Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Magick Circle - Tara Browne

Tara Browne

Tara Browne

Tara Browne was another well-known member of the swinging London set and was an heir to the Guinness family fortune. He had been present in December 1965 when Paul McCartney injured himself in a moped accident in which he chipped a tooth. He was a friend of both McCartney and Brian Jones but is principally remembered for his death. 

On 18 December 1966, Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lotus Elan through South Kensington at high speed. It has been reported that he had been taking LSD with Paul McCartney earlier that evening. He failed to see a traffic light and proceeded through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with an oncoming car and died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.

John Lennon later recorded this event for posterity when he wrote the song ‘a day in the life’ for the Sgt Pepper album.

The Magick Circle - Christopher Gibbs

Christopher Gibbs

Christopher Gibbs

Christopher Gibbs, the nephew of a former Governor of Rhodesia, was the best friend of Robert Fraser who he met at Eton, and was a perfect illustration of high society’s involvement with the burgeoning swing London scene in the sixties.

Is another who seems to crop up regularly in the Beatles and Stones scene and was again present at Redlands and was a player in the ‘false rumour’ story.

He is now a successful antique dealer. Interestingly, his website is entered by clicking on an image of a pagan horned god. 

The Magick Circle - Kenneth Anger

Kenneth Anger

Kenneth Anger

Hollywood film maker and member of Crowley religion – Thelema – Child actor who knew Shirley Temple. He lived with Bobby Beausoleil in San Francisco in 1966 when looking for someone to become a symbolic Lucifer for his film ‘Lucifer Rising’. Beausoleil went onto to become one of Charles Mansons family.

A child actor in the 1935 movie version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Kenneth Anger began directing his own camp, arty short films as a teenager. Fireworks, made when he was 17 in 1947, depicts a young hero's pickup of a sailor, then his beating by a group of gobs on shore leave, told in a fast, impressionistic series of arresting images. The hero's chest is ripped open to expose an electric meter behind his viscera; the face of his nude lover on a bed is scratched into a sunburst; erections viewed under a bed sheet or white pants become African carvings and roman candles sputtering. Among its notable viewers, Tennessee Williams praised it, but Merce Cunningham found it repulsive and called the cast "sick boys." Two years later, Anger's Puce Moment was a six-minute evocation of 1920 female movie stars, and Rabbit Moon featured the romantic triangle of Pierrot, Harlequin, and Columbine. He later substituted a Temptations ballad for its original pop soundtrack.

In 1949 he wrote an essay for Cahiers du Cinema, and its first English translation appears in this book. "Modesty and the Art of Film" called for small, personal movies, inspired by the work postwar Japanese directors were doing, instead of Hollywood blockbuster extravaganzas. "The dream of a personal, free cinema can be fulfilled as long as you are modest". In 1952 he completed a film based on Lautremont's Les Chants des Maldoror, and Eaux d'Artifice (1953) that featured an eighteenth century female dwarf wandering among the Baroque fountains at Tivoli. Histoire d' O was filmed in 1954 and completed 1961, and this movie of Pauline Réage's bestselling tale of sadomasochism starred the daughter of DeGaulle's Minister of Finance. The boyfriend of the actress provided money to finance the film, but it was traced to the ransom paid for the kidnapped automobile manufacturing heir Eric Peugeot. Only 20 minutes of the planned 90 minute film was shot before the scandal stopped the production.

Anger's next body of work was influenced by the early twentieth century English occultist, Aleister Crowley. A family inheritance in 1954 allowed Anger to make the 38 minute 16 millimeter color film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome with Anais Nin, costume collector Samson de Brier, and Marjorie Cameron as the Scarlet Woman. After that, The Thelm Abbey was a 1955 documentary for English television on the ruins of Crowley's muralized temple, built in Sicily in the early 1920s. Anger advocated the restoration of its murals, "hyper-psychedelic murals, goblins and devils in fabulous color, scarlet and pumpkin and orange . . . similar in feel to Ensor". Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey appeared onscreen to discuss Crowley's "sex magick". In his spiritual quest Crowley had passed through the hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which included Constance (Mrs. Oscar) Wilde, novelist Bram Stoker and artist Aubrey Beardsley, into the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), a sex magic organization founded in Berlin in 1912. Marjorie Cameron, the actress in Anger's Pleasure Dome, married Jack Parsons, co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and the leader of the O.T.O. Agape Lodge in Los Angeles in the 1940s. This lodge included L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.

