On the anniversary of 50 years of the Church of Satan, our High Priestess, Peggy Nadramia, decided to share some rarely-seen photos and discuss some little-known facts from the history of our organization. What follows is a portion of her Salon presentation.
THE LOST WEEKEND
Best bar name ever. And Anton LaVey was the house organist. Did I die and go to Hell?
Anton LaVey signed his Musician's Union contract with The Lost Weekend on April 29th, 1966. He was getting what would now be the equivalent of $47 an hour for playing two nights a week, five hours a night—plus tips.
Not too shabby.
A pretty good part-time job for a guy trying to start a worldwide organization in the daytime.
Dr. LaVey exchanged correspondence with a great many interesting people over the years, He received a letter from Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the founder of American Atheists. At that time she was calling her fledgling organization, The Society of Separationists, and she was VERY interested in Satanism:
"Are you the one who was on Johnny Carson's show? If you are, I must criticize you (my one defect is honesty). YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH OF THE SHOWMAN IN YOU...You have to put a little of the showman magic into it. And I think you came off a little short in that area."
I believe this may be the only time Dr. LaVey was criticized for NOT being a showman.
WAX MUSEUM AT FISHERMAN'S WHARF
I'm sure every Church of Satan member is familiar with the figure of Dr. LaVey that graces the Wax Museum in Fisherman's Wharf. Everyone who goes there on vacation has his or her photo taken with it. It was loaned to the Church of Satan for the press conference that was held to announce Dr. LaVey's passing.
That figure certainly deserved its place there, because Dr. LaVey had a long history with the Wax Museum.
Halloween 1966 was the first anniversary of the creation of their Chamber of Horrors, and the management decided to celebrate it by having Anton LaVey perform a Black Mass at midnight; in their press release, they clearly state that it's "the first time a Satanic rite has ever been held in a public place."
It was to be attended by "only the most select group of witches, vampires and known devotees of the Cult of Satan."
They pulled off this little shindig in tandem with a Witches Beauty Contest to elect a "Miss Devil May Care," and instead of marching down the runway in a crown, she got to lie upon a trapezoidal altar wearing as little as possible.
Much has been made of the connection between Anton LaVey and "Rosemary's Baby."
A lot of people like to attribute this legend to Anton LaVey. But in May of 1967, the publicists for "Rosemary's Baby" found Anton LaVey and his Church and were very excited. They solicited his support of their efforts.
One of their stunts included having Anton LaVey attend the movie premiere of "Rosemary's Baby" in San Francisco, and you've seen those very-collectable buttons: "Pray for Rosemary's Baby," "Pray For Anton LaVey." Another press opportunity the agency cooked up took place, again, at the Wax Museum, where LaVey "baptized" the child in the special "Rosemary's Baby" exhibit—the press release went out on September 11, 1968.
Frankly, Marilyn Mansfield can make a much better baby...
TOPLESS WITCHES SABBATH
There are few incidents from the early days of the Church of Satan more titillating than THE TOPLESS WITCHES SABBATH, the legendary nightclub act. It took place at a little strip joint called the Club Gigi. LaVey was paid $250 to write it, choreograph it, design and build the sets and props, and audition, hire, train and rehearse the performers.
That guy on the left with the axe is the Inquisitor. The witch was instructed to "rise like a vampire." Our Baphomet is there to represent fertility. It was a hodgepodge of elements from rituals they had been doing at the Black House.
LaVey had agreed to perform it five times every Saturday night, for a retainer of $100 a month, plus $50 on the night of the performance. He also agreed to perform Satanic weddings at this venue, upon request, for an additional $75. We've yet to hear from anyone who was married in a Satanic wedding at a strip club in San Francisco, but they'd be approaching their Golden Anniversary soon—that would be a Hell of a family slideshow.
MADE FOR TV "SATANISM"
In the 1970's, fictional representations of Satanism began to proliferate in novels, films and on television. The occult revolution of the Sixties had given way to a certain paranoia, and hack writers were happy to grab the first Satanic book they could find and use it to pad out their imaginary Satanic evil doings.
