Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A piece of gay history: Dr. Leo Louis Martello interviews Lige Clarke

In the course of my research for Project LaVey, I stumbled across an online copy of Dr. Leo Louis Martello's Weird Ways of Witchcraft.  Martello spoke favorably of Anton LaVey in his Black Magic, Satanism and Voodoo, and in 1994 private conversations with yrs. truly.  Martello never claimed to be a Satanist, although he was certainly embittered and cynical enough for the job when I met him.  (This happens to most starry-eyed romantics who survive long enough... and from his earliest days as a gay rights and pagan activist, Leo was certainly that).

Leo Martello wrote about Anton LaVey (and Herbert Sloane of the Ophitic Cultus Satanhas, whom I hope to talk about soon) and distinguished Witchcraft from Satanism while recognizing Satanism as a valid and meaningful spiritual path.  He also reminds us of one reason why there were a disproportionate number of gay men in the Church of Satan. From the beginning the Church of Satan has welcomed gay and lesbian members. Martello was one of the first "out" gay Witches: during the early days of American and British Witchcraft, most covens were all about "polarity" and shunned homosexuals as deviants who had no place in a fertility religion.  (American Pagans are almost universally queer-tolerant today, you protest? You can thank Leo Martello for that).  

Lige Clarke on cover of Gay #1
from Gay & Lesbian Review
Intrigued by his interview with a Kentucky folk witch named "Elijah Hadynn" I did a bit of Googling and discovered that Elijah Hadynn Clarke was better known as Lige Clarke, one of the editors of Gay, America's first weekly gay and lesbian newspaper.  (And a paper which featured Dr. Martello's column, "The Gay Witch").  So far as I can tell from some cursory searching, this interview has never been recognized as part of Lige Clarke's considerable and impressive body of work.  It is an important piece of gay and Pagan history, a meeting of two of the major figures of pre-Stonewall gay America.

* * * * *

I was warmly greeted by Elijah Hadynn, at his apartment on East 10th Street, in New York's East Village, when I visited him on the rainy night of April 18, 1969. The interview was arranged by John R. Nichols, editor of STRANGE / UNKNOWN MAGAZINE, and a writer on witchcraft himself. He had previously interviewed and written about Mr. Hadynn. I was ushered into a living room which had cushions and pillows arranged alongside the four walls, on the floor, "Moroccan style, like my villa in Tangier" I told him. Some of his own paintings hung on the walls. "I don't believe in lots of furniture" he said. We sat on the floor cushions. I told him "I had planned to bring you a broom." Laughingly he
replied "I could have used one."

Elijah Hadynn is a quiet, introspective young man, who looks more like a college student than a warlock (male witch). A glance at his handwriting told me that he was organized, systematic, ruled by his head rather than his heart, creative and constructive, and had the capacity to remain impersonal and detached from most situations; a far cry from the emotional hysteria characteristic of Middle Age witches. Backhand, precise, with clear well-executed letter formations, Mr. Hadynn was in full possession of his faculties, knew what he was and what he was doing at all times; the type of person who prefers to observe rather than participate. 

"I usually prefer to be alone" he said. "Parties as a rule bore me." This was confirmed by his handwriting which revealed that he would be more interested in ideas rather than just people per se, unless they were intellectually stimulating. Far from being an impulsive, impressionable, easily swayed person his handwriting indicated self-possession, control and discipline .... he would be master of his witchcraft rather than having it master him ... he would use it positively rather than being used by it negatively ... and unlike so many who become involved with the occult because of emotional impulses and drives, his mind would always be the controlling and decisive factor in any undertaking.

LLM: How did you first become aware that you were a witch?

EH: I always knew that I was different. I can remember the moment that I was born. It was on Cave Branch, in a little wooden house. I can vividly remember my first breath of air. I used to sleep with my hands outstretched with my thumb in between my two fingers. Years later I read that that was supposedly a sign of the witch. I often went on astral journeys. I'm ambidextrous, though I lean towards lefthandedness. I've had thirty six moles removed from my body ... another sign of the witch.  My mother was born the day before Christmas. My great grandfather was a Cherokee medicine man. There were two gypsies present at my birth, and one of them had said earlier 'A great man will be born in that house.'"

