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The Last Testament of Anton Szandor LaVey

Boyd Rice, edited by Whale Song Partridge

Boyd Rice met Anton LaVey, the High Priest of the Church of Satan, in the mid-eighties and over the course of their friendship spent countless evenings that went into the wee small hours with "the doctor" as he was affectionately known by his small coterie of close friends. As he explains in the introductory essay, 'Unholy Alliance', Rice first encountered LaVey and the Church of Satan in the pages of The Satanic Bible, a book he read as a teenager. Its writings, to Rice, "represented a distillation of life laws, and the often harsh realities that govern life on earth". Anton LaVey was undoubtedly an influence and inspiration to Boyd Rice and his Satanic philosophy dovetailed with Rice's own thinking. Boyd rose through the ranks of Church of Satan officialdom and was, at times, a spokesperson. Together with the artist Coop and publisher Adam Parfrey, Boyd Rice comprised a trio LaVey jokingly referred to as "my three sons" who became frequent guests at LaVey's home. Hell, Rice and LaVey even appeared together on the SWAT album Deep Inside A Cop's Mind conversing on the track 'Tony And Xerxes At The Shortstop'.

The recently published The Last Testament of Anton Szandor LaVey is described by Rice in the introductory essay 'Unholy Alliance' as "a little collection of memories, a scrapbook, if you will...A thumbnail sketch of the Anton LaVey I knew." It features recollections and interviews many of which have previously appeared in publications such as Seconds magazine, The Black Flame: The International Forum of the Church of Satan and Boyd's own book Twilight Man, together with essays and a transcript of a conversation with LaVey's eldest daughter Karla recorded in 2017 at a Lethal Amounts event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of LaVey's death. It's an illuminating, engaging and touching first-hand account of Rice's relationship with Anton LaVey but the devil is in the detail and The Last Testament of Anton Szandor LaVey isn't without its faults and particularly due to its construction it is rather disparate. A worthwhile account but a somewhat disjointed affair.

'His Final Interview' features LaVey's final interview, or at least the final interview conducted by Boyd Rice, which originally appeared in Seconds magazine in 1997. The introduction cites an earlier interview which Rice posits was "a call to arms" to those who who had grown up on LaVey. That interview from The Birth of Tragedy magazine was conducted by a "young admirer named Eugene Robinson". Yes, that one. That Eugene S. Robinson who would go onto be frontman in Oxbow but he was never fully an admirer and certainly never a Satanist. Boyd's interview is great though where Boyd intimately schooled in Satanic thought asks incisive questions allowing LaVey to draw out and expound on the Satanic philosophy, and its application and attraction. "You don't need to have read all the great philosophers to be able to recognise it when something comes along that finally makes sense, and Satanism just makes sense" states LaVey in the interview underlying his view that Satanists are born, not made. The role of celebrity figures in the Church of Satan such as Marilyn Manson are discussed, as well as aspects of LaVey's life and loves (both carnal and cultural) in addition to revealing what brings LaVey joy and conversely what pisses him off.

It's followed by an 'ASLV: Crime Buff' section discussing two cases which continue to exert interest and fascination today. 'The Black Pope and the Black Dahlia Killer' documents a meeting between LaVey, a former reporter friend and a scriptwriter who had produced a treatment on the killing of Elizabeth Short. That script contained details known only to the police, reporters or someone connected to the killer. During their meeting somewhere outside Reno, Nevada that individual would confess to being the Black Dahlia killer, revealing both his motive and his method of disposing of the body. The crime remains unsolved and it's a script and a name I'm sure James Ellroy would kill for. While that recollection is written in a conversational style, 'The Butcher of Plainfield' is a transcript of an interview Boyd conducted with Anton about his meeting with Ed Gein at the Wisconsin Institute for the Criminally Insane. The visit took place courtesy of August Derleth, the mystery writer and founder of Arkham House, who was one of the many illustrious figures who took part in the weekly magic circle gatherings at LaVey's Black House on California Street in San Francisco prior to formation of the Church of Satan. It's a fascinating interview giving insight into the psychology of Ed Gein, a mother fixated "American Gothic Grant Wood type" who, as LaVey explains, never showed remorse or fully understood the magnitude of his crimes which involved murder, necrophilia, cannibalism and taxidermy. LaVey even recalls viewing some of his unusual handiwork, his home, while commenting on Gein's mental state during his confinement in the institution. Also included in this section is 'The Old Man' an excerpt from Boyd Rice's Twilight Man publication where LaVey as "the Old Man" reflects on the tragedy and barbarity he saw daily as a crime scene photographer for the SFPD. It was acts caused by pure stupidity and a lack of control and discipline which informed his thoughts on humanity, resulting in his misanthropic outlook.

The first of three articles in 'ASLV: Pop Culture Icon' begins with 'The Devil and the Doll' where Boyd relates LaVey's well documented and often disputed relationship with Jayne Mansfield. It's the additional details that elevate this section, laughing together over the memory of one of LaVey's old friends who stumbled in on a naked Jayne sat atop a grand piano in the Ritual Chamber of the Black House. Boyd relates other stories often told by LaVey as well as claiming to have seen letters Mansfield wrote to LaVey and more significantly the scrapbook containing the news feature of Marilyn Monroe LaVey had clipped, inadvertently cutting through a picture of Mansfield on the other side snipping her head off in the process. Hours later LaVey received a call announcing Mansfield was dead, (allegedly) decapitated in a car accident which also killed her manager Sam Brody who it was said LaVey had cursed. Years after Mansfield's death, Anton LaVey rented her Pink Palace for a period, allowing him access to various Hollywood movers and shakers, before relocating back to San Francisco.