In 1959 Anger published Hollywood Babylon, his gossipy and lurid compendium of tales of film industry decadence, in France. He was filmed in Paris' Père Lachaise cemetary by Stan Brakhage for Brakhage's The Dead. Encouraged by Brakhage to return to the US, Anger then made his most famous work, Scorpio Rising. This 1963 ancestor of Pop music videos intercuts transgressive imagery of supermacho bikers, Nazis, and TV stars with the speed of a Brakhage film, using one or two frame images. It is a work very much of its era, like James Rosenquist's billboard-sized Pop paintings of collaged consumer Americana. The homoerotic preening of an Italian-American New York motorcycle gang is juxtaposed with Nazis, Christ from silent movies, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, over a pop song soundtrack that included Elvis' "Devil in Disguise". The film was seized by Los Angeles police after an American Nazi party member complained. At its trial, poet Allen Ginsberg and critic Susan Sontag testified as to its "redeeming social value". In these days of nearly nude lads cavorting in the posters in the Abercrombie and Fitch store windows in the suburban mall, Anger's movie seems tame and proper.

Soon after Scorpio Rising, a Brakhage/Anger collaboration involving swans and flashing red lights was destroyed by Kodak processing laboratories personnel, who routinely destroyed material they thought dangerous. Anger then proposed to the Ford Foundation a film, Kustom Kar Kommandos, and got a grant. He produced a three-minute loving look at the chrome and Kandy Apple lacquers of fetishitic hot rods. About the same time in Great Britain, J. G. Ballard wrote the novel Crash celebrating the eroticism of chrome and steel automotive surfaces and protuberances. In California, Anger shot Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969) using footage of a Rolling Stones concert, produced by Stones' girlpal Anita Pallenberg. Invocation had a soundtrack by Mick Jagger canoodling on a Moog synthesizer and featured many of the crowd hanging around the Robert Fraser Gallery, where Anger first showed Scorpio Rising in London. Yet part of the film involved a ritual in the Haight Ashbury's old Straight Theater on Haight Street, featuring Anton LaVey of the Church of Satan and Bobby Beausoleil. At that time Beausoleil was guitarist for the band Love, but as a member of the Manson family he served prison time for involvement in the murders of actress Sharon Tate and others. This footage was stolen during another ritual at the Straight Theater (which was later converted into a grocery and art-supply store), and has never been located.

Lucifer Rising (1969) had a soundtrack by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, which was later replaced by music by Beausoleil. Marianne Faithfull stars as Lillith, and she is filmed at a Celtic temple in the Black Forest that had been a gathering place of Hitler Youth. This is juxtaposed with footage shot in Egypt, in celebration of the Angel of Light, whose motto is "The key to joy is disobedience". The film intends to present the Love Generation of the 1960s in opposition to the Death Generation of the lingering 1950s depicted in Scorpio Rising. A collaborator on the project was Donald Cammell, co-director with Nicholas Roeg of Performance, which starred Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg. Cammell's father had been a dedicated Crowleyite. The film was exhibited with a poster by psychedelic California poster and comic book artist Rick Griffin.

Anger arranged for commercial re-release of his Magick Lantern cycle of films in 2005, his work from Fireworks through Lucifer Rising. After filming a gnostic mass and a project with an Italian TV company who brought him back to the Thelm temple, Anger wrote and directed a documentary on Crowley titled with what the Beaverbrook papers had called him, The Man We Want to Hang. He shot some footage of cricketers on a lawn in a bucolic manner, evoking a Whistler painting for a project funded by Paul Getty and left unfinished when Getty died in 2003. He wrote two sequels to Hollywood Babylon, and a contribution to a compendium of suicides that included Michael Cooper, Anger's friend and the photographer for Peter Blake's cover of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, whose collage included images of both Anger and Crowley. Another suicide subject of the documentary was Anger's neighbor and friend, the singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, yet the film remains held up from distribution in conflict over the music copyrights, which is also the case of Janie Jent's documentary A True Testimonial of the band MC5. Mouse Heaven shows old Mickey Mouse toys and was funded by a substantial Rockefeller Foundation media grant (as is Craig Baldwin's current project on Jack Parsons). For its soundtrack Anger employed Ian Whitcomb's ragtime orchestra. Evidently still hard at work, the last film the book lists is a seven minute Denunciation of Stan Brakhage, evidently a score-settling with a colleague and contemporary whose editing technique was borrowed by Anger to good effect.

UPDATE: For more about Kenneth Anger please read my book The Sgt Pepper Code 

The Magick Circle - Spanish Tony Sanchez

Spanish Tony Sanchez

Spanish Tony Sanchez

Drug dealer to the stars, Sanchez regularly supplied Robert Fraser, Brian Jones, Keith Richards and John Lennon with their illegal narcotics. Also claimed to have visited the Kray twins to come to an arrangement over Fraser’s gambling debts.

