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A far more successful piece of public relations was a respectful overview of the Temple that appeared in the defunct Colorado Music Magazine in 1992. Its author was Boyd Rice, who immediately felt a kinship with the Partridges. And no wonder: Boyd is both an internationally recognized musician (his credits include electronic-music albums released under the name Non) and the official spokesperson for the Church of Satan, a loose amalgamation formed around Anton LaVey, the reclusive author of The Satanic Bible. Boyd, who proudly uses the Partridge surname whenever he's participating in Temple events, sees no contradiction between his promotion of these two seemingly disparate organizations. "They're both religions of the flesh," he says. "And they're both about the here and now."

Through Boyd, the Temple founders were introduced to Adam Parfrey, a journalist who's written about fringe groups for publications such as the Village Voice. Parfrey also owns Portland, Oregon's Feral House publishing company, best known for putting out Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr., a biography by Rudolph Grey on which the film Ed Wood was based. Parfrey's latest project is Cult Rapture, which focuses on millennial phenomena--bizarre groups (the Partridge Family Temple among them) that Parfrey sees as typifying a societal and cultural decline accelerated by the approach of the 21st century. Last year, while preparing an October 1994 museum exhibit that drew on similar themes for the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle, Parfrey naturally thought of the Temple. That's because, in Parfrey's words, "the idea behind the exhibit is that the art of cultists and apocalpytists is more interesting, more aesthetically charged, than the work of the usual creative painter."

In an effort to support this conclusion, Parfrey gave museum attendees the opportunity to view paintings from the brush of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, canvases by Rodney Vanworth that were created in collaboration with people gathered outside the Los Angeles courthouse where O.J. Simpson's pretrial hearing was taking place--and a display of Temple paraphernalia. Shaun traveled to Seattle for the premiere and was quoted in an Associated Press article on the presentation. He didn't even mind that the Temple's home was inadvertently referred to as Los Angeles. "That was the Manson family," he says. "Easy mistake to make."

This kind of flippancy is illustrative of the Temple's worldview. But Parfrey says, "I take them seriously. I take them seriously in the respect that they take what they do seriously. People can't go full-bore on something seven days a week for nearly seven years without some degree of seriousness."

Parfrey is convinced that the Partridge Family Temple fits just as well into the Cult Rapture concept as do other people and other groups he's included in the book. Among those, he says, are "militia groups, patriot groups, Bo Gritz, coprophiles, and this weird sex cult in San Diego where you have to be crippled or paraplegic to join. And there's also a cult of lonely, ugly girls, mainly from Southern California, who produce things called `slash fiction.' It's actually pornographic fiction based upon their fantasies about TV stars. In that respect, they have something in common with the Partridge Family."

Do these TV cults represent a trend? Before long, will doctrines celebrating, say, Bewitched, The Munsters or Me and the Chimp suddenly emerge and take the nation by storm? Parfrey knows better than to predict. But he does allow that "the exposure of the mind to ideas that are contrary or unusual is a good thing."

At Casa Bonita, the four Partridges clutch Parfrey's opinion to their bosoms. They repeatedly raise a flag designed to alert waitresses to service requests, ensuring that a parade of potential recruits beats a path to the platform. As the Reverend passes out stickers to one waitress, Giddle asks, "Is Bananas coming on soon?"

This is no casual query. Bananas is a gorilla (actually, a diver in a monkey suit) who appears in one of the skits that restaurant staffers perform at regular intervals. It's the Family's favorite Casa Bonita theatrical--and when an actress wearing safari duds steps onto a stage above the waterfall and begins shrieking that Bananas has escaped, a smile spreads across Reverend Dan's face. He thrusts his hands into a large duffel bag and emerges with a gorilla costume of his own (in his spare time, he performs at children's birthday parties, most often as Barney or a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger). The Reverend's Temple brethren shake with laughter as the actress, who's already made at least one pilgrimage to their table, shouts out her lines.

"Has anybody seen the gorilla?" she wails. "How about you, Partridge Family?"
At that moment, Reverend Dan pulls the costume's mask over his head, causing the actress to cry out in what seems like genuine shock, "Oh, my God! You're the gorilla!" She waves wildly at a fellow actor wearing matching safari garb and carrying a large butterfly net. "The gorilla is over there! The gorilla is over there!"

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts