A quintessential San Francisco story, starring charismatic musician/murderer Bobby BeauSoleil*
*with underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, cult leader Charles Manson, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, and the Straight Satans motorcycle gang in supporting roles
November 17, 2004
By Lessley Anderson
Bobby BeauSoleil bounds into the visiting room at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute in Pendleton, Ore. His 5-foot-10-inch frame is thin, but he moves with a puffed-out chest and a swaggering stride that make him seem bigger. At 57, BeauSoleil has the handsome, dignified face of a Shakespearean actor, with a neatly trimmed gray beard, bright blue eyes, and imperious cheekbones. He booms, "Namaste!," the greeting of Tibetan monks and New Agers, and hoists himself over a table to get to his seat, rather than walking around it in standard fashion.
In the visiting room, people are seated so close to one another that it is almost impossible to avoid overhearing other conversations. I ask BeauSoleil how he met his wife, Barb. It was a jailhouse marriage that has, nonetheless, persisted happily for 22 years. I figure it's a topic that won't get him in trouble if anybody overhears us talking.
BeauSoleil gets an intense look on his face. "Before we could consummate our relationship, I was almost killed," he says in a voice that projects over the entire room.
I steal a peek at the tweaker-looking inmate sitting next to us and can tell he's trying his best not to eavesdrop.
A guy with a 10-year-old vendetta, BeauSoleil continues, sneaked up behind him and stabbed him in the back, through the lung.
Now the young couple to my left, who've been holding hands and staring tragically into each other's eyes, are obviously listening.
"I turned around, and he stuck me again, through the heart," BeauSoleil says.
The guards pull BeauSoleil into a hallway. I see him posturing angrily, then grinning and making cajoling gestures. He returns.
"I guess I was talking too loud," he says, loudly. "They said it might be a 'security concern.'"
He continues the story in a voice that rises in volume to again include the entire room.
"It was a miracle recovery!" he ends, triumphantly.
The performance is pure BeauSoleil. All his life he's been a rebel -- sometimes to his own detriment. In his 20s, he was a vagabond hippie musician bent on living outside mainstream society. He fell in with a seedy crowd that included Charles Manson and a motorcycle gang called the Straight Satans. Then he stabbed a man to death, partly to prove himself to Manson. The murder landed him in prison for life, labeling him as a "Manson Family" member, even though he says he was not. Ever since, BeauSoleil has been trying to re-establish himself as the artist he was before he made the biggest mistake of his life. He's done so in a typically risky fashion.
In 1977, with the consent of prison officials, BeauSoleil composed and recorded the soundtrack to a film called Lucifer Rising. It is an esoteric work made by iconic underground director Kenneth Anger to celebrate Anger's interest in black magic and the occult. As a vehicle for BeauSoleil's comeback as a serious artist, it was an odd choice. The film is arguably satanic, an acid trip-like homage to the mythical Lucifer, the fallen angel. Rather than attract attention to BeauSoleil's talents, the project had the potential to marginalize him further, as a dangerous character from the hippie fringe.
But it didn't.
After being ignored for 24 years, the soundtrack was released on CD in June and found a receptive audience. Music critics in the United States and Britain have noted that Lucifer Rising, the soundtrack, stands alone as a moving piece of music. As interesting as the work itself is the bizarre story of how it got made. It's an epic tale that begins on the decadent edges of the late-1960s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It contains moments as arcane and darkly comic as anything Anger ever filmed. In many ways, it is a -- perhaps the -- quintessential story of modern San Francisco.
BeauSoleil was never a joiner. Born in 1947 to a middle-class family in Santa Barbara, he came of age during the height of surfing culture but refused to surf. Instead, he taught himself guitar, greased his hair, listened to rockabilly music, and landed in reform school. At 16 he dropped out and moved to Los Angeles, where he grew his hair long, discovered LSD, and got a gig playing in a band called the Grass Roots, which would later be renamed Love.
Translated from the French, BeauSoleil's name means "beautiful sun." It fit him to a T. He was poetic and slightly androgynous, with long, glossy auburn hair and freckles. He dressed like an elegant tramp in a top hat, knee-high moccasins, and frock coat.
"I never considered myself a hippie," BeauSoleil says. "I was a bohemian."
Some called him Bobby Snofox, after the big white Samoyed that was his constant companion. Others called him Cupid, because he was a chick magnet; he'd sleep with one girl, crash at her apartment, then move on to the next. "I was so uncomfortable with myself, I couldn't be with somebody long term," says BeauSoleil.
Just shy of his 18th birthday, BeauSoleil moved to San Francisco to check out the burgeoning music scene.
"To one who until just a few months earlier had been in the choking grip of the glitz and stucco squalor of the greater Los Angeles area, being absorbed by the rollicking energy and rich ambiance of San Francisco was like being dipped in mothers milk," BeauSoleil wrote recently in the liner notes of a yet-to-be-released collection of his early recordings. "It seemed an enchanted place to me. To this day it remains the only city I have ever truly loved."
In 1966, the Haight-Ashbury was still a low-rent, mostly black neighborhood. It had only recently been colonized by little pockets of white artists and musicians, such as the Grateful Dead and the activist-performance group the Diggers. BeauSoleil fit right in.
He got a job playing lead guitar in the Outfit, a group whose management was trying to market it as a boy band for teenage girls. The gig didn't last long. (BeauSoleil says he "upstaged" the rest of the group and they were jealous; the band's former rhythm guitarist, Bob Resner, says BeauSoleil was "untrustworthy" and was asked to leave.)
BeauSoleil became a Haight-Ashbury character, with a mixed reputation. He was opinionated, driven, and arrogant, say those who knew him. "He was like Bugs Bunny," says a friend from that time, Nathan Zakheim. "Very in your face, enthusiastic."
Others, though, called him Bummer Bob and viewed him as a manipulative scammer. "He skated through life getting what he could out of people," says Bob Resner's cousin Hillel Resner, who owned a Haight Street concert hall, the Straight Theater.
In any case, nobody denies that young BeauSoleil had a musical vision and was determined to see it play out. After the Outfit, he traded his electric guitar for a sitar and a Turkish bouzouki and began recruiting musicians to be in what he envisioned as an electrified symphony orchestra. It was an unusual idea for the time and the neighborhood. Most bands played rock 'n' roll or some version of the blues and featured a vocalist. But BeauSoleil threw himself into the project, and eventually recruited a stand-up bass player, a drummer, a violinist, and an oboist; he played guitar and bouzouki. The band named itself the Orkustra.
"I called it 'raga rock,'" says the violinist, David LaFlamme. "What we were doing was so different that nobody really understood it. But Bobby would hound you to death until he got what he wanted."
Thanks in part to BeauSoleil's persistence, the Orkustra eventually shared the stage with big-name bands such as the Jefferson Airplane and Buffalo Springfield, but it never recorded an album. Most of the time the group gigged in the Panhandle, as part of the Diggers' free concerts. In 1967, the Diggers planned a weekend-long "happening" at -- of all places -- Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. Billed as "The Invisible Circus," the event was to include a 24-hour free printing press, poetry readings, music, and lectures. Former Digger Peter Berg remembers, "We wanted to liberate the city in every possible way."
BeauSoleil's band was on the bill for Friday evening.
In the late 1960s, Kenneth Anger rivaled Andy Warhol as the hippest avant-garde film director in America. Clubs in New York and San Francisco were fond of showing three of his movies at a time to audiences of psychedelic trippers. His work was impressionistic and often racy; it featured quick cuts of provocative images set to interesting musical soundtracks, with no dialogue. He is widely seen as having unwittingly fathered the music video. In his most commercially successful film, 1963's Scorpio Rising, gooey '50s pop songs are paired with fetishistic scenes of leather bikers.
Openly gay, prone to wild mood swings, constantly on the edge of financial insolvency, Anger was an infamous eccentric. He publicly idolized Aleister Crowley, a turn-of-the-century British occultist often credited with giving birth to modern Satanism. Crowley believed the world was governed by a series of ages personified by different gods and goddesses. His own age, represented in the Western world by Jesus Christ or the Egyptian god Osiris, was coming to an end, according to Crowley. On the rise was the age of Horus, or Lucifer.
Like the mythical Lucifer, angel of light, who rebelled against God and was cast down to hell, people in this new age would discover their true natures, turn against polite society, and throw the world into chaos and ugliness. After that, however, harmony would return, and Lucifer/Horus would be restored to his rightful place in heaven. There was only one rule for this new age, wrote Crowley: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."
Anger refused to be interviewed for this story. After I left a message on his home answering machine, asking if I could buy him dinner and talk about Lucifer Rising, he left a return message. "If you want to talk to me, you better do it quickly, because I'm leaving for Europe," he began. "Lessley. That's an ambiguous name, Lessley. I don't know if you meant to be ambiguous, but it's very ambiguous. However, that's not what offended me. O-f-f-e-n-d-e-d. What offended me was your cheap offer to buy me dinner! You made the wrong move, lady!"
When I called him back, he hung up on me and did not return a third call.
According to the unauthorized biography Anger, the filmmaker wanted to make a movie about the dawning of the age of Horus through the lens of the psychedelic 1960s youth culture. It was to be called Lucifer Rising. Like many aspects of Anger's life, the project took bizarre, tragic twists. His first candidate to play Lucifer, a 5-year-old boy whose hippie parents had been fixtures on the Los Angeles counterculture scene, fell through a skylight to his death. By 1967, Anger had relocated to San Francisco and was searching for a new Lucifer.
He set up shop with two other filmmakers in a peeling, leaky Victorian mansion on one corner of Alamo Square. He painted the words "Do What Thou Wilt" on the front door in red paint. Among his circle of friends was Anton LaVey, a former saloon organ player who wore devil horns on his bald head; walked his pet lion, Tagore, around the streets of San Francisco; and would later found the Church of Satan.
The Anger-LaVey crowd and the Haight Street hippies didn't mingle much.
"Kenneth Anger was weird and creepy," opines Howard Kerr, who was part of a hippie comedy act called the Congress of Wonders. "We were eating ginger ice cream in North Beach, and he said, 'I want you to come home with me and do a magic ritual.' I said, 'What is the purpose?,' and he said, 'Take off my clothes and pierce me with sharp things.'"
"We were clean crazies, they were perverted crazies," says Jaime Leopold, the Orkustra's bass player. But sometimes the lines weren't so clearly drawn.
On a Friday evening in February 1967, more than 10,000 people descended on Glide Memorial for "The Invisible Circus." News of the event had spread mostly by word-of-mouth, and by early evening, the sidewalk in front of the church was packed. Inside, one could barely make one's way through the crush of sweating, tripping young people. In his autobiography, I'm Alive, a young Rev. Cecil Williams remembers getting a frantic call at home as the event quickly spun, as he saw it, out of control.
"I waded through the corridors of flesh ... bodies were everywhere ... freak-outs and laughter and crying jags and rubbing and grabbing and slumped piles of quicksand or a tidal wave rolling and roaring with an energy nothing but time could stop ...," wrote a horrified Williams. (Later that night, Williams helped cut "The Invisible Circus" short and move the crowd to Baker Beach.)
Inside one of the church halls, the Diggers set up a fake wall made of newsprint on which they projected pictures of planet Earth. With a clash of cymbals, a team of amateur topless belly dancers burst through the paper, followed by the Orkustra, playing an Egyptian-tinged jam.
As the girls shimmied, the audience rose to its feet and danced with them. Bobby BeauSoleil grabbed a chair and lifted a blond belly dancer onto it.
"We started doing a sort of dance where I was playing specifically to what she was doing, and she was dancing specifically to what I was playing," says BeauSoleil. "It was beautiful. It was spontaneous and fun. I had no idea what anyone else was doing, or if anyone was tuned in to what we were doing."
Then he began licking the sweat off her breasts.
The performance made an impression on at least one member of the audience. Later that evening, as BeauSoleil was packing up his equipment, a tall man with black hair approached him in the darkness. Without so much as an introduction, he pointed a finger at BeauSoleil and declared, "You are Lucifer!" Anger had found his new leading man.
