"We're All Mad Here…."
Anton Szandor LaVey (born Howard Stanton Levey) founded the Church of Satan on April 30th (Walpurgisnacht) 1966. It was founded on a religious philosophy championing Satan as the symbol of personal freedom, individualism and indulgence, it being argued that this represented the true carnal nature of humanity. The philosophy behind the religion was not so much the worship of Satan (which doesn’t happen) but the rebellion against ‘God’ whose religions were considered by LaVey as impeding the progress of freedom, science and mankind throughout the ages.
One of LaVey’s main collaborators was the underground filmmaker and author, Kenneth Anger, a follower of Aleister Crowley’s ‘Thelema’ and member of the OTO. The formation of the Church of Satan and the Hollywood connections of its founders soon began to attract a number of celebrities to their ranks. Although membership lists are private, there are some celebrities who are publicly known as Satanists.
One of the first members of the Church of Satan, the celebrity pianist recently played by Michael Douglas in the Biopic ‘Behind the Candelabra’ was a close friend of LaVey.
Another celebrity who became a close friend of LaVey, Sammy Davis Jr was first introduced to Satanism at a party (or, excuse for an orgy) in the 60’s. He also starred in a Satanic Sitcom named ‘Poor Devil’ in 1973 which so impressed LaVey’s associate, Michael Aquino that Davis was offered an honorary second-degree Church of Satan membership. Davis happily accepted and invited Aquino to one of his concerts where Aquino presented him with his membership certificate and a Baphomet medallion which Davis promptly wore during the concert. He was later fully inducted into the Church of Satan and, as his friendship with LaVey strengthened, he reserved front row seats at his concerts for LaVey’s entourage and even gave them the ‘devil horns’ salute during the shows. He also painted one fingernail to indicate his membership. His interest was such that it was considered to make him a Senior figure and Leader of the Church. However, Davis later lost interest in the Church and returned to his ‘Religion of Choice’ – Judaism although he remained friends with many of the other members of the Church.
The ‘blonde bombshell’ and rival to Marilyn Monroe, Mansfield visited the Church of Satan in 1966 with her boyfriend Sam Brody (a lawyer and therefore already bound for hell) and met LaVey. Probably due to in no small parts to her outstanding talents, she was awarded the title “High Priestess of San Francisco’s Church of Satan”. She became a full member of the Church and purportedly displayed her membership certificate in her bedroom (no doubt seen by hundreds of witnesses). She was not a member for long though, due to her untimely death the following year. LaVey claimed to have placed a death curse on Brody for ‘desecrating the church’. If he did, it backfired somewhat as Brody died in the same car crash as Jayne Mansfield in 1967. Incidentally, the urban legend regarding Mansfield’s decapitation seems not to be true as it was not recorded in her autopsy and the cause of her death was due to a “crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain”.
Almond was initiated into the Church of Satan by his friend and fellow musician Boyd Rice in 1999. He wrote in his Autobiography, ‘Tainted Life’ of the influence that the Satanic Bible had upon his life saying “In an old junk shop I had picked up a battered copy of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible. I read it with a thrill as I recognized and acknowledged many truths about myself. Anton LaVey was, until his recent death, the founder and leader of the Church of Satan. To some he is a dangerous idealist, the enemy of Christianity; to some he is no more than a carnival showman: to others he is an artist and philosopher with a set of ideas and theories about the Satanic nature of man. It was the latter view that I subscribed to”. In Tainted Life, Almond also describes his initiation into the Church “On the day, I hired a long black limousine for the occasion and went to the appointed place at the prearranged time. Boyd, Jeff, Peter and Rose were waiting for me – Boyd wearing his dog collar, his black beard and piercing eyes suitably Satanic. The others took a short walk into the woods while Boyd said the secret words to me in private. I was thrilled, actually half expecting lightning to strike me down, and every hair on my neck stood on end and sweat broke out on my top lip. Afterwards I was given a badge, and, lo and behold, I was then a member of the Church of Satan. Quite simple, really – no dancing naked, no bonfires, no blood sacrifice. I didn’t really feel that different – well, maybe just a little wickeder.”
Manson (born Brian Hugh Warner), created a Shock-Rock character with a very deliberate aim to court controversy by creating associations with notorious figures such as Charles Manson and the use of shocking imagery and lyrics, all of which is more about self-publicity than any real level of wickedness. Unsurprising, therefore that he should be found amongst the list of celebrity Satanists. The current leader, Peter Gilmore, has stated in interviews that Manson is not only a card-carrying member of the Church but has also been given an honorary Priesthood. Gilmore also said of him “If asked about our philosophies he can explain it. The interesting thing is when his first album came out the two of us met on a panel that we were doing about racism in music that was being sponsored by Seconds Magazine. Nobody knew who Brian Warner was at that point, and he came up to me and gave me a CD and he was all in costume. But he said “I heard about you and I wanted to meet you,” so we moved aside and talked for a little while and I learned he really did understand Satanism. I told Anton LaVey that this guy was pretty smart and this gimmick is going to do well; it’s clever. He’s using this serial killer and Hollywood star combination, and he’s a smart guy and creating his own persona that is probably going to be successful. It took off immediately, and when Marilyn Manson was out on tour in California he asked if he could meet Anton LaVey and he was impressed. He is a really sweet and sincere guy, which has nothing to do with what all of the world sees in just his act and his art”.
The author would like to state that he is not a Satanist but has no problem with people who are. Or not. Whatever – if you’re not harming others; enjoy yourselves 🙂