“He had one picture pinned to the wall: a grotesque portrait of himself as a special Olympian…”
Leviathan Darkside, Pontius Autopilate, and Phone Sex With Stephen Hawking
Getting acquinted with the underground writer and personality known as Lev Six
A first-person recollection by Zack Wentz
Photos are from the personal Facebook of Lev Six. His current public feed is HERE.
I first came into contact with Lev Six in 2000, maybe as late as 2001. Back then he was better known as Leviathan Darkside. We somehow got in touch, I think over a cult song that was circulating online called “Phone Sex With Stephen Hawking,” which was every bit as twisted as you can imagine. Hopefully more so. This was before MySpace, and the online music world was much less streamlined, more genuinely anarchic.
He released his music as Pontius Autopilate, and that was one of his most notorious, passed-around tracks. The PA work struck me as an odd mix of early Devo, artists like Foetus, Negativeland, maybe Tit Wrench, and something I couldn’t really put my finger on. It was sick stuff, strategically designed to both upset and amuse, and insidiously catchy. Subversive and homemade, but not just noise. He knew his way around a hook.
If I wrote to him about anything he would get back with thousands of words about as quickly as the miserable computer I owned at that time could be refreshed. Always very tidy, grammatically correct, but extremely intense, compressed, and wickedly funny. It was hard to tell what was serious and what was a joke. Often hard to tell if he knew. All over the idiomatic map. Obscure occult references interlacing insider breakdowns of various bureaucratic institutions, punctuated with offhand pop culture gags, and tied up with some odd bit of theoretical physics or ancient history.
He was one of the first “trolls” I knew of, well before the term was part of the common vernacular. It wasn’t just for “LOLZ” either. This was the kind of activity Anonymous is well known for now: pranks that were really designed to demolish organizations from the inside. I remember he was dealing with some fairly dangerous people, neo-Nazis, KKK nuts, infiltrating their chat rooms, first enticing, then dominating them socially, and when he had them eating out of his virtual palm, pulling the rug out, ravaging their online bonds by exposing them to each other as hypocritical saps. He did mess with plenty of harmless folks, Golden Girls fan clubs, and such. Sometimes you felt guilty for laughing.
I remember an odd phase he went through, composing bizarre porn screenplays around old Stephen J. Cannell/Glenn A. Larson type shows. The really off ones like Automan and Manimal. Hysterical stuff. Seemed to have endless energy for any stray idea, high-brow, low-brow, whatever. Went at it all with the same manic gusto.
He was always very generous with his words, but who he was and what he did was more than a bit mysterious. I remember once getting the idea that he possibly worked for some sort of intelligence program. Some kind of dis-info unit. Could have been the case, for all I know. I asked him, and he laughed it off, but still didn’t quite answer. I did gather that he had once worked inside Wall Street, the really nasty business, and was also intimately familiar with a wide variety of illegal substances, although in what capacity was left ambiguous.
It was a long time before I actually met him in person. Actually took a long time just to learn that he was located somewhere in Philadelphia. The band I was in was starting to tour nationally on a regular basis, and he offered to house us when were in his neck of the woods. The next time we were in Philly we put him on the list, and at the end of the show a very pale man in dark clothes, slicked-back black hair, came up to the stage smiling impishly. He looked like a cross between a young Christian Slater and a Secret Service agent, and although he talked much like he wrote, his words were delivered in sort of arch drawl. Say if Jack Nicholson had to play William Burroughs. He had a handful of pet words he used in strange ways, like “flipper.” They would get stuck in your head, and then you’d find yourself using them, as if he was teaching you his language subliminally.
The house he was living in was quite a ways outside of downtown Philly, in an upscale neighborhood. Big place, immaculately kept, but seemingly empty. He had a room upstairs that was almost more like a kind of temporary office, or monk’s cell. Very Spartan. Just a bed, chair, desk, computer, half-dozen or so thick books, guitar, and a synthesizer. He had one picture pinned to the wall: a grotesque portrait of himself as a special Olympian, playing basketball from a wheelchair.
He had bought us a lot of beer and some whiskey, made us food, an excellent host. The only thing he seemed to share the house with was a fish that lived in a bowl in the kitchen, and he was especially attentive to it. The rooms he set us up with didn’t seem to belong to anyone. Guest rooms, but not dusty or stale. All with fresh bedding, as if a spectral maid had just done them up, but no sign of regular occupation.
I remember the sound of him typing well into the night, and he was still typing when I woke up. I don’t know that he ever slept, which explained a lot. When we emerged from the rooms, he offered us breakfast. A lot of the whiskey was gone, and everything again was nice and clean.
I still have no idea who the house belonged to, but it seemed better not to ask at the time. As if it might be safer not to know. Probably was safer not to know.
[Editor’s notes: Lev Six will be releasing a fictional account about a female android prostitute that takes place in the far flung future wherein she takes part in the second American revolution. He’s described his writing here as being “very tight like an android prostitute.” Zack Wentz runs an online literary journal at New Dead Families and lives in domestic bliss with his wife and cats in Sherman Heights, a neighborhood of San Diego. He and Mrs Wentz sometimes play in their band, The Dabbers, around San Diego and elsewhere.]