Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Stone Age HAA The Holy MAA

Writing - Noise - Magic

Monday, February 10, 2014


Guest contributor Blaster of Reality returns this week for a book review:

Say You Love Satan (Dell, 1987) by David St. Clair recounts the 1984 murder of 17 year-old Gary Lauwer by Ricky "Acid King" Kasso. It was one of the most sensational crimes of the later part of the century and a gory snapshot of the darkness lurking under the surface of the materialistic, yuppie-infested early-mid 1980's. Kasso was a dropout/dirtbag-type kid who was heavily into heavy metal, drugs, and Satan. Story has it Kasso screamed "Say you love Satan!" as he stabbed the hapless Lauwer more than 17 times in the torso and face for $50 owed to Kasso by Lauwer over some stolen drugs.

Ricky Kasso graduated from smoking weed in the 5th grade to making regular forays into the Bronx to pick up much heavier stuff such as PCP and LSD by the time of the murder (remember, this the Bronx in the insanely violent '80's). The backdrop of this mayhem is the small, sleepy town of Northport, Long Island. It is a place inhabited by doctors and lawyers and business executives with one of the best school systems in the state of New York and resplendent with its own yacht club. It is the kind of place parents dream of raising their children in, with all the material comforts and middle/upper-middle class regalia one could ever dream of. Imagine a small, affluent town like Mentor circa '84 and you have a decent idea of what this Northport place is like. In Northport, parents are chronically absent from their children's lives and both parents and their teenage children suffer from a kind of selfish ennui and lack of concern for others (tons of kids knew Gary had been killed and knew where his body was but no on cared enough to tell the police for weeks).

It was also around the time of two developments that targeted youth. One was the "heavy metal witch-hunts" embodied by Tipper Gore and her PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) against bands such as W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister and…Sheena Easton (!) among others, culminating in congressional hearings on Capitol Hill and the resultant "parental warning" stickers for releases deemed to obscene. Also well underway was the ridiculous and ineffectual "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign of then-First Lady Nancy Reagan.

It was into this illusion of safety Richard Kasso came of age, oldest child of Dick and Lynn, and brother to 3 girls. By all accounts he had a relatively normal childhood growing up alongside lifelong friend James "Jimmy" Troiano, but he grew into a social misfit and outcast by the time he hits junior high, and is a regular drug user and fan of heavy metal as well as a chronic runaway. A chance encounter at a bookstore introduces him to Satanism, which is further fueled by his appetite for substances and the burgeoning '80's mall metal scene. References to heavy metal acts such as Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne abound (hate to see how these kids would have turned out if they had discovered say Venom or Slayer, but they were firmly mall metal), and the book is embedded with mini-love stories between both Troiano and a girl named Lucia and well as Kasso and the blonde-haired fellow dirtbag Debbie. Over time Ricky Kasso becomes a major player and pusher in the underage drug scene of Northport, earning himself a dedicated following of young burnouts (chief among them Jimmy Troiano) and the title  "Acid King." This, coupled with the special relationship he believes he has with his "main man" Satan, serve to give Kasso an inflated sense of egotism, invulnerability, and invincibility.

One night at a party, Lauwer steals some hits of mescaline out of the chest pocket of the sleeping Kasso, setting in motion a chain of events that would culminate with the brutal murder of Lauwer by Kasso in an area known by the name of Aztakea Forest during a PCP and mescaline-hazed hangout fest late one night. After unsuccessfully attempting to collect the monies owed for the mescaline, Kasso lures Lauwer into Aztakea Forest on the pretense of friendship and after some tense build-up, stabs Lauwer repeatedly while ordering him to "Say you love Satan!" Present at the time of the murder is both Jimmy Troiano (who was charged as an accomplice) and Albert Quinones (who agreed to testify in exchange for permanent immunity from prosecution). It was weeks later that the decomposed, eyeless, noseless, and lipless body of Gary Lauwer is discovered, only after an anonymous tip-off alerted the police that Lauwer had been murdered. Prior to that, Kasso had freely admitted, even boasted that he killed Lauwer, going as far as showing some of the local kids who ran with him the corpse. After being arrested for someone calling about them sleeping in their car parked illegally in the yacht club lot, they are taken in and charged with the murder.

We know how the story ends: Kasso is found hanged in his cell before the murder trial begins (he had repeatedly claimed he would kill himself if he ever went to jail). But in a lemony twist, Kasso's accomplice, 19 year-old Jimmy Troiano is found innocent by a jury after no one there that night could keep their story straight during testimony on account of being fried from drugs.

It is a suburban crime tale that has a unique '80's flavor to it as well as a quintessential American-ness at its core. It was a few years after the Amityville murders that also occurred on Long Island, and which also had a chilling alleged occult connection. It is a classic true crime story from the darkest depths of the Reagan era, a nightmare for the paranoid youth-haters of the time, but also a source of fascination for people who are interested in the depravity that could be associated with something as harmless as heavy metal tapes bought at the local mall. The story of the Acid King rips the facade off of American suburbia to expose the underlying horror beneath it and the vapid hypocrisy of 1980's America, and ultimately is a tale of the death of promise in the form of young Gary Lauwer and Ricky Kasso.

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