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Night Crawler 

Wednesday, Nov 6 1996
Outside the 848 Community Space hangs a small, handwritten sign that reads quite simply "No Christians." This is promising. It is Allhallows' Eve after all, and true to the spirit of the night and character of the city I am in search of anything repugnant to traditional Anglo-Saxon sensibilities. An evening of satanic black masses and American Indian whiskey rites seems just the bit. How fortunate, then, that "American Indian/American Devil" did so promise both. The warm, oily smell of burning candles wafts out of the entrance hall as I step into the brightly lit street level of the Divisadero Community Space. A few people, clad appropriately in black, stand sipping wine out of small paper cups. Between talk of Apache painter Billy War Soldier's ongoing imprisonment they glance at the art on the surrounding walls.

Some time ago, War Soldier, who served as inspiration for the movie Billy Jack, was added to the growing list of artists befriended by the self-titled Angry Indian Satanic Priest Steven Johnson Leyba, a semi-indigene who uses art and devil worship to battle the scourge of "hypocrisy" and "injustice" -- as well as an upbringing in repressive Arkansas. Hanging beside War Soldier's wild-eyed coyotes and violently hued feral cats are tortured works by William S. Burroughs, H.R. Giger, and Leyba himself, who specializes in distended assholes. Scattered among these dark images are pristine e-mail letters sent to Leyba from fellow American Indians.

Firehair Shining Spirit writes, "No Satanist Indians. I shall pray for your ancestors. You dishonor them. Their spirits deserve better than you." Another letter ends with: "You and your ilk are a total waste of flesh."

"I don't know where the American Indian thing comes in," says a young woman with a wild nest of yellow hair, "but it's pretty intense. They're upstairs sewing a pentagram on the Angry Indian's chest." She stares long and hard at a collage that substitutes labias for women's lips.

Upstairs, a crowd of people sits on the floor in a semicircle. Most of them are young Lower Haight hipsters who are too busy smoking cigarettes and looking purposefully apathetic to be much interested in Leyba and his bleeding chest. Even so, the Angry Indian carries on. A striking, bare-assed girl in thigh-high leather boots joins Leyba in the center of a large pentagram painted on the floor. The safety-conscious vixen carefully removes all lit candles from the floor -- being sure to lift her gauzy shirt just out of flame's reach -- and helps Leyba into a 4-foot-high hood that is an adaptation of the traditional Mescalero devil dancer headdress. Blind and bound, Leyba stands at the girl's mercy as she deftly inserts two needles beneath his pectorals. She smiles and dips her finger in the blood, bringing it to Leyba's mouth for a taste. His tongue flickers and the girl saunters away, leaving Leyba to careen about as he oh-so poignantly tries to escape from the headdress. The crowd applauds politely. A clean-faced couple in matching disco costumes pulls out a flier to consult the program.

"All right," heaves Leyba as he stumbles back into the center of the pentagram, blood caking his chest. "Let's cut the crap." Two women with long, dark pigtails and 6-inch heels stroll onstage as they don rubber gloves. Leyba turns his back to the crowd and the ladies instantly set to work carving a "sacred and profane" design in his flesh with a pair of scalpels. In the audience, a woman dressed as a Victorian courtesan yawns and pulls a stack of vacation photos from her handbag. Blood streams down Leyba's spine. The crowd applauds politely. One of the women in charge of the scalpels leads Leyba to a table in the back of the room that serves as an altar. She rips off her underwear and rubs Leyba's head in her crotch. He kneels subserviently, waiting as the woman urinates into his fresh wounds. Women in the audience let out little whoops of glee. The crowd applauds. The piss goddess finds a shallow bowl on the altar and collects the blood and urine streaming off Leyba's back. Kneeling at her feet, he drinks it. A young dreadlocked man sitting in the front row lights a cigarette and caresses his girlfriend's cheek. He looks around the room with studied ironic detachment.

Leyba stumbles to his feet. His eyes are feverish. Sweat clings to his face. "The white man brought whiskey. The whiskey rite goes back seven generations. An Apache friend of mine always used to warn me about old rule Number 7."

The piss goddess strides into the ring with a large bottle of Jack Daniel's strapped to her groin. She uncaps the bottle, spilling whiskey on the floor. The sharp scent of alcohol mingles with the organic smell of blood and sweat. She bends Leyba over and wipes the blood off of his back with a cloth before grabbing him by his hair. She sodomizes him without restraint, a fiendish smile playing across her face. The dreadlocked man takes a drag off of his cigarette. The piss goddess spins Leyba around, forcing the bottle into his mouth. He drinks. She sodomizes him again and offers the bottle to the crowd. David Aaron Clark, one of the night's earlier readers, takes a large swig. Danielle Willis finds her way to the bottle as well. Murmurs of "Hail Satan" fill the air. A young goth leaning against the back wall squares his shoulders and proves his worth in shots. Other audience members follow. Finally, a smattering of applause allows the female performers to take awkward bows. The blase crowd sets to discussing what fabulous party they will or will not be attending later that night. With an anticlimactic spurt of energy, Willis takes the center of the ring and begins reading from her latest novel. "This is about a very bored vampire who doesn't like to think about anything except getting high," she mewls. The crowd disperses with Halloween good-wishes.

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By Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor


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