Friday, July 12, 2013

Protesting at the Grove

Hot July on the Russian River. Land of bathers and boaters. Land of barbecues and Bohemians. Resort towns and summer homes abound on the river from Forestville, Rio Nido, Guerneville, Monte Rio, Duncan's Mills, to Jenner.

The Russian River is also summer home to the Bohemian Grove encampment, sponsored by San Francisco's Bohemian Club, a private men's enclave, founded in 1872. The club's mascot is an owl, and their motto is "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here." The idea is that you leave your cares behind.

Imagine upwards of 3,000 big-wig male guests descending upon an old sawmill and camping out. That's the Bohemian Grove encampment. The Bohemian Club guest list has included every Republican and some Democratic presidents since 1923, and myriad cabinet officials. Add CEOs of large corporations, oil magnates, financial institutions, banks, military contractors, utilities commissions, and the national media. Let's just say a whole lot of in-bed friendships are forged at the Grove.

Weaving spiders come not here—inscription with an owl mascot on a bronze plaque at Taylor & Post Streets, San Francisco
Members of the once arty Bohemian Club were comprised of journalists, painters, pianists, and poets. Now, membership is comprised of local and global leaders, politicians, and businessmen—who are entertained by the Bohemians—those self-same artists and musicians who originally founded the club.

Bohemian tent, 1900s, Porter Garnett, George SterlingJack London —Wiki

Summer camping in the North Bay is a fine old San Francisco tradition. In fact, most city folks moved en masse to the river for the summer. (Probably trying to escape the fog.) Grand hotels like the Monte Rio, were vast summer palaces. The river was jammed from shore to shore, from beginning to end, with campers.

The first Bohemian Club campout was at Taylorville (Samuel P. Taylor State Park), in West Marin, a little over a hundred years ago, in 1878. That's right down the creek from where I grew up on the Lagunitas/Forest Knolls border.

The Bohemian Club campout began as a rousing thespian send-off for founding member, Henry "Harry" Edwards, a stage actor (and entomologist) headed for the New York stage. The liquor flowed wild and free, men flubbed their lines, a rousing good time was had by all, and a hundred drunken men slept it off under the redwoods. It's amazing the Japanese paper lanterns didn't burn the place down. Harry went east, but such a good time was had by all, thespian camping became an annual tradition without Harry.

Why Camp Taylor, you might ask? The name of the creek should give you a broad hint: Papermill. Rags from the city arrived by train, watermills pulped them into paper, which was sent back to the city for the newspapers, mint currency and so on. The Bohemian Club was founded by newspapermen.

Because of train access, Camp Taylor was also a popular summer destination and so many folks camped all along the length of Papermill (or Lagunitas) Creek during the summer, it was a zoo. (And a cesspool, too, I would imagine.)

When the Bohemian Club's camp outgrew Camp Taylor, it moved south to Muir Woods in the 1900s, where it picked up the moniker Bohemian Grove. (There's a plaque for that.) The Bohemian Club scouted out new locations along the Russian River, and moved summer camp to a redwood stand at Duncan's Mills, near the mouth of the Russian River, before settling permanently in the Meeker Sawmill in Monte Rio in 1893. 

The Bohemian Grove, is a 2700-acre encampment with permanent dwellings. It's also the screening site for potential new members nominated during Spring Jinks, in June. Forty-year members, called "The Old Guard," are the gatekeepers.

What began as Midsummer High Jinks, the Bohemian Club's cultural centerpiece, where poems were once recited, songs sung, and dramatic readings given under the redwood trees, has, over the decades, devolved into the spawning ground of global politics.
The Owl Shrine and the lake— a man-made pond. —Wiki

The Bohemian Grove's annual commencement ceremony, a theatrical production, the Cremation of Care, commemorates the burning of an effigy of "Dull Care" on an altar of a 40-foot stucco owl, by hooded Druids, kicks off the encampment. Instead of allegorically banishing worldly cares, and the informal "Lakeside Talks," have fostered an abuse of political power. Guest speakers have included Henry Kissinger to Helmut Kohl. The virtues of lyric poetry was the farthest thing from their minds.