Dr. LaVey was able to successfully litigate against some of these productions. Two of those I've recently come across were "Conspiracy of Terror," a full-length TV movie, and "Creepy Time Gal," an episode of the epic series, "Trapper John, MD." You can watch both on YouTube.
Of course, some film companies DID use Dr. LaVey as a consultant, most famously, "The Devil's Rain."
Unfortunately, as the Seventies ended, things took a far darker turn, and what had been fodder for fiction, was now presented as fact.
DAWN OF THE SATANIC PANIC
Those of us who have survived the Satanic Panic are fairly familiar with the grisly details of Michelle Remembers but I'll run it down for you.
Michelle Smith was a psychotherapy patient who revealed, under hypnosis, a series of long-suppressed memories of how she'd been physically and emotionally abused by a ring of Satanists, who were led by her own mother. Michelle's mother was dead when the book was released. Michelle's father denied everything in the book and sued the publishers. According to interviews with several of Michelle's childhood acquaintances, her mother was a nice lady—whose daughter's book wound up ruining hundreds if not thousands of lives.
Michelle Remembers was the origin story for every subsequent tale of Satanic ritual abuse that kept the Satanic Panic rolling. Daytime talk show audiences couldn't get enough of it; sexual slavery, baby-breeding for the purpose of ritual torture, murder and dismemberment, animal torture and sacrifice, grave robbing, blood drinking, and crucifixion, all comprising the classic fabrications that have been with us for centuries, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem Witch Trials.
It's in classic American literature by Nathaniel Hawthorne. You can see it in today's "American Horror Story" and "Salem": They're all in on it. Your mom. Your doctor. The mayor. The sheriff. Anyone who denies it is in on it. Anyone who doesn't believe you is a Satanist.
Why didn't Dr. LaVey do something about this book? He tried.
In 1981, Anton LaVey and his attorney submitted a complaint to the courts, naming the authors of Michelle Remembers and the various publishing and distribution companies involved with it. LaVey alleged that the book was defamatory, libelous and had resulted in a loss of reputation. His evidence included the author's use of the words CHURCH OF SATAN, in caps, in the earliest editions of Michelle Remembers.
The defendants responded with what I like to call, the fruit salad method. They submitted various defenses against LaVey's complaint, that seem internally contradictory, and I suppose the court was able to choose which to dismiss and which to uphold.
First, the author contended that he'd never heard of Anton LaVey. Despite his claim that he'd read widely about Satanism when preparing his book, he'd never come across the names LaVey, the Church of Satan, or The Satanic Bible.
Nevertheless, the defense continued, LaVey is a famous figure by his own admission, and therefore libel-proof. Additionally, the very idea of a Satanist complaining about his reputation being sullied is absurd. It can't be sullied; Satanists have already and by their own admission, associated themselves with everything evil.
And one more point: despite virtually every advertising venue for Michelle Remembersbeing based on the contention that it was "A True Story," the defense also pointed out that the book is comprised of Michelle's "memories," as related under hypnosis, which were not necessarily "facts." Slippery.
Here are Dr. LaVey's words in his affidavit of complaint:
"In 1966 I formed the Church of Satan [and] incorporated [it] under the laws of the State of California in 1971. This was the culmination of a lifelong interest in the metaphysical, the supra-normal, the occult. My past vocations, beginning in my late teens as a circus wild animal trainer and musician, proceeding as police photographer, clinical hypnotist, researcher and investigator of the paranormal, film and literary consultant on the latter, have all been pursuant to my present role. These vocations offered a unique opportunity to experience the unusual and romantic, sobered by day to day reality. The tenets of the Church of Satan reflect this reality.
"Basically, we believe in RATIONAL self-interest, by ritual which glorifies the human spirit and directs the psyche toward constructive end. Prior to 1966 there was no religion which fulfilled the particular needs served by the Church of Satan, there was NO Church of Satan, de facto or actual. Historical references to Satanism have little bearing on contemporary Satanism of the Church of Satan, as they were invented and perpetuated by traditional religionists of the period for self-serving ends.
