The Nicest Man I Ever Met
By Larry Wessel
While filmming the damage of the L.A. riots in 1992 for my documentary Ultramegalopolis one morning I decided to visit my friend Adam Parfrey. While he was eating breakfast he asked me if I would like to talk about The Satanic Bible for Nick Bougas' Speak of The Devil documentary. I told him that I would very much like to do so and that I should probably go home and dress up in my black suit. "No, I want to shoot you right now", Adam insisted. I was wearing a red "wife-beater" tank top on that morning!! I stood in front of Adam's house, he pointed his camcorder at me and I told him about how important The Satanic Bible was to me.
Awhile later I was attending a very crowded record release party for the band, "Ethel Meatplow" and I encountered a very beautiful young woman in the bar. She introduced herself by declaring, "I saw you in the Satan video!". Her name was Becky Wilson and she told me that she was from San Francisco and that she was one of Anton's Satanic Witches and that Anton wanted to meet me!! She said that she would introduce me to him and that I could stay at her apartment while visiting S.F. She also informed me that she slept in a coffin!!
A few weeks later I found myself standing in front of THE BLACK HOUSE on a dark and foggy night holding three brightly wrapped gifts for THE BLACK POPE. I peered over the barbed wire fence in front of the old dark Victorian and noticed thousands of nails jutting out from every square inch of it's rooftop. At the appointed time I pressed the buzzer at the front gate. Just then a white van pulled up and parked behind me. I turned around and the front passenger-side door opened revealing the man who I came to visit, Dr, Anton Szandor LaVey, founder of The Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible. He quickly stepped up to greet me. "Larry! At last we meet!!". Grinning from ear to ear, Dr. LaVey introduced me to Blanche Barton, to that handsome little devil, Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey and to Tony, his "major-domo".
We walked up a flight of stairs, entered through the front door and proceeded down a long pitch-black corridor leading to the Doktor's library. Once inside the library, Dr. LaVey, Xerxes, Tony and I sat down and Blanche went into the kitchen to brew up some coffee.
Dr. LaVey started off the conversation by thanking me, "Thank you for sticking your neck out Larry". He was refering to Nick Bougas's great "Speak of The Devil" documentary. He said that I managed to "sum up the entire philosophy of Satanism" in my segment of Nick's film. He particularly enjoyed my use of the word, "irk". I testified in "Speak of The Devil that I often used The Destruction Ritual as outlined in The Satanic Bible to get rid of those that "irked" me. He said that the inclusion of the word "irk" in my vocabulary gave him no doubt of my superior intelligence, Needless to say, we were fast becoming the closest of friends!
I handed him the first of the two presents I brought for him. He opened it very carefully and examined the label on the 78rpm phonograph record. It was "The Darktown Poker Club" by Phil Harris. He was obviously delighted! He said that he had met Phil Harris on the set of The Steve Allen Show where they were both booked as guests. He presented Phil Harris with a Church of Satan membership card backstage. Phil was elated! He told Dr. LaVey, "I'm a born satanist!".
The second gift that Dr. LaVey unwrapped was a Remote Controlled Electronic Whoopee Cushion. The R.C.E.W.C. comes in two parts. The first is a small black box that is placed underneath the victim's chair. The second part is a remote control button that can be secreted in one's pocket and pushed from a distance of up to 50 feet! When the remote control button is pushed, the black box emits a sound better imagined than described. Dr. LaVey laughed as he repeatedly made the little black box fart.
While shooting The Boyd Rice Documentary in Denver last year Boyd told me that while visiting Dr. LaVey one night he was having a very serious conversation with him and that every so often when there was a pause in the conversation the silence was broken with a muffled rumbling fart sound that would boom out from under his chair and that Blanche and Anton would just glance at each other without cracking a smile. Boyd said that he was very embarassed!! I've been told that the doctor would use this infernal device on many of his distinguished guests!
I told Dr. LaVey that I too was a childhood customer of the wonderful Johnson Smith Catalog. I had also been a teenage employee at a little novelty emporium in my hometown called "The Mad House". I told him that at the age of eleven I had a sixth grade teacher by the name of Mrs. Bernard. Mrs. Bernard was a very dull and boring teacher. On fridays and rainy days she would "treat us" to gruelling slide-shows of her European vacations. Every other slide featured her buck-toothed, flatopped and freckled son, Jim. "Here's Jimmy in front of The Leaning Tower of Pisa", she would say. "Oh, here's Jimmy in front of The Louvre", ad nauseum. Well the whole class dreaded rainy days and Fridays! I took up a collection of lunch-money change and after school I visited The Mad House, the novelty-shoppe that I would later work at as a teenager. I purchased a Whoopee Cushion and brought it to school on Friday morning. At recess before the last class of the day, I snuck into Mrs. Bernard's classroom, inflated the Whoopee cushion and placed it under the pillow on her chair. The bell rang and within 5 minutes Mrs. Bernard's classroom was filled to capacity. The whole classroom was "in" on my prank! After writing some nonsense on the chalkboard, Mrs. Bernard slowly sat down in her chair unleashing that horrible noise better imagined than described! The classroom erupted in laughter. There was only one person not laughing: Mrs. Bernard! Her face turned a deep shade of crimson as she awkwardly removed the deflated Whoopee Cushion and proceede to cut it into long pink rubber strips with her oversized pair of scissors. she said that no-one would be allowed to leave her classroom until somone confessed. Nobody said a word. Not a single snitch! We all stayed in her classroom until about fifteen minutes past the tolling of the last bell. Mrs. Bernard finally gave up and let us all leave. She never showed her boring European vacation slides again!!
