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.
Flashback 8-8-88: Interview Excerpts from forthcoming book 'Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the L.A. Punk Scene.'
Flashback to 8-8-88:
Today marks thirty years since Zeena's first public collaboration with music group Radio Werewolf, which led soon after to her becoming co-director as composer, musician, lyricist, singer, artist and art director.
Music historian Mikey Bean interviewed Radio Werewolf for his forthcoming encyclopedic volume, 'Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the L.A. Punk Scene.' The Radio Werewolf chapter covers a vast amount of yet unknown information about several key points in the bands development, from all members involved.
Thanks goes out to Mikey Bean for granting permission to share a peek of this book, prior to release.
The following passages are specifically in reference to the 8-8-88 rally at the Strand Theater in San Francisco.
To follow updates on the 'Phantoms' release, go to this Facebook page:
Phantoms: The Rise Of Deathrock From The La Punk Scene https://www.facebook.com/mikeys.book/
Original, Vintage Radio Werewolf Merchandise available on this site under:
VINTAGE, ORIGINALS & COLLECTIBLES
Radio Werewolf begin working on The Norse Eddas shortly before 8-8-88
Zeena: In Summer of '88, a couple of months after we'd met, Nikolas mentioned that he and Kirby were planning on doing an album of the Norse Eddas.
Nikolas Schreck: …on rehearsing the adaptation of the Elder Edda, which formed the centerpiece of Radio Werewolf's second album Songs For The End Of The World.
Zeena: He said, “I'm looking for a strong woman to play the role of a Valkyrie and you just might be the one I've been looking for.”
Nikolas Schreck: Her artwork and creative writing, which she read to me, and her skills as an improvisatory keyboard player with a gift for haunting medieval melodies, her experience in theater as ritual, these were the many things we had in common as far as the mutual artistic approach that blossomed into our collaboration in the next phase of Radio Werewolf.
Zeena: He knew I'd done theater pieces and had acting experience, and asked if I'd be interested. Now, the funny thing is, between '87-88, I'd been having a pleasant dalliance with King Diamond. Right around the time Nikolas asked me to participate in the Eddas recording, Kind Diamond said he'd like to find a way to bring me on tour with him but in order to do that, he would have had to work me into his act to justify my travel expenses. At that time, King Diamond had a stage act that involved a haunted house story with a scary old grandmother character and he asked if I'd consider wearing a latex mask to play the grandmother. Well, given the choice between playing a Valkyrie or playing an old grandmother in a latex mask, which would you choose?! (laughs) So obviously Nikolas, Kirby and I began working on what would become Songs For The End Of The World fairly early on. We were artists who would’ve collaborated as equals on something anyway, regardless of whether or not we got romantically involved, and regardless of Nikolas's then involvement with the first cast of Radio Werewolf.
8-8-88 rally at Strand Theater SF
Nikolas Schreck: Then in August, the 8-8-88 concert happened, the anniversary of the Manson murders. Zeena came to San Francisco from LA at my invitation, to do a reading at this concert to which Boyd Rice and I had agreed to several months before.
Zeena: I was supposed to arrive at the venue with Boyd and Adam Parfrey. I wanted to get there a little early, as I usually do, but they wanted to wait until the last minute and opted instead to kill time eating dinner in Japan Town. Meanwhile, Nikolas and his girlfriend were still running around getting everything together for the performance, obviously with no help from the three of us.
Zeena: The 8-8-88 rally was the only time the old line up of Radio Werewolf and the yet-to-be new line up of Radio Werewolf worked together. It would be the only performance that Nikolas, the original percussionist Wilhelm, and I ever performed live together. That marked the transition point spanning three phases of Radio Werewolf: 1) the Nikolas Schreck/Evil Wilhelm collaboration, 2) the solo Nikolas Schreck/The Fiery Summons, and 3) the Nikolas Schreck/Zeena collaboration.
Zeena: During the performance my cue was a particular organ chord that Nikolas would play; Boyd's part came before mine and when Nikolas played the cue Boyd was to step away from the podium to make room for the next in the line-up, me. When the time came for my part Boyd just stood there, I kept looking around wondering when he'd get it, his part was finished, but he stood there an interminably long time, just sort of zoning out. Judging by Boyd's and Adam's jitteriness that they expressed at dinner over the Geraldo crew filming it, I think that must have been what panicked him, they weren't yet used to that level of national attention.
Nikolas Schreck: When the Geraldo Rivera [U.S. TV show] film crew had arrived at the theater they asked me in all seriousness if they could film my Satanic wedding ceremony with Zeena LaVey; they were very disappointed when I told them there was no such wedding planned!
Zeena: Because of Boyd's stage fright, it left me about half the time I needed for what we'd planned for me to read…so I just hurriedly did my part and moved on. It was also tense during the performance because shortly before we went on, we learned of a call-in threat from someone with the intention of stabbing the participants on stage with syringes filled with AIDS infected blood.