"I created the name Church of Satan for its appropriateness and admittedly, its dramatic effect. Semantically, Satan is the "opposite, adverse." We are opposed to what we regard as outdated, oppressive mores. We live for the present instead of the hereafter; we encourage individual expression and fulfillment, providing it does not infringe upon the rights of others. We fulfill the dictionary requirement for a church; we are a religious body.
"My own books, The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, as well as an incalculable number of other scholastic and popular books have made the beliefs and practices of the Church of Satan a matter of public record. The Satanic Bible...is considered a standard by its publisher, Avon Books. The Satanic Rituals[is] a companion book to the Bible, which offers eleven different Satanic rituals and ceremonies from all over the world... Our royalty statements indicate wide Canadian distribution of both books. My name as founder and head of the Church of Satan is also known through a vast variety of magazines and newspapers worldwide, and in connection with community functions. Further, I have assisted numerous police departments and state and federal agencies in criminal investigation proceedings.
"I find it inconceivable that any expert in the field of occult or religion would have been ignorant of my existence relative to the Church of Satan. Such acknowledged experts as Marcello Truzzi, Michael Harner, Edward J. Moody, Randall Alfred, John A. Ferro, Clara Livesy, Father John Nicola, Ellic Howe, Francis King, Colin Wilson...are known to practically anyone interested in the related subjects of religion, anthropology, sociology, psychology and the occult, and have a good understanding of what the Church of Satan and I represent.
"Through my own writings and interviews, as well as through other media, I have made it clear that practices such as those portrayed in the book Michelle Remembers are antithetical to the Church of Satan. Nothing is more repugnant to me, nor more dichotomous to the Satanic philosophy than the abuse of children and animals; these innocent creatures are in fact revered by the Church of Satan for their innate purity of spirit and lack of hypocrisy. For us to harm a child or animal, physically, emotionally or mentally, is unthinkable. The heinous acts attributed to the Church of Satan by Michelle Remembers are profoundly misleading and damaging to the Church of Satan, my wife Diane...and myself as its leader. We feel defamed and feel we have all been put in a false light."
So, Anton LaVey did try to head off the Satanic Panic. His contention that Satanists were being defamed by Michelle Remembers was true.
The reputations, the livelihoods, the lifestyles of hundreds if not thousands of people were damaged, some irreparably, by unfounded accusations of child abuse based on this one book. And children WERE harmed—by being snatched from their own homes, away from their loving parents, at the merest whisper of an accusation from a person who may have attended a seminar full of lies, misinformation and malice aforethought.
This case was in court in 1981—and the Satanic Panic was off and running.
A REBUTTAL TO THE POPE
On November 15th, 1972, Pope Paul the Sixth gave an address, "Confronting the Devil's Power."
On November 16th, Anton LaVey sent the following rebuttal to the San Francisco Chronicle:
"So the Pope has finally decided to pull the old chestnut out of the papal fireplace, that has lain dormant for over a century: that the Devil is directly responsible for 'evil.'
"The fact that anti-social acts and heinous deeds come from the man, and not the Devil, has been firmly enough entrenched by contemporary logic so as not to require further elaboration...For every act of supposed "Satanic" vandalism in a church, there are countless acts of "non-Satanic" vandalism ranging from public schools to flower nurseries! To blame such actions on aggressive and disturbed malcontents is one thing, but to assume diabolical conspiracy smacks of an old man's folly.
"The Pope is absolutely correct, however, in fearing a surge of Satanic influence in the world today. But not according to his pathetically outmoded definition of "Satanism." ... To be a Satanist requires an inquiring mind, self-discipline, the courage to think new thoughts, and presents an intellectual challenge, both to oneself and one's fellows. It also requires a benign attitude towards statements such as those just issued by Pope Paul the Sixth, realizing them to be the very food for increased head-shaking and disillusionment on the part of rational human beings towards what once was, by "divine right," considered infallible.
