California Infernal: Anton LaVey & Jayne Mansfield as Portrayed by Walter Fischer

The cover of California Infernal: Anton LaVey & Jayne Mansfield: As Portrayed by Walter Fischer

THE BIBLE-THUMPING condemnations of pre-Code Hollywood declared its racy films to be wicked enticements cast before innocent eyes. The overheated rhetoric was of a piece with the films themselves: Sin as a showstopper has always proved to be profitable for preachers as well as moviemakers. A preacher of a different sort, Anton LaVey, took cues from both the moguls and the ministers to found the Church of Satan and author The Satanic Bible. From Hollywood, he borrowed the splashy opening—for instance, by ordaining the beginning of the “Age of Satan” on Walpurgisnacht in 1966. With his shaved head and villainous goatee, LaVey himself could have passed for Vincent Price. From the godly, he appropriated the notion of numerical commandments (his bible catalogues “Nine Satanic Statements,” the first being “Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence”) and a sense of ritual, but with an audience-pleasing twist: His Black Masses featured nearly naked women lying supine on the altar.

Walter Fischer, a German paparazzo who worked the LA celebrity circuit in the ’60s, took the photos collected in this volume, which includes a brief introduction by Kenneth Anger. (LaVey appeared in Anger’s 1969 short Invocation of My Demon Brother, the two men having bonded over their mutual fascination with Aleister Crowley.) Shot at various California locales, particularly LaVey’s Black House in San Francisco and Jayne Mansfield’s Pink Palace on Sunset Boulevard in LA, the images give off a gemütlich, family-album vibe despite the nudity, pentagrams, and skulls. The 1967 baptism of LaVey’s daughter Zeena into the church—the curly-haired three-year-old wore a tiny hood—is documented by cute candid shots that hardly suggest dark doings. A visit by the “Black Pope,” as he was called in newspapers, to Marilyn Monroe’s tomb is similarly tame. As a young man, LaVey played organ in a Los Angeles burlesque house where he claimed to have met and, somewhat more dubiously, seduced the actress. Extending his shiny cape alongside her crypt, LaVey glowers at Fischer with comical exaggeration.

Anton LaVey and Jayne Mansfield, 1967. © Alf Wahlgren.
Anton LaVey and Jayne Mansfield, 1967. © Alf Wahlgren.

He did manage to get Mansfield, a Monroe-ish bombshell, involved in his antics. When they first met, she was embroiled in a custody dispute and asked him to put a curse on her ex-husband. In one especially stagy composition (left), LaVey sports full devil drag (black cape, horns, staff) while Mansfield holds an apparently fake skull, her face expressing what she must have believed to be the intensity of baleful bliss. In other more ordinary but no less awkward poses, the actress—wearing a patterned minidress, knee-high boots, and a bow in her platinum mane—poses by her pool with her Satanist pal, who wears, incongruously for the tropical setting, a funereal black suit and tie. In this, LaVey may have inadvertently displayed some occult prophetic power: Only eighteen days after that shoot, Mansfield was killed in a car accident.