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Remember When Marilyn Manson Became a Reverend?

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It was two in the morning on a cold fall night in 1994, when the gates of Anton LaVey’s private residency in San Francisco creaked open for Marilyn Manson. Born Brian Warner, his career as a shock rocker was in its infancy then, but his flirt with Satanism had already spawned into letters and phone calls pleading the founder of the Church of Satan to grant him a visit. Finally, while out west opening for Nine Inch Nails, the hotel phone rang and a woman’s voice answered Manson’s prayers: “The Doctor wants to meet you.” “Would he care to see our show the following night?” the singer asked, but the voice icily informed him The Doctor never left his house. Instead, she invited the then-25-year-old to just come over the same night. “Make sure you come alone,” she added and hung up.

From the sound of it, their late night date, too, was very Addams Family: At LaVey’s door, Manson encountered a suited fat man with greasy hair swept across his head in an attempt to cover his bald spot. Wordlessly, he guided him through pitch-black hallways and left him alone to await LaVey in a dimly lit study. When the high priest finally appeared, wearing sunglasses indoors at 2:30 a.m., he complimented Manson’s stage name.“It’s about putting different extremes together, which is what Satanism is about,” explains LaVey, “But I can’t call you Marilyn. Can I call you Brian?” He’d retained a soft spot for Marilyn Monroe after their alleged affair in the 1960s.

As for Manson and LaVey, it was a match made in Hades. The pair spent hours discussing their shared belief systems, pledging allegiance above all to one’s fundamental right to personal freedom, Satanism’s guiding principle. “Because of all the work that I’ve done in music he felt had a positive effect on what he was trying to say,” Manson later said, LaVey eventually declared him an honorary reverend of the Church, which came with a crimson card certifying his status. The emerging rock star in return praised LaVey in the foreword to what would be The Doctor’s final book, Satan Speaks!. “In a world so full of shit,” he wrote, “Anton LaVey cut through it with the best of them.”

Even on the Marilyn Manson chart of shock value, this friendship ranks as the stuff of legends and would cement his later, cherished role as every parent’s worst nightmare. In dealing with the devil, everybody knows you’d better be careful what you wish for. But then again, ask and you shall receive.

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