July Dogs

Interviews with Filmmakers: Kenneth Anger 1974

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Kenneth Anger 1974 Photograph: Robert Haller

 

Excerpt from an interview with Kenneth Anger at KPFA studios in Berkeley during Anger’s presentation of his Magick Lantern Cycle in April 1974.

— Do you think magick as reintroduced by Crowley into contemporary times. . .

ANGER (interrupting) : No. He didn’t do it. Magick has always been around. Crowley merely brought certain things into focus which were lying around in sort of a scattered way. He made a coherent picture out of them, the things were always there if someone wanted to search for them. Because Crowley, rather than being an innovator, was a traditionalist. He didn’t invent new gods like H.P. Lovecraft. Because Lovecraft was quite serious. He had a vision and he called it Cthulu and all this. And it may even be genuine and may even represent something in the Id, the collective unconscious.

Crowley was very traditional. It was Venus, Pan, Osiris, Isis.Kali, Shiva, whatever. These traditional god forms that have been around for a millenia. He is in a very long tradition.

— Do you think you’re carrying that on in some of your films?

ANGER: Well, I’m an artist who’s merely using a frame of reference the way Botticelli might use first a pagan, then, later, a Christian frame of reference. In his paintings. Because he used a pagan frame of reference until Savonarola freaked him out and brainwashed him into burning his most beautiful canvases. They were burned in the public square in Florence, the pagan allegories like The Birth Of Venus, not the one that survived but there were others that were burned that went a bit farther. Things like The Love Of Venus and Mars, when they’re both in bed together,the armor put beside the bed. These things have been described, but they’re gone. They’re burnt. But he did just as beautiful work in the Christian mythology. Innother words, he didn’t give up being a painter. And I use Crowley no more in my thinking than older systems like Hindu mythology, American Indian mythology. As I said, my frame of reference comes out of Fraser’s The Golden Bough. I mean that book covers everything. It’s an excellent book.

— Do you feel your new film breaks new ground for you?

ANGER: I hope so, I’m always trying to. I feel the assurance as an artist that I can come out with, be out front about certain things. Either the time has come or something. My time has come.

— What are you thinking of particularly, I hate to pin you down but. . .

ANGER: Well. .Depicting what the Christians call The Devil in art. There’s a whole tradition of taboo against doing so. And the first way around this taboo was to turn Lucifer, the Fallen Angel who was called God’s most beautiful creation, His favorite son like in the parable of the Prodigal Son or Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors. These are all Luciferian parables. But his favorite son was kicked out of heaven for giving too many parties and playing the stereo too loud. And we’ve paid for the consequences ever since. And I want to portray Lucifer, who is my own personal god as I see him. And this film may or may not be sufficient for that I…because it’sa big scale. After all…others have done this like Milton in Paradise Lost. I mean Satan is generally considered by Milton scholars to be the hero of Paradise Lost. But Milton has this…after all he is the most interesting person in the book and he’s given the best lines. But obviously, Milton had ambivalence about it, ’cause he had all that Puritanical guilt thrust upon him the same way Botticelli did, by Cromwell’s crowd. And he considered his blindness the result of sexual indulgence and things like that of his youth. Being a bad boy. I don’t know if there was any physical reason for that, it might even had been.

— Your film is a pole apart from the Christian American vision that has been manifested in such pictures as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, which are enormously almost fanatically popular.

ANGER: Yes. Well, these are mere horror films. And it’s just using another figure at this particular time that, in the past was Dracula or the Frankenstein monster. I mean it’s a figure that involves an unknown dimension. Like something you can’t kill or the Undead or the man with horns and the forked tail or whatever who is assuming the very needed role of the Scapegoat in society. Whether he be the Jew in the Third Reich or whether he be like the Chinese in the early history of San Francisco, where again they were the scapegoats. Or whether he be the Black in the South up until recent times. Where the need to have someone to lynch every spring, summer and fall, I mean this bloodletting was considered part of the collective neccessities.

