Blonde and the Satanist: Jayne Mansfield and Anton LaVey's friendship (2022)

It was a match made in hell, so to speak.

Jayne Mansfield was a fame-obsessed bombshell blonde whose star was on the wane. Anton LaVey was a publicity-courting Satanist eager to attract new members to his fledgling Church of Satan. In 1966, they met for the first time in San Francisco. They found in each other a kindred spirit with a desire to be famous and a daring to be different. The pair developed a friendship – that some say was sexual in nature – and continued to meet frequently until Mansfield’s death in 1967.

They met at the height of the liberating 60s, when attitudes about gender, sexuality and nudity were in flux. Satanism – considered as the pursuit of a pleasurable and successful life – found a receptive audience in the thousands who flocked to California with a desire to become famous. A popular legend that might have been spread by LaVey himself asserts that he portrayed the devil who rapes Mia Farrow’s character in the 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby.

On hand to document the budding friendship between the blonde and the Satanist was German paparazzo Walter Fischer, who arrived in the United States in 1956 with a parrot on his shoulder and a desire to photograph larger-than-life American stars.

Little is known about Fischer. Many of his photographs were lost or only appeared in blurry newspaper archives. A Swedish collector named Alf Wahlgren began gradually acquiring Fischer’s photographic archive and connected with fellow Swede Carl Abrahamsson, a book publisher and ‘American trash culture’ aficionado.

And now, the pair is releasing a book of Fischer’s photographs called California Infernal: Anton LaVey and Jayne Mansfield as portrayed by Walter Fischer. The book is being released by Trapart Books and JD Holmes.

The fascinating photographs show LaVey performing Satanic rituals in the Black House, his stark, ugly base in San Francisco’s Richmond District. These pictures are contrasted with Mansfield in her Pink Palace, her singular shrine to excess in Los Angeles. When the two joined together – at a restaurant in downtown LA, or at the Palace complete with a heart-shaped pool – paparazzi were always on hand to snap pictures of the outlandish spectacle on display.

Jayne Mansfield (sitting at right) and Anton LaVey (kneeling at left) embarked on an intense relationship between 1966 and 1967. The pair is pictured performing a religious ceremony in Mansfield's Pink Palace. She invited German paparazzo Walter Fischer to document their meeting. Fischer also photographed LaVey at his Black House in San Francisco and the pair dining at a restaurant, among other events

Two Swedish men - Carl Abrahamsson and Alf Wahlgren - collected more than one hundred of Fischer's photographs in a book called California Infernal: Anton LaVey and Jayne Mansfield as portrayed by Walter Fischer. Pictured are Mansfield and LaVey in the same religious ceremony at the Pink Palace

‘They were so hyper, I wouldn’t even say super, they were so hyper-American, you know. They had something in mind and they filled that up with high-octane gasoline and went full throttle, you know, Jayne Mansfield in terms of not just wanting to be like a respected actress. She wanted to be a movie star, and a movie star in Hollywood.

‘And she went all the way,’ said Abrahamsson, 51. ‘From the most crass point of view, I think there was a mutual admiration, almost a mutual insight: This is another weird person. We can sort of beneficially use each other for our own PR purposes.’

Mansfield and LaVey met for the first time while she was visiting the San Francisco Film Festival in 1966. Legend has it that she was kicked out of the festival after she arrived in a flashy pink dress sans underwear.

Differing accounts suggest that she had either requested a meeting with LaVey previously or, intrigued by reports she heard from fellow festival-goers, simply showed up at his Black House uninvited. Whatever the circumstances, she arrived at the nondescript Victorian house with her then-boyfriend, Sam Brody, during the festival.

Brody was serving as Mansfield’s divorce attorney through her third marriage. He was likely jealous of LaVey’s potential influence on Mansfield, who was attracted to more muscle-bound men such as Mickey Hargitay, a former Mister Universe and her second husband.

‘Even though he was almost exactly the opposite from what Jayne found physically appealing, she agreed to a relationship with Brody because she imagined it would ensure her custody of her four children. Almost immediately Jayne had second thoughts.

