Kenneth Anger Rises Again

Anger adds, "It was about the time he married Bianca; he began sporting this vulgar diamond-studded cross. I knew [their marriage] wouldn't last. Too much ego. At least they had a nice young lady as a daughter, Jade."

Nor do those who have ripped off his Hollywood Babylon concept escape Anger's ire. "I don't feel benign or generous about that," the filmmaker laments. "I wish I could franchise the concept, or at least go after [in court] the people who have stolen the idea of a picture book with Babylon in the title that tells spicy, salacious stories. They don't even have enough pride to think up their own ideas. I have a whole shelf of rip-off books -- Nashville Babylon, TV Babylon, Baseball Babylon, even Palm Springs Babylon. Not one word of thanks from any of these authors."

Anger characterizes his attitude toward such unflattering -- and unprofitable -- imitation as "bemused but not bitter." Perhaps Ms. Sherman confused that bemusement with geniality. But Anger ridicules the notion that he's toned down his act. Of an upcoming award he is slated to receive from the American Film Institute, Anger conspiratorially chuckles and muses, "At one time I suppose I was known as some sort of rebel or anarchist. I guess I'm old enough and safe enough to receive an award now."

But while Anger hasn't released anything new in more than a decade, thereby encouraging the illusion that he has mellowed, he has not been idle. He's putting the finishing touches on Hollywood Babylon III, as well as wrapping up a new film featuring mechanical Disney toys made in pre-Hitler Germany. The picture, titled Mouse Heaven, was originally bankrolled by Paul Getty (grandson of oil magnate J. Paul Getty and a pal of Anger's to whom the filmmaker dedicated Hollywood Babylon II). Unfortunately, Anger ran out of capital and has only recently come up with the financing to resume the project.

A movie about Disney toys may not at first glance appear consistent with the oeuvre of a man whose previous films have explored devil worship, sadomasochism, sex and drug experimentation, violence, and motorcycle gangs. But Anger's take on the subject brings that seeming incongruity into clearer focus. His vision of the toys is anything but cuddly. "I try to get on a different wavelength with every film project," he explains. "For instance, these wind-up toys have a sinister, demonic quality which I bring out with my photography. They're like African fetish figures in a way, but with rivets in their faces. And you lose a sense of scale when they're photographed against a flat background. They can be made to seem enormous and terrifying."

Offers to do Babylon books on subjects other than Hollywood have come Anger's way, but so far he has turned them down. "I considered doing Washington Babylon," Anger confides. "There are so many political scandals. And did you know that George Washington grew cannabis?"

Rather than further diluting the Hollywood Babylon concept by expanding it to other cities, Anger has focused his energies on turning out the third volume of Tinseltown trash. The new Babylon was ready to go a while back, but then came the O.J. Simpson case, a show biz scandal of the first magnitude, and Anger decided to close the book with a chapter entitled "The Butcher of Brentwood."

As the chapter title implies, Anger harbors little doubt concerning the football star-turned-actor's guilt. "Of course he did it," Anger proclaims. "The verdict was an outrageous miscarriage of justice, a case of reverse racism, which is particularly ironic considering that the predominantly black jury dismissed overwhelming evidence because they didn't want to convict a black celebrity, despite the fact that O.J. lived a white lifestyle and preferred white women. He'd threatened [to kill Nicole] for years. He was only a minor actor, but he was a major celebrity, and [his case] was a classic example of celebrity syndrome."

While Anger postponed publication to include the outcome of the O.J. trial, the author watched in bemused disbelief as the Hugh Grant scandal broke. "Can you imagine the arrogance?" he asks rhetorically. "Cruising a black streetwalker in his BMW, then parking under a streetlight where anyone could see them? Unfortunately it's a story with no depth. If Hugh Grant had committed suicide afterward, then it would have been a perfect Hollywood Babylon story."

Hollywood Babylon III will also mention Michael Jackson, although Anger has mixed emotions about including the pop star. "Here again, the man is more of a celebrity than a movie star," the chronicler of Tinseltown sleaze clarifies. "He wanted to make a version of Peter Pan with Spielberg. Too bad he didn't. That would have been grotesque, this man with a bleached face and a melting nose. He's such a weirdo -- how can you satirize something so far out? The whole marriage to Lisa Marie [Presley] was a miscalculation by Scientologists attempting to gain control of Michael's musical holdings. Imagine A he owns the rights to most of the Beatles songs. And why should a schoolteacher or priest go to jail for life for making a pass at a kid when Michael Jackson can buy the parents off for $20 to 40 million? And what about those parents? They were equally guilty of either collusion or stupidity."

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