(Written by Kenneth Anger, 1959)
Before the dark sorcerer of cinema, Kenneth Anger, reached worldwide acclaim with his break out queer biker masterpiece Scorpio Rising, he crafted what is largely considered the first true piece of Hollywood tabloid literature in Hollywood Babylon. Channeling both his hatred & fascination with the dark underworld of tinseltown, Anger documents the most sordid & solacious rumors, myths, & stories surrounding Hollywood. Originally released in France by a small publishing company in 1959, it would take 6 years for anyone to dare publish it in the United States. Though we loathe the tabloid journalism movement the book influenced, the value in Anger’s writing is his shattering of the mythical image the industry had at the time, revealing a dark underworld of exploitation, predatory behavior, & violence suppressed by power studio heads in California. Though much of the book is hearsay & conjecture, some of Anger’s targets would be unmasked later such as the brutality of comedian Fatty Arbuckle & Charlie Chaplin’s notorious appetite for underage girls. With most Hollywood stars & starlets under contract with powerful studios, Anger was quickly dismissed as crackpot by the media. Though many of the stories are exaggerated or the details murky, many have an element of truth. Often criticized for its lewd photos of celebrity suicides, traffic accidents, & graphic images of the Black Dahlia Murders (which he claims were done by Orson Welles) that crossed lines of journalistic ethics, this book remains a relic that began to crack the once impenetrable image of Hollywood’s faux purity, eroding the larger-than-life dehumanization of celebrities by exposing them as mere mortals capable of animalistic behavior and even death, while creating its own mythos immortalizing his subjects.