|Parsons and Cameron|
|Cameron and Hopper in Night Tide|
That occasion is told in some detail in Spencer Kansa's well-researched and entertaining Wormwood Star. In this instance as told by Fles, Getz and photographer John Brittan- the only person, according to him, who respected Kenneth's one-person picket-line. Kansa also mentions that the altercation might also have been about some Aleister Crowley manuscripts that Anger thought were rightfully his. In any case, that's just one anecdote out the many that appear in Kansa's book, a new edition of which has just been published by Mandrake a predominantly occult publishing house in the UK.
|Fairy Queen (1962)|
Born in Iowa and a frequenter of jazz joints on L.A.'s Central Avenue, she met and, in 1946, married the infamous rocket-man and leading occultist Jack Parsons whose life came to an untimely end in Pasadena, when in 1952 he blew himself up, whether by accident or otherwise, at his Pasadena residence on South Orange Grove. It was a death from which Cameron would never fully recover. Parsons, the subject of at least two biographies, was not only a Crowley devotee and patron of the Agape Lodge, but one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an influential rocket scientist at Cal Tech, this despite the fact he had no formal training in such matters save some experiments to perfect liquid-fuel rockets in the Arroyo Seco and Devil's Gate Dam. He was also a writer, poet and science fiction fan who was referenced in Philip K. Dick's novel Dr Futurity, and could count amongst his friends actors, artists, and writers like Jack Williamson, Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard, who shared Parsons' residence and became something akin to his sorcerer's apprentice. Following Jack's death, Cameron took it upon herself to take up where her husband had left off. In fact, Wormwood Star, the title of Kansa's book, is also the title of Curtis Harrington's Cameron-inspired film, and the name Cameron gave to Parsons' magical child, the production of which became Cameron's long-term obsession.
Though Cameron would move from Pasadena to Silverlake, as well as Venice, West Hollywood and various spots in the desert, there was something about Pasadena in those days. Perhaps a matter of wealth combined with mysticism. It's a subject Mike Davis addresses in the first chapter of City of Quartz. As religious leader and mystic Annie Besant once said, "The finest magnetic vibrations in the world are to be found in Pasadena." Though I grew up in east Pasadena- S. Orange Grove was like another world to me- I was never privy to magnetic vibrations, fine or otherwise. However, Farnsworth Crowder's Los Angeles- The Heaven of Bunk Shooters (1931), sheds a bit of light on those "vibrations," and how the occult and various sects exploited public awe and mystification regarding science, physics and metaphysics:
|Cameron in Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of a Pleasure Dome|
Got it? But that's one of those disconnects that Kansa, who manages to interview most of the relevant parties, avoids addressing. Clearly, tangents abound, but, in the final analysis, Kansa demonstrates Cameron's importance in the history of L.A. art and bohemian culture of the 1950s and early 60s. Though exhibiting many of the characteristics that would become commonplace a few years later, Cameron would eventually be enveloped by mass culture, not to mention various personal issues and downright bad luck. Too bad Kansa offers little in the way of criticism regarding the historical drift represented by the likes of Cameron. And, disappointingly, there's no reproduction of Cameron's art work. Though, to be fair, Kansa makes it a point to say that he was unable to obtain permission to reproduce it, which he mitigates by adding that much of it is available on-line. Part-visionary and part-naif, Cameron cuts an admirable if somewhat pathetic figure. But, for me, whenever I hear Cameron's name, I can't help but think about that night at the Cinema Theatre in 1964 and all those tarot cards falling through the air and the look on my mother's face when she realised that going to the movies can sometimes be a bloody affair.