Today is a day to delve deep into the darkness of San Francisco. While at times I’d like to feel that I’m the qualified source for this topic, I’m not. I wanted to write a piece about Anton Szandor LaVey, a man who in the mid 60’s stepped out into the media spotlight with a look not unlike Vladimir Lenin which, was not the best looks to have during the cold war, yet he was a beloved member of San Francisco’s infamous crowd that helped put San Francisco a little more present in the societies of the strange that helped make us what we are today. Anton is no longer with us and the Church of Satan has now moved from a creepy black house in the Richmond district to a small aluminum post office box in Grand Central Station, NY.
Who best then would it be to ask to comment on Anton LaVey than his right hand man in the Church of Satan until he left in 1975 than Dr. Michael Aquino who left the Church to found the Temple of Set. So with that being said, I’ll turn the page over to Dr. Aquino:
ANTON SZANDOR LaVEY
– by Michael A. Aquino
America is not a young land: It is old and dirty and evil before the settlers, before the Indians. The evil is there waiting. – William Burroughs, Naked Lunch
I am convinced that the 1906 earthquake not only flattened most of San Francisco and set the rest of it on fire, it knocked the city permanently off the Ley Line that kept it responsible and respectable. Ever since then, everything it’s tried to do has come out … well, as Mayor Willie Brown remarked on one of his official appearances in 1997, “This sure is a fucked-up city!”
So when New York decided to do evil, it got Boss Tweed. When Chicago decided to do evil, it got Al Capone. When New Orleans decided to do evil, it got the pirate Lafitte. When Los Angeles decided to do evil, it got the Black Dahlia killer and the Night Stalker. But when San Francisco tried to do evil, what it came up with was Anton LaVey. In short, it blew it again.
Because Anton, while he certainly started a Church of Satan and wrote a Satanic Bible to go along with it, and generally held himself out as the double-scoop-ice-cream-cone of Evil personified, turned out to be a very nice guy. Whenever he glowered, he just couldn’t get rid of the twinkle, and everyone in San Francisco agreed that he fit right in with our Mayor’s perceptive pronouncement as yet another of our beloved, if bizarre cultural icons. [The only time the city ever officially spanked him was when his pet lion kept the neighbors awake at night with its roaring.]
Anton was born in 1930 and at age 8 joined the Cub Scouts; it didn’t quite take. He checked out shortly after Mayor Willie’s 1997 declaration, presumably concluding that he’d done his bit for it. Since then San Francisco just hasn’t been able to do evil with class, artistry, and flair anymore. And after, you know, lions and nude altars and scary organ music and such, you can’t just dumb down to the rest of the country and be happy.
6114 California Street, where his tour-bus-gawk Black House once crouched like a crazed Universal Studios horror-film prop, now consists of a cookie-cutter condo. But at night, when the fog rolls in, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the chanting, the howling, and the diabolical laughter fading into the crash of the waves against Land’s End. Burroughs was right.