Was a long-time right hand man for Keith Richards and seems to crop up at all the important events in 1966 / 67.

The Magick Circle - Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull

Marianne Faithfull

Ex-wife of John Dunbar who co-owned the Indica Gallery, was a frequent visitor to Robert Fraser’s gallery and apartment. She was discovered by Stones manager Andrew Loog-Oldham who launched her career as a singer.

She quickly became involved with Mick Jagger and was heavily involved in the Redlands incident. Was another who became hooked on heroin.

Starred with Donald Cammell in the Kenneth Anger film Lucifer Rising.

The Magick Circle - Brian Epstein

Brian Epstein

Brian Epstein,legendary manager of the Beatles was,by 1966,heavily in debt due to his gambling and was rapidly losing control of his Beatles empire. He was known to frequent the same casino in London as Robert Fraser .

Epstein had become a regular visitor to the Clermont Club, a gambling den in London run by John Aspinall. Aspinall had been approached by Billy Hill, a well known figure in the London underworld and mentor to the infamous Kray twins, about initiating an elaborate scam called the Big Edge for the card game of Chemin de Fer. The cards would be passed through a mangle to produce tiny, virtually indiscernible bends which would then be read by ‘trained’ players specially schooled by the club.

The scam, though not foolproof, was soon earning the club and Billy Hill thousands of pounds a night. Chemin de Fer was a popular game for Epstein and soon, he too, was falling victim to the scam on a massive basis.

For Epstein the stakes were enormous, for not only was he gambling his own money but also that of the Beatles too. Epstein was acutely aware that his contract with the Beatles was up for renewal in 1967 and he feared that they would not want to go elsewhere. With his debts and his own paranoia growing, Epstein was resorting to increasingly elaborate attempts to recoup his money.

In January 1967 he agreed a deal with Robert Stigwood to merge NEMS with Stigwood’s organisation for £500,000. Stigwood thought he would be buying everything, including the Beatles, but once the fab four got wind of this plan they told Brian that they would only ever record God Save the Queen and out of tune to boot. The deal was therefore re-arranged to exclude the Beatles as they had been so incensed by the proposal.

However, Brian’s problems were only mounting. He had previously met the Kray twins in a gay club in London and now they were putting the squeeze on him after they had discovered his affair with Dizz Gillespie.

Billy Hill and the Kray twins
How they came to discover this is uncertain. It may have come to light through Brian’s activities at the Clermont Club where, lest we forget John Aspinall’s partner was the Krays friend Billy Hill. Alternatively it may have been via the mysterious David Litvinoff.

Litvinoff was a colourful character who was well known in the London underworld as well as that of swinging London. He was, like Brian, homosexual and a massive gambler. He was rumoured to have been a former lover of Ronnie Kray, however what is certain is that, after accumulating huge gambling debts Ronnie and Reggie Kray paid him a visit which involved tying him up by his feet and inserting a sword into his mouth. Ronnie then forced the sword into his mouth, cutting him from cheek to cheek and leaving him with a permanent ‘joker like’ smile.

Litvinoff entered the circle of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones through his association with Robert Fraser and Christopher Gibbs. Indeed Litvinoff would play a major part in the film ‘Performance’ starring Mick Jagger and James Fox, when he was employed by the director Donald Cammell as a ‘voice coach’. This apparently was a euphemism and his real role was to immerse Fox totally into the London gangland scene so as to prepare him for his role as a gangster.

However the news reached them, the Krays told Glasgow crimelord Arthur Thompson that they were blackmailing Epstein and were going to take the Beatles from him. Thompson apparently convinced the twins that the Beatles career would go downhill fast if they were associated with the Krays. They settled for blackmailing him for cash instead.

On the 27th August 1967 Brian Epstein was found dead in his locked bedroom at his home in London. His death was officially declared an accident at the inquest due to the consumption of too many sleeping pills. Suicide was denied by all around Brian, however long time Epstein employee, Peter Brown claimed that he had removed a suicide note and a will from Brian’s bedroom prior to the arrival of the authorities.

The suicide note was, according to Brown, apparently from a previous attempt, however it interesting to note that the will left Epstein’s house and money to his mother and brother, Clive. Brian’s father Harry had died some six weeks earlier, meaning this will would have had to have been recently updated. It is also curious that someone would leave a suicide note just ‘lying around’.

Had the Krays threats been sufficient to drive Brian to suicide, or even more sinister, had the twins arranged for a little visit to Brian over that weekend?

As an interesting footnote to this saga, another long time Epstein associate, the flamboyant London lawyer David Jacobs, is also rumoured to have come to a sticky end. Again, possibly with the involvement of the Krays.