‘Brody showed a side of himself that was violently jealous, imposing impossible constraints on Jayne. She was in the process of trying to ease out of the situation, but Brody was becoming only more protective, using her pending custody suit to maneuver her deeper into a relationship,’ noted Blanche Barton, a former high priestess of the Church of Satan and the author of ‘The Secret Life of a Satanist.’

Perhaps this jealousy led Brody to mock LaVey’s house of satanic obscurities at any chance he could. Barton writes that he picked up priceless objects and laughed at them and then lit a skull candle in LaVey’s ritual chamber. This egregious act was the last straw for LaVey.

LaVey told him: ‘That candle is used only for curses. I don’t know what’s going to happen to you now. I only hope I’ve put it out in time.’

LaVey and Mansfield are pictured together, with LaVey holding her pet chihuahua. Abrahamsson said of the odd couple: ‘They were so hyper, I wouldn’t even say super, they were so hyper-American, you know. They had something in mind and they filled that up with high-octane gasoline and went full throttle, you know, Jayne Mansfield in terms of not just wanting to be like a respected actress. She wanted to be a movie star, and a movie star in Hollywood. And she went all the way‘

Mansfield and LaVey are pictured with Mansfield's daughter, Mariska Hargitay. Mansfield had five children and was married and divorced three times. Her second husband, Mickey Hargitay, was a Hungarian-American bodybuilder. Mariska Hargitay would go on to become a successful actress in her own right and currently stars in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

Meanwhile, Mansfield found within the house a fascinating, perhaps titillating new outlook on life – Satanism as the pursuit of pleasure and success – that could perhaps help her out of the rut of her declining celebrity.

‘In a sense, she might have been desperate or clinging for straws,’ said Abrahamsson. ‘I don’t think for a minute that Jayne Mansfield was interested in any occultism or any kind of, you know, rituals and stuff like that.’

He added: ‘I do think that if you look at the philosophy of the Church of Satan, not specifically like the magical rituals but the philosophy being one of, you know, pleasure and life enhancement and just leading a very successful pleasurable life, of course, she would ascribe to that.’

And in LaVey she also found, both Barton and Abrahamsson assert, an enticing sexual partner.

‘Jayne was a self-realized masochist. She didn’t need emotional turmoil,’ Barton writes that LaVey told her. ‘For her own ego gratification, she knew she needed public admiration, men fawning after her. The more fawning Jayne received, the more she needed an antidote. But that takes incredible perspective to be able to remove yourself enough to recognize your own needs so clearly. Most people don’t have the courage to take such a realistic look at themselves. That’s why she enjoyed being with me, I suppose. I wasn’t afraid to give her what she wanted.’

Mansfield herself did not comment on the rumored affair. But she became, it is alleged, further entranced with Anton’s seeming powers after an incident with one of her sons.

LaVey (left) and Mansfield (right) are pictured entering La Scala, a restaurant in Beverly Hills, California. At center is Sam Brody, Mansfield's divorce attorney and then-boyfriend who was supposedly jealous of LaVey. Tensions between the two men reached a boiling point when LaVey put a curse Brody. LaVey said: ‘Sam Brody, I pronounce that you will be dead within one year.‘ Brody died along with Mansfield in a car crash on June 29, 1967 on the road between Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans

Fischer traveled to Pennsylvania to photograph Mansfield's funeral. Despite LaVey's claims to the contrary, Mansfield never fully embraced Satanism and was an avowed Catholic

A month after their first meeting at the Black House, she took her six-year-old son, Zoltan, to Jungleland USA, near Los Angeles. He wanted to see lions. At the zoo, he was attacked by a lion and required three surgeries. Zoltan’s recovery was perhaps sped up by LaVey, who drove to the top of Mount Tamalpais, near San Francisco, and conducted a Satanic prayer to save the boy. Zoltan quickly recovered.

‘[Zoltan] asked me for a snake and a kangaroo rat today, and his eyes lit up when I promised to get them,’ Mansfield told the Associated Press a mere four days after the attack. ‘That just shows that he can get his mind off his injuries.’

Later, the duel between Brody and LaVey reached a breaking point because Brody tried in vain to control Mansfield’s lust for the man who might have saved her young son.