BeauSoleil hadn't recognized Anger and, though he'd heard of him, had never seen any of his movies. When it was explained to him, the prospect of starring as the fallen angel in an art film appealed to BeauSoleil immensely. With one stipulation: The young guitar player would take on the role of Lucifer if he was allowed to make the movie's soundtrack. Anger agreed.
BeauSoleil moved in with Anger. He put his bed in the front parlor, on top of old pillars that had once been part of another Victorian house, and painted bright murals on his walls. Anger lived in the rear of the flat, which he'd painted black with silver dots. A mirrored ball hung from the ceiling; when lit, it reflected light off the dots, giving the walls the appearance of studded black leather.
Though BeauSoleil denies having been Anger's lover, which was the rumor going around Haight Street at the time, in all other ways their relationship seemed one of sugar daddy and boy toy. Anger let BeauSoleil live rent-free. He also bought BeauSoleil a Studebaker truck that had been sawed in half with the back replaced by a funny little camper built to look like a log cabin. One day Anger gave his fallen angel a stone wing that had come from a broken statue.
"It was an odd relationship," admits BeauSoleil. "He was fascinated by me ... I'm not gay, and I was not interested in him in that way."
As in most Anger productions, filming was low budget and sporadic. On one occasion, Anger hired a light show to drench BeauSoleil's naked torso with zebra patterns as he stood in front of black velvet, raising and lowering his arms. Another time Anger filmed his Lucifer smoking a joint from a skull-shaped roach clip contraption.
BeauSoleil's new living arrangement didn't bode well for his band.
"It was a psycho scene, quite frankly," says the violinist, LaFlamme. "Kenneth Anger was a nut case, and Bobby was getting nuttier, and with these other people hanging around, it just wasn't a healthy working environment."
When the bassist, Leopold, was jailed on a pot bust, the Orkustra fell apart. BeauSoleil quickly assembled a new band from the growing numbers of Haight Street musicians and called it the Magick Powerhouse of Oz. The group began rehearsing moody, modal jams that BeauSoleil anticipated would form the basis of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack. Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way.
In September 1967, BeauSoleil and Anger put together a show at the Straight Theater. "The Equinox of the Gods," as the event was billed, was meant to be a kind of buzz-builder for the film. Footage Anger had shot of BeauSoleil would be shown, the Magick Powerhouse of Oz would play, the Congress of Wonders would do a comedy routine. As the climax, Anger would perform a Crowley invocation to summon the gods of the autumnal equinox.
The night of the performance, BeauSoleil says, Anger took LSD.
"He was really ripped," says Howard Kerr, of the Congress of Wonders.
The Straight was packed. Anton LaVey sat in the balcony. In the beginning, everything went according to plan. The band did its set, the Congress made the room laugh, then Anger launched into his invocation. He ran around the dance floor area below the stage, waving some striped fabric and wielding -- by some accounts a cane, by others a rattle -- as if it were a magic wand. Then things went horribly wrong.
There was a soundtrack playing behind Anger, recalls BeauSoleil, and at some point in the invocation it broke down. Others who were there don't remember this, but nobody has forgotten what happened next. Anger became extremely agitated, screamed, "I love you!," and hurled his makeshift wand into the audience. It hit Gabe Katz, a former editor of the Haight Street newspaper the Oracle, in the forehead. The blow tore open Katz's skin, and blood gushed over his face. The room went to chaos.
According to BeauSoleil, Anger was convinced his young protÃ©gÃ© had had something to do with the soundtrack's malfunction. In any case, that evening marked the end of their partnership. BeauSoleil returned home a few days later to find the locks changed, his truck disassembled, and his murals painted over in white. He kicked down the front door, retrieved his things, and put his car back together. Anger filed a complaint that resulted in a warrant for BeauSoleil's arrest; the filmmaker claimed that BeauSoleil had stolen belongings from him, including the footage of Lucifer Rising. BeauSoleil denies this. The bad vibes were heavy; BeauSoleil beat a retreat to Los Angeles.
"Kenneth Anger came back to the theater the next day and put hexes on everything and cursed everything," says Luther Green, who ran the film projections at the Straight Theater. "Some people hung garlic in there afterwards."
People who knew the two say Anger also put a hex on BeauSoleil. Considering what happened next, it's tempting to believe in such things.
