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

He set up shop with two other filmmakers in a peeling, leaky Victorian mansion on one corner of Alamo Square. He painted the words "Do What Thou Wilt" on the front door in red paint. Among his circle of friends was Anton LaVey, a former saloon organ player who wore devil horns on his bald head; walked his pet lion, Tagore, around the streets of San Francisco; and would later found the Church of Satan.

The Anger-LaVey crowd and the Haight Street hippies didn't mingle much.

"Kenneth Anger was weird and creepy," opines Howard Kerr, who was part of a hippie comedy act called the Congress of Wonders. "We were eating ginger ice cream in North Beach, and he said, 'I want you to come home with me and do a magic ritual.' I said, 'What is the purpose?,' and he said, 'Take off my clothes and pierce me with sharp things.'"

BeauSoleil in the prison yard.
Courtesy of Barbara BeauSoleil
BeauSoleil in the prison yard.
BeauSoleil and Freedom Orchestra bandmate Steve 
Courtesy of Barbara BeauSoleil
BeauSoleil and Freedom Orchestra bandmate Steve Grogan.

"We were clean crazies, they were perverted crazies," says Jaime Leopold, the Orkustra's bass player. But sometimes the lines weren't so clearly drawn.

On a Friday evening in February 1967, more than 10,000 people descended on Glide Memorial for "The Invisible Circus." News of the event had spread mostly by word-of-mouth, and by early evening, the sidewalk in front of the church was packed. Inside, one could barely make one's way through the crush of sweating, tripping young people. In his autobiography, I'm Alive, a young Rev. Cecil Williams remembers getting a frantic call at home as the event quickly spun, as he saw it, out of control.

"I waded through the corridors of flesh ... bodies were everywhere ... freak-outs and laughter and crying jags and rubbing and grabbing and slumped piles of quicksand or a tidal wave rolling and roaring with an energy nothing but time could stop ...," wrote a horrified Williams. (Later that night, Williams helped cut "The Invisible Circus" short and move the crowd to Baker Beach.)

Inside one of the church halls, the Diggers set up a fake wall made of newsprint on which they projected pictures of planet Earth. With a clash of cymbals, a team of amateur topless belly dancers burst through the paper, followed by the Orkustra, playing an Egyptian-tinged jam.

As the girls shimmied, the audience rose to its feet and danced with them. Bobby BeauSoleil grabbed a chair and lifted a blond belly dancer onto it.

"We started doing a sort of dance where I was playing specifically to what she was doing, and she was dancing specifically to what I was playing," says BeauSoleil. "It was beautiful. It was spontaneous and fun. I had no idea what anyone else was doing, or if anyone was tuned in to what we were doing."

Then he began licking the sweat off her breasts.

The performance made an impression on at least one member of the audience. Later that evening, as BeauSoleil was packing up his equipment, a tall man with black hair approached him in the darkness. Without so much as an introduction, he pointed a finger at BeauSoleil and declared, "You are Lucifer!" Anger had found his new leading man.

BeauSoleil hadn't recognized Anger and, though he'd heard of him, had never seen any of his movies. When it was explained to him, the prospect of starring as the fallen angel in an art film appealed to BeauSoleil immensely. With one stipulation: The young guitar player would take on the role of Lucifer if he was allowed to make the movie's soundtrack. Anger agreed.

BeauSoleil moved in with Anger. He put his bed in the front parlor, on top of old pillars that had once been part of another Victorian house, and painted bright murals on his walls. Anger lived in the rear of the flat, which he'd painted black with silver dots. A mirrored ball hung from the ceiling; when lit, it reflected light off the dots, giving the walls the appearance of studded black leather.

Though BeauSoleil denies having been Anger's lover, which was the rumor going around Haight Street at the time, in all other ways their relationship seemed one of sugar daddy and boy toy. Anger let BeauSoleil live rent-free. He also bought BeauSoleil a Studebaker truck that had been sawed in half with the back replaced by a funny little camper built to look like a log cabin. One day Anger gave his fallen angel a stone wing that had come from a broken statue.

"It was an odd relationship," admits BeauSoleil. "He was fascinated by me ... I'm not gay, and I was not interested in him in that way."

As in most Anger productions, filming was low budget and sporadic. On one occasion, Anger hired a light show to drench BeauSoleil's naked torso with zebra patterns as he stood in front of black velvet, raising and lowering his arms. Another time Anger filmed his Lucifer smoking a joint from a skull-shaped roach clip contraption.

BeauSoleil's new living arrangement didn't bode well for his band.

"It was a psycho scene, quite frankly," says the violinist, LaFlamme. "Kenneth Anger was a nut case, and Bobby was getting nuttier, and with these other people hanging around, it just wasn't a healthy working environment."

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