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By Suzanne Bohan
MONTE RIO -- The Bohemian Club's Annual Summer Encampment came to a close here Sunday, ending a two-week retreat for the rich and powerful that President Herbert Hoover once called "the greatest men's party on Earth." The club's famed annual gathering has been held for more than 100 years at the 2,700-acre Bohemian Grove in Monte Rio, about 70 miles north of San Francisco in Sonoma County. This year's event drew in notables such as former President George Bush, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, retired Gen. Colin Powell, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Dow Chemical Chairman Frank Popoff, as well as actor Danny Glover.
The men gather to celebrate what they call "the spirit of Bohemia," said Peter Phillips, a Sonoma State University sociology professor who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Bohemian Club.
"This is a place men can go and hang out with people who are similar to them," he said.
The annual gathering near the Russian River, which was first held in 1879, starts with the "Cremation of Care" ritual, in which the club's mascot is burned in effigy, symbolizing a freedom from care. Members also perform several plays, and gourmet food and expensive wine are plentiful.
While the club was formed in 1872 by a group of San Francisco journalists, the male-only club now bars journalists from membership to protect the group's privacy. Membership is coveted, and people routinely wait 10 or 15 years before gaining admittance. There are currently about 2,700 members.
The club has drawn criticism for years because of its emphasis on privacy. What particularly concerns Phillips and others are the "Lakeside Talks" held during the summer retreat. This year, Powell was expected to deliver a talk titled "America's Promise Leading Armies and Leading Kids," and Popoff, of Dow Chemical, was to give a speech called "Environmental Journey."
"These are often public policy speeches," said Mary Moore, with Bohemian Grove Action Network, a protest group. "And the American public is not privy to it."
No one from the club returned several calls from The Bee.
Bohemian Grove Action Network has periodically held demonstrations at the grove, although none were held this year.
The point of the protests, Moore said, has been "to let the American public know that what they've learned in civics isn't the full story on how decision-making . . . is made in this country." The Bohemian Club, she said, "is one of the most elite organizations on the planet."
When the group sponsors public policy talks that are held without public scrutiny, "the average American feels left out of the process," she said.
Phillips echoes Moore's objections to the off-the-record nature of the Lakeside Talks.
"These are extremely powerful people and private discussions on policy issues that affect us certainly go against democratic principles," he said. "There's no reason that those speeches they're giving couldn't be transcribed and made public. They have a responsibility to be open about it."
From The Sacramento Bee http://www.sacbee.com/news/news/local11_19990802.html
Big wheels al fresco
THE Bohemian Grove is, properly, the Midsummer Encampment of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco which takes place for two weeks during each July in a redwood grove outside Monte Rio, a small town in Sonoma County in northern California. 'The Grove' gets part of its character from the traditional interests of the club, which was founded in 1872 by San Franciscans with an artistic bent. Thus each year two plays are put on, one serious, one musical; both are written, produced and performed by members of the club.
There are frequent concerts given by the club's orchestra, its band, and countless smaller groups, as well as performances on the organ, the Grove's 100 or more pianos and by visiting musicians brought in as guests. All performances are outdoors.
The other notable feature of the Grove is its concentration of big cheeses. Tycoons (nearby Santa Rosa airport is jammed with executive jets), leading academics, lawyers, entertainers and politicians (particularly Republican ones) all meet to relax, enjoy each other's company and - despite the Grove's motto, 'Weaving spiders come not here' - to help make the world go round. Thus, it was at the Grove, it is said, that the Manhattan project was set up and that Eisenhower was selected as the Republicans' candidate for 1952.
Although anyone is eligible, so long as he is a man, most Bohemians are Californians. And in recent years, with so many Californians in government, the Grove has often seemed to swarm with members of the administration. Movers and shakers enjoy the Grove for its informality (old clothes, no ties), relaxation (long walks in the 2,700 wooded acres, swimming in the Russian river), dominoes, entertainment (no televisions, hi-fis or radios, but music all day long somewhere), limitless drink and excellent food. Most people sleep in tents, some singly in luxury, with beds and electric blankets; others communally, in less comfort. Yet the Grove takes itself seriously and has its serious side. Thus lectures are given daily, one generally on a scientific theme (by the Grove's museum), one or perhaps two on wider issues by the Lake. They may be given by a member (say, Mr Henry Kissinger or Mr David Packard) or by a guest (say, Mr Helmut Schmidt or Mr Maynard Jackson).
The club has a long waiting list, despite the expense of joining it and paying its dues. It has 2,000 members, not all of whom go regularly to the Grove. Members are, however, allowed to invite guests, who tend to be people of similar background and interests. Thus one may meet an opera singer, a greenmailer or a former prime minister of Australia while thespians cavort.
Index of Bohemian Grove reportage http://www.sonic.net/~kerry/bohemian/index.html
Jets used by the Bohos http://www.sonic.net/~kerry/bohemian/jets.html
Nukes at Bohemian Grove - http://www.sonic.net/~kerry/bohemian/grovenukes.html
Bohemian Club and other research http://www.4rie.com/
Various powerful cabalistic groups http://www.4rie.com/secretsocieties.html
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