The below article was originally posted in San Francisco newsgroups for Halloween by Jeff Farris, who shares first-hand impressions of Zeena in early life. Farris and Zeena attended the same schools yet have never met. Many thanks to Mr. Farris for allowing us to reprint his article here! An afterword from Zeena follows his article:
Lucifer's Daughter in the Richmond District by Jeff Farris
In San Francisco on California Street, between 23rd and 24th Avenues in the Richmond District, there once was a house that was painted pure black long before it was fashionable or cool to do so. The home was rumored to have a real live roaring lion as well as human occupants, we were warned, who were devotees to the Prince of Darkness himself. Other than the austere and gloomy color, it was an unassuming little home just a few blocks down the road from where I grew up.
A typical San Francisco A-framed, 3 story Victorian, The Black House, as it was known for many years, was the official First Church of Satan and the home of Anton LeVay, aka, The Black Pope and Lucifer’s Great High Priest and author of the Satanic Bible, as well as his family, including 2 young children and his companion, the self professed sorceress and High Priestess, Diane Hegarty. An ex-carnival worker and notable chronic liar, Anton established the Church of Satan in 1966 where it had a run for about 35 years until it was eventually torn down in 2001, only to be replaced, unceremoniously, by a cheap, 4 unit apartment complex commonly known among locals as a Richmond Special. The son of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants who had arrived in the United States sometime near the turn of the 20th Century, Mr. LaVey had finally made a name for himself in the late 1960’s with his audacious ambition to create the first church of Satan ever, anywhere.
San Francisco, at the time, was ripe for such a plan and Anton soon found himself at the center of controversy along with much welcomed attention from the ranks of luminaries such as Hollywood elites, avant-garde artists, and rock superstars of the time. One of his first and most celebrated religious ceremonies held at The Black House was the “Baptism” of his youngest daughter, Zeena, in 1967, when she was just 3 years old.
You may have some familiarity with Anton LaVey, but it’s his daughter, Zeena, that I am most curious about today. Anton, who died in 1997, seemed more like an opportunist and a showman than that of a bonafide Satanist, but not Zeena. She was destined for a much more televised profile than her father, becoming the official spokesperson for the Church of Satan in the mid-1980’s during the days of what is now called the “Satanic Panic” wherein born-again, Christian fundamentalists and the U.S. media sensationalized what they said was rampant Satanic Ritual Abuse all across America, especially towards children. In actuality, there was really none happening at all.
Some say that it was a modern day witch-hunt fueled by rumors and hearsay, but it was not without serious repercussions when innocent citizens, mostly teachers and staff from 19 daycare centers and pre-schools, were convicted and some even imprisoned based upon the fabricated testimony of toddlers and therapists who said they had uncovered memories of ritual abuse after hypnotizing previous students. Basically, Christians giving false testimony and acting more like Satan, than, well... Satan.
Zeena was invaluable during this time, advising police departments throughout the country with a general understanding of Satanic practices which helped quell, at least some, of the satanic ritual abuse allegations. I guess that one could say that the first person to have ever been publicly christened, if I can even use that term, for dedication to Lucifer, could have no other destiny in store for her other than to set the record straight regarding the activities of Beelzebub and his followers.
Zeena was one year younger than I, born in 1963, and we went to the same middle school, Presidio Jr. High, on 30th Avenue in between Geary and Clement. I remember her as a very attractive young girl with sensuous lips and an almost ever present furrowed brow. I didn’t know her personally, but being that her father was a somewhat famous, or better yet, infamous San Franciscan, everyone knew who she was, even I. She got pregnant in the 8th grade, at the age of 13, which didn’t help her reputation at all. Vicious rumors went around school stating that it was her father who had impregnated her. Kids can be so mean but, to my knowledge, not one of them had the guts to ever confront Zeena personally. We were all afraid of her clan and no one was brave enough to start trouble with Lucifer’s very own baptized child.
Anyhow, as the years have transpired, I have kept my eye on the life and times of Zeena LaVey, or Zeena Schreck, which is her current last name. I wouldn’t say that I am a stalker, but I have always felt for her as one would feel towards any misunderstood outsider. I felt bad for her, actually, not that she needs my sympathy and she could probably care less of what I think, for that matter. But I’ve always believed that she was a good soul under extraordinary pressure from circumstances beyond her control. She was a San Francisco kid, caught up in those crazy times, no different than I, but definitely more complicated and dark.
As you can imagine, Zeena and her family weren’t very welcome in our working class, multicultural, mostly Catholic, and Asian, and Russian Orthodox neighborhood. In a 2012 interview with Vice Australia, she explains that she had to transcribe for the SFPD death threats left for her on her father’s answering machine wherein she was to be raped and killed. She was 11 years old at the time. She also states that her father may have haphazardly fallen into the role of The Black Pope by sheer accident and that the Church of Satan was created after a local publicist described Anton as a neighborhood eccentric and “the first priest of Satan.” Anton then seized the idea and transformed it into a religion and that it all took off from there.
