Lucifer, Arisen

A quintessential San Francisco story, starring charismatic musician/murderer Bobby BeauSoleil*

*with underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, cult leader Charles Manson, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, and the Straight Satans motorcycle gang in suppo

In 1966, the Haight-Ashbury was still a low-rent, mostly black neighborhood. It had only recently been colonized by little pockets of white artists and musicians, such as the Grateful Dead and the activist-performance group the Diggers. BeauSoleil fit right in.

He got a job playing lead guitar in the Outfit, a group whose management was trying to market it as a boy band for teenage girls. The gig didn't last long. (BeauSoleil says he "upstaged" the rest of the group and they were jealous; the band's former rhythm guitarist, Bob Resner, says BeauSoleil was "untrustworthy" and was asked to leave.)

BeauSoleil became a Haight-Ashbury character, with a mixed reputation. He was opinionated, driven, and arrogant, say those who knew him. "He was like Bugs Bunny," says a friend from that time, Nathan Zakheim. "Very in your face, enthusiastic."

BeauSoleil at the mansion he lived in with Kenneth 
BeauSoleil at the mansion he lived in with Kenneth Anger.
BeauSoleil in the mid-1970s after getting hurt in a 
prison fight.
Courtesy of Barbara BeauSoleil
BeauSoleil in the mid-1970s after getting hurt in a prison fight.

Others, though, called him Bummer Bob and viewed him as a manipulative scammer. "He skated through life getting what he could out of people," says Bob Resner's cousin Hillel Resner, who owned a Haight Street concert hall, the Straight Theater.

In any case, nobody denies that young BeauSoleil had a musical vision and was determined to see it play out. After the Outfit, he traded his electric guitar for a sitar and a Turkish bouzouki and began recruiting musicians to be in what he envisioned as an electrified symphony orchestra. It was an unusual idea for the time and the neighborhood. Most bands played rock 'n' roll or some version of the blues and featured a vocalist. But BeauSoleil threw himself into the project, and eventually recruited a stand-up bass player, a drummer, a violinist, and an oboist; he played guitar and bouzouki. The band named itself the Orkustra.

"I called it 'raga rock,'" says the violinist, David LaFlamme. "What we were doing was so different that nobody really understood it. But Bobby would hound you to death until he got what he wanted."

Thanks in part to BeauSoleil's persistence, the Orkustra eventually shared the stage with big-name bands such as the Jefferson Airplane and Buffalo Springfield, but it never recorded an album. Most of the time the group gigged in the Panhandle, as part of the Diggers' free concerts. In 1967, the Diggers planned a weekend-long "happening" at -- of all places -- Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. Billed as "The Invisible Circus," the event was to include a 24-hour free printing press, poetry readings, music, and lectures. Former Digger Peter Berg remembers, "We wanted to liberate the city in every possible way."

BeauSoleil's band was on the bill for Friday evening.

In the late 1960s, Kenneth Anger rivaled Andy Warhol as the hippest avant-garde film director in America. Clubs in New York and San Francisco were fond of showing three of his movies at a time to audiences of psychedelic trippers. His work was impressionistic and often racy; it featured quick cuts of provocative images set to interesting musical soundtracks, with no dialogue. He is widely seen as having unwittingly fathered the music video. In his most commercially successful film, 1963's Scorpio Rising, gooey '50s pop songs are paired with fetishistic scenes of leather bikers.

Openly gay, prone to wild mood swings, constantly on the edge of financial insolvency, Anger was an infamous eccentric. He publicly idolized Aleister Crowley, a turn-of-the-century British occultist often credited with giving birth to modern Satanism. Crowley believed the world was governed by a series of ages personified by different gods and goddesses. His own age, represented in the Western world by Jesus Christ or the Egyptian god Osiris, was coming to an end, according to Crowley. On the rise was the age of Horus, or Lucifer.

Like the mythical Lucifer, angel of light, who rebelled against God and was cast down to hell, people in this new age would discover their true natures, turn against polite society, and throw the world into chaos and ugliness. After that, however, harmony would return, and Lucifer/Horus would be restored to his rightful place in heaven. There was only one rule for this new age, wrote Crowley: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

Anger refused to be interviewed for this story. After I left a message on his home answering machine, asking if I could buy him dinner and talk about Lucifer Rising, he left a return message. "If you want to talk to me, you better do it quickly, because I'm leaving for Europe," he began. "Lessley. That's an ambiguous name, Lessley. I don't know if you meant to be ambiguous, but it's very ambiguous. However, that's not what offended me. O-f-f-e-n-d-e-d. What offended me was your cheap offer to buy me dinner! You made the wrong move, lady!"

When I called him back, he hung up on me and did not return a third call.

According to the unauthorized biography Anger, the filmmaker wanted to make a movie about the dawning of the age of Horus through the lens of the psychedelic 1960s youth culture. It was to be called Lucifer Rising. Like many aspects of Anger's life, the project took bizarre, tragic twists. His first candidate to play Lucifer, a 5-year-old boy whose hippie parents had been fixtures on the Los Angeles counterculture scene, fell through a skylight to his death. By 1967, Anger had relocated to San Francisco and was searching for a new Lucifer.

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