A dress rehearsal for the 1909 Grove PlaySt. Patrick at Tara —Wiki
Maynard Dixon's illustration of the 1909 Grove Play St. Patrick at Tara, the spirit of Irish hero Cuchulainn appears to Saint Patrick among the Redwoods. —Wiki

The Grove is a place where many political webs are spun, and it's the birthplace of warmongering projects from the Manhattan Project, to the Gulf War, and the invasion of Iraq. Policies made inside the Grove affect the outside world. The decision to drop the A-bomb on Hiroshima was made at the Grove.

Cremation of Care in 1907 -Wiki
The twin Bohemias: I grew up in Forest Knolls, and came of political age in Forestville. I traded one forest for another, but unlike many a frequent Grove camper, peeing on the trees—like Governor Reagan who famously quipped, "If you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all," I could see the forest and the trees. Some pretty tall Paul Bunyon tales got their bullish start at the Grove by leaving the Babe home. Some say more like Moloch.

Babe the Blue Ox, Trees of MysteryKlamath, CA —Wiki

Fishing for stories, Paper reporter, Simone Wilson and I once posed as hookers at the Northwoods Lodge as the Boho campers furiously slaked themselves on our side of the river. There were FBI (replete in pencil pants and white socks, just like in the movies) and infamous San Francisco hookers. Only there were no cameras that night. Stealth cameras, maybe.

Frowsy redheaded Rose, the madam, carrying on the Barbary Coast tradition of prostitution during the 1980s, refreshed her lipstick in the mirror, looked me in the eye and said: I don't know who you gals are working for, but there's a bust going down tonight. 

I was oddly flattered that Rose thought I was the real deal, but then, my mom once worked for Sally Stanford at The Valhalla —as a cocktail waitress. I had the best models.

Margo St. James of COYOTE spoke to our Women's Studies class at College of Marin in the early 70s, and I've read poetry with Carol Leigh AKA Scarlot Harlot, who coined the term, sex worker. So I could namedrop and not blow my cover.

Should I have confessed to Rose that I was working undercover, not under the covers? (The S&L bust was coming to a head at Manu Khomeini's lodge. Yes, a nephew. The family jewels reached that far.)

Earlier that day, Marin poet Karla Anderdatter of The Butterfly Tree, drove up from Muir Beach and met us on the Monte Rio Bridge for a protest staged outside the Grove as the campers drove in. 

Camp Meeker's Mary Moore, a former beauty queen, and founder of the Bohemian Grove Action Network, and SoNoMore Atomics, rallied us on the bullhorn, declaring it a "Weapons-Free Zone" as the Bohemians barrelled through the gate.

Mary's encampment (founded ca. 1980) outside the gates to the Grove, and counter-ceremony was called the "Resurrection of Care," as a foil to the Cremation of Care. It was a reverse exorcism of the Demons. Mary rightly surmised that club members with corporate interests adversely influenced government.

The year when the Chancellor of West Germany Helmut Kohl was guest speaker (I'm still trying to anchor the date—ca, 1982-85), rent-a-cops were brought it. Things quickly got ugly. With camera in hand, I documented the event for The Paper, but they came for me too. As I outran the law, I was clubbed from behind between the shoulder blades. 

Judi Bari of Earth First! fame, was one of the eco-activists who worked for the alternative newspaper, generically called The Paper, (later dubbed The West County Paper, then the Sonoma County Independent. Now it's The North Bay Bohemian). Talk about full circle! 

They're mostly all gone now, these wild wolf women. Somewhere I have the negatives to prove it. Somewhere.

Someone asked: did we cross the river? We did the next best thing, we went skinny-dipping, and Bohos came over to our side of the river to slake their thirst. The famous optometrist returning from Russia. Nothing wrong with his eyes. Leering at our young flesh, he fed us the news in drips and drabs.

There were many allegedly said's in Simone's news story on Helmut Kohl's Lakeside Chat. Me—I hardly knew who he was. I was always finding out the facts after the fact. But I was the photographer. No big deal.

That night, while we were angling for more story at the oasis, someone asked: would you like to go into the Grove? A US Olympic swimmer, friend of Mark Spitz, was working there as a Camp Valet. (I don't remember which camp. Owl?) So, I dropped my cover and we blew the joint.

What was his name: Mike Stamm? He broke a world record for the backstroke. He also could've been lying. Pre-internet. Somewhere I have notes. Somewhere. He took me quite a ways into the grove after midnight. Not much to see in the dark. A large parking lot. Lights in the distance. Some passionate kissing in the back seat.