Like Brian, Jacobs was Jewish, homosexual and another prodigious user of amphetamines. Jacobs had long been in the employ of Brian and the Beatles and his other clients included Marlene Dietrich and Diana Dors, both of whom featured on the cover of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club band, as well as the Rolling Stones.

Jacobs was found hanging from a length of satin from one of the beams of his garage in December 1968 after reportedly having turned down the opportunity to represent Ronnie and Reggie Kray as the defence lawyer in their forthcoming trial for double murder.

Is it possible that Jacobs came to the attention of the Krays after having been used by Brian to try and extricate him from their blackmailing grip?  

The Magick Circle - Mohammed Chtaibi

Mohammed Chtaibi

Mohammed Chtaibi (Hadjij)

Mohammed Chtaibi first met Robert Fraser in the early 1960s. He was a young Moroccan student, and he quickly became Fraser’s live in lover and personal man servant.

Is primarily known for his part in the ‘false rumour’ story that appeared in the Beatles Monthly Magazine. The story relates to a car crash involving McCartney’s ‘black’ mini-copper on the M1 motorway. Chtaibi claims that he was driving the car when it crashed.

The story was the first known example of the Beatles planting a story about a car crash and could be regarded as the birth of the whole PID enigma.

Chtaibi was also present at Redlands on the day of the bust.

The Magick Circle - Barry Miles

Barry Miles

Barry Miles

McCartney’s official biographer and co-owner of International Times and Indica art gallery with Peter Asher and John Dunbar. Miles brought Paul McCartney into contact with people who wanted to start the International Times, which McCartney helped to fund, he would later manage Zapple, the spoken word arm of Apple Records.

It was at the Indica Gallery that, on 9th November 1966, John Lennon met Yoko Ono when she was hosting a preview of her Unfinished Objects exhibition. The show was sponsored by Robert Fraser.

The Magick Circle - Anita Pallenberg

Anita Pallenberg

Anita Pallenberg

Initially the partner of Rolling Stone Brian Jones, she would later leave Brian for fellow Stone Keith Richards. Of all the circle was perhaps the one most influenced by the occult and reportedly kept a locked trunk containing accoutrements for black magic rituals.

Appeared with Mick Jagger in the film Performance which was produced by Donald Cammell. Cammell’s father was a friend of and biographer of Aleister Crowley.

Became a heroin addict after being introduced to the drug by Robert Fraser.

The Magick Circle - Robert Fraser

Robert Fraser

Robert Fraser.

Eton educated, this son of a wealthy banker was a former officer in The Kings Rifles, and a conduit to all the major players in Swinging London as well as the more subversive, darker elements of the criminal underworld. He was a friend of gangland killers The Krays. Spanish Tony Sanchez claims in his book that Fraser owed £20,000 to the Krays through gambling debts and that they were leaning on him for repayment. Sanchez claims he visited the twins and sorted out the problem.

Fraser, along with his sidekick, Christopher Gibbs, the nephew of a former Governor of Rhodesia, would over the next few years be at the heart of all the major incidents involving not just the Beatles but also the Rolling Stones.

After the Beatles commissioned The Fool to supply the artwork for the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Fraser intervened and suggested to Paul McCartney that they should use a ‘real artist.’ Peter Blake was brought in and he and Fraser then produced the cover that sparked the enigma.

Fraser was arrested at Keith Richards Sussex home during the infamous Redlands Bust. He was later sentenced to six months imprisonment for possession of heroin. It has been widely suggested that someone tipped off the police about the activities at Redlands who had, for a long time, been attempting to arrest the Stones on drugs charges. Interestingly, George Harrison who was present that day, left Redlands immediately prior to the arrival of the police.

