Review: California Infernal

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Note: We’ll be covering the strange world of Anton LaVey and Jayne Mansfield – and the current flurry of activity surrounding that relationship, including this book and the new documentary film Mansfield 66/67 – in detail in our third reprobate print project, about which we’ll be revealng all very soon. For now though, consider this brief review a sneak preview…

There doesn’t seem, on paper, a more unlikely pairing than Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey and Jayne Mansfield, the professionally bimboish Hollywood starlet. But then, this was the 1960s, when strange connections took place all the time (Charles manson wrote a song for The Beach Boys, after all), and a time when Satanic Chic meant that many a Hollywood celebrity would dabble in the occult, or else hook up with the Church for publicity reasons. LaVey too wasn’t exactly shy of the sort of publicity that mixing with the glitterati might bring, and was only too happy to mix in celebrity circles or act as consultant on films as varied as Rosemary’s Baby and The Devil’s Rain.

Both LaVey and Mansfield were, effectively, show folk, which probably gave them something in common – they had public personas that might not have been their actual personalities (Mansfield had a high IQ and played dumb strictly for the camera). And their friendship seems to have been real, even if their rumoured romantic relationship remains tantalisingly unconfirmed. The icing on the cake of this tabloid-baiting relationship was, of course, Mansfield’s untimely death, practically decapitated in a car crash that has ever since been attribited to a curse that LaVey put on her dubious boyfriend of the time.

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This slickly produced hardcover book presents a collection of photographs by Walter Fischer – described as a papparazi but arguably more of a Hollywood press photographer, given that the images here are posed shots rather than hastily grabbed public event reportage. They cover the meetings of LaVey and Mansfield, her at the Church in San Fransisco, him at her Pink Palace in Los Angeles – as well as other fantastic imagery from the early days of the Church of Satan – LaVey looking wistfully at Marilyn Monroe’s tomb; early gathering of accolates; some fantastically kitsch rituals involving LaVey in Devil costume, naked girls, masks and a phallus; Zeena LaVey’s Satanic baptism; and LaVey hanging out with Famous Monsters of Filmland editor and fellow showman Forry Ackerman. The book ends with a selection of colour shots of Mansfield at home

A few of these images will be familiar, but seeing them beautifully printed in a coffee table book brings new life to them. An introduction by Kenneth Anger and forewords by occultist experts Alf Wahlgren and Carl Abrahamsson set the scene for the images nicely.

Fans of 1960s kitsch Satanism and cult movie icons (they don’t come much more iconic than Mansfield) will find this irresistable.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW

 

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