–There always has to be this figure of Evil. It has to be manifested. But your films deal with Evil in a healthy fashion.

ANGER: Well in the first place, Evil is trivialized by Hollywood. They have a very trite concept of good and evil. The truth is much more interesting, much more complex. But just to say, like these examples of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, which at its time made a certain little splash. But both of them are based on pop novels which are badly written. And it’s part of the appeal to the middle class…Mr. & Mrs. Middle Class America, as Walter Winchell said…something like that “and all the ships at sea”… if you want to touch the mass mind: write crap. Both of them are written in a real schlocky way. And schlock is the sort of thing you can read like some people eat marshmallows or roasted peanuts or Fritos. You buy a bag and crunch away and you’ve got through the book and you’ve added one more digit to the author’s royalty and so forth.

— What do you think of the Catholic Church in some ways supporting The Exorcist?

ANGER: I think they’re out of their minds…which they clearly are. They’ve been out of their minds for some time. And ever since they relinquished the use of Latin, which gave their ceremony an awe and mystery. And their so-called reforms and all that. You simply cannot reformsomething like that without, you sort of open up the doors and windows and the light comes in and there is no mystery. There’s nothing there, there is no mystery. You stop using incense,you stop doing this whole theatre for the poor, which it used to be. And still is in countries like Mexico and other very heavily Catholic countries.

It isn’t the first time the Catholics have been in shaky hands. It’s possible some future Pope will pull the thing together, but as time passes it becomes more and more difficult. In other words, if another Pious XII, which was the last really Catholic Pope, came along. Of course, people think he’s a monster but I’m not. I’m saying he was a traditionalist.

–: Is your background Roman Catholic?

ANGER: My grandmother was Cuban and from that side it was. But my father was Scottish-Presbyterian, which is a very strange kind of marriage. And my mother accepted the Presbyterian. They tried to raise me as a Presbyterian, but they didn’t get very far.

–Now you’ve become a magickian.

ANGER: A dropout from Sunday school from way back.

— You’ve influenced so many filmmakers…

ANGER: They’ve never sent me one dollar as acknowledgement, I’ll tell you that.

–You’ve influenced these filmmakers, besides independent filmmakers in this country and Europe, but Hollywood films themselves. Things like The Wild One. . .the motorcycle image…I think you infused that into the culture once and for all. . .

ANGER: Well, in particular, Roger Corman’s motorcycle films with Nancy Sinatra. . .

Wild Angels. That’s what I meant, not The Wild One

ANGER: Wild Angels was a rip off of two or three of my ideas.

–Specific shots.

ANGER: Yeah. Well, you know, all artists are magpies. And steal from each other, but somebody like Roger Corman is just a commercial…what I call a pickpocket. And what can I say?  imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It hasn’t made me any richer. It hasn’t made me love Hollywood any more. I’m not, “Gee whiz, they pay attention to what I do.” That’s not my attitude. My attitude is: I knew all along that’s what they were like. Because the people who have really stolen things from me are: Roger Corman, Dennis Hopper, Donald Cammell, (George) Lucas, and I could go on with about three or four other names. American Graffiti. Scorsese’s Mean Streets. Even Pauline Kael in The New Yorker pointed that out. Several of the set-ups and situations were taken from me.

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Scorpio Rising (1963) Kenneth Anger

— Lighting, even.

ANGER: Yeah. And of course, Electra Guild In Blue. But I never go to see these films. Other people give me detailed reports. I refuse to shell out 3 bucks to see these films.

–I think a quality influence was in Performance, which I recall reading your saying that it was “a poisonous, negative film” The picture by (Donald) Cammell and Nicholas Roeg.

ANGER: Well, it wasn’t designed to be The Sound Of Music. It was definitely a. . .I mean the gimmick of the picture was poisonous mushrooms, the whole thing was taking place in a household full of ‘Les fleurs des mals’, the flowers of evil. But he never articulately. . ..even though he’s an intelligent guy. I’m talking about Don Cammell, who wrote the script.