Zeena: I was not at all comfortable with the atmosphere immediately after the show and wanted to immediately leave, as was the original agreement. There was supposed to be a car waiting for me, which never materialised so I was stuck in the backstage area with a bunch of dips wanting to ape for the camera. There were some group photos taken and if you notice I'm at the far outer end…why? Because I didn't even want to be in the photos at all. I was the only one standing off to the side watching the others take photos but the ‘Anton LaVey fan-club’ all whined that I should be in the photos with them and that's why I'm actually half in, and half out, of those shots.
Nikolas Schreck: Me and Wilhelm gave an interview to Geraldo, and if you watch the interview you can already see the tension that comes across from us sitting together.
Evil Wilhelm: During the show I looked around in disgust and said “this is just not fun anymore…”.
Zeena: You could cut the tension with a knife, because on the one end of the spectrum you had these goofy newcomers to the CoS, getting off on their 15 minutes of media high, and then on the other end of the spectrum you had this silently smouldering Radio Werewolf drama between Wilhelm and Nikolas unfolding behind everyone else's drunken giddiness…as for me, I just wanted to go home.
Fastforward 30 Years
Zeena: Although we haven't collaborated on musical projects since Radio Werewolf ended in 1993, there are still a lot of similarities in theme and content to what we both do.
Nikolas Schreck: These days, Zeena and I focus on solo performances and individual writing/art projects; we purposely don't attend each others' gigs for a variety of practical reasons, mostly having to do with maintaining respect for each artists' autonomy, and to dispel the moronic ‘Mommy and Daddy of Satanism’ idea which originated primarily from both the US Fundamentalist Christian AND Satanic factions.
Zeena: We live and work entirely independently of each other these days. On a practical level, we learned long ago that it's very difficult for two very focused artists, who are always working on a continuous stream of projects, with unpredictable schedules, to attempt to live any sort of conventional co-habitation or ‘coupledom’ lifestyle. In addition to that, I've taken Buddhist Bodhisattva vows and am a yogini, which also necessitates specific ways of living.
Nikolas Schreck: I’m flattered that [more than] thirty years after I started [Radio Werewolf] people are still enthusiastic and excited about it. I saw from the beginning that it’s something beyond…I can’t get away from it, but it isn’t ‘me’; I feel like I have a younger twin brother who did all this stuff and I have to deal with the consequences, that it’s like a child I brought into the world and I have to accept the responsibility of it.
Zeena: For me, the most powerful, valuable and enduring lesson of all that came out of my Radio Werewolf years is the message of our final album: Love Conquers All.
[End of excerpt]
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.
The Guardsman student newspaper interviews Zeena on a little known period of her life as an arts student at City College of San Francisco & teenage single-mother. During the run up for local election to reinstate CCSF as a free college, Zeena shares her memories and recommends young art students to also explore opportunities in foreign countries that offer state support for the arts and universities. Read the full article HERE
A heartfelt thanks goes out today to my dear artist friend Frank Haines, who sent me his latest book, aptly titled, Frank Exchanges.
Frank organized the 2013 New York performance, “Zeena Schreck, Live from the Eye of the Storm.” Over the course of our lifetimes, Frank and I have worked, lived and loved in many of the same cities - San Francisco, Vienna and Berlin - but it wasn't until 2012 when our paths finally crossed and we began plans to collaborate on various art projects.
Frank Exchanges is a labor of love spotlighting twenty-six artists who have traveled through Frank's life at various times. I had the privilege of meeting many of these talented and hard-working artists as a result of my collaboration with Frank for our New York performance. So it's wonderful to learn more about this community of creators and creatrixes in this volume.
Frank is inspired by and works with artists who understand and embody the integration of spirituality, magic and the creative process. He also has an appreciation and understanding of the feminine energy central to creativity. This could be because he's been nurtured and mentored by many female artists, including his two sisters and his life's partner, Jackie Klempay. It could also be because he really digs feminine mystical artists. Conversations with Frank are often peppered with references to female artists who inspire him. So it's not surprising that the introduction to his book explains the genesis of Frank Exchanges, as related to two female artists and how the “direct interview form, where the content reflects a conversation” shaped his desire to publish his exchanges with artists he knows:
When I look at a Loise Nevelson sculpture I think about the way she described eating raisins. She would not eat raisins by the bunch but singly and selectively. 'When I put a raisin in my mouth I know what I'm doing'. This single statement expresses a mindfulness about living in the world that I see reflected in her work.
“Eliza Swann interviewed me for Arthur magazine in 2011. I loved the conversation that resulted from the meeting of our minds. Inspired by these results, I wanted to document many of the ideas that have been shaped through conversations with close friends of mine.”
From that launching point, Frank manifests Frank Exchanges. A collection of essay-interviews that reveal complex philosophical and religio-magical perspectives from artists who have experienced struggle, love, pain, poverty, doubt, loss, euphoria and all of the usual challenges artists face in a society which devalues visionary thought. It offers a glimpse into the minds of ambassadors from another state of consciousness. In a strictly materialistic culture, both art and spirituality are often viewed by society as worthless, when they don't contribute to economic and industrial productivity. So it's refreshing to see artists intelligently interviewed by one of their own, rather than being asked inane questions by someone who can't relate to the creative spirit!