"Keep talking, Paul old boy. So long as utterances such as yours and the good Reverend Billy Graham continue to flow, we shall grow.
DR. HERBERT A. SLOANE
Herbert Sloane was an early correspondent and member of the Church of Satan. He approached Dr. LaVey in January of 1968 after seeing him on The Alan Douglas Show and reading about the Church of Satan in FATE Magazine.
Sloane wanted to set up his own branch of the Church of Satan and asked Dr. LaVey to send him some followers, as he had none in Toledo, Ohio. At this point, Dr. LaVey was working hard to grow the Church and he took Sloane up on the idea, and a lively conversation ensued.
Sloane's other all-pervading interest was young women and cunnilingus. He finally stated to Dr. LaVey that he really wasn't as interested in having male Satanists sent his way, certainly not homosexual males, and if he was forced to preside over a coven of homosexual males he just wouldn't do it.
When you put LaVey's response in perspective, considering the time he made it, and the generation he was from, I think it's quite remarkable. It definitively establishes our founder on the forefront of true religious freedom:
"I would never presume or attempt to FORCE you to do anything, much less serve as Priest to a group of people with whom you would be in disharmony, as I realize this is your right, as is your right to select the form of sexual pleasure which best suits your particular desires and needs. However, keeping with the philosophy of the Church of Satan, I also am aware that others are entitled to this same right. This means that, in the confines of the ritual chamber, they should be allowed to indulge in any form of sexual pleasure that they choose, be it garden variety, heterosexual intercourse, or the most unorthodox practice imaginable. Again, keeping with the tenets of the Church of Satan, this would only be allowed and condoned if all parties were in agreement, who were participating in the particular activities. Of course, a completely heterosexual person would never be forced to participate in homosexual activities, just as a person who was not so inclined, would never be expected to submit to the dominance of a sadistically-inclined person. BUT, to deny these people their right to indulge in THEIR own personal desires in the same way that you or any other more [sexually orthodox] person would be able to do, I feel, would be grossly unfair and, I might add, UNSATANIC! If we turn our backs to the needs of some, just because their fetishes don't happen to be in accordance with our own, would be to become EVERY BIT as hypocritical as other religions. Our religion has a definite reason, other than hedonistic, for encouraging its followers to indulge themselves in their OWN form of sexual enjoyment. That purpose is to completely release frustrations, thereby allowing them to go forth in the every day world as more satisfied, complete persons—and consequently, more productive.
"For this reason, to discriminate against those who are not like ourselves, would not be acting as TRUE Satanists."
Jack and Betty Cheetham were a team of photographers who covered much of the counter-cultures evolving in the Sixties. They did several photo shoots with the LaVeys and became family friends. Jack took the famous photograph of Dr. LaVey that was on the cover of LOOK Magazine, and a couple of years later, he contacted the LaVeys, saying he was coming to town and would like to do another photo session.
I think the response he received surprised him. Dr. LaVey told Jack that if he wanted to get back into the Black House and photograph a group of Satanists, AGAIN, then it was going to have to be in somewhat different circumstances.
Specifically, LaVey told Cheetham that he was done with the Deviled Ham. He'd had five years of providing devil horns and tombstones for the general public, the Age of Outrage was drawing to a close, and Doktor wanted to show Satanists as they really were: ladies and gentlemen, accomplished, sophisticated, elegant and beautiful.
So Jack agreed. He came to the Black House, set up in the front Ritual Chamber, and he took his picture, providing a couple of prints for the Church of Satan's use and archives. I don't believe it was ever published.
Here it is.
Ladies and gentlemen. Evening gowns and tuxedos. Sophisticated. Elegant. Sparkling. Exotic.
And here you are. On the anniversary of fifty years of existence. Tonight you will be elegant...beautiful...sparkling. I already know how accomplished you are. Congratulations for fulfilling his vision, and ours—in spades.
—High Priestess Peggy Nadramia
April 30th, LI A.S.
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