Submitted for your approval are two priceless videos from the cusp of the late ‘80s “Satanic Panic” era which, despite the outrageously ridiculous performances, are an insight into just how seriously some folks took the threat of creeping occultism at the time. Placed in historical context, this was the start of a cycle of hysteria so real that many high-profile arrests were made based on groundless allegations of “Satanic ritual abuse,” most notably the McMartin Preschool and West Memphis Three cases. It was a heavy time for followers of the left-hand path, but these clips remain utterly hilarious.
Wally George, host of ‘Hot Seat’
Hot Seat was a syndicated talk show, running from 1983 to 1992, hosted by over-the-top reactionary conservative commentator (and estranged father of actress Rebecca De Mornay), Wally George, who termed his delivery “combat TV.” The show’s format was a precursor to the popular “shock talk” shows hosted by the likes of Morton Downey, Jr. and Jerry Springer, with a profoundly right-wing posture. Hot Seat‘s studio audience was generally comprised of aggressively out-of-control meatheads, as you will see in these clips.
Schreck married Zeena, daughter of Church of Satan founder, Anton LaVey, and the two of them together have published several acclaimed books on occult and esoteric subjects such as The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman and Demons of the Flesh: The Complete Guide to Left-Hand Path Sex Magic.
Schreck, pictured here with wife Zeena, who co-directed Radio Werewolf from 1988-93. Both renounced Satanism and occultism in the late ‘90s and today are artists and Buddhist teachers.
I had the opportunity to discuss Radio Werewolf’s Hot Seat appearances with Nikolas, in this exclusive Dangerous Minds interview:
I was initially aware of one appearance Radio Werewolf made on Hot Seat, but your webmaster informed me that you actually appeared on the show twice.
Nikolas Schreck: Well, thank God you turned to me to correct your appalling ignorance on these matters of earth-shaking importance! Now future historians can use your article to confirm that in fact, Radio Werewolf battled Wally George an unholy three times. Our first titanic Hot Seat struggle took place on April 25, 1987. That went over so well that he then invited us on his radio program, where Wally started things off with a bang with a little flattery, introducing me as more dangerous than Hitler, Jim Jones and Manson. The other guest that night was a Baptist minister who officially declared me possessed. Our final Armageddon of the airwaves occurred in the Fall of ‘87, when Radio Werewolf returned to Hot Seat to declare our triumphant return to the stage after the little obstacle of my ear getting cut off during that eventful summer. And that event led to a kind of “Brides of Radio Werewolf” spinoff, since Wally, admirer of the ladies that he was, was so taken with two of my stripper girlfriends who accompanied me to the show that he later had them on as guests so that he could pretend moral outrage at our sinful ménage à trois. If I’d paid Wally to be Radio Werewolf’s publicist, he couldn’t have done a better job.
Wally George’s presentation is so exaggerated that at times he comes off as, what would be known in the world of professional wrestling, a “heel.” Did you ever get the impression that there was any insincerity or fakery to George’s act?
NS: Wally was a consummate showman, no more or less insincere or fake than his showbiz idol Ronald Reagan, who both cunningly played exaggerated roles for their niche Neanderthal audience in the grand old tradition of American populist demagoguery. Offstage, Wally was unfailingly courteous to me, and was actually genuinely supportive of my career, despite his on-the-air hostility. Hard to say which one of us was “the heel” or “the face”. Our encounters were definitely “kayfabe” professional wrestling at its finest though. The difference being that what we did when the cameras rolled was completely improvised. We served each others needs. I understood that Radio Werewolf couldn’t be “The Most Evil Band in the World” without a worthy Van Helsing adversary such as Wally to oppose us. And he needed me to be the “Man You Love To Hate” so that he could be the “Good Guy” for his fans. Really, the supposedly more legitimate network news journalists who interviewed me were all just as contrived and two-faced as Wally. At least he was honest about it.
In the OC Weekly article on Wally George you are quoted “the audience was whipped into a genuine frenzy. They did not take it as a joke, and it felt very dangerous to be there.” Do you feel there was a closed loop between exploitative infotainers such as Wally George and Geraldo Rivera, and a fearful Cold War era public that created the Satanic Panic of the 80’s? Did you personally experience repercussions as a result of your appearances on Hot Seat?
NS: The live audiences watching the Radio Werewolf appearances on Hot Seat could easily have turned into lynch mobs, but I was as recklessly irresponsible as Wally in feeding fuel to the fire. It’s astute that you place all this in its Cold War context, because looking at these and other wacky ‘80s clips today without understanding the panicky fear of imminent nuclear Armageddon permeating the USA under the Reagan regime, it’s hard to understand the hysterical theological intensity driving the Satanic Panic. Wally and Geraldo were both simply fear-mongering entertainers making a living by giving the terrified audience exactly what they wanted. And I was part of the same closed loop, in that I collaborated with them by consciously embodying their worst fears, since that early phase of Radio Werewolf was designed as a self-parodying, mirroring manifestation of that society’s deepest nightmares about “occult music”. As for repercussions, Wally first invited us on Hot Seat after the horrified reaction in Los Angeles to my public announcement of Radio Werewolf’s “Free Manson” benefit concert at a Friday the 13th performance in March of ‘87. That was immediately followed by many months of death threats, LAPD surveillance and harassment of me and my friends, blacklisting and banning from certain clubs, the need to have security guards patrol our concerts, so I can’t determine how much of these shenanigans were inspired by the Wally vs. Werewolf broadcasts specifically.