While 'The Devil and the Doll' is foreworded by the recollections of Rice and his thwarted attempt when still a child to attend a personal appearance of Jayne Mansfield, the following two sections chronicle the age in which LaVey became the go-to bad guy and the personification of evil for mainstream America. 'The Satanic Zeitgeist: The Devil In The Marketplace' merely surveys the Satanic influence in the culture of the time, an era in which the bedevilled LaVey and the Church of Satan was to rise to prominence. Slightly better is 'ASLV And The Occult Revival' which documents LaVey's increasing profile featuring in newsstand publications; staring out from the cover of Look clutching a skull and in the pages of the Occult Revival issue of Time magazine. He was also a regular feature in the occult weekly magazine Man, Myth and Magic billed as "an illustrated encyclopaedia of the supernatural" launched with a cover featuring an elemental painting - a detail from 'The Vampires Are Coming' - by Austin Osman Spare (not Austin Osmond Spare, as stated in the book). But even here in this section documenting LaVey's influence in pop culture, Rice continues to pedal the now discredited story that LaVey was hired to play Satan in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby.

'Burying The Black Pope: An Obituary For Anton LaVey' reprints Rice's essay from The Black Flame as a heartfelt tribute to the man, the old man, who as Boyd relates would become a mentor to him. Reflecting on their relationship it draws out his humour, his childlike enthusiasm and even his loyalty to support his close associates as well as the fun (and fury) he could wreak within the confines of the Black House. As Rice incisively notes "Of course, he had always been a success, anyone who lives on their own terms and by their own law is a success" but the fact that he lived long enough to witness a resurgence in popularity was sweet revenge on his detractors who had written him off as a has-been, a phoney and conman.

'Hellfire on Hollywood Boulevard' the largest section in The Last Testament of Anton Szandor LaVey, transcribes a conversation between Boyd Rice and Karla LaVey, Anton's eldest daughter, which took place as part of a memorial event to mark the 20 year passing of Anton LaVey and to exhibit Walter Fischer's photos of LaVey and Jayne Mansfield - collected in the wonderful California Infernal publication from Carl Abrahamsson's Trapart. Far from being the hate filled misanthrope he is most often perceived to be LaVey comes over as quite a multi-faceted character; a devoted father, a lover of animals, an artist in earlier years, who in spite of his dour and stern public demeanour was something of a fun guy with a mischievous liking for pranks. A life loving character in a misery seeking world. It is a fun and entertaining chat providing a glimpse of a much overlooked aspect of LaVey's character and personality. The lively chat also gives insight into life at the Black House, which once counted Kenneth Anger as a live in tenant. One other thing worth pointing out here is that it is well known that LaVey was a fervent admirer of Sid Vicious' version of 'My Way' but Boyd Rice also notes that he also loved Marc Almond's 'A Lover Spurned', and would watch the video directed by the French photographers Pierre et Gilles over and over again. Marc Almond was, of course, inducted into the Church of Satan by Boyd Rice. However it was NON's Live In Osaka video, a ritualised performance featuring Boyd Rice backed by Douglas P., Rose McDowall, Tony Wakeford and Michael Moynihan on kettle drums, which he regarded as "the most Satanic thing I have ever seen!"

'ASLV: In His Own Words' features quotations from Anton LaVey culled from various sources and a final essay entitled 'The Death Rune', elaborates on the Eihwaz rune; a symbol that has been a personal sigil for both Boyd Rice and Anton LaVey. It was also used as the emblem for the Order of the Trapezoid, an organisation and guiding force behind the Church of Satan. In the essay Rice claims LaVey offered him the leadership of the Church of Satan and cited Rice as an ideal candidate for the Grand Master of the Order of the Trapezoid both claims which have been disputed by various members of the Church of Satan. Either way it is an essay that conveys LaVey's depth of feeling and affection towards Boyd Rice right from their first meeting when Boyd arrived wearing a death rune patch in addition to conversations exploring the meaning behind the wolfsangle or wolfshook symbol used by both. Interestingly it does seem that Boyd has picked up the mantle as the book ends on pages of advertisements for the Order of the Trapezoid, an entity set-up by Boyd Rice to further these aims, distinct and separate from the Church of Satan's same named inner organisation.

As a result of its construction The Last Testament of Anton Szandor LaVey feels disparate and confusing. It is, of course, "a little collection of memories, a scrapbook...", so maybe that sense of mix and match is to be expected. But despite the aforementioned misgivings and a rather inflated price it does reveal an insight into Anton LaVey distinct from LaVey's own writings and The Secret Life of a Satanist, the authorised biography by (LaVey's wife) Blanche Barton. Casual readers might want to look elsewhere for an understanding of LaVey and his philosophy but those familiar with LaVey and especially followers of Boyd Rice will find much to enjoy in this profusely illustrated volume which reveals the Anton LaVey Boyd Rice knew and loved, and will find this an essential addition to their collection of books of Anton LaVey.

Profusely illustrated with a huge number of images, The Last Testament of Anton Szandor LaVey reveals the Anton LaVey Boyd Rice knew and loved, and for that it is an essential addition to the collection of anyone interested in Anton LaVey. To order a copy you'll need to go that large online book retailer.