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Donald Cammell as Osiris   Lucifer Rising (1972) Kenneth Anger

He never added it up into such simplified stark terms in his own mind beforehand. But it was a reflection of a certain sub-culture which is still around and which at that time was going bad. The way a cheese or a yoghurt can go bad at a certain point. Or a wine can go off. Flower Power gone rank and turning into weeds and we all saw it. The thing was made in ’68, while I was in India, and it was not released until ’70?

–Mm-hnh.

ANGER: And during that time, it sort of fermented in its own juices.

— If it had come out in ’68, it would have been amazing to presage. . .

ANGER: Well, that shows you what idiots Warner Bros. are. But I know all the people involved in it, including Jimmy Fox whohas now become a Billy Graham evangelist. That was his pay-off for doing the film. Sort of like the allergic reaction that he had dates from working on Performance and seeing everybody, the cameraman. . .I’m not sending anybody to the pen on purpose, but the cameraman, the director, all the other actors proceeding around with their heads in clouds of very thick, acrid smoke and with mysterious white powders being snorted right and left. And he was a serious stage actor, Jimmy Fox, and a very serious person. But it is the dramatic, muse’s loss and the evangelistic muse’s gain, I suppose. I haven’t heard that he’s had very many converts, but I suppose he’s doing his own thing. He was a very good actor.

–Do you think your films,some of them, are dangerous?

ANGER: They can be dangerous for me. Sometimes. Mostly because of my obsession with typecasting. They involve me with fringe elements, which if it wasn’t for the film, I would never in a million years have anything to do with this sort of person. I’m talking about casting, using ‘real life’ actors portraying people in the film.

If it wasn’t that I desired to make a film portraying criminals or demons or outsiders or whatever, I probably wouldn’t meet too many of those people. It’s expanded my consciousness to do so, but I’ve had a couple of rather hairy experiences where I got more than I bargained for. In other words, sometimes you don’t just say “Thanks very much and get lost.”  That’s what I’d like to, frankly. But, you know, they sort of hang around and become a nuisance sometimes. That’s the kind of risk.

Some people accuse me of like, exploiting the motorcycle kids in Scorpio Rising. But I didn’t exploit them. They were perfectly agreeable doing what they did and sort of portraying themselves. And as far as they were concerned…after all they lived in Brooklyn and paid for their bikes working in the Fulton Fish Market. And this was about the most colorful thing that had ever happened to them up till then. Someone paid attention to them, pointed lights at them. They were sort of 100% naive exhibitionists and they loved it, you know. And they were very co-operative, they didn’t give me a bad time.

–That film, your films using “types” pre-dated Andy Warhol’s entrance into that in the mid to late ’60s with his attracting “types” and this scene, then pointing his camera at it. You had already stepped out there.

ANGER: Well, I predate Andy in lots of ways. The technique of type-casting was invented by Pudovkin and Eisenstein. And under the Bolshevik system, at that time, they had the power as artists of the State, approved artists of the  State, of the divine thing for any film director:  of walking down the street, pointing at someone or patting them on the back and saying “I want you in my next movie.” And they were obliged to say, “Yessir, yessir. When?”

It didn’t matter who they were or whether they dug the idea. Maybe they were street cleaners or who knows what. Some of them, I’m sure the idea of doing a film say in Moscow in 1923 or something was just as alien as the way some primitive tribe would react to a helicopter. I mean they didn’t like it. Afraid of it, and so forth. These people were able to cajole or seduce them into giving marvelous vignettes of performances in the silent Russian film.

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Strike! (1925) Sergei Eisenstein

As far as Andy Warhol is concerned, he has a genius for attracting negative entities, like a negative magnet. As has been pointed out recently in Esquire magazine…

–Dotson Rader’s piece.