It seems your appearance on Hot Seat is a masterful bit of what would be today called “trolling.” You never break character as you deliver patently absurd decrees with a confident, straight face. Was that difficult to maintain in front of such a hostile audience?
NS: No, it wasn’t difficult, as I’d already trained myself in performance and in “real life” to keep a poker face under even more extreme situations than that. I accept your compliment in the spirit it’s offered, but a “troll”, in cyberspeak, is usually just some anonymous sadistic creep trying to provoke a reaction for the sake of it from the cowardly safety of a keyboard. I’d say there’s a big difference between that and personally confronting a hostile horde face to face. Also, there’s an implication of insincerity in “trolling” whereas those particular appearances were just slightly caricaturized exaggerations of the general beliefs I espoused at that time. In fact, what I said on Hot Seat was deliberately dumbed down and tamed for that particular crowd, who I didn’t consider capable of understanding the even more radical religio-magical views I held in 1987. As for breaking character, all of my work then and now has a certain measure of straight-faced black comedy to it, which you have to be on the same wavelength to “get.” From my current Tantric Buddhist perspective, there is no solid “character” under the shifting illusion we imagine to be a permanent self.
Carrying on from the previous question, the Hot Seat appearance as well as the Radio Werewolf appearance on Tom Metzger’s Race and Reason display what I would call the “comical side” of Nikolas Schreck. Forgive me if I’m getting this incorrect, but you seem to be relishing in taking the piss out of these show hosts. If I’m correct in viewing this as a kind of a prank, it seems to contrast a bit with the more serious public face of Nikolas Schreck in your Church of Satan and Temple of Set spokesperson days. Was there ever a conscious decision to “get serious” after the antics of those Radio Werewolf appearances?
NS: Actually, I guested on Tom Metzger’s Race and Reason twice, once “comically” in 1987 during Radio Werewolf’s first phase and again in August of ‘88, completely “seriously” at the advent of the second phase. Yes, I took a certain delight in pushing my straight-faced persona’s black comedy potential in those appearances. But just as I wasn’t “trolling” I’ve also never considered any of my performances to fall into the category of a “prank”. Other than clarifying those fine points, I prefer to let people interpret my work however they want, so I’ve chosen not to over-analyze these things to death. Two factors may shed light on what you see as the contrast between my comical and serious public personae during the Radio Werewolf ritual. There was always tension between the Addams Family and the Manson Family side of Radio Werewolf. By the summer of ‘87, I felt that the campier, Famous Monsters-inspired aspect of early RW, which reached its heights (or depths) in our appearance in the comedy film Mortuary Academy was fun, but had run its course. Secondly, I didn’t have a choice to “get serious.” The world got serious. By early 1988, the Satanic Panic was a full-blown national hysteria. It wasn’t fun and games, but a real witch hunt. Innocent people were being arrested. Free speech and freedom of religion were imperiled. Confronted with the absurd criminal accusations thrown at me and my music, and ongoing threats from fundamentalist Christian police, I had no choice but to disrupt my creative work and defend myself pro-actively in the media. For instance, by early ‘88, when I kicked off my promotional tour for the first edition of my book, The Manson File, on Maury Povich’s Hard Copy, I faced a series of grim moral Inquisitions, not interviews, which allowed no place for humor. I would have far preferred to stick to music than to have to waste time with goons like Geraldo and his ilk, but it was necessary to take a stand at the time even to survive.
If you had your Hot Seat appearance to do all over again, would you—and if so, would you do anything differently?
NS: The middle-aged Buddhist I am now could easily stand in judgement of the arrogant young Devil Worshipper I was then. But I’ve come to see that I needed to go through every single mistake I’ve ever made to come to where I am now. Wally showed me what a fixed game the whole media circus really is, and it was a valuable lesson that’s served me well.
Today, Schreck is a Tantric Buddhist and one of the founders of the Sethian Liberation Movement. His lastest musical project is Kingdom of Heaven, with former Radio Werewolf bassist James Collord, who have an upcoming album and live dates in Germany. Schreck’s Kingdom of Heaven plays May 22, 2015 at Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival in Leipzig.
Schreck and George’s performances are both so inspired here, but what you really should pay attention to are the reaction shots of the goony audience members absolutely losing their minds.
That’s good television.
Presented first is the (more compelling) second appearance of Radio Werewolf on Hot Seat:
And here’s their first fateful encounter with Wally George and his minions (interview begins at 6:16). When Wally asks if Schreck likes having sex with corpses, Schreck responds “It’s a topic you should know a lot about since your seven ex-wives probably had to go through the same thing with you.’‘