Bobby BeauSoleil met Charles Manson in 1967 at a house party in Topanga Canyon. Though Manson was 13 years older than the 20-year-old BeauSoleil, the two connected, both musically and personally. Manson had his guitar that evening, and BeauSoleil jammed with him on an instrument called a melodica (like a harmonica, but with keys). Later that year, BeauSoleil joined Manson's garage band, the Milky Way.
Manson always had girls hanging around him, and at that time they traveled from crash pad to crash pad in a black school bus. They weren't viewed as a cult, but rather a commune of sorts that showed up at parties right alongside entertainment-industry types, including Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Needless to say, Manson and friends had not yet gone on their infamous killing spree.
Like Wilson and others, BeauSoleil viewed Manson as a talented songwriter, Ã la Bob Dylan. He also looked up to Manson. "I saw him as the ultimate free-spirited iconoclast," says BeauSoleil.
When the Milky Way split up after only one gig, BeauSoleil went on the road with a few girlfriends in tow. "I was in escape mode," says BeauSoleil. "I was disgusted with the scene, the music business, the society and government of this country. I had these weird visions of sailing away to Jamaica and living on the beach and eating lobster."
In the beginning of 1969, BeauSoleil moved to a little apartment in Laurel Canyon. Manson's group had moved onto an old western movie set in Topanga Canyon called the Spahn Movie Ranch.
"There was this sense when you visited whether you were 'in' or not. I was always on visitor status," says BeauSoleil, disputing the myth that he was part of Manson's so-called Family. "Spahn Ranch was a really fun place. It was on the fringes, and at that point the cops weren't bothering them so much. It was fun to go out there on the weekend and drink beer with the bikers."
Members of a local motorcycle gang, the Straight Satans, sometimes dropped by the ranch. BeauSoleil, who was feeling "depressed and drifting," began to idealize their seemingly free, rebellious lifestyle.
The actual facts of how and why BeauSoleil killed Gary Hinman, a music teacher and associate of the Manson crowd, will probably forever remain a mystery. Some of BeauSoleil's version of the events can be corroborated by the testimony of Danny DeCarlo, a Straight Satan who claimed BeauSoleil confessed to him and who testified at BeauSoleil's first trial, which ended in a hung jury. Some cannot. According to BeauSoleil (who denies confessing to DeCarlo and who claims DeCarlo got his information from one of BeauSoleil's accomplices), the nightmare started when the Straight Satans asked him to buy them some mescaline, and BeauSoleil scored from Hinman. Then, says BeauSoleil, he found out from the gang that the drugs had been "bunk." When BeauSoleil returned to Hinman's with two of Manson's girlfriends, he says, it was to try to get the money back for the Satans.
According to both BeauSoleil and DeCarlo's testimony, BeauSoleil held a gun to Hinman, then pistol-whipped him. The music teacher insisted he had no money, BeauSoleil says, and one of the girls telephoned Manson during the scuffle. Hinman had already agreed to sign over ownership of his two junker cars, BeauSoleil says, when there was a knock at the door. According to both BeauSoleil and DeCarlo, Manson rushed in and slashed Hinman's face with a small sword, splitting his ear.
"I heard Manson say something to me like, 'That's how you be a man,'" BeauSoleil said in a revealing interview with writer/ musician Michael Moynihan in Seconds magazine.
Manson left, and, panicking, BeauSoleil says he tried to sew up Hinman's face with dental floss. "I knew he'd tell them what happened if he went to the hospital," says BeauSoleil. "I was trying to tell him, 'Gary, it will heal, you don't have to go to the hospital.' But he was freaking out -- for obvious reasons -- worried about infection ... he was going to have a scar for life."
BeauSoleil dialed Manson again, screaming at him for leaving him in such a terrible position.
"Well, you know what to do as well as I do," Manson told him, according to DeCarlo and BeauSoleil.
"I kind of had to screw up my courage," BeauSoleil says. "I went outside and paced. I freaked out. Just freaked out. There wasn't anybody in the room when I stabbed him. I rushed at him. I stabbed him once, and he didn't fall. Then I did it again, and he did."