ANGER: In Dotson Rader’s piece.  His casualty rate is rather high, and is even higher now that Candy Darling has died of cancer. A totally unnecessary cancer because it was a cancer from injecting hormones to give the creature breasts. Which is a very dangerous thing to do. So she died of cancer of the breast, which is something women die of too, but I mean if she hadn’t have fooled around in that sticky way, being encouraged by people like Andy, she might still be around. A drag queen can always put a couple of grapefruit in and it’s just as convincing.

–There comes a time when someone must take responsibility.

ANGER: Well, I never met Andy Warhol. And he certainly is not responsible, or doesn’t care about the people who die around him. He didn’t go to Candy Darling’s funeral in New Jersey. In fact, he’s never been to any funeral of the people who have died around him. And the list is long. Several dozen. Going back to the early ’60s, since there’s been a Factory, an Andy Warhol scene. But I call him Mr. Negative.

And the amazing thing is, is that something that is basically a phenomenon of the ’60s is still around in the ’70s. He has the vampire’s power of survival. Bill Burroughs has said there’s no person there, it’s an empty room. But that empty room’s still there. Like there’s that song from that terrific musical, it got the critics award but is very underrated. Follies. Alexis Smith sings “I’m Still Here” Even though in the old days she didn’t sing, and she still can’t sing, but she’s still here. It’s very spooky and very interesting work of art about the destruction of the old Roxy Theatre in New York and the old showgirls that come back to visit the ruins.

But Andy, just to simplify my life, I call him an enemy, because he stands for everything I hate. And the way he uses people, is also something I hate. Because I think people are potentially, gods and goddesses. That we all have it somewhere in us and that’s the onlv way I want to read the message. I don’t want to consider that they’re termites, that they’re an accident of creation or slightly grown-up monkeys or whatever.

I think we’re fallen angels and we carry within us the divine spark. That’s what I’m interested in. It will come out more in my work in the future, it’s been there all along. People have seen the sailors in white in Fireworks as a band of angels. Certainly, certainly Cocteau did. I don’t reject that interpretation.

— You haven’t become cynical about this after your unfortunate experiences with type-casting and people in your films?

ANGER: Well, I’m still here. The experiences haven’t been that unfortunate. I’ve had death threats ,but no death attempts.  Knock on wood. (Knocks on tabletop)  Oh dear, that’s plastic. (Knocks again on chair)  This is wood.

No, it’s all part of the learning experience. I find human beings exceedingly interesting, however I don’t go whole hog the way Jean Genet does, favoring the criminal as more interesting than the non-criminal. Because I’ve certainly known both. But the degree of shading between one class and another is infinite.

I’ve known some people who have never violated a law that anyone could catch them with that I consider their minds open cesspools. Instead of “Open Sesame,” it’s “Open Cesspool.” Andy’s one of those people. I’d call Andy a criminal. A societal criminal, because I think he’s a bad influence and it just isn’t Lance Loud that he’s had a bad influence on. But hundreds, maybe thousands of kids have gotten into a role of cynical despair, fashionable ‘putting-downess’ of everything. A negative attitude toward everything, this is being “with it”.. I’m not particularly fond of Nixon either, but Andy Warhol…long as he sticks around.. I will go to his funeral and I’ll bring a bunch of turnips.

JosephMichaelReynolds, 1974, 2016

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Kenneth Anger, age 8, as the Changeling Prince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) Max Reinhardt

Hot Wednesday Special

 

My true-crime ebook, Dead Ends, will be available today only for crazy low buy of $1.99  

Reynolds_DeadEnds[1]

From MEMORIES OF THE GEEK BEAT

of renewed interest…

July Dogs

(“Geek Beat”does not refer to computer or gaming enthusiasts, tech specialists, experts or “nerds”.  The term as used in this context was the creation of the late journalist Bill Cardoso–familiar to many as coiner of the term “Gonzo” as applied to Hunter S. Thompson’s particular brand of journalism. Cardoso came up with “the Geek Beat” after I described the assignment Playboy had thrown me–a decade of California violence–while we were having drinks one long happy afternoon in February 1978 at Sullivan’s in San Francisco . “Ah, well. You’re on the geek beat, Reynolds, “said Bill. “That’s what it is.”  Geek as in “freak”, as in the old carny term and its variants. )