Elijah Hadynn was born in the hills of south-eastern Kentucky. Here is a fragment of a poem written about his birth:

In old Kentucky's snow white hills, 
Where tales of superstition grow, 
A warlock was born this day, 
Whose destiny the gypsies know.
His hair was white, it matched the snow 
That fell from cold and darkening skies. 
And as he grew, the magic gleam 
Flashed deep within his soulful eyes.

LLM: Do you belong to a coven in New York? 

EH: No. I'm basically a loner. If I do join one I intend to make absolutely sure that it's genuine.

LM: How many-other witches do you personally know here?

EH: I personally know only two others. One is a burlesque queen. The other a male witch. Of course I know of many many others.

LLM: What do you consider the best book on Witchcraft for the budding witch?

EH: One of the best is the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology by Rossell Hope Robbins. It's full of facts and fascinating pictures of witches, especially during the time of the Dark Ages.

LLM: Do you know Sybil Leek?

EH: Yes. When we first met she was intrigued by my name, repeating it several times, saying "How lovely are the old names." She's a marvelous woman with a great sense of humor.

LLM: Do you believe in Reincarnation?

EH: Yes I do. I know that I have lived in the past and will exist again in another form in the future. This is what the Old Religion teaches. It's not something that I simply believe but something that I have always known. Sybil Leek and I both accept reincarnation as well as Astrology. Sybil Leek's 
grandmother used to bake cookies that had the signs of the zodiac on them.

LLM: Psychiatrists claim that the only reason why witchcraft works is because one believes in it. No belief ... no power. What's your viewpoint on this?

EH: The same could be said for psychiatry. Patients have spent fortunes going from one psychiatrist to another because they weren't being helped. It's what psychoanalysis calls "negative transference." It simply means that the patient isn't getting better, and the psychiatrist can't reach him. "Positive transference" simply means that the patient "believes' in him. So he's helped. Regardless of the techniques used it all boils down to the same thing: Faith and trust. Furthermore, psychiatry it-self isn't an exact science and when you stop to consider the many opposing schools of thought ... Freud, Jung, Adler, so many others ... the kettle can't call the pot black!

LLM: One psychologist has said, "Witches, sorcerers and the like are still trying to magically wish away the terrors of their own childhood. Instead of being afraid of bogeymen at night they resolve this by becoming bogeymen themselves." Is this true? (We both broke-up laughing at this question!)

EH: No, it's not true in the cases I know. That doesn't mean that it doesn't apply in all cases. But the question here is why do people become ministers, rabbis, priests, psychiatrists and psychologists? Aren't the former trying to align themselves on the side of God as appeasement for their own unresolved fears? And aren't the latter doing the same thing without religion? And their answer would be, "No, not true in all cases, but ..." In any event that's what they say but how do we know?

LLM: What do you think of organized religion?

EH: I don't believe in organized religion. They have caused mankind great unhappiness, burdened people with guilt, created conflicts, so that most people can't live a full life on earth, can't really enjoy themselves without looking over their shoulder in fear that the "Hand of God" would punish them. The most unhappy people I know are very religious. What has witchcraft ever done in this world to compare with the bloodshed and tyranny caused by organized religion? When I think of this, if I wasn't a witch, then I'd have to become one.

LLM: Anton LaVey, high priest of the Satanist Church in San Francisco, has called white witches neopagan Christians, skulking around under a burden of guilt, afraid to be called evil, tea shoppe witches,  plump little women sitting around threatening to turn each other into toads." Any comment?

EH: I don't accept that. I'm not interested in black magic or black witches, so-called. I call what I do white witchcraft because it's for good, to help others and myself. White witches have minds of their own and the Christian Church plays no part in our basic views. Just look into history and you'll find that white witches have always overpowered the black practitioners. White witchcraft has existed long before there ever was a Christian religion, as any historian can prove.

LLM: Isn't the devil or Satan as we have come to know him the creation of Christian theologians rather than that of the pre-Biblical Old Religion?

EH: Yes, definitely. The devil or the host of other names given to him, has never been given so much attention as it has in the Catholic Church. No other God of Darkness has been so deified in other religions as it has been in Christianity. One could ask: Is the Satan one worships a Christian black God or that of the Old Religion?