In DeCarlo's version of things, there was no drug burn; BeauSoleil and the girls just wanted money, and Hinman wasn't cooperating. It was BeauSoleil, DeCarlo told investigators, who called Manson the first time, complaining Hinman wouldn't give it up.
In a clumsy attempt to make the police think one of Hinman's radical lefty friends had done him in, a member of the trio (BeauSoleil says he can't remember who) scrawled "political piggies" on the wall in blood before leaving. Ten days later, BeauSoleil was arrested driving one of the dead man's cars with the murder weapon in the rear wheel well.
The Tate-LaBianca murders went down within three days of BeauSoleil's arrest. Some speculate the motive for the murders was to free BeauSoleil, by making it look like Hinman's "real" killer had struck again. On the wall of the LaBiancas' house, police found the word "piggies" written in blood.
BeauSoleil was eventually sentenced to death for the murder. When California repealed the death penalty in 1972, BeauSoleil's sentence was commuted to life in prison. In every book, movie, and television show about the Manson Family, BeauSoleil would forever be linked to the most gruesome killing spree of his era. This frustrated him to no end. After all, he wasn't involved in the Tate-LaBianca murders and had had a legitimate career as a musician before his crime.
"What's heartbreaking to me more than anything else is that killing Gary Hinman has negated all of my creative efforts," BeauSoleil said in a 1981 interview in Oui magazine. "(The world) doesn't concentrate on anything other than that one mistake I made in my life."
In the mid-1970s, BeauSoleil had gone from a 22-year-old kid who was, as he puts it, "too damn pretty for prison" to a tough-looking 29-year-old covered in tattoos, including the word "Lucifer," which he'd inked across his chest using a broken guitar string. He'd been laid up in the hospital after getting knocked in the head with a baseball bat during a melee at San Quentin. Coincidentally, Kenneth Anger got the same tattoo in nearly the exact same place a few years later. It's improbable either of them knew of the other's.
In 1976, while an inmate at Dueul Correctional Institute in Tracy, BeauSoleil learned that Lucifer Rising, the movie, was still unfinished. He and Anger hadn't spoken since the night of "Equinox of the Gods," though Anger had sent BeauSoleil a postcard when he was on death row. It was in an Egyptian motif and depicted a harpist playing to Horus; it read, "They also serve those who sit and wait."
One day BeauSoleil read in a magazine that Anger had hired Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to do the Lucifer Rising soundtrack.
"I felt that it was mine," says BeauSoleil. He wrote to Anger asking if he could take over.
Page and Anger were on the outs by that point, and Anger agreed to let BeauSoleil take a crack. BeauSoleil wrote the warden, the now-deceased R.M. Dees, for permission to work on the project in prison. "I'm not going to stand in the way of a guy making a buck," BeauSoleil remembers the warden saying.
BeauSoleil recruited other inmates for his band, which he called the Freedom Orchestra. One, strangely enough, was a Manson Family associate named Steve Grogan. BeauSoleil went about the project as zealously as if his life depended on it, and in a sense, it did. "Here I am in prison, stripped of ostensibly everything, and I had begun to rebuild myself," says BeauSoleil. "[I thought,] 'This reality does not define me. I'm still rockin'!'"
Anger sent an unfinished black-and-white version of Lucifer Rising, and one evening BeauSoleil screened it in (of all places) the prison chapel. The footage Anger had shot of BeauSoleil in the late 1960s was gone, much of it used in an earlier film called Invocation [of My Demon Brother]. The men saw a montage of primordial, mysterious images. A volcano bubbles lava. The Egyptian god Osiris and goddess Isis lift staffs to the heavens. An elephant stomps a cobra. A Magus magician figure enacts a bloody ritual around a circle to resurrect Lucifer. People carry a torch through the mountains. Marianne Faithfull, as Lilith, goddess of destruction, walks along the Nile and among the pyramids at GÃ®za.
"To them it was just weird images put together," BeauSoleil says of his fellow inmates. To BeauSoleil it was something personal.
"I recognized myself in the central character, being something of a fallen one myself," says BeauSoleil. "The mythology of it perfectly coincided with what was going on in my own life at the time. Lucifer's punishment was that he was exiled and cut off from the beloved, which was my pain."