DEAD MAN SINGS ANTHEM WHILE HIS DEATH IS BEING MOURNED

(Headline from Los Angeles newspaper, 1913)

Arthur Tysilio Johnson, an English writer, chicken farmer and gardener living in Wales, landed in California in 1912. After kitting himself…

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“Diggin’ Up Bones”–Resurrecting Lee

July Dogs

Reynolds_DeadEnds[1]I’m diggin’ up bones, I’m diggin’ up bones
Exhuming things that’s better left alone
I’m resurrecting memories of a love that’s dead and gone
Yeah tonight I’m sittin’ alone, diggin’ up bones

(1986, Paul Overstreet/Al Gore/Nat Stuckey)

                       Marion County Courthouse, March 31, 1992.  
                              Photograph: James Quine                     

Postmortem

(from Dead Ends)

Lee was wide awake just before dawn on Wednesday, October 9, 2002, when the death row officers came to call. She was in a “good mood,” they said.  She was “ready to go,” they said. The night before she’d chatted it up  until midnight with her childhood friend, Dawn Botkin.  Four hours now remained in her life.

A week earlier Florida Governor Jeb Bush lifted a stay of execution after a panel of psychiatrists ruled that Lee was mentally competent.  Wuornos had been fighting…

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Talking with Jenny McCarthy about Aileen Wuornos and my book, Dead Ends, tomorrow

jenny-mccarthy-siriusJenny McCarthy is having me on her show tomorrow-Tuesday, August 2 at 11am EST (meaning I must be relatively alert at 8am my time). We’ll be talking about the new ebook edition of my book, Dead Ends-The Pursuit, Conviction, and Execution of Serial Killer Aileen Wuornos.

There seems to be no end of interest in Lee, one of the most infamous serial killers in modern crime history. She’s been the subject of three feature films–one of which brought an Academy Award to Charlize Theron for her portrayal of Lee, a made-for-TV film with Jean Smart as Wuornos, a featured turn on American Horror Story: Hotel with Lily Rabe taking her shot as Aileen, as well as numerous documentaries on television and for good measure–an opera.

Now Jenny McCarthy wants to talk some more about her. Lee would have been crazy amazed.

 

‘Dead Ends’…She’s back for the digital ride

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Marion County Courthouse, March 31, 1992. Photograph: James Quine

Dead Ends, my book on serial killer Aileen Wuornos is now available for the first time as an ebook….(Fun Note: Charlize Theron kept a copy of Dead Ends at her bedside while filming Monster, the role that brought her an Academy Award for her portrayal of Lee)..If you are a true-crime aficionado and a Kindle user…do yourself a favor and snag it…

Pressures to Bear

Chihuahuan Raven Corvus cryptoleucus. Brownsville Sanitary Landfill, Hidalgo0

A  crow flaps up from the scrub,

Holsteins falter with deadliness,

secrecy newly written in their cells.

Bring pressures to bear.

Take Your Place At The End Of The Line.

No Shoving.

No Fumar.

No Bueno.

It became so quiet after the news.

The man in the bathtub embraces his knees. Intently studies his kneecaps. He sees cancerous cells moving with the fanatic gunmen, the calamitous ants, the disingenuous journalists. A roiling hunger wreathes his bones singing: “Death Death Death.” The bones implode with the chant, leaving the man in his bathtub embracing a cloud whose center glows.

The Cloud as a memory, a curse.

The Cloud showers early. Drops its load. Scans the Post. The limo comes round at a quarter till.

In the boardroom of Abaddon a Chagall dreamily plays on the beige wall.

Seven men enter and take their places at the mahogany table.

China cups, silver carafes of coffee. Someone murmurs: “Dresden.”

A fireball opens its mouth. A scream fades as The Cloud fills the doorway.

