Swelter

Anger's life has always been marked by what he calls a series of "surreal and diabolical coincidences," but he has gotten lucky at times. Although he never appeared in another mainstream movie after A Midsummer Night's Dream, he gleaned old Hollywood stories from his classmates at Beverly Hills High School, studied French, and made Fireworks in 1947 at the age of seventeen. A few years after graduating, he moved to Paris and worked at the Cinemathäque Franaaise, directed the dreamily beautiful Eaux d'Artifice -- now preserved in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress -- and socialized with the likes of Coco Chanel and Alfred Hitchcock: "A very sadistic and fetishistic man. The story in Hollywood Babylon about Grace Kelly privately stripping for him was told by Hitchcock during a gentlemen's dinner in Paris."

In the early Sixties, he moved back to the U.S., creating Scorpio Rising, with the American biker as mythic figure. During a stint in San Francisco he began work on Lucifer Rising, and became involved with an aspiring musician/actor named Bobby Beausoleil. According to Anger, Beausoleil was a "bad boy who took himself entirely too seriously as Lucifer." He was also a thief of art, stealing Anger's Lucifer Rising footage and eventually winding up with the forces of Charles Manson: "The Manson gang wanted $10,000 dollars as ransom for the footage, and I told them to go to hell, which they promptly did." Beausoleil was convicted for his role in the Manson slayings, but he still stays in contact with Anger ("We've become friends again, now that he's behind bars for life at Tracy Prison") and he figures prominently in Anger's 1969 film Invocation of My Demon Brother.

By the late Sixties, Anger had moved to England, landing smack dab in the swinging London era. In typical Hollywood style, he set aside creative differences with Beausoleil, who, from prison, composed a remarkably accomplished soundtrack for the second rising of Lucifer Rising. For a time the royalty of English rock cultivated Anger, who knew something about the black magic of showmanship, "Sympathy for the Devil" and all that.

It was an unusual milieu, even for Anger, but he doesn't seem particularly impressed: "The rock stars of that era -- the Beatles, the Stones, Jimmy Page -- were my social friends. Keith Richards was the toughest cookie, but Mick [Jagger] never went haywire on drugs -- he's too hooked on himself. Brian Jones was very neurotic and shy; drugs made him look like the picture of Dorian Gray. I can't say if he was murdered, but he did have enemies. Richards's girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, had a cruel streak: a woman very aware of her feminine power, though I hear she's quite fat now. It was all very Sixties.

"Marianne Faithfull could be quite conservative really, rather bitchy as well, even though she was always high on heroin. When we all went to Egypt to shoot Lucifer Rising, she smuggled drugs into the country in her make-up kit -- we could have all gone to jail. In that scene where she climbs the rocks, she fell backward and almost snapped her neck; I caught her within inches of death. Actually I saved her life twice. At Mick's house one night, she wandered away and I found her in his bedroom, sawing at her wrists in a pathetic way. Now if you really want to kill yourself, it's very easy -- one quick painless slash." Anger picks up his dinner knife and with a frightening vehemence quickly passes it over his wrist before filling out the details: "But of course Marianne's efforts were only designed to get Mick's attention. She had a red and black scarf on her neck -- a little bit like this shirt I'm wearing -- and I wrapped it around her wrist. Afterward she gave me the scarf as a memento -- the blood stains have turned brown now, of course."

Lucifer Rising came out in 1980, and was supposed to be Anger's last released film. Since then he's avoided difficult actors entirely by working on Mouse Heaven, a film utilizing vintage Disney toys. Throughout the Eighties and early Nineties, he bounced between New York and Los Angeles, finally settling in Palm Springs a few years ago -- perhaps the oddest twist of a very odd life. Although in the Anger world-view any town can be Babylon: "Palm Springs has always been a Hollywood community, although many of the residents are so old. We call it God's waiting room, which I gather is how people here used to refer to Miami Beach.

"One of my best friends there is Billie Dove, the oldest glamour girl in town, but there's still this commanding presence about her. In her day she was one of the most beautiful women in America, the great love of Howard Hughes's life. Billie made some 60 films -- The Black Pirate with Douglas Fairbanks in 1926 being the best known -- but she's outlived her fame. Her mansion is pure Sunset Boulevard. Everywhere you look there are press clippings and photos of her from the Twenties and Thirties. She keeps a huge 1968 Cadillac in the garage. She bought it new, drove it two weeks, and then left it there all these years. I take her out occasionally, Easter brunch and such, and I always hire a limousine -- I don't drive -- bring flowers and a treat for the dog. It becomes quite expensive, but she expects that sort of treatment, and she's a very nice lady. A true star, really, and now forgotten by the world. In her day there was more class, more mystery, like a fairy tale. Those stars were royalty then, but they've been brought down to something crass and unpleasant. The glamour has gone from Hollywood, and perhaps from life itself.

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