Barton writes that after Brody tried to violently stop one telephone conversation between Mansfield and LaVey by calling LaVey a ‘charlatan,’ the Satanist put an irrevocable curse on Brody’s life.

‘My power exceeds anything you can imagine, and now you’re going to feel it. You will be dead in a year. Sam Brody, I pronounce that you will be dead within one year,’ thundered LaVey.

Mansfield and LaVey continued an intense correspondence over the next year. Once, Barton notes, Mansfield asked LaVey to send her an incubus – a male demon who visits women in their sleep.

And of course, there were their meetings. They dined at La Scala in Beverly Hills, with LaVey sporting his resplendent cape. They met for a photo shoot at her Pink Palace on Sunset Boulevard. And paparazzi were always on hand to document them as they held court. Fischer, the German photographer, quickly found himself in their good graces and secured intimate access to their publicity-courting lifestyle.

‘[Fischer] was smart enough to realize this is how you do it: You do it the Slim Aarons way. You strike up acquaintances, you make friendships. Because then you’re welcomed back. You can always get, you know, the latest gossip, the latest juice, the latest news. And you can get to see people several times. And that’s exactly what he did with both LaVey and Mansfield,’ Abrahamsson noted.

Fischer documented the bizarre appearance of LaVey – cape, horns and all – at Mansfield’s Pink Palace. The pair was photographed playing with her pets – an Ocelet and her two Chihuahuas – chatting by her heart-shaped pool and performing on a garishly taxidermy tiger skin rug. LaVey worked out in the Palace’s gym, formerly the haunt of Mickey Hargitay.

The paparazzo would send along press releases to accompany his shots. One quotes both LaVey and Mansfield.

LaVey said: ‘She thinks it’s the greatest thing going. She is taking instructions. I made her a priestess and told her the concept of hell and paradise. I give her the usual information: working on ritual and how to cast (spells). She likes to know about witches and love charms. She considers me a High Priest.’

Somewhat conflictingly, Mansfield said in the same release: ‘It is very interesting. I know the real basis of his church. I think he is a genius and I regard him as an interesting person. I am a Catholic and would not believe in his church. I am not a member of the black circle.’

Such contradiction should not, Abrahamsson asserts, be seen as shoddy journalism.

Mansfield corresponded with LaVey between October 1966 and June 1967, when she died suddenly in a car crash. She said of LaVey and Satanism: 'It is very interesting. I know the real basis of his church. I think he is a genius and I regard him as an interesting person. I am a Catholic and would not believe in his church. I am not a member of the black circle'

Mansfield, pictured in the Pink Palace, once said: ‘Part of being a glamour girl is being, in a way, rather naive and helpless to the public, especially the eyes of men‘

‘Fischer was not a journalist eager to find out all-encompassing truths. Drama and discrepancy just added to the power of his images,’ Abrahamsson noted in the book’s introduction.

The relationship between LaVey and Mansfield was cut short by the actress’s death on June 29, 1967. She was 34 years old.

She was in a Buick car traveling from Biloxi, Mississippi to New Orleans along with Brody, driver Ronnie Harrison, and three of her children: Zoltan, Miklos and Mariska. Harrison crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer. The children survived, but all three adults perished. A rumor spread that Mansfield was decapitated because a blonde head of hair appeared through the Buick’s windshield. In fact, it was only her wig.

Later, LaVey conducted a Satanic memorial service for her at his Black House in San Francisco.

Walter Fischer arrived in the United States with his 60-year-old parrot. Sometime after photographing the stars, he returned to his native Germany, where he died in 2000

And Fischer was present to photograph her funeral, which was attended by family including her second husband, in Pennsylvania.

Perhaps in part due to their relationship’s sudden end, the exact nature of LaVey and Mansfield’s relationship remains shrouded in hearsay. But, as Abrahamsson suggests, that is somewhat beside the point.

He wrote: ‘As the truth (if there is such a thing) about their complex and ever fascinating relationship will never be fully known, perhaps we should just be content with joyfully taking part of these larger-than-life space-time intersections and the individual legacies of these two true American icons?’

Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jayne Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1933. An intelligent student, she studied acting at university and entered and won quirkily named beauty contests including Gas Station Queen, Miss Lobster and Miss Fire Prevention Week. Her voluptuous hourglass figure cost her roles in the conservative climate of 1950s Hollywood but won her a nude shoot with Playboy in 1955.

Mansfield is pictured holding her newborn son, Zoltan. Behind her is her second husband, Mickey Hargitay, holding their son Miklos. At right is Jayne Marie, Mansfield's daughter by her first husband, Paul Mansfield. After a young Zoltan was attacked by a lion, Anton LaVey conducted a Satanic prayer on top of California's Mount Tamalpais so as to help him to a speedy recovery

Mansfield, ever the publicity hound, had multiple‘wardrobe malfunctions‘ timed for maximum publicity. While at a dinner with Sophia Loren in 1957, Mansfield was photographed having a nipple slip. Pictured is a different photograph of Loren and Mansfield from that same evening

The following year, Mansfield signed with Twentieth Century Fox, whose executives hoped she could become the new Marilyn Monroe. She was named one of the most promising newcomers at the 1957 Golden Globe Awards for her performances in films such as The Girl Can’t Help It. But by the early 1960s, her career had fizzled out. Despite gaining some edge as one of the first major Hollywood actresses to appear nude in a film – Promises! Promises! in 1963 – Mansfield lost her star.

‘Even though she might have wanted to, I don’t think she would’ve, as you say, cut the mustard. She wasn’t really that talented. Her zest and her, you know, composite drive to be a star, because that’s basically what it was about for her; she wanted to be seen, she wanted to be famous in the proto-American way. And then she realized that it’s all about PR, you know, there’s no bad publicity,’ Abrahamsson said.

But she might have been a victim of over-exposure. From 1955, she scandalized the public with a series of playful wardrobe malfunctions. Most infamous was her photograph with Sophia Loren at a 1957 dinner party. Mansfield’s dress was cut so low that a photographer snapped a picture showing her cleavage and one nipple.

Loren, in the photo, is pictured gazing downward at Mansfield’s nipple. Her face is inscrutable.

Mansfield's boyfriend, Sam Brody (right) mocked her friendship with LaVey. While visiting LaVey's Black House in San Francisco, Brody illicitly lit a skull candle in LaVey's ritual chamber

Pictured is Mansfield's Pink Palace on Sunset Boulevard in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles. The home, which has since been demolished, featured a heart-shaped swimming pool, among other quirks

And Mansfield’s rather messy private life – three marriages that all ended in divorce, along with allegations of numerous affairs – was very much in the public eye.

‘I feel that a star owes it to her public to, to bring the public into her life. They, the fans feel that they kind of own you. And if you if you kept your life a complete secret, it wouldn’t be fair to them,’ she told English broadcaster Robert Robinson in a 1960 interview.

Despite her cultivated image as the stereotypical dumb blonde, Mansfield was by many accounts a highly intelligent woman who spoke five languages and had a lust for knowledge. And in multiple interviews, she appeared to be quite conscious that she was giving the public what it wanted.

‘Nobody cares about a figure like 163,’ she once said of her alleged IQ. Referring to her hourglass shape, she added: ‘They're more interested in 40-21-35.’

Echoing this sentiment during a 1964 interview in France, she said: ‘Part of being a glamour girl is being, in a way, rather naive and helpless to the public, especially the eyes of men.’

I feel that a star owes it to her public to, to bring the public into her life. They, the fans feel that they kind of own you. And if you if you kept your life a complete secret, it wouldn’t be fair to them

Jayne Mansfield

LaVey himself told Blanche Barton: ‘[Mansfield] never had any reinforcement for her intellect. When she was around me, she would often try to be “intellectual.” Recite Browning and use a drawn-out “ah” sound. She liked to say “om-u-let” when she meant amulet. She thought it sounded classier. She made it sound like some obscene breakfast dish. Unfortunately, intellectualism clashed with the image she presented. People would laugh.’

Mansfield was survived by her five children: Jayne (born 1950), Mickey (born 1958), Zoltan (born 1960), Mariska (born 1964) and Tony (born 1965).

