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

When the bassist, Leopold, was jailed on a pot bust, the Orkustra fell apart. BeauSoleil quickly assembled a new band from the growing numbers of Haight Street musicians and called it the Magick Powerhouse of Oz. The group began rehearsing moody, modal jams that BeauSoleil anticipated would form the basis of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack. Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way.

In September 1967, BeauSoleil and Anger put together a show at the Straight Theater. "The Equinox of the Gods," as the event was billed, was meant to be a kind of buzz-builder for the film. Footage Anger had shot of BeauSoleil would be shown, the Magick Powerhouse of Oz would play, the Congress of Wonders would do a comedy routine. As the climax, Anger would perform a Crowley invocation to summon the gods of the autumnal equinox.

The night of the performance, BeauSoleil says, Anger took LSD.

Satyr and Harp by BeauSoleil.
Satyr and Harp by BeauSoleil.
BeauSoleil and his wife, Barb.
Courtesy of Barbara BeauSoleil
BeauSoleil and his wife, Barb.

"He was really ripped," says Howard Kerr, of the Congress of Wonders.

The Straight was packed. Anton LaVey sat in the balcony. In the beginning, everything went according to plan. The band did its set, the Congress made the room laugh, then Anger launched into his invocation. He ran around the dance floor area below the stage, waving some striped fabric and wielding -- by some accounts a cane, by others a rattle -- as if it were a magic wand. Then things went horribly wrong.

There was a soundtrack playing behind Anger, recalls BeauSoleil, and at some point in the invocation it broke down. Others who were there don't remember this, but nobody has forgotten what happened next. Anger became extremely agitated, screamed, "I love you!," and hurled his makeshift wand into the audience. It hit Gabe Katz, a former editor of the Haight Street newspaper the Oracle, in the forehead. The blow tore open Katz's skin, and blood gushed over his face. The room went to chaos.

According to BeauSoleil, Anger was convinced his young protégé had had something to do with the soundtrack's malfunction. In any case, that evening marked the end of their partnership. BeauSoleil returned home a few days later to find the locks changed, his truck disassembled, and his murals painted over in white. He kicked down the front door, retrieved his things, and put his car back together. Anger filed a complaint that resulted in a warrant for BeauSoleil's arrest; the filmmaker claimed that BeauSoleil had stolen belongings from him, including the footage of Lucifer Rising. BeauSoleil denies this. The bad vibes were heavy; BeauSoleil beat a retreat to Los Angeles.

"Kenneth Anger came back to the theater the next day and put hexes on everything and cursed everything," says Luther Green, who ran the film projections at the Straight Theater. "Some people hung garlic in there afterwards."

People who knew the two say Anger also put a hex on BeauSoleil. Considering what happened next, it's tempting to believe in such things.

Bobby BeauSoleil met Charles Manson in 1967 at a house party in Topanga Canyon. Though Manson was 13 years older than the 20-year-old BeauSoleil, the two connected, both musically and personally. Manson had his guitar that evening, and BeauSoleil jammed with him on an instrument called a melodica (like a harmonica, but with keys). Later that year, BeauSoleil joined Manson's garage band, the Milky Way.

Manson always had girls hanging around him, and at that time they traveled from crash pad to crash pad in a black school bus. They weren't viewed as a cult, but rather a commune of sorts that showed up at parties right alongside entertainment-industry types, including Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Needless to say, Manson and friends had not yet gone on their infamous killing spree.

Like Wilson and others, BeauSoleil viewed Manson as a talented songwriter, à la Bob Dylan. He also looked up to Manson. "I saw him as the ultimate free-spirited iconoclast," says BeauSoleil.

When the Milky Way split up after only one gig, BeauSoleil went on the road with a few girlfriends in tow. "I was in escape mode," says BeauSoleil. "I was disgusted with the scene, the music business, the society and government of this country. I had these weird visions of sailing away to Jamaica and living on the beach and eating lobster."

In the beginning of 1969, BeauSoleil moved to a little apartment in Laurel Canyon. Manson's group had moved onto an old western movie set in Topanga Canyon called the Spahn Movie Ranch.

"There was this sense when you visited whether you were 'in' or not. I was always on visitor status," says BeauSoleil, disputing the myth that he was part of Manson's so-called Family. "Spahn Ranch was a really fun place. It was on the fringes, and at that point the cops weren't bothering them so much. It was fun to go out there on the weekend and drink beer with the bikers."

Members of a local motorcycle gang, the Straight Satans, sometimes dropped by the ranch. BeauSoleil, who was feeling "depressed and drifting," began to idealize their seemingly free, rebellious lifestyle.

The actual facts of how and why BeauSoleil killed Gary Hinman, a music teacher and associate of the Manson crowd, will probably forever remain a mystery. Some of BeauSoleil's version of the events can be corroborated by the testimony of Danny DeCarlo, a Straight Satan who claimed BeauSoleil confessed to him and who testified at BeauSoleil's first trial, which ended in a hung jury. Some cannot. According to BeauSoleil (who denies confessing to DeCarlo and who claims DeCarlo got his information from one of BeauSoleil's accomplices), the nightmare started when the Straight Satans asked him to buy them some mescaline, and BeauSoleil scored from Hinman. Then, says BeauSoleil, he found out from the gang that the drugs had been "bunk." When BeauSoleil returned to Hinman's with two of Manson's girlfriends, he says, it was to try to get the money back for the Satans.

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This is a truly remarkable man.  His only crime, not to diminish it, was one murder - that of Gary Hinman.  He's never denied it, and he's stated very accurately that it was the one great mistake of his life.  When you look at how many others have committed one murder and gotten out of prison in less than 20 years, the fact that this man has been in prison 45 years makes no sense.

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