HEADPRESS - Larry Wessel
HP: Can you tell me some of the jobs you've had?
LW: During my high school years I worked at a wonderful little novelty emporium called "The Mad House". It was my job to demonstrate magic tricks and sell practical joke items such as Whopee Cushions, onion gum, x-ray specs, imitation vomit, disappearing ink, itching powder, rattlesnake eggs, name your poison!
While attending film-school at U.S.C. I had a job as a rat exterminator & got paid to write a book called "The Roof-Rat Handbook". This was a do-it-yourself guide for suburban homeowners to rid their property of "the leading cause of house-fires in the United States". These particular house-fires occur when roof-rats chew through electrical conduit, turning people's happy homes into raging infernos!
HP: Which was your shortest stint of employment and why?
LW: I was a movie extra in Roger Corman's "Humanoids From The Deep". During a scene where people are being random;y slaughtered by an invading army of humanoids, I can be seen smashing a "Humanoid" over the head with a 4x4. This stint of employment began outdoors in Malibu during a thunderstorm at night and ended early the next morning.
HP: Which job did you enjoy the most?
LW: On assignment for Hustler Magazine to illustrate a report about prostitution in Tijuana, I had many gratifying encounters with the pretty putas of TJ's Zona Roja. Field research, you understand. Thank you Larry Flynt!
HP: You were formerly known as Father Larry, a performance artist.
Have you now retired from performance art?
LW: Yes, although "anti-performance art" would be a more fitting label for the 'shows' I used to do!
HP: What would a 'show' consist of?
LW: Assault and Battery, Rape, Sexual assault and Murder. All of this was simulated with a bombastic live soundtrack performed by either The Imperial Butt Wizards or Pedro, Muriel, and Esther. Father Larry's antics were a parody of a lot of the art nonsense and jadedness-flaunting I was witness to at the time.
HP: Can you tell me a little about the Evian bottle incident?
LW: I allegedly committed what has been referred to as a "Sadistic Rectal Rape With Evian Bottle" on stage at Los Angeles' trendy LACE performance hall. Although purely stage-magic it was perceived as real! Fearing loss of National Endowment for the arts funding, the director of LACE lost his job after the gallery's attempt at a cover-up.
HP: Michael Collins, writing in the L.A. Reader, says that you have "an unhealthy obsession with the McMartin child molestation case". Your show "Yucky Secrets" has apparently some reference to that school, and the McMartin preschool also features in ULTRAMEGALOPOLIS.
What is this fascination?
LW: Unhealthy obsession! The people suffering from an unhealthy obsession are the christian fanatics who accused the teachers who ran the McMartin Preschool of operating a front for child molestation, kiddie-porn, devil-worship, and animal sacrifice! The McMartin Preschool was the subject of the longest running criminal trial in the history of the United States. The McMartin Preschool was located in Manhattan Beach...my home town! Naturally I was curious about he Salem witch-hunt that was going on in my own neighbourhood!
"Yucky Secrets" was a solo exhibition of my collages, video, and 3D photographs all dealing with the McMartin Preschool case. ULTRAMEGALOPOLIS contains footage of the McMartin Preschool being excavated by a team of paranoid shovel-wielding christian church-ladies led by ex-FBI agent Ted Gunderson.
HP: How did you get to the office of Priest of the Church of Satan?
LW: Well it all began one afternoon while visiting my friend Adam Parfrey. He wanted to videotape me talking about the impact that The Satanic Bible has had on my life. Nick Bougas included this testimonial in his documentary "Speak of The Devil". While attending a record-release party for the band Ethel Meatplow, one of Dr.LaVey's beautiful satanic witches spotted me in the crowd. "I saw you in the Satan video", she said. She told me that Dr.LaVey wanted to meet me! She offered to let me stay at her apartment during my visits to The Church of Satan. At the time I was working on TAUROBOLIUM, my Tijuana bullfight documentary. From what I had read about Dr.LaVey's love of animals, I was afraid that he might not approve of my film. The exact opposite turned out to be the case. Dr.LaVey is a very serious aficionado and we spent several hours discussing the history of bullfighting! He loved my TAUROBOLIUM and performed an impromptu concert of bullfight paso-dobles on the keyboards for me! As if this wasn't enough excitement for one evening he presented me with a Church of Satan membership card and invited me back the next night for a screening of Budd Boettticher's "The Bullfighter and The Lady" !
Shortly after the release of CARNY TALK a plain brown manila envelope arrived in the mail. I opened it and there was a certificate inside. It read in part: "LARRY WESSEL HAS BEEN APPOINTED TO THE OFFICE OF PRIEST OF THE CHURCH OF SATAN".
HP: What are the benefits of being a Satanist?
LW: To quote Dr.LaVey, "We are superior and we are superior not by ethnic means but by the superior force of the will, the imagination, the creativity, of the very essence of resourcefulness and survival that is the heart and the very soul of the Satanist"
HP: How has it helped you personally?