LLM: Could you elucidate more on White Magic?

EH: Yes, let me quote you from my article in the May-June 1969 PERSONAL HOROSCOPE 
MAGAZINE, entitled "What Is White Magie?"
Lige Clarke.
photo by Eric Stephen Jacobs
A true witch knows that it is wise to take no notice of opposites or extremes. To divide the world into black and white, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, is to fail to look at it with real scrutiny. Magic is a power, in much the same way that nuclear energy or electricity is a power. Like these forces magic exists throughout the whole of creation, waiting for practitioners to cast its spells in unusual and unexpected ways. But it lies dormant and has no real character of its own until used. It is the character of the person who employs, magic that determines what kind of label it may claim. In the hands of the unscrupulous and malevolent person, magic is, according to the way most people think, black. But if a knowledgeable individual who is generally kind and thoughtful of others, uses magic, it becomes a wonderful tool, a potent and amazingly beneficial tool for mankind. Such a person is a miracle worker who heals, cures, and fixes things that are broken. Because he sees more clearly than most, he is able to guide ordinary people into paths of good fortune. In its pure state, magic is neither good nor bad. It is simply magic.

LLM: Do you engage in any witchcraft rituals, and if so what objects do you use?

EH: No, I don't engage in the usual rituals, with the exception of candles and of course herbs. Mine is more of a mental ritual rather than a physical one.

LLM: How do you earn your living?

EH: I'm both a practitioner and a teacher of Yoga. I have private students and classes. Yoga has helped me greatly as I've always had a health problem. The self-control over the body obtained by Hatha Yoga is now scientifically accepted, yet it is a natural method, one long known to witches, yogis, fakirs and mystics before science discovered that it works. I also write articles for various magazines such as STRANGE I UNKNOWN and YOUR PERSONAL HOROSCOPE.

Mr. Hadynn then gave me copies of these magazines which had articles both by and about him. I noted that on the inside back cover of the first there was an advertisement for books including two of mine, IT'S IN THE CARDS and IT'S IN THE STARS. 

In an article "The White Witches of England" by John R. Nichols in the Jan.-Feb. issue of Personal Horoscope the author tells about a personal experience he had with Elijah Hadynn:

Of course, witches do practice incantations, and rely on the powers of magic to accomplish their ends. On one occasion, to show me how such tricks work, Elijah put a broomstick in the corner of a room to get rid of an unwanted guest. 

He explained that the guest would stay no more than a half-hour after the broomstick had been placed. For a few minutes I doubted the efficacy of this procedure. The guest seemed intrigued by the sound of his own voice, and he talked on and on at an increasingly rapid rate. Suddenly, after only fifteen minutes had passed, he stood up and said, 'I must be going.' Without further ado, he wished us farewell and was gone.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

About William Daixel or, a prelude to Lili St. Cyr, Marilyn Monroe, Anton LaVey and an LA Porn Palace

From Secret Life of A Satanist:
Every couple of weeks the theme changed at the Mayan Burlesque Theater. This performance centered on Paris, so the organist played a bootlegged, handwritten arrangement of “Hymn a L’Amour,” just composed by Edith Piaf’s accompanist, not yet released in this country. The dancer? – Marilyn Monroe...

LaVey and Marilyn shared a cultural hunger as well. Paul Valentine (aka “Val Valentino”) was an exceptionally fine dancer and choreographer at the Mayan. He was at that time married to legendary stripper Lili St. Cyr, whose act Anton had played for at Zucca’s. “Paul Valentine thought I was a weird kid. Marilyn and I used to go up to the balcony together when they were running arty filler movies like Amok and Omoo, Omoo, the Shark God. One time I heard Valentine say to the straight man, ‘I think they actually watch the movies up there.’ We did. We were hungry. We wanted to learn – listen to the Bizet score or examine the sets.”
Valya Valentinoff
When 14 year-old William Daixel joined the Ballets Russe in 1933, director Léonide Massine renamed him "Vladimir Valentinoff." In September 1937 "Valia Valentinoff" danced in the premiere of Arthur Schwartz's Virginia. As "Valya Valentinoff" he played New York's Riobamba Room in 1943 alongside a young crooner named Dean Martin.  But when he headed West to try his luck in Hollywood Daixel/Valentinoff settled upon a final name: Paul Valentine. He appeared as Paul Valentine in the 1947 noir classic Out of the Past.  He is listed as Paul Valentine on the 2006 Social Security Death Index. And in August 1946, when burlesque star Lili St. Cyr tied the knot with her trainer and choreographer, he signed the Tijuana marriage license as Paul Valentine.

