at home with the high priest of satan

A new photobook showcases the many sides of Anton LaVey, including his knack for interior design. Sacrificial altars and pentagrams will add a surprisingly chic edge to any room.

by Clementine de Pressigny
20 September 2017, 2:27pm

California Infernal, Anton LaVey & Jayne Mansfield, a new book featuring the archives of paparazzo photographer Walter Fischer, documents the many sides of The Church of Satan's founder, from presiding over occult rituals to semi-regular family man, from Chihuahua lover to befriender of film star Jayne Mansfield — you can even see him doing a spot of weight training. Sit back and take a tour inside the life of The Father of Satanism, and mediate on a better time, when you could don a cap with devil horns and be taken totally seriously.

The 60s was clearly a fun decade to be young, what with the free love and flowing creativity, budding communes and the general willingness to get a bit trippy. It was a time of invention and overthrowing staid tradition. It was also a time when a regular man could shave his head, grow questionable facial hair, wrap up in a shiny black cape and transform himself into the High Priest of Satan. What a time it was to be alive.

The man who really made the most of this opportunity was Anton Lavey, who in 1966 decided to found the Church of Satan in his house on California Street in San Francisco, which he had painted black. To complete the lewk he drove a black Jaguar and for a while had a pet lion named Togare. Kenneth Anger, who lived nearby at the time and would pop by the black house and enjoy leisurely breakfasts with the Father of Satanism, writes of taking pleasure seeing Anton drive around town with the lion riding shotgun. LaVey wrote himself a new and exciting past that included him running off to join the circus, and having an affair with a pre-fame Marilyn Monroe — Satan's servant preferred blondes — who he continued to be obsessed with. He kept busy with evil activities, authoring devily tomes such The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, as well as The Satanic Witch — with tips on how women could use their feminine wiles to get what they want from men. That book even includes fashion advice among many other pearls of wisdom: "Regardless of the attempts made by the fashion industry to foist questionable styles on women, there will always be certain standards of sexiness that prevail. No matter how chunky shoes get or how shapeless dresses become, the basic wardrobe of the witch will remain the same."

These days most people wouldn't blink an eye at a self-proclaimed Satanist, because we've got worse things to worry about, like nuclear war and our new orangey-coloured Prince of Darkness. But back then stories of a Satanic Church sent terror into the hearts of wholesome God-fearing folk. The media, of course, lapped up Anton's antics. They showed their aghast audience the dangerously amoral turn society was taking, with its young people proclaiming free love ideals and whatnot, and the High Priest of Satan holed up in San Francisco performing occult sex rituals on an altar beneath a pentagon. And his dastardly acts didn't just involved naked ladies — though he was a big espouser of carnality — he also performed satanic baptisms, including of that of his daughter Zeena, and satanic funerals, in which a pretty good seems to be had by all. Anton lapped up the media attention, and his fame and following grew.

LaVey was a complicated man, with a self-confessed penchant for watching women pee, and also, perhaps surprisingly, a lot of sympathy for peas — "This little pea died for me," he said thoughtfully during a dinner with journalist Lawrence Wright, "...for this pea to be able to grow and fulfil its purpose on the planet; that's more than most humans ever accomplish." He was a fiendish yet sensitive man who will be remembered for his satanic wisdom, his bold interior design approach, and embracing all that the 60s had to offer a man like him.

California Infernal, Anton LaVey & Jayne Mansfield as portrayed by Walter Fischer is published by Trapart Books, available through Artbooks now.

Anton LaVey