LW: Reading The Satanic Bible has provided me with a healthy means of dealing with and channeling my hatred towards those who 'irk' me. The destruction ritual as outlined by Dr. LaVey has been a very effective tool for me, a sort of "weed-whacker" to keep my garden in order!
HP:: CARNY TALK was shot in 1988. Why so long to release it?
LW: My post-production studio wasn't set up until 1994. Before then, I had shot miles and miles of videotape without having the resources to properly edit the footage. I had wanted to finish TAUROBOLIUM as my debut Wesselmania release and follow it up with CARNY TALK. I thought that cinematically, TAUROBOLIUM would cause a bigger splash as my first release.
HP: How did you meet Robert Williams?
LW: I originally met Robert Williams at Big Daddy Roth's Rat Fink Reunion in 1983. I became a member of a group of artists that Robert Williams gathered together called "The Art Boys".
HP: How did the idea come about to put some of his anecdotes on film?
LW: The oral tradition of story-telling is sadly becoming a lost art. I wanted to capture the experience of being in the presence of an extraordinary raconteur. Robert Williams filled the bill and CARNY TALK is the result.
HP: Was he an inspiration on your own art? What are your inspirations?
LW: Yes. Currently I'm getting my inspiration from Jesus Ignacio Aldapuerta's "The Eyes", William Lindsay Gresham's "Monster Midway", and Luis Spota's "The Wounds of Hunger", three fine books and "The Daily Breeze", my morning newspaper.
HP: Why do we never get to see the audience in SUGAR & SPICE?
LW: It never ocurred to me to shoot the audience when what was happening on stage was far more entertaining!
HP: Can you tell us a bit about "The Lost Girls" organisation?
LW: "The Lost Girls" is a social/support group for male and female members of the transgender community in San Francisco. This group was founded in 1991 by ex-navy F-14 radar officer, race car driver, sharp-shooter, and Persian-Gulf Crisis veteran Tyrrell Morris. Tyrell is a pre-op transsexual who graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. in astrophysics and a Master's in thermodynamics combustion technology. Tyrell has an IQ of over 180.
HP: How did you find out about it?
LW: Jack Boulwaare's "The Nose" magazine had a cover story on "The Lost Girls" written by Becky Wilson.
HP: Were there any problems or objections to your filming at the transgender clubs?
LW: None whatsoever! All of the transgender clubs I filmed SUGAR AND SPICE in were latin clubs and they were all very camera friendly.
HP: The star of the show has got to be The Goddess Bunny (though I thought Lypsinka was pretty funny) - how did you meet her?
LW: The Goddess Bunny is defiently the star of SUGAR AND SPICE! I met The Goddess Bunny through Glen Meadmore. Bunny was Glen's roomate at the time and Glen had asked Keith Holland (Glen's recording producer) to videotape bunny doing her tap-dance routine. The end result was the notorious "Tap Dance Video". I met Bunny and saw the "Tap Dance Video" on the same afternoon and knew that I had found the star of SUGAR AND SPICE! And yes, The Goddess Bunny has seen SUGAR AND SPICE and has given me two enthusiastic thumbs up!
HP: She gets the best applause and, it seems, the most tips. Any hint of rivalry between the artistes?
LW: There was definite rivalry going on between The Cosmic Danielle and The Goddess Bunny. It got so bad once that Danielle pushed Bunny's wheelchair over with Bunny in it!
HP: Some of them were part of your own live show? Are you still in touch with any of them?
LW: I've performed with Glen Meadmore, The Goddess Bunny, and The Cosmic Danielle. I'm still in touch with all of them but sadly, The Cosmic Danielle is no longer with us. She died of an AIDS-related brain tumor.
HP: Which came first: Bougas' documentary, THE GODDESS BUNNY, or SUGAR AND SPICE?
LW: Bougas' documentary was released in 1994. SUGAR AND SPICE was released in 1995.
HP: In ULTRAMEGALOPOLIS, you spend a long time focused on the Black Power Group on the sidewalk, spouting their racist diatribe. Were you uncomfortable with that? Were they uncomfortable with that?
LW: I wasn't uncomfortable and I don't think they were either. I found their honesty refreshing! Adam Parfrey writes about this in the book "RANTS", "To hold an opinion and dare to express it is the final prerogative of the free man. Announcing an incendiary truth may be the last remaining vestige of human dignity".
If you had to name one documentary film that you particularly admire, what would it be and why?
LW: TITTICUT FOLLIES! It is a timeless masterpiece of cinema verite and is just as powerful when viewed today as it was when it was originally released in 1967.
HP: What's the most terrifying thing that's ever happened to you?
LW: While driving a moped through an intersection a van traveling at 45 MPH ran a red light and broadsided me! Luckily it was a cold night and in order to keep my ears warm, I wore my helmet!