The couple were together in Los Angeles in late November 1947, when St. Cyr began an engagement at the Follies.  In March 1948 St. Cyr and Valentine played together at Florentine Gardens in Hollywood. By the end of June St. Cyr was back at Montreal's Gayety Theatre (where she had been a headliner since 1944), and headed north yet again in September 1948. Around the same time Paul Valentine was working in Los Angeles at the Mayan with burlesque producer (and later 3-D pioneer) Sidney Pink. According to Uno (Charles Feldheim), Variety's burlesque columnist, their show was called "French Postcards revue."

Mayan Theater, 1927
Given all this, we must wonder why Paul Valentine told Lawrence Wright in 1990 that he operated the Mayan as "legitimate theater - it was never a burlesque, never a bump and grind."  Perhaps he was still bitter about his failed marriage to St. Cyr. In 1949 he filed for divorce and was famously quoted as saying "Everybody in the country could see more of her than I did."  (His 1952 marriage to heiress Flaveen Sultana Ali Khan appears to have been more successful: they had a son in 1956 and I can find no record of their divorce).   Or perhaps we should consider his statement in the proper context.

Under Valentine's tutelage St. Cyr incorporated elements of classical ballet and modern dance into her routines. Instead of playing to the audience she presented erotic mini-dramas from behind the fourth wall. Recreating Cleopatra and Salome, playing a suicidal spurned lover, re-enacting The Portrait of Dorian Grey  -- these and other dances owed more to Martha Graham than Busty Morgan.  St. Cyr and Valentine dreamed of making burlesque an art form, of winning the kind of respect Josephine Baker received in Paris.  Her act, and his choreography, went far beyond the standard "bumping and grinding" of an average girlie show.

It is also possible that Valentine worked as a dancer or choreographer at the Mayan in earlier, less bawdy productions. Burton H. Wolfe discovered a March 8, 1948 Los Angeles Times review entitled "Mayan Offers Burlesque" which noted that "the producers have toned down luridness somewhat since the last show." The Mayan does not appear in Uno's Billboard column until April 10, 1948, when he talks about an ongoing show.  All Billboard mentions of the Mayan before that date describe big bands, operettas, musicals and theatrical productions.  It appears that burlesque was a final failed effort to bring in crowds and one which only lasted a few months. At the end of December the Mayan was sold to Frank Fouce, who in 1949 turned it into a Spanish language theater and cinema.

But Mr. Fouce was not the Mayan's last owner.  By 1990, when Valentine was interviewed, the Mayan  had been an adult theater for twenty years.  The "daring" and "torrid!!" naughtiness of postwar burlesque had long since been replaced by live sex shows and lap dances: the neo-Burlesque movement was barely a twinkle on somebody's pasties. Valentine was over 70, still healthy and vigorous but definitely at an age when one considers his legacy.  In most ways his was a typical Los Angeles life.  He was a dreamer who came west, better looking than many and more talented than most, a guy who never got to be Hamlet but who played his share of attendant lords.  Perhaps we can forgive him for downplaying the two months he spent directing a strip show at a notorious porn palace.

Which brings us back to Anton LaVey.  Not long before Valentine was interviewed, LaVey told Blanche Barton that he had, in October 1948, played the organ at the Mayan Theater for a Paris-themed burlesque show directed by Paul Valentine.  And, if Billboard is to be believed, there was indeed a "French Postcards Revue" directed by Paul Valentine playing the Mayan Theater at that time.  This says nothing about whether or not LaVey -- never mind Marilyn Monroe -- worked at that show. But it certainly does suggest a certain familiarity with the inner workings of the Los Angeles burlesque scene. Because I very strongly doubt that most of the men who just attended that show remembered who the choreographer was fifteen minutes after they left, never mind forty years later.