"I was struggling," BeauSoleil continues. "I needed to demonstrate to myself that I was not dead or destroyed."
BeauSoleil began to compose an ambitious electronic symphony in his head that would carry the listener through painful dark places and loneliness, then end on a hopeful note. With $3,000 Anger sent to a teacher at the prison, BeauSoleil bought microphones, a four-track recorder, an open-reel tape deck, a six-channel mixer, a drum set, and a PA system. He found a battered trumpet under the prison gym bleachers. Then he built the rest of the instruments and electronics himself.
He constructed Grogan's guitar, a bass, and then, because each inmate was allowed to have only one instrument, a double-necked guitar for himself, one neck for the bass strings. After taking an electronics course through a local community college, he built synthesizers, a reverb unit, and amplifiers, some from kits, some from scratch.
The soundtrack took three years to finish. The Freedom Orchestra's members kept getting paroled or transferred to other prisons. There were other problems, too. The prison convulsed in a series of riots, during which the inmates were locked in their cells and denied access to the music room. Finally BeauSoleil was granted permission to move some of the equipment into his cell. He edited the tapes using a razor blade.
In 1980 he sent the finished soundtrack to Anger.
It starts in a broiling, roiling, cosmic fugue, windlike blasts from a synthesizer, an anxious chorus of strings, then a Middle Eastern-sounding bass riff in a minor key. The listener feels as if he's suddenly been cast alone into a vast inhospitable landscape that's about to be obliterated by a natural disaster. Then suddenly the noise cuts out, and a lone trumpet begins to play the Lucifer Rising theme -- a melancholy reverie with echoes of Ennio Morricone's spaghetti-western scores.
The soundtrack winds its way through desolate atonal reverberations on synthesizers and organs that collect into beautiful, sad, music box-like melodies. It erupts in a Pink Floyd-esque guitar jam with clashing cymbals. This becomes a repetitive dirge of cascading notes from an organ and trumpet. The last part of the composition sounds like supernatural circus music that starts out deranged and wicked and ends triumphantly amid the crash of waves. The Lucifer Rising soundtrack is troubled, passionate, and grieving. Its power is greater knowing that BeauSoleil created it on such crude equipment, in prison.
When the Lucifer Rising film debuted, BeauSoleil's musical odyssey seemed to come to an anticlimactic end. During a modest run of mostly art museums and film schools, the movie and soundtrack received little attention. A Canadian label, Lethal Records ("I didn't much like the name," gripes BeauSoleil), pressed 1,000 records that quickly fell out of circulation. There was a single review in an obscure newspaper in Canada.
BeauSoleil had one last contact with Anger after the film's release. The director came to visit him, looking dapper in a gray corduroy three-piece suit.
"There was never any other Lucifer, you know," he told BeauSoleil.
But their relationship remained tortured. Shortly thereafter, BeauSoleil stumbled upon a magazine article in which Anger again accused BeauSoleil of stealing the original Lucifer Rising footage.
"There was never any film to steal, except for the footage that wound up in Invocation [of My Demon Brother]," says BeauSoleil angrily. "But he kept telling that lie so often, I think he started to believe it."
As he entered middle age, BeauSoleil took comfort where he could find it. In 1980, he married in order to enjoy the conjugal visits then afforded lifers. He quickly realized he'd made a mistake and had the marriage annulled. He married again in 1982, to a woman named Barbara, who had written him a letter after seeing a television segment about BeauSoleil's music program at Dueul. After surviving his near-death stabbing that same year, he is still happily married to Barb, a belly dance teacher and graphic designer who lives in Salem, Ore.
With the advent of the Internet, BeauSoleil began selling CDs of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack, along with a few pieces he recorded later, from a Web site Barb helped him create. He didn't sell very many. He did, however, get a lot of e-mails asking him about Manson.
Then, in 2000, BeauSoleil was contacted by a DVD producer who wanted to interview him for a compilation of Anger films. Though the film part of the project stalled, one of the producers struck a deal with BeauSoleil to release the Lucifer Rising soundtrack on his music label, Arcanum Records. This past summer a remastered double CD of the soundtrack, paired with recovered bootleg recordings of the Orkustra and the Magick Powerhouse of Oz, hit national record stores.