Dr. LaVey asked me about what I was working on and I told him that I was in the process of editing "Taurobolium", a documentary about bullfighting shot entirely in Tijuana, Mexico. He told me that he considered himself a very serious afficionado and that he attended his first bullfight in Tijuana at the age of twelve. His favorite matador was Juan Belmonte. He said that he was particularly struck by the beautiful music of the bullring, the pasodoble. He told me that when he took over as the regular calliope player at The Clyde Beatty Circus that it was these bullfight pasodobles he heard as a child that he would play for the big cat acts. One of the great circus performers that he accompanied on calliope was Hugo Zachini, "The Human Cannonball". He said that halfway through the show, an enormous cannon would penetrate a wall of curtains and point itself directly at the circus audience like some gargantuan steel penis and remain there for the entire intermission for everyone to contemplate!
The conversation returned to bullfighting and Dr, LaVey told me how disappointed he was that Barnaby Conrad's El Matador saloon in San Francisco played host to only jazz musicians. El Matador was a museum of tauromaquia but lacked one element in order to make it a total environment: the music of the bullring! Dr. LaVey said that he offered to play organ interpretations of the music but Barnaby turned him down (Barnaby didn't know what he was missing!). Blanche brought us a tray of chocolate cookies and hot coffee in black mugs decorated with Baphomet sigils! We adjourned to the kitchen where Dr. LaVey had set up his racks of synthesizers. He immediately launched into what must have been a forty-five minute medley of bullfight paodobles! No sheet music was to be seen. He did this all from memory. His music was so evocative of the good times I had in Tijuana that I was moved to tears. What a guy!!!
He also played an incredible version of Wagner's Ride of The Valkyries, my favorite: Danse Macabre, the girlie-show classic: Jungle Queen, and the theme songs to the films Treasure of The Sierra Madre and Viva Max! Again Dr. LaVey was invoking more beautiful memories!!! I told him that my father's two favorite films were Treasure of The Sierra Madre and The Bullfighter and The Lady. I said that although I had seen the John Huston film a hundred times that I had never seen Budd Boeticher's "The Bullfighter and The Lady". Dr. LaVey told me that he just happened to own a copy. He asked me what my plans were for the next evening. I told him my schedule was wide open. He suggested that I come over earlier the next night and that he and Blanche would take me to Joe's at Westlake for dinner and then we would return to The Black House for a screening of The Bullfighter and The Lady. After hugging Blanche goodnight I walked down the stairs into the cold morning air. It was daybreak. Time flys when you are having fun! I had just spent the last ten hours with Dr. Anton Szandor LaVey!
The next night, Dr. LaVey wanted me to read something that he had just written. It was an essay about the Remote Controlled Electronic Whopee Cushion that I had given to him! He told me that it was to be published in a book whose title I must not reveal. The essay detailed all the battles and wars in history that could have been won through the deployment of the Remote Controlled Electronic Whoopee Cushion! It was classic incendiary LaVey laced throughout with his peculiar brand of gallows humor. I felt honored to be the one to have inspired this beautiful tract.
We had a delicious meal at Westlake Joe's and in between bites of petit fillet mignon, Dr. LaVey talked about the Spook Show circuit and the pleasure he would derive from dropping wet spaghetti from the balcony of a darkened movie palace onto the heads of children below while yelling in a creepy voice, "WORMS! WORMS!!". He would then drop grapes and yell "EYEBALLS! EYEBALLS!!".
We returned to The Black House to watch a videotape of The Bullfighter and The Lady. This is the film my father has been raving about for my entire life and here I was at The Church of Satan seeing Joy Paige for the first time! Although this film stars Robert Stack and Gilbert Roland it is Joy who steals the show and stole my heart! Joy was Jack Warner the movie-mogul's daughter and he forbid Joy to ever appear in another picture. The Bullfighter and The Lady was the first and last movie she was ever in. Tears welled up in my eyes at the end of the film and I looked over at Dr, LaVey and he too was overwhelmed by this beautiful 1951 film-noir classic. We entered the kitchen where he performed another wonderful concert on the keyboards. At the conclusion of the concert there was a surprise in store for me! I was presented with a Church of Satan Membership Card and was given the choice of a Baphomet medallion or Baphomet lapel pin. "I prefer the lapel pin", said Dr. LaVey, "It reminds me of a Masonic Lodge Pin". I chose the lapel pin. I was now a card-carrying member of The Church of Satan!! After this incredible time spent with Dr. LaVey I felt a deep sadness on Highway 5 as I was leaving San Francisco behind me.
A few months later a plain brown manila envelope arrived in the mail. It had a San Francisco return address I didn't initially recognize. I opened it up and pulled out what appeared to be a diploma. At the top was an embossed upside-down pentagram pierced with a lightning bolt! Dr. LaVey's personal symbol!! In the upper left-hand corner of this certificate is printed: FROM THE OFFICE OF ANTON SZANDOR LAVEY. In bold letters down the center it reads: BE IT KNOWN, ON THIS DAY, OCTOBER 1, XXIX, LARRY WESSEL HAS BEEN APPOINTED TO THE OFFICE OF PRIEST OF THE CHURCH OF SATAN AND IS EMPOWERED TO ACT IN THAT CAPACITY. It is signed: ANTON SZANDOR LAVEY.
This certificate hangs proudly in a garish Baroque-Roccoco frame on the wall above my computer display. It is there to remind me of my friend from the darkness, the man who shares my views, cage boy and roustabout, lion-tamer and calliope player, funhouse blow-hole operator and hypnotist, burlesque organist and the first registered Theremin player in the city of San Francisco, photographer of cheesecake and crime scenes, psychic investigator and "ghost-buster", magician and lecturer, founder of The Church of Satan and author of The Stanic Bible and the nicest man I ever met...Dr. Anton Szandor LaVey!