Kenneth Anger, the underground filmmaker who became infamous for writing the controversial gossip book Hollywood Babylon, has died at 96, the New York Times reports.
Anger, born Kenneth Anglemyer in Santa Monica, California, grew up obsessed with Hollywood. He claimed to have been a child actor in Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle’s 1935 film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; it is unclear whether that is actually true.
He studied cinema at the University of Southern California and, in 1947, released the gay-themed short film Fireworks, which led to his arrest on obscenity charges. He was acquitted and went on to make influential experimental films including Rabbit’s Moon, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, and Scorpio Rising.
In 1959, he published Hollywood Babylon in French; six years later, an American edition was released. The book, which told stories of scandals involving famous celebrities, was banned soon after its U.S. publication and remains notorious. It is widely accepted that many of the stories contained in it were rumors or lies. It was republished in the U.S. in 1975, and Anger published a sequel in 1984. Both titles have fervent cult followings.
Anger was remembered on social media by people including author Mark Harris, who wrote on Twitter, “Kenneth Anger—demon, queer iconographer, weirdo, problematic fave, trailblazer with a flamethrower—has died. Gay underground cinema began with him. He doubtless takes fascinating secrets to the grave although he liked to tell all. He was the first of his kind, and the last.”
And filmmaker Bruce LaBruce tweeted, “The legendary, hugely influential, unsinkable, unthinkable, beyond the valley of queer sexperimental filmmaker author & black magic woman Kenneth Anger is dead at 96. She & ghostwriter Elliott Stein wrote a salacious book about Hollywood called ‘Hollywood Babylon’ which nailed it.”
The legendary, hugely influential, unsinkable, unthinkable, beyond the valley of queer sexperimental filmmaker author & black magic woman Kenneth Anger is dead at 96. She & ghostwriter Elliott Stein wrote a salacious book about Hollywood called "Hollywood Babylon" which nailed it pic.twitter.com/JGQcOVL0QZ— Bruce LaBruce (@BruceLaBruce) May 24, 2023
Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas.