"THERE'S MY HECATE EYE, THE BEST-KEPT SECRET": FIRST EDITION OF HOLLYWOOD BABYLON II, INSCRIBED BY KENNETH ANGER TO HIS FRIEND, TRENDSETTING CALIFORNIA PAINTER RENATE DRUKS, WITH SIGNED AUTOGRAPH LETTERS FROM ANGER TO DRUKS AND FROM DRUKS TO ANGER MENTIONING DRUKS' PAINTING, ANGER'S FILMS, AND THEIR MUTUAL FRIEND, ANAÏS NIN
ANGER, Kenneth. Hollywood Babylon II. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1984. Large octavo, original half cream cloth, pictorial endpapers, original dust jacket. $1500.
First edition of experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger's salacious guide to Hollywood, chronicling real and imagined scandals involving actors from the 1920s to the 1970s, inscribed on the half title to his friend, California painter and gadabout Renate Druks: "For Renate ever the Enchantress. With affection, Kenneth," with a signed autograph letter from Anger to Druks thanking her for a book by her friend, Anaïs Nin, and complimenting Druks' paintings and with an additional signed autograph letter from Druks thanking Anger for his book and thanking him again for letting her use two minutes from his short film "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome" for a documentary.
The sequel to Anger's controversial and oft-banned Hollywood Babylon (1962), Hollywood Babylon II (1984) expanded on "detailed hushed celebrity scandals from the silent-film era through the late 60s. Some critics have cast doubt on claims made in the book, but who are they to say they know better? They weren't there. And before the existence of societal scourges like People, TMZ, and Us Weekly, it was much easier for famous people to get away with sordid deeds" (Medium). From drinking to drugs to sex, Hollywood Babylon II traces the exploits of the rich and famous through even longer stories and even richer photographic detail. This copy is inscribed to Renate Druks, an accomplished painter. Druks was close friends with Anger. During the middle of the 20th century, Druks was caught up in a relationship with Paul Mathison, a bisexual painter and fellow member of the avant garde scene. Druks and Mathison's Malibu home became a well-known gathering place for like-minded artists and intellectuals. Together, Druks and Mathison would throw elaborate themed parties attended by friends such as John Houseman, Henry Miller, and Anaïs Nin. Druks and Nin grew especially close following an introduction by Mathison. Nin wrote about Druks extensively in her diaries and used her as inspiration for the main character in the 1964 novel Collages. In fact, Druks inspired many, including Anger, who cast her as Lilith in the 1954 film "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome." ("Enchantress" in the inscription likely refers to this role.) The film was loosely based on a "Come as Your Madness" Halloween party held at the Druks' home. Nin and Anger also acted in the film. In 1973, Druks' own film was nominated for a Short Film Palme d'Or, putting her film work on par with Anger's. Also present are two signed autograph letters, one from Anger to Druks and one from Druks to Anger. The first letter, written in bold purple marker on a single half sheet (8- by 5-inches) of unlined cream stationery with an address label at the top, reads: "Dear Renate, Many thanks for the copy of 'Portrait in Three Dimensions.' Love the cover collage—there's my Hecate eye, the best-kept secret—and your paintings are superb! Love, Kenneth." Portrait in Three Dimensions is a book by Anaïs Nin featuring Druks' collages which drew on images from her famous parties. Anger played Hecate, a Greek goddess, in "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome." The Hecate's eye Anger mentions is likely a double-edged reference to his own eye in the cover collage and to an early cult that built shrines to Hecate to watch over doorways and entrances. The other letter, undated and written on a 6- by 9-inch sheet of lined paper, reads: "Dear Kenneth, Many thanks for your extraordinary 'Hollywood Babylon.' Of beauty and its death, of fame and its despair. & once again thank you for permitting me to use 2 minutes from 'Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome.' I am beginning a video collage documentary of my friendship with AN [Anaïs Nin]. A visual memoir told through memorabilia I collected. Love, Renate." Druks does not appear to have ever completed such a documentary.
Book with only slight toning to edges, dust jacket with only light wear to extremities. Mild toning to edges of Anger letter with writing faded to mauve along left side. Very slight toning and soiling to Druks letter. An exceptional near-fine copy with significant provenance, most desirable with signed autograph letters.