Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

My latest read was a real departure for me. This one was another one of those chance encounters one finds when they frequent the local thrift store. I was perusing titles when my eye stopped on this one. It was one of those automatic things that happen when you are scanning rapidly and the brain screams, “Stop! Back-up.” Not exactly because it is such a treasure but I had heard of this book for years and it was the author’s name what really jumped out at me. The Book is “Hollywood Babylon” by Kenneth Anger, 1974.
For those who don’t realize who and what I am talking about let me do a little synopsis. Kenneth Anger is an avant-garde producer of occult films. Possibly known best for “Lucifer Rising” a visually symbolic piece of cinematography that pays homage to paganism and Alistair Crowley. (The Mr. Crowley Ozzy Osbourne sang about.) Kenneth Anger was teaming with Jimmy Paige for the soundtrack for this one but it seems they had a row about what-was-what and Anger pitched the Paige work and, instead, had Bobby Beausoleil (of Manson Family fame) compose the score for the soundtrack (from prison as I have read somewhere recently but have’nt verified yet). On a personal note I find it interesting how connected the Manson family was in the music world. Charlie’s music has received much airplay by groups such as Gun-n-Roses and Marilyn Manson, and there are may blogs that still ‘worship‘ Charlie and play his albums [that were produced while Manson was associated with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys]

Anyway, Kenneth Anger, a former child star in Hollywood compiled a tell-all, who’s-who with his gab fest “Hollywood Babylon.” If you ever wanted to look at the seamier side of Tinsel Town, and see it from the beginning this is the book. If you think that Sin City on the West Coast is bad today then take another look. Look where it came from and what philosophies it was built upon. Mr. Anger gives a grimy portrayal of what went on behind the glitz and the glam.

To be sure, there are those who bring up issues with the book, namely some attributations regarding photos and some date specific events as well as whether it was from the Letter “H” or the 13th letter “D” from which a starlet plunged to her final demise using the Landmark sign “HOLLYWOODLAND” as her jumping off point. Detail can be hashed out and nuanced but the gist of the tale is a major commentary on American Culture especially since this industry has become the predominant influence on current American Culture. Marshall McLuhan told us in the 60’s that the Medium is the Message. Btw. I was listening to Ravi Zacharias’ “Mind Games in a World of images,” today and he quoted (I believe it was Dostoevsky) on the evolution of art, “First Art imitates life…Then Life imitates Art… Finally, art becomes the purpose for life.” In these pages from Anger we see the human cost of fame and fortune in Hollywood. Page after page of nihilism bearing fruit as the elites come to the end of themselves and have no reason for continuing.

I seem to have begun a study on media and culture by accident here recently. I began with a study of Neil Postman’s, Amusing ourselves to death, along with McLuhan’s the Medium is the Massage (a compilation of effects), and his Understanding Media. I realize that I am a product of the media of my culture and now I am trying to understand how deeply such exposure has affected me. In reading Anger’s book I found myself wanting to take a shower knowing that this art form we call movies, the big screen has for years been putting out a message that reflects the worldviews of those we read about in Hollywood Babylon. In spite of, or maybe because of, the voyeuristic nature of the book I felt I needed a bath after finishing it. Some of the stories are hardcore in their explicitness and others are a read-between-the-line codification of what Anger is trying to convey.

This book is not for the immature or the youngsters but is interesting prattle from a first source.





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