Manhattan Project —Wiki

Perhaps the lights I saw were of the Clubhouse designed by Bernard Maybeck the site of the 1942 Manhattan Project planning meeting. The top secret project that would lay claim my mother's first cousin's personal life, and then, later, her life, via cancer. Certainly, they were ghosts.

Not much to tell, it was during the early 1980s, AIDS was still undercover, so I took my Olympic swimmer home. He was sleek as a seal. We did the backstroke and the butterfly and the breaststroke. No speedos were harmed in the process. I dropped him off at the gates at dawn. Was I sleeping with the enemy?

All that water under the bridge.


The Bohemian Grove Action Network hijacked by conspiracy theorists again For more than 30 years, the Bohemian Grove Action Network has disseminated information about the summer meeting of the political and financial elite of the world. They've also held protests at the gates of the yearly gathering, with a hiatus here and there. But the name has been hijacked, says longtime activist Mary Moore.
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Conan O'Brien highlight secretive Bohemian Grove gathering Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and comedian Conan O'Brien, the former “Tonight Show” host, will be among the featured speakers at the Bohemian Grove encampment of rich and powerful men under the redwoods in Monte Rio.Up to 2,500 Bohemian Club members and their guests will attend the all-male encampment that opened Thursday and runs through July 28, all in complete secrecy behind the gates of the San Francisco-based club's 2,700-acre enclave along the Russian River.

Veteran activist Mary Moore sets her sights on Bohemian Club again June 23rd, 2012 Moore, 76, is reviving her Bohemian Grove Action Network to stage — in collaboration with the Occupy movement and about 20 other groups — an event called “Creation of Care” from noon to 4 p.m. July 14 at the Monte Rio Amphitheatre. The “m” dropped from cremation to spell creation “stands for murder and money,” Moore said.

Groovin' at the Grove July 12-18, 2001— The Bohemian Grove is a prime example of how America's power elite make crucial decisions about the world behind an anti-democratic veil of secrecy. It's as much about serious thinking as it is about serious drinking. "If they're just up there getting drunk and peeing on trees and all that, I don't care," Moore says. "It's what their policies are on the outside that affects you and me. That's what we're trying to bring to the public's attention."

The Boho Blog (a blogroll of all things Boho—with links that date back to 2008) For over 30 years, West County activist Mary Moore and the Bohemian Grove Action Network protested outside the Bohemian Grove as the elite of the world’s financial, government, corporate and military systems paraded in for “lakeside chats,” morning gin fizzes, drag performances, infamous “Cremation of Care” ceremonies and the chummy camaraderie of being comfortably in the 1 percent.

The Bohemian Grove Action Network hijacked by conspiracy theorists again For more than 30 years, the Bohemian Grove Action Network has disseminated information about the summer meeting of the political and financial elite of the world. They've also held protests at the gates of the yearly gathering, with a hiatus here and there. But the name has been hijacked, says longtime activist Mary Moore.

Remembering Nick Valentine & Phil Osborn at The Paper My blog on Nick and working at The Paper.

Note Bene: This piece began as a tiny Facebook post by Dave Hambly (whom I don't know) in a group, You know you are from Marin when... and a photo of the Bohemian Grove encampment at Muir Woods — and, well, one thing led to another. Too rich a vein not to mine. I never know where I'll get the inspiration for my next blog entry. They come unbidden. I write in order to put it all in perspective. Living within the times makes it difficult to write about it with any long-distance perspective.

The Karla Andersdatter story may have happened at another Boho sit-in, I don't recall. I covered it several years running. But it doesn't change to contest of the story. If I ever get back into my journals, I can amend dates. But the rest of the events were when Kohl visited Sonoma County. That's why Nick Valentine sent us off to sniff out a story.

I've spent hours gleaning over Olympic records, and Mike Stamm is the only one who fits the profile. He worked for the owners of the Cocoran Gallery. We corresponded for a while. So there are letters. Someday, I'll get all the bits in order. I never expected to be writing about this stuff in my old age. I would've taken better notes.

I see people are reading this piece and I haven't even finished it, I'm just now beginning my 2nd edit—structure, my darlings, structure is everything! So bear with me as I hammer & tong this piece into shape....

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