Photo by Anne Fishbein
BEFORE RE/SEARCH PUBLICATIONS AND AMOK Bookstore refined the art of merchandising radical ideas such as Survival Research Labs' fighting robots or body-mutilation photos from real life and the stage, there was virtually no place to find examples of extreme culture. By the late '90s, between shock-value advertising campaigns (think United Colors of Benetton) and Internet access, it was virtually impossible to escape examples of extreme culture. However, often there's a sense of extreme simply for its own sake. Almost six months ago, the rock & roll strip of Sunset Boulevard became home to a new little shop of horrors that's trying to expand on the idea of extreme while providing a context.
At first glance, Odium is a bookshop and video store with a random collection of oddities thrown in. What Odium's founder has is a legacy, direct lineage to the prince of darkness: 24-year-old Stanton LaVey's late grandfather is Anton Szandor LaVey, who wrote The Satanic Bible and founded the Church of Satan (which in its heyday attracted such celebrities as Jayne Mansfield and Sammy Davis Jr.); his estranged mother, Zeena, is a priestess of the Temple of Set (a group formed by Church of Satan dissenters that worships an Egyptian deity); and his godfather is the experimental-film pioneer Kenneth Anger (Lucifer Rising). Stanton LaVey was raised in the infamous “Black House,” where the LaVey family resided in San Francisco and held early Church of Satan meetings. No longer a member, he's held on to certain beliefs. “I'm a lifestyle Satanist. I do not practice rituals, but I'm a Satanist by default. Satan is only the metaphor. My grandfather, being a showman, used it as a scare tactic to get his point across.” So forget about the pitchforks and fires of hell, LaVey Satanism focuses on the power and authority of the individual.
Stanton LaVey moved to L.A. and opened Odium with cult filmmaker and Charles Manson authority John Aes-Nihil. While LaVey admits 90 percent of his stock can be found somewhere on the Internet, he justifies it, saying: “If I could afford to keep this open as a research facility, I would. I'm taking everything everyone thought they were desensitized to, and putting it together in one place. I see the shop as an art experiment, a dissemination of information, breaking down the barriers of extremist ideas and ideals. I call it intellectual smut. Sometimes I can't separate myself from the shop.”
The interior d�cor reveals as much: The walls and ceiling are covered in red fabric, a re-creation of his grandfather's private den known to inner-circle Satanists as the Red Room. The shelves are stocked with new and used black-power literature, fascist studies, serial killers' biographies, cult leaders' manifestoes, pulp fiction, and CDs by the skinhead band Screwdriver (banned from most music stores). And, of course, books on Satanism and magic. Cases and wall displays include T-shirts that read “Terrorist,” Manson Family recordings, an autographed Louis Farrakhan photograph, Balinese ritual masks, Goddess Bunny film stills and Serita Vendetta's “flesh” paintings. Not so ironically, Marilyn Manson recently purchased the complete set of Sharon Tate crime-scene photos.
But it's live events that create the social structure: Odium has presented a series of performances by former Jim Rose Sideshow attraction Zamora the Torture King; Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey's Extreme Islam presentation, which featured pro�bin Laden/ anti-American posters, hats and T-shirts (an event that required armed security guards and metal detectors); and a DVD-release party for Rozz Williams' film PIG. Considering the offensive nature of Odium, there have been only a few confrontations. LaVey says, “I'm usually able to turn a situation into something humorous. Life really is absurd. Some kids grow up on Wheaties, I grew up on the occult.”