"There are so many archival projects being reissued and dug up, and a lot of them don't deliver," says Bob Mehr, music critic at the Chicago Reader and contributor to Mojo magazine. "This one is one instance of a pretty evocative piece of music. ... It was a project that had been festering in BeauSoleil's head for a long time, and it definitely shows."
Dave Tompkins, a critic at the Village Voice, declared, "It's nuts! It's evil in parts, but it's not just pure evil, where you're limited to that one emotion or feeling. It's also like walking down autumn roads, alone. That kind of vibe."
Vice magazine proclaimed Lucifer Rising "the reissue of the year" and called it "a scary and loose free rock soundtrack."
A British music magazine, The Wire, described the soundtrack as "a wide-ranging hybrid of Prog rock, hippie jam, shimmering Terry Riley-esque keyboards, and bombastic swellings ... a cloudy musical mystery grown organically from simple sources." It went on to say that the CD proved that "wherever fate led him, BeauSoleil's creative powers persisted."
Jay Babcock, editor of the Los Angeles music magazine Arthur, writes in an e-mail that the CD is an office favorite. "It's the dark clouds," writes Babcock, "plus the silver lining."
Twenty-four years after the fact, BeauSoleil's attempts to redeem himself had finally panned out, at least in his mind.
BeauSoleil says he's "certain" he'll get out one day, and it's clear, at least, that he has behaved in prison.
According to California corrections officials, who share BeauSoleil with the Oregon Department of Corrections through something known as an "interstate compact agreement," BeauSoleil has been a model prisoner for years. BeauSoleil's death sentence was commuted to life at a time when there was no provision for life in prison without parole. His disciplinary record is clean, and many who've worked with him feel he's been rehabilitated.
"[BeauSoleil] readily accepts responsibility for his role in [his crime] without equivocation," wrote his prison counselor in a report submitted at BeauSoleil's 2003 parole hearing. In that same report, a former supervisor called him a "remarkable inmate." Besides starting the music program at Dueul for the purpose of his Lucifer Rising project, BeauSoleil went on to create a video program at a subsequent prison, where he made documentaries about prison life. He has counseled disadvantaged youth and is a visual artist who has (besides his tattoos) produced a body of painstakingly detailed paintings and drawings.
A psychologist wrote that, "His behavior has become increasingly oriented toward art and creativity, rather than destructiveness. ... There would not appear to be any psychiatric contradictions to parole of any kind."
In 2003, however, as in times past, BeauSoleil was denied parole.
His lawyer, Carrie Hagin, says, "They're hung up on the whole Manson thing."
Others, however, have a decidedly less sympathetic view of BeauSoleil.
"Victim Hinman was tortured over a period of two days ... before BeauSoleil finally stabbed him," said Frank Merriman, then-captain of the Homicide Bureau for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, in a letter to the parole board in 2003. "It's the opinion of this department that parole is inappropriate and should be denied."
BeauSoleil is aware that the release of the Lucifer Rising CD and its attendant publicity may not do much to rehabilitate his image in the eyes of the parole board.
"I know some people think that Lucifer Rising, because of the title, has something to do with the devil, and that invites certain perceptions," he says. But, says BeauSoleil, the soundtrack, its history, and even the archetype of Lucifer are all a part of him. He has made a life for himself in prison the only way he knows how.
"I've tried to be conformist ... but deep down I was not empowered within myself," says BeauSoleil.
During our visit at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute, BeauSoleil has been unflaggingly chipper. But when I ask him why he wanted, so badly, to do the Lucifer Rising soundtrack, he suddenly looks distressed.
"I was using Kenneth," he says. "I needed something to work on."
I'm surprised to see this 57-year-old man, 35 years in prison, begin to tear up. He makes a fist and hunches forward, his entire body vibrating with sorrow and frustration.
"I'm an artist," he sputters hoarsely. He pulls his fist to his heart for emphasis and in doing so accidentally slams the wall behind him with his elbow. He seems oblivious to the guards hovering around us.
"They ... can't ... do me."