Robert Fraser was not only a man that captured the zeitgeist of an era but he was perhaps the greatest British art dealer of the 20th century. His gallery was responsible for introducing the London art world to Peter Blake, Jim Dine, Richard Hamilton, Bridget Riley and Andy Warhol among others. Fraser encapsulated the "Swinging Sixties" in London with gusto and vitality and although a lesser figure in terms of the public conscience, he was as central to the era as Mick Jagger, Mary Quant and The Beatles. Robert Fraser was the flamboyant, gay son of a wealthy Scottish banker.
Art critic David Sylvester wrote, "Fraser was one of the most charismatic forces of the era. According to the late New York gallerist Leo Castelli, he was ‘a superb dealer’; among leading artists, Richard Hamilton said that ‘Robert’s was the best gallery I knew in London,’ Ellsworth Kelly stated; that ‘he was a very courageous and flamboyant dealer,’ Claes Oldenburg said that ‘Robert really had an eye for draughtsmanship. Very few dealers have.’ He also had a great flair for presentation. To begin with, when he first opened a gallery, he chose that highly original architect, Cedric Price, to design it. And he was effective here not only as a producer but as a director. Bridget Riley tells a story of how Fraser handled a show of hers consisting of about fifty ‘very small drawings, using blacks, whites, greys and pencil notes . . . close-framed, in Perspex, so that one saw only the actual image.’ After working together all day on trying to hang them, they were in despair. Returning in the morning she found that Fraser ‘had painted the entire place black – walls, ceiling, all the woodwork, everything was completely black. And so these little light, pale studies, very fragile pieces of paper, shone, and were set off in an amazing way.’
Fraser was educated at Eton and spent several years in Africa in the 1950s as an officer of The King's Rifles; it was later rumoured that during this time he had a sexual liaison with the young Idi Amin. After a period spent working in galleries in the United States, he returned to England and with the help of his father (a wealthy financier who had also been a trustee of the Tate Gallery) in 1962 he established the Robert Fraser Gallery in Duke St, Grosvenor Square, London. It became a focal point for modern art in Britain
In 1966 the Robert Fraser Gallery was prosecuted for staging an exhibition of works by Jim Dine that was described as indecent (but not obscene). The works were removed from the gallery by Scotland Yard and Fraser was charged under a 19th Century law that applied to street beggars. Fraser was fined 20 guineas and legal costs. Fraser became well known as a trendsetter during the Sixties — Paul McCartney has described him as "one of the most influential people of the London Sixties scene". His London flat and his gallery were the foci of a "jet-set" salon of top pop stars, artists, writers and other celebrities, including members of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, photographer Michael Cooper, designer Christopher Gibbs, Marianne Faithfull, Dennis Hopper (who introduced Fraser to satirist Terry Southern), William Burroughs and Kenneth Anger. Because of this he was given the nickname "Groovy Bob". He is also thought to be an inspiration for the character "Dr. Robert" in the song of the same name on The Beatles album Revolver. Fraser sponsored the 1966 exhibition by Yoko Ono at the Indica Gallery at which she first met John Lennon. Fraser also gave Paul McCartney a small painting of an apple by Rene Magritte which is believed to have been the inspiration for the name and logo of the Beatles' record company, Apple Records. It was also through Fraser that Richard Hamilton was selected to design the poster for the White Album. His gallery also hosted "You Are Here", Lennon's own foray into avant garde art during 1968.

The downfall of Fraser’s gallery was the consequence of his own actions. His addiction to heroin, took hold of him increasingly from about 1965, damaging his concentration. He was arrested and went to prison in 1967 for four months. This was the drug bust famously depicted by Richard Hamilton titled 'Swingeing London' showing Rolling Stone Mick Jagger in the back of a police car with the art dealer. In his absence the gallery was placed in receivership but kept going by his loyal assistant, Susan Loppert. When Fraser returned, ‘that was cool for a minute,’ says Jim Dine. ‘But then I think that Robert just lost interest. Like a child, his attention span was not very long.’ Dine is an artist whose judgment is always sharp but sometimes impatient: a number of interesting exhibitions were still put on at the gallery – including a show lasting an afternoon by the unknown Gilbert and George – before it closed towards the end of 1969. After years in India, Fraser returned to London opening a gallery in Cork Street. Despite being the first to show New York artists Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat, the gallery had little success in recapturing the interest of his earlier efforts. He died of an AIDS related illness in 1986.

The Magick Circle

The Magick Circle

A depository for knowledge concerning the characters that I regard to be key to the saga.

These are the key players in the PID saga and those that were around the Beatles circle in the key time period of 1966 / 67.

The purpose is to provide a short biography of these people and to build a greater understanding of the part that they played.

Please assist by providing me with extra information via comments or email.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Beatles Conspiracy - Is Paul Dead?

I have for a long time been intrigued by the Beatles and the Paul is Dead phenomena. Whilst I would never wish anyone dead, I do wish this particular story were true. It is by far my most favourite conspiracy theory.

My problem is I don’t believe it. The practicalities involved in finding, rehearsing, perfecting and surgically altering a replacement McCartney, whilst at the same time managing to maintain a media and news blackout are mind-blowingly staggering.

However, scratch the surface and something is definitely going on. The clues on the record covers, the backmasked reverse messages in the songs and the people the Beatles were mixing with all point to something taking place.

The question is, and remains, what?

The purpose of this blog is to explore that and to present my own theories. My YouTube channel presents a series of films examining this subject and I hope my blogs will develop this further.