To be clear, Anton’s belief system did not include an actual deity or entity that one would call Satan or Lucifer, the Angel of Light. He believed that there wasn’t a devil at all. It was an ego driven theology. Each person is a God, in essence, and the tenets of the religion are almost all selfishly motivated and self aggrandizing. It’s also important to note that the Church of Satan, for the most part, was ultimately a failed venture leaving Anton destitute by the time he died. He sold his soul for nothing more than a limited and fleeting run at popularity, poor thing.
By 1990, Zeena had renounced her father’s church and belief structure, and likewise the Church of Satan vehemently denounced Zeena, commencing a campaign to discredit her name. I don’t think she ever had contact with Anton after that. She claimed that her father was basically a charlatan and a con artist and that he never had the depth of knowledge to be a true Satanist and that it was all for show and celebrity.
Whether or not I believe her completely is predicated upon the publication of the Satanic Bible, which is still the definitive go to resource for anything Satanic. It is clear that he gave that book some thought. Nonetheless, Zeena then applied her spiritual endeavors towards the Temple of Set, which could best be described as a pre-christian, Egyptian mystery religion, but highly influenced by other ex-members of the Church of Satan and the writings of Aleister Crowley. But even here, Zeena failed to find an environment that was to her liking and she resigned from her post as High Priestess in 2002. She then formed the Sethian Liberation Movement, donned with a title that could only be conjured up by an ex-San Francisco kid who survived the citywide pandemonium that the Symbionese Liberation Army caused when they kidnapped Patty Hearst in the early 70’s.
Currently, Zeena is a self avowed Tibetan Tantric Buddhist and she offers counseling services and specifically ministers to victims of extreme circumstances, the socially stigmatized, outcasts, and those otherwise subject to prejudice. By use of yogic, meditative and shamanic exercises, she offers short-range treatment, she says, without having to become an initiate of any particular spiritual path. Like the Phoenix, she claims that she can help you rise from the ashes of difficult experiences, find your own inner mystical resources, and have a spiritual awakening towards a foundation of inner strength.
Personally, I believe in her and I want her to succeed. If anyone has experience of overcoming difficulties, Zeena is among those who have. It seems poetic to me that a young girl from San Francisco, without any act of her own volition, was baptized at the tender age of 3 into the milieu of post-modern sensationalized Satanism, only to come out the other side finding peace and stability from the teachings of someone as self effacing and modest as the Buddha. I sincerely hope that she ultimately finds the peace that surpasses all understanding. As a fellow San Franciscan, I am rooting for her. How about you?
– Jeff Farris
San Francisco, Halloween 2014
Afterword by Zeena:
Thank you Jeff, wherever you are! Though it's true we never met, nor shared any words in those years, I never forget a face and knew it was you, because you still look the same, some 40 years later. You are correct that most people didn't have the guts to speak to me then in school, unless antagonistically. The same character traits usually remain on into adulthood. People who refuse to educate themselves about what they're frightened of, find comfort in remaining ignorant. So thank you for your curiosity to educate yourself, and for your candid recollections.
And, as you alluded to, I have found peace and contentment. When we have peace within ourselves and develop intrinsic happiness and relinquish hope for extrinsic sources of happiness, we have peace and joy wherever, and in whatever, situations we find ourselves.
Wishing you [all] a fantastically Happy Halloween.
The Chiseler Online Magazine interviewed Zeena about her memories of actor Christopher Lee:
The interdisciplinary avant garde artist spoke exclusively with the Chiseler about the legendary actor.
Zeena “met Christopher Lee as a result of being co-producer for the CD ‘Christopher Lee Sings Devils Rogues and other Villians.’ Specifically, I first met him at the apartment in Los Angeles that Nikolas and I rented for him and his wife Gitte to stay in while we worked on the recording of ‘Christopher Lee Sings Devils Rogues and other Villains.’ ”
Long before Lee recorded with the symphonic power metal group Rhapsody of Fire, he was involved with “Christopher Lee Sings Devils, Rogues & Other Villains (From Broadway To Bayreuth And Beyond).“
“Nikolas knew of Lee’s love of classical music, opera and Broadway musicals. But at that time, the general public only knew Lee for his vampire roles and had little awareness of his musical talent and appreciation,” Zeena explained.
Lee maintained that his one regret was his decision not to become an opera singer.
“Nikolas conceived of the idea to spotlight Christopher Lee’s considerable singing talents,” Zeena said. “But he knew that to do that effectively, such a project would need to focus on musical selections one would automatically think of Lee singing, appropriately sinister villainous characters from Opera and musicals.
“Lee was very enthusiastic at the proposal. So it was through helping Nikolas with the planning, production and coordinating of that project that I got to know Christopher. We recorded it at a studio in Crossroads of the World in Los Angeles. A considerable amount of work and expense went into finding suitable, classically trained musicians and a musical director (Dean Shepherd, who was fantastic) who had the right skills and temperament to work well with Lee.”
The friendship endured long after the work was completed.
“We stayed in contact throughout the years following that album,” she said. “We’d see him whenever he was in Berlin for the Berlin Film Festival and the ‘Cinema for Peace’ benefit.”
