Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 10 - The New Age
Log 10 - The New Age

Kenneth Anger in person
George Gosset


Kenneth Anger recently toured New Zealand. His retrospective Magick Lantern Cycle of films was shown, and Anger answered questions from audiences, and gave interviews.

Kenneth Anger
Kenneth Anger
Photo: Paul Johns

The tour of Australasia had been exhausting. In Australia Anger had hosted dance parties; in Christchurch he was tired. I had heard some of the same anecdotes repeatedly by the time he arrived, on television and radio. Anger had been treated with respect on national and student radio, bit as a novelty on Holmes. He had recounted some stories, some from his new book Hollywood Babylon III, and these carried their own innuendo. Clint Eastwood was to be exposed as having been a kept man in his early Hollywood days. There was a big section on Brando. Anger said he had a story about Frank Sinatra that TVNZ might not want to air (it didn't). As Anger appeared to ravel on into what sounded like an interesting (and new) story about Rin Tin Tin, Hannah Wallace edited over her voice claiming "this reporter" wanted nothing to do with any "animal stories". The dog story did not emerge later, but the Sinatra one did. Anger had been eating at the same restaurant as Sinatra when the star, high on cocaine, had flown into a rage and ("like King Kong") thrown the table through a plate glass window. Glass had flown everywhere. "You'd look down and notice 'Oh!', there'd be some glass in your steak", said Anger.

Kenneth Anger knew about other people, and what he knew was often as not framed in delightful vignettes. A "devotee" of Alesiter Crowley, Anger has referred to Crowley in his books and films, but was circumspect about what his own beliefs were. Lucifer was "in fact" the Lord of light, of rebellion, of "what's happening on the planet today". Anger's film Lucifer Rising was "all I have to say about the occult". In introducing his films, Anger focused on the stars, various people one might be surprised to see. Anaïs Nin ("still great looks for a woman in her 50s"), Marianne Faithful, Donald Cammell. Anger let the films speak for themselves, casually noting that Scorpio Rising was the first film to use popular music songs as soundtrack; that Mick Jagger provided the soundtrack for the '69 comeback Invocation of my Demon Brother; that Lucifer Rising was to have featured music by Jimmy Page. (In fact, Anger had grown tired of waiting for music from Page, criticising him in the media and noting that Page was having an affair with The White Lady.) Such details were provided as if they were important but had been underrated. However, as the Page anecdote reveals, it seems Anger will leave out as much as he will commit.

Perhaps the films, presented in this way, take on a kind of vicarious power through mystification and notoriety of association (Anger has stated in a previous interview that a demon, Joe, had appeared to him and asked him to sign a contract in blood, and had provided information with which to make Lucifer Rising). Anger described his alienation from family and Hollywood, his artistic exile in France, the endless quest for finance (including the sale of inherited IBM shares ("worth something even then") to complete a film.) He related quirky incidents. Real bikers ("not the people I am used to associating with") had allowed Anger to film their Halloween party; he had provided 15 kegs of beer ("they forgot I was there after a while"). The resulting Scorpio Rising had offended the ten Los Angeles members of the US Nazi Party ("not people I would wish to associate with") with its quote of the swastika, and this had been the only albeit successful, legal challenge to Anger's films.

Invocation of my Demon Brother cuts a Hell's Angels meet, a magic session with Anger robed up and swinging a wand around, Jagger performing at a big open-air event and Vietnam shots against each other, and a blond, stoned-looking young man, apparently day-dreaming. The feel of invocation is eerie, some might say in bad taste, (particularly when one thinks of the Rolling Stones fiasco at Altimont in December that year, with Jagger prancing through "Sympathy for the Devil" on stage as a man is killed by Hell's Angels, the security. The film would appear to be an experiment with forces, an invocation by the reborn Anger following his "death" in '67) when compared with the more controlled journalistic style of Scorpio Rising and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome - depictions of more established, stable myths. Anger did not talk about his films' content.

He did describe his new project, a film about the "Witch of King's Cross", New Zealand artist Rosaleen Norton. The film is to depict the life of the exiled Norton who had to leave Australia as New Zealand was too stifling for her and she too startling for it. Said to be a romance co-starring Barry Humphries (Anger hopes) the film will pit Norman's visionary, flamboyant lifestyle against crusty 'fifties mores. A naughty incident from Norton's life was presented. On arriving home from Africa, Sir Eugene Goosens, her socialite lover and an important conductor, was asked in customs about some African ritual masks he had with him (some bearing prominent phallic noses) - gifts for Rosaleen. Such things were unheard of in Australia, and when some pornographic pictures Goosens had secreted in the masks to amuse Rosaleen fell out, the masks and pictures were confiscated. Anger would seem to be suggesting parallels between his own life and Norton's with this project.

It was hard to get close to the man himself. Anger declared his own death in 1967 (as a filmmaker) - following the theft of the original prints of Lucifer Rising, the incarceration of his friend Bobby Beausoleil who had been involved with the Manson gang, and the death of a small boy who was to have played Lucifer in the original Lucifer Rising - and burned the remainder of the film to be used for other projects. When asked about this, Anger turned to the story of Beausoleil. Bobby had borrowed $10,000 from Anger for amplification equipment for a rock band he was in and was storing the gear at Anger's residence. The two large boxes attracted the interest of Anger's dogs sniffing and tearing at them. A small corner of one or the boxes had become dislodged, revealing a bale of marijuana Beausoleil explained that the $10,000 had been spent on drugs which were en route to the Manson gang. Anger, aware that such a quantity of illicit drugs could bring a hefty stint in prison and incensed, though apparently not one to use physical force, threw the bales and Beausoleil down his steps. Beausoleil was later convicted of a murder relating to a drug deal. In the 'seventies, Anger explained, he and Beausoleil became friends again. Beausoleil was in prison, and along with a member of Santana and a member of Love, amongst other prisoners, had been given rock 'n roll gear to do something constructive with. Anger had left the "Tracy Prison Freedom Orchestra" with a copy of his re-shot Lucifer Rising, and they had painstakingly written the music to fit.

Kenneth Anger is no doubt a smooth, witty raconteur and his films are wild, quaint, sexy, often all at once. His feel for style and incident seemed to come through in most things he did in Christchurch. His life as Anger must be constructed completely from his public utterances and from his films and writings (in earlier interviews he has stated that film is an inherently evil medium, and that he would rather project images directly into people's heads). What he reveals is what we get. What can't be found out can become mysterious.

At the end of the film showing, after question time, as the public filed out of the theatre, Anger stepped back behind the curtain of the screen. There was no back way out, no door. He must have stayed behind the curtain.


George Gosset is a sometimes astounding student radio show host and man of letters who lives high on Scarborough Hill overlooking Christchurch, the city of sighs.



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room