a tool he employed often. During one of the gatherings at our Tenth Avenue digs, he surprised guests by bringing along several glass ashtrays. Affixed to their clear bottoms were printed images of a couple of people who were Church of Satan detractors. As our smoker visitors flicked their cigarette ashes into these receptacles or crushed the glowing, fiery butts out against the faces of these lying creeps, they were given the ceremonial scorn that was so well-deserved. Those ashtrays were very popular, and now reside at our Hudson Valley Black House.
During the wild and wooly
days of Usenet discussion groups, André was the terror of
alt.satanism. As the draconian moderator “Cyberus” he kicked the asses of those who disparaged the
philosophy of Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan. His favorite term to dismiss
the whiners and cretins: “You fuckin’ moron!” That
sealed their fate with a kick and ban. While he may at times have been too
harsh, too hastily, his enmity was usually well-earned by the intellectual
black holes and skulking shit-heels who trolled that Usenet group. He was hated
by many, but he inspired others as an exemplar of intransigent loyalty. A rare
few became his friends and colleagues.
André was our staunch comrade during the years of the Satanic Panic. We filmed many interviews together, complete with requisite ritual—something he was always delighted to do, and with disciplined precision. He was an integral part of our BBC shoot in New York’s notorious S&M Hellfire Club; his lovely lady portrayed the nun who so sweetly brought forth the crucifix which I set aflame and cast into a cauldron of flash paper, climaxing the denunciation segment of our Rite of the Black Mass. For one appearance on MTV, André joined several others as the representative Satanist soaking in a mobile hot tub in an opulent white limo, trolling around the streets of Manhattan, his adopted home and stomping ground. In time he moved from his very small apartment on West 23rd Street, shared with his beloved Cheryl, to live only a block away from us on Eleventh Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. In these larger digs, we’d at times find him caring for the animals he befriended. What others might view as vermin, he doted over. The front room was crammed with his paraphernalia for ritual: tools for both Satanic liturgy and the creation of music shared the space—the means to release his passions.
One memorable film shoot
took place during a heat wave in August on the Lower East Side, in a small
ground-level apartment. André
served as celebrant for a ritual,
after which I did an hour or so of talking-head material. Peggy wielded a roll
of paper towels between the numerous takes to mop up his copious sweat, spawned
by the insane heat in that non-air-conditioned space. He was always a trooper,
and smartly declaimed our traditional texts from The Satanic Bible with gusto.
During the 90s he was a guest on the Art Bell Show from the kitchen in our Hell’s Kitchen apartment. He
was a fan of Bell, as UFOs and the paranormal were amongst his abiding
interests; it was a dream come true for André. Over the hours, he fielded questions, smoking
profusely while I handed him notes now and again, ammo to assist in shooting
down some misguided, aggressive callers during the Q&A segment.
For André’s staunch defense of his philosophy and organization, Anton LaVey recognized him to the title of Reverend Schlesinger. His ordination rite took place in the ritual chamber in our Hell’s Kitchen home, during which I shaved his head by his request, in homage to Anton LaVey’s similar act when he founded the Church of Satan. I’ll be doing a Satanic funeral for him, too, as I know that would be something he’d want done in his memory.
André was an avid Apple computer user, his go-to platform for all of his endeavors. He organized the first cadre of Satanists to donate their computer down-time for use by SETI. Having an acknowledged Church of Satan group participating in that program was ground-breaking. This pursuit flowed into his “X-Files” obsession; the iconography of conspiratorial cover-ups was part of his identity. Along with members of his MANINBLACK Grotto, André created a one-off newsletter “Eyes-Only,” typeset in classic government Courier. It was sent out in a file-folder, as if it had been purloined from secret government file drawers.
André also was a public access
pioneer. Manhattan Cable TV allowed independent producers to do their own
shows, which, particularly if they were unusual, were often given odd late
night time slots. They were broadcast as-is; one only needed to drop off the weekly
tape at their offices. Reverend Schlesinger produced, wrote, directed, shot and
was the first program of its kind in The Big Apple. Any cable subscriber could
tune in weekly to see footage of actual Satanic rituals filmed in his Manhattan
apartment, along with discussions of Satanic philosophy and even cooking tips!
Chef in Black (yes, his chef’s gear was entirely black), was fond of sharing
his own take on such delicacies as deviled eggs. He enjoyed his food, reveling
in its preparation, and he communicated that pleasure to his viewers. André always had an opinion on how things must be done.
Reverend Schlesinger always gave a hundred percent when working on something that mattered to him, pushing anyone working with him to do the same. That caused some casualties—not everyone wanted to be part of such pitched-battle endeavors. When the Grotto System was active, his MANINBLACK Grotto served as talent-pool for “Satanic Mass.” At times he’d host events, gatherings at a favorite watering hole, as a means for interested locals to encounter an authentic Satanic Priest, though he was certainly one of the surliest of sacerdotes. For curious folks dealing with him as their first taste of one of the Priesthood of Mendes, it could be a baptism of fire. More than one person decided to move on after a difficult first meeting. Others came back and got to know him, and found some fun in that experience.
In his youth André was frontman and composer for his Oi! band The Press (1984-1994), likely
the first of its kind in America. He was quite proud of his S.H.A.R.P.
membership. As a skinhead, he could be a brawler, and his stocky frame packed
power which he did not hesitate to use when he thought it was needed. Music was
always deeply part of him and he found renewed expression with his MANINBLACK
band, which often topped the punk charts of Reverb Nation. He continually
struggled to enlist fellow “geezers” to perform his new songs, though he often found
greater satisfaction in recording his works by himself—singing and playing all
the parts on his home studio equipment. Through these efforts he had
reconnected with some of his old fans and won new admirers, and he performed
live as often as he could. It was a struggle, but he never gave it up, a final
appearance being an event about a year ago that included him along with Darren
Deicide and Nathan Gray in a full-Satanic lineup of varied music at Otto’s Shrunken Head on a
frigid February night in 2015.
Reverend Schlesinger made an impression on all who encountered him—whether they earned his respect or more typically his contempt. He could often be found in his favorite haunt, Vazac’s on the Lower East Side. An authentic dive bar, the location for an execution scene in THE GODFATHER saga, it suited his hard-drinking, rough and tumble and often morose personality. He was never without his cheap vodka and his cigarettes, and his thick, heavily tattooed arms served him as a barricade to most, but also to offer a rare bear hug to a carefully selected few. His sense of humor, which could be quite silly—the notorious stuffed figure Baby Kittycat being an example—was often shrouded by his intensity, but its spark would be brighter for its rarity.
André was the very definition of stubborn—once he made a decision, he stuck by it, whether it was concerning where he should live or who was worthy of trust, or disgust. After Peggy and I left Manhattan for the Hudson Valley, we’d heard from him infrequently. He held out in Hell’s Kitchen as it continued to morph from the gritty neighborhood we all had loved—that once tested one’s mettle—into a white-washed grazing ground for the pantywaist parvenus now clogging its environs. He was committed to The City, that neighborhood, and was good as his word that he’d never leave it. He moved the world from its mean streets, making notable marks as a musician and a champion of Satanism—dual aspects of his vivid personality. André was a difficult man to like, and one even tougher to love. He might piss you off as only one who was like a brother could, but in the end, you knew he’d always be there for you, despite the sporadic differences or annoyances which might come up. As roiling storm clouds, such conflicts would waft away to leave at your side the rough-hewn rock that was Reverend André Peter Schlesinger. I miss that sonofabitch.
Hail André! Hail Satan!
—Magus Peter H. Gilmore