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Cameron as the Scarlet Woman in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

Cameron as the Scarlet Woman in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

One would probably not guess that this woman had joined the Navy in World War II, gone through boot camp, and made maps for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Marjorie Cameron, who preferred to be known as Cameron, was a visual artist, an actress, and a certified, practicing witch. Jack Parsons believed she was an “elemental,” having learned about such creatures from Aleister Crowley’s circle of warlocks, the Ordo Templar Orientis. Parsons was an interesting guy, a Caltech rocket scientist and a founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as Aerojet Corporation. He was a pioneering genius whose work with solid fuel and other aspects of rocketry made the US space program possible.

Parsons wanted to bring a divine being, a goddess, into a human body, and thus change the course of history. Fortunately, the Crowley brand of magick provides a technique for just such a purpose. The magickal process is called a “Babalon Working.” (That’s Babalon with an A, no connection with Babylon the legendary city. Two entirely different things.) It’s powerful, difficult magick and requires some help, so Parsons was aided in making the invocations by another black magick aficionado, L. Ron Hubbard. Yes, that L. Ron Hubbard, the Scientology guy.

The spells worked, and Cameron came into Jack Parsons’s life. They got married, and were both up to their eyeballs in Thelema . Parsons also corresponded with Anton LaVey and helped found the Church of Satan. It’s doubtful, today, whether anyone with such an unconventional personal life would be allowed in the defense industry, no matter how much of a genius. But the Jet Propulsion Laboratory employed not only Parsons and Cameron, but four of her relatives, which was nepotism on a grand scale.

The couple lived in Pasadena in a communal household full of occult practices and sexual irregularities, very unlike what the staid local citizens were accustomed to. One source indicates that Cameron traveled some during the marriage, for instance, to Switzerland, where she is said to have hung out at a convent, and to San Miguel Allende in Mexico. In 1952, Jack Parsons was killed by an explosion at their home, an accident which has been called mysterious and possibly not accidental. After her husband’s death, Cameron went to the desert to grieve and seek a vision.

Apparently she next lived in Malibu, and in 1954, along came the opportunity to be in Kenneth Anger’s film, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome. Cameron played the roles of The Scarlet Woman (aka the Great Mother; the Mother of Abominations) and Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and change, including destruction and death.

Cameron in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

Cameron in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

Cameron led fellow artist Wallace Berman to the study of kaballah and the occult. He founded the very influential zine, Semina. In 1957, Berman’s art was shown at the Ferus Gallery. The show was closed by the police and Berman was arrested, but not for any artwork of his. The installation included stuff strewn about on the floor. One of Cameron’s drawings, which appeared in Semina, was found to be obscene. Tripping on peyote, she’d depicted in Beardsley-esque style a woman being taken from behind by a demonic or alien creature.

Cameron also apparently went by the name Moonchild, although that’s a little confusing, because it seems the Moonchild was supposed to be the magical being that she and Parsons would parent together. Artist George Herms was also influenced by Cameron, saying that she had “molded and formed” him. Joseph Campbell is said to have been Cameron’s mentor, but there doesn’t seem to be much information about that.

Dennis Hopper is said to have found her frightening. They co-starred in Night Tide, a black and white film made by Curtis Harrington in 1960. (Harrington was also in Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.) Night Tide is described as a “supernatural thriller” in which Cameron portrayed a sea witch, which must have been not much of a stretch.


She remarried, and in the late 1950s torched most of her paintings in a gesture of symbolic suicide. This happened, it is said, when she and husband Sherif Kimmil had both been awake for several days, on speed, and it is also said that he slit his wrists as the artwork burned.

In early 2007 the Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery mounted an exhibition of Cameron’s work. Many of those pieces can be seen at the gallery’s website under “Past Exhibitions.”

Here’s a very detailed bio of Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel.

In 1955 Curtis Harrington made a film about her art, The Wormwood Star.

NOTES:

Art historian John Perreault says,

If you have the patience to find out what Parsons might have had to do with the Philadelphia Experiment, the so-called Montauk Project and what this time/space shift, real or not, actually was, then you will be driven totally over the edge.

How did I miss this? There was an exhibit of Cameron’s work at the MOCA in Los Angeles.

RELATED: Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Samson De Brier

 

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