Kenneth Anger, the shocking and significant avant-garde filmmaker, has passed away. In his underground classic “Hollywood Babylon,” he revealed the most obscene movie star rumors while also challenging se*ual and religious taboos in short films like “Scorpio Rising” and “Fireworks” and “Scorpio Rising” and “Fireworks.” He was 96.
His artist liaison, Spencer Glesby, confirmed Anger’s deἀth on May 11 in Yucca Valley, California, from natural causes to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Few, including rock stars like the Clash and the Rolling Stones, as well as directors Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, so audaciously and imaginatively mined the forbidden depths of culture and consciousness as Anger.
He was one of the first openly gay directors and a forerunner in using soundtracks to contrast moving images. Anger juxtaposed music with bikers, sadomasochism, occultism, and Nazi imagery long before punk and heavy metal gained popularity.
At a 1976 concert, the Se* Pistols and the Clash shared the bill, and movie trailers from Anger were shown behind them.
As the creator of “Hollywood Babylon,” Anger achieved his most significant fame and financial success.
Hollywood and Scandal practically grew up together, and Anger put together an extraordinary and frequently apocryphal family album, including images from Jayne Mansfield’s fatal car acc*dent and hotly contested claims like actor Clara Bow having se* with the University of Southern California football team.
“Hollywood Babylon,” finished in the late 1950s and initially published in French, was outlawed in the United States for many years. It was still considered adult literature upon its official release in 1975. Peter Andrews of the New York Times called it a “306-page box of poisoned bon bons” written as if a “sex maniac had taken over the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book Club.”
“If a book such as this can be said to have charm, it lies in the fact that here is a book without one single redeeming merit,” according to Andrews.
In 1984, Anger released a sequel, the less well-liked “Hollywood Babylon II,” much like a studio head attempting to establish a franchise.
In recent years, he had stated that he was writing a third book, including a chapter on Tom Cruise and Scientology.
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Anger spent most of his life making movies and was friends with everyone, from the poet Jean Cocteau to the se*ologist Alfred Kinsey. He was a balding, dark-eyed man with a frozen expression and a tattoo reading “Lucifer” across his chest.
Keith Richards and he were close enough that Rolling Stone reported that Anger referred to Richards as his “right-hand man.”
Anger helped create a Rolling Stones classic by lending Marianne Faithfull a copy of Mikhail Bulgakov’s satanic parody “The Master and Margarita,” to which Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page contributed soundtrack music. Faithfull’s boyfriend, Jagger, received her book and used it as inspiration for “Sympathy for the Devil.”
In his youth, Anger claimed to have rejected Christianity and preferred to read comic books on Sunday. Later, he became a member of Thelema, a mysterious organization encouraging its followers to “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” For a while, he resided in the home of Aleister Crowley, the founder of Thelema and a mentor and friend, who once said, “Love is the law, love under will.”
Anger, a California native raised in Santa Monica, was the son of Wilbur Anglemeyer, an aircraft engineer, and he often credited his grandmother, a costume designer, as a first-rate source for juicy Hollywood gossip.
The following is The Guardian’s tweet, in case you missed it:
Kenneth Anger, underground film-maker and Hollywood Babylon author, dies aged 96 https://t.co/7XRpPaDMNN
— The Guardian (@guardian) May 24, 2023
Amid skepticism, he claimed to have played the Changeling Prince in a 1935 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He was a young actor.
When Anger finished “Fireworks,” a noir-style 13-minute silent film in which he plays a young man who fantasizes in explicit detail about being beaten by a pack of sailors, he was still a teenager. Anger also started making movies as a boy. The director had shortened his last name to Anger by this point.
“I knew it would be like a label, a logo. It’s easy to remember,” Anger remarked in 2011 to The Guardian.
Kinsey was one of the film’s early viewers, and he liked it so much that he paid $100 for a copy and requested Anger’s assistance with his introductory study on se*ual behavior.
Some of Anger’s best-known works include the surreal occult short “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” and “Scorpio Rising,” a 28-minute production from 1963 that features footage of motorcycle riders and songs like Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” and Elvis Presley’s “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise.”
In one exceptionally provocative scene, the Crystals’ hit song “He’s a Rebel” is played to pictures of Jesus and his disciples from Cecil B. DeMille’s silent epic “King of Kings.”
“Like many people, I was astonished when I saw Kenneth Anger’s ‘Scorpio Rising’ for the first time,” Once upon a time, Scorsese wrote. “Every cut, every camera movement, every color, and every texture seemed, somehow, inevitable, in the same way that images of the Virgin in Renaissance painting seem inevitable.”
In “Mean Streets,” “Goodfellas,” and other films, Scorsese would imitate Anger’s aesthetic, and Lynch included Vinton’s somnambulistic ballad in the 1986 cult classic “Blue Velvet.” According to Waters, anger was one of the directors who “dirtied” John Waters’ mind.
Anger was preoccupied with deἀth, and he frequently visited Hollywood Forever, the final resting place of celebrities like Judy Garland and Johnny Ramone. A plot next to Ramone’s had been purchased for Anger by actor and friend of the director Vincent Gallo.
When asked why he enjoys visiting cemeteries, Anger responded, “They’re peaceful,” in an Esquire interview. “They’d better be…”
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For almost 4 years, Jason Martin has been a freelance writer for newspapers, journals, blogs, books, and online material. He covers the most recent news as well as many other topics.