A pressure comes to Bear. He petulantly snuffles, rips a young cedar from its moist earth and flops his heavy butt upon it. There he sits with idiot fulfillment while Crow watches him from above.Crow has followed Bear for twenty summers and twenty winters. Crow is waiting for Bear to fall ill with some parasite or to make an error crossing a high ridge some moonless night and plummet to a broken neck.A fatal attack by a younger, stronger bear would suffice. Crow has been bringing pressure to Bear for so long it is of little importance how the end will arrive. Bear grunts once more, then is silent. Blood flows from its jaws.

In Abaddon’s boardroom the seven men attend The Cloud. It wells up, expanding its grey green density. The seven men choke and cough as The Cloud jams them, fingering deep their lungs. The Cloud contracts, sucking the conditioned air from the room tightly unto itself. The seven men gasp with shuddering mouths as the vacuum crashes upon them. The Cloud becomes composed. The men gather themselves from the floor. The newest member of the board turns to his associate who is patting gobs of saliva from his well-tailored lapels.

“Is he always like this in the morning?”

“Oh, no. Not usually. Only when he is under some kind of pressure.”

The Cloud overhears this remark. A sinew of vapor, winding on itself, thrusts the length of the table and coils about the importunate board member’s face. A hideous bubbling is the only sound heard in the room. The vaporous tentacle withdraws and is insorbed by The Cloud. The remaining six men are unable to take their eyes from their former colleague, now a torso leaning back in a leather chair. Its’ decomposed head a fan of purple and white rivulets running down a well-tailored suit. The Cloud brooks no references to its shortcomings.

(It became so quiet after the news.)

Crow began his journey east the morning after eating Bear’s eyes and tongue.He flew low, traversing the sides of the mountain in trajectories that left an exhilerating pattern in his mind. The plains stretched out before Crow, now resting on a rusted upturned GMC differential.

On the far side of the determined horizon, Crow could perceive The Cloud as he did once Bear and The Cloud in Abaddon feels the pressure welling, being beaten toward him by stunning onyx wings.

——–

(Originally published  in MELTDOWN: Poems From The Core, Full Count Press, 1980.)

It’s Ricin Time Again…

Given today’s excitement over letters to the White House and US Senate offices which reportedly contain ricin..which brought out some hysterics on the teevee from alleged ‘terrorism experts’ who blathered as to how ricin was straight out of the al Qaeda ‘playbook’ (whatever that is)..here is a refresher and some perspective from the archive..

The Doctor Gipsy

We were children in that July when the Doctor Gipsy came to visit. He arrived behind the wheel of a white  Imperial automobile that reflected a sky of tangerine and blue . He wore a smooth hat, a Stetson, and a fine worsted suit, maybe charcoal flannel, with a vest  and a black foulard tie pinned by a big raw pearl.

We gathered about him like wonder-eyed crows around a handmirror.

The Doctor Gipsy taught us to play the games of poker that summer with real money and, at the end of each day, gave back half of what he had taken from us. He kept playing with us in this arrangement until, of course, we soon had no more money with which to play. Whereupon the Doctor Gipsy said, “Well, boys, I believe you’ve learned about all that I can teach you about this.” There were no more poker games with the Doctor after that. He drove away in his Imperial on a cool Sunday evening, but he let us keep the deck.

There Be Two Trains Running


There be two trains running

and you know it’s not for fun.

Mistaken identity

Border town bulbs burn

3 a.m.

Estrella suena

.38 Buckled leather

Forged visas fingered

“Quando dinero muchacha?”

Estrella suena

Cottonwoods unleash

their seed along

the creek

In the canyon

Burros choke their lust.

For christ’s sake

keep your hips still.

Don’t forget you’re just passing

forged visas.

Estrella suena

.38 Buckled leather

Buckled knees

Sticky sheets.

Japanese knife, a gift

Slips quick

into the fingers

coming up from sleep

Humoso sueno

Murder’s in the air.

Chipped tooth grin

Barbed wire on the border

Rein in.

The blood comes quick.

You want me to show you

how it’s done?

On the thigh,

not the wrist.