Devil in Disguise

Satan's Helper Takes Credit for a Good Man's Music

According to Schreck, she's dealt with an endless list of untruths—ranging from La Vey's name to his Gypsy heritage; from his secret indoctrination as a 15-year-old into a German Satanic cabal to his teen-runaway traveling-circus years; and on and on, all the way down to the Montalba records. In the late '80s, it turns out, a devil-worshiping disciple who discovered the Montalba records and noticed a similarity in style to La Vey's playing had asked Lucifer's right-hand man if these records were really him. Never one to miss an opportunity to add more sparkle to his growing legacy, La Vey claimed that he indeed had recorded the albums in Nice, France, during a brief visit in the late '50s. (The fictional bio on the back of the original Montalba albums claimed they were recorded in Nice in '57 and '58. And if this whole masquerade ball weren't confusing enough, Ben Hall—a famous Greenwich Village organ archivist, who was the rumored author of the liner notes—also claimed to have been the infamous George Montalba.) When Schreck tried to explain to devotees that, per her mother's verification of time lines, there was no way these records were her father's, she was met with scorn. This final straw led Schreck to excommunicate herself from the Church.

Since 1989, Schreck had been trying to find out who George Montalba really was. Then last year, Schreck mysteriously received an e-mail from someone named Toby Dammit, claiming to know the real truth about George Montalba. It was utterly baffling to Dammit how a man with such an elaborate career as Robert Hunter could all but vanish. But after countless dead ends, Dammit's search eventually narrowed down to Hunter's ex-wife, who said the aging organist was now ill and alone, in a Burbank nursing home.

As a lonely man waiting to die, who could no longer walk or play music and who had long resigned himself to total obscurity, Robert Hunter was stunned when he heard from Dammit: out of the blue, a call from a stranger who knew every aspect of his life, and who wanted to release a CD documenting his forgotten music career. Aware that Hunter had recently been diagnosed with cancer, Dammit was anxious to fly westward and give Hunter a copy of the disc—and finally meet the spunky and cantankerous retired master in person.

At this time, Dammit also became close to Hunter's family, who completely supported the reissue project. While awaiting manufacture of the CD for the European release shortly before he was to leave for California, Dammit received an e-mail notifying him that Robert Hunter had passed away, at age 72, on September 10, 2001. Dammit flew out to California and met Hunter's family, who took him to the wake and to a memorial concert held in Hunter's honor by the church he'd played organ in for most of his life. Besides being grateful for the opportunity to document Hunter's musical career with the Montalba re-release (after nearly 40 years out of print), Dammit promised Hunter and his family that this CD should finally put an end to all of the Montalba nonsense—and in particular, the fraudulent satanic collectibles.

So shortly before his death, a deeply religious Christian who performed for several presidents not only was granted the self-satisfaction of knowing his music would be remembered, but was faced for the first time with that music's twisted history. Weeks earlier, he'd never even heard of the Church of Satan.

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