LaVey is pictured paying his respects to Marilyn Monroe at her grave in Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles. Monroe died of a drug overdose in 1962

Anton LaVey was born Howard Stanton LaVey in Chicago in 1930. His parents moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was a child. He displayed a knack for musical instruments, particularly keyboards such as the organ. His skill earned him gigs at churches and lounges down in Los Angeles.

In considering why he became a Satanist, LaVey described the dichotomy between seeing the same people partying late into the night at clubs and burlesque shows on Saturday and then attending church on Sunday. This moral double standard that he perceived turned him off to Christianity.

A discredited legend that was perhaps peddled by LaVey himself asserts that he had an affair with Marilyn Monroe while working the Los Angeles nightclub scene.

He later moved back to San Francisco and began to study Satan and the occult. He began to develop a lifestyle and religion centered on the Church of Satan.

‘We don't worship Satan, we worship ourselves using the metaphorical representation of the qualities of Satan,’ he noted in Barton’s book.

The extent to which his church was authentic and to what extent he was a bit of a showboat is rife for discussion.

He was known to exaggerate, if not outright lie, about his exploits.

For example, he claimed to have shaved his head in 1966 in a ritual inspired by the devil-worshipping Yezidi people of Iraq so as to become the High Priest of Satan. In reality, his then-wife, Dian Hegarty, had simply dared him to do it. No such ritual even exists among the Yezidi people.

But LaVey seemed to be in on the spectacle.

‘I’m one helluva liar. Most of my adult life, I’ve been accused of being a charlatan, a phony, an impostor. I guess that makes me about as close to what the Devil’s supposed to be, as anyone. It’s true. I lie constantly, incessantly. Because I lie so often, I’d really be full of s*** if I didn’t keep my mouth shut and my bowels open,’ he wrote in his book, ‘Satan Speaks!‘

LaVey married Carole Lansing in 1951. They had one daughter, Karla (born 1952). He divorced Lansing in 1960 and began a 25-year partnership with Diane Hegarty, with whom he had a daughter named Zeena (born 1963). Barton, with whom he had a relationship after his breakup with Hegarty, alleges that Hegarty did not mind the relationship her husband had with Jayne Mansfield. With Barton, he had a son named Satan Xerxes Carnacki (born 1993).

LaVey stuck with his brand of Satanism through various low points: The Charles Manson clan murders of Sharon Tate (who was married to Rosemary’s Baby director Roman Polanski) and four other people that were linked to Satanism; a mass desertion of the church in favor of a rival in 1975; the Satanic Panic that asserted children were being abused during Satanic rituals.

In 1997, he died of pulmonary edema. He was 67.

Walter Fischer, sometime after documenting the exploits of the blonde and the Satanist, returned to his native Germany, where he died in 2000. Not much else is known about him.

‘He was not very much in front of the camera, just behind the camera,’ said Swedish collector Alf Wahlgren, 47.

And Fischer’s photographic archive seemed lost to old newspaper clippings until a German man named Sebastian contacted Wahlgren about his collection of 50,000 of Fischer’s photographs. Gradually, Wahlgren procured the photos.

Wahlgren, who lives in Uppsala, contacted Abrahamsson, who lives in Stockholm, about his findings. Despite their geographic proximity and shared interest in ‘LaVeyana,’ they had never crossed paths.

The book is available to order from JD Holmes in the United States and Trapart in Europe

The thousands of photographs delighted Abrahamsson, who wrote an ode to Mansfield called ‘Sweet Jayne’ while in a band as a teenager.

‘It blew my mind, because it took me straight back to my teens, which of course, those years are important in everyone’s lives,’ he said.

The pair analyzed the thousands of photographs, including around 900 that were specifically of LaVey and Mansfield.

‘I was one hundred per cent sure about which pictures that should be put in the book. And then Carl, he’s phenomenal at editing and putting the pictures together in the book. So it was a really nice cooperation,’ Wahlgren said.

Only 400 copies of the book’s first edition were printed in 2016. The book rapidly sold out, which prompted the pair to consider a new and improved edition. The result is a second version that includes color photographs of Mansfield.

California Infernal: Anton LaVey and Jayne Mansfield as portrayed by Walter Fischer is available to order from JD Holmes in the US and Trapart in Europe.

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