“It goes without saying that Christopher was a very colorful person,” Zeena said. “But for me, the most interesting conversations with him revolved around his descriptions of his WWII work as a British Intelligence officer. He talked about parachuting into German enemy Waffen SS camps and, well, he did what the British government trained him to do, which was not pretty.”
“I got the impression he was still rather haunted, even decades later, by some of his experiences during the war. Even though he believed that what he did was for virtuous and just reasons,” she added.
“He definitely had an interest in magic beyond the roles he played,” Zeena said. “But we need to make a distinction between 'interest’ and 'involvement.’ He had no first-hand involvement in any magical, occult or satanic groups and even declined direct invitations from such groups.
“He liked horror fiction of authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, etc. But that was purely a literary appreciation. He also had an interest in John Dee, The Golden Dawn and other 19th and early 20th century magical groups,” she explained.
“However, it should be stated that Lee had an interest in a wide variety of eclectic subjects, which had nothing to do with occultism. He was simply very well-read and inquisitive by nature,” she added.
Lee was in the enviable position to be able to satisfy his many curiosities.
“As a result of his years in British intelligence, he’d known figures like Dennis Wheatley, his cousin Ian Fleming, etc., and had heard of their experiences with Aleister Crowley. In fact he was lifelong friends with Dennis Wheatley and agreed with Wheatley’s views on the occult. But their friendship grew out of their mutual intelligence work, not because of occult or magical interests.
Christopher Lee was instrumental in getting Wheatley works to film. Wheatley’s The Forbidden Territory was made into a movie starring Ronald Squire as Sir Charles rather than Duke de Richleau in 1934.
“It was Lee who convinced Hammer films to buy the rights to Wheatley’s books for the films he would star in,” Zeena said. “But it should be clarified that Lee was very dismissive and wary of occultists, black magicians or satanists.”
During Zeena’s involvement in the Lee album, she had the opportunity to ask Lee about the rumor that her father knew Christopher Lee.
“When Nikolas and I got to know Lee, we were able to discuss this rumor with him in detail,” Zeena said. “Both Lee and his wife Gitte refuted the rumor vehemently. Lee explained that, as a result of working on the U.S. TV movie Poor Devil, with Sammy Davis, Jr. (who became a Priest in the Church of Satan), Davis tried to ingratiate Lee into accepting an invitation at the behest of my father, offering Lee a copy of The Satanic Bible, personally inscribed and signed by my father.
“Lee still had the book in his collection and, on one of Nikolas’s visits to London for preparations of the CD, Lee showed Nikolas the book referring to it as a cheap paperback from the '60s witchcraft fads. Lee didn’t take it at all seriously,” Zeena said. “His wife Gitte recalled another time they visited Sammy and his wife Altovise in Los Angeles, when again Sammy tried to serve as middle-man between Dracula and the Black Pope, and again to no avail.
“Lee had no interest. He said Sammy was nuts about my father but Lee saw my father as a 'Johnny-come-lately opportunist and con-man’ within the occult. Lee expressed that he had no intention of ever meeting LaVey. Then, Lee pointedly looked me in the eye and said 'I’m very glad that you had the sense to get out of all of that destructive rubbish, expounding on what he called the ruinous effects of that type of belief system,’ ” she concluded.
The levelheaded enchantress also got to see the work that went into his actor’s preparation.
“Lee took personal responsibility to research his roles, to learn what he could about the characters and the historical context, in order to bring a more believable performance to each character,” Zeena said. “His interest in devilish and monstrous roles was purely a matter of aesthetics and literary appreciation - but not at all a personal lifestyle.
“I think he considered the villainous roles he played as having allegorical and moral significance. Sort of like morality tales for a new generation. I don’t think he expected to actually inspire people to want to become the characters he played. He was part Italian and had a very strong sense of religious moral ethics. So even though he befriended Wheatley and personally researched the villainous roles he would play, it was really out of a dedication to portray those roles in as real a way as possible, to understand those characters from their own points of view and to make them believable,” she said.
THERE'S MORE TO THE ARTICLE - READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
Christopher Lee letter from 22nd of July  "Dear Nikolas, First & foremost, my thanks to Zeena for her much appreciated letter & the enclosure of the contact sheets [photos for the CD], most of which are very good. It is good to know that dedication, determination and devotion (the three D's) are still appreciated in the downspiralling & diminishing & destructive (thee more D's) rush of our wretched industry; and that there are still artistic & professional people who understand & support that horribly misused word “Talent.” I greatly enjoyed my sessions & we have indeed created musical history, it was great fun, if at times almost beyond me....I still think you should make the high notes in the Credo sound as good as possible. I don't want to make ugly sounds. Vanity of course. You can use any or all of the pictures included, except those marked with a red X. Obviously the “burnt out” ones will need to be graded, if possible. And you can match the facial expressions to the arias concerned. I would like to have some myself! Best to you both from Gitta & me, Christopher"
San Francisco is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. This week also marks the dark-side of the city's history. On May 23, 1967 Zeena made her international debut as performance-artist at the first public satanic baptism, orchestrated by her parents' in-house carnival show. She has commemorated the event by creating a personally charged meditative ritual in the form of a soundscape and video collage.