This week’s entry: Bohemian Grove
What it’s about: Ah, the old campground. Hiking through the woods, singing songs around the campfire, crushing the proletariat under your boot, and other hijinks. Yes, Bohemian Grove is a campground, but not just any campground. The Northern California camp is operated by a private club whose membership contains some of the richest and most powerful men in the world. These guys make the rich kids across the lake look like the scrappy underdogs on your side of the lake.
Biggest controversy: When we say powerful men, we mean men. Women are forbidden to join, and while family members are allowed to visit the Grove, women and children must leave the property by 9 or 10 p.m. The Grove was sued for discrimination and took the fight to keep its He-Man Woman Haters Club intact all the way to the state Supreme Court. This club of billionaires made the legal argument that its members “urinate in the open without even the use of rudimentary toilet facilities,” and therefore they could not allow women to see such a sight, or, naturally, change their behavior in any way. The court ruled against them, but stopped short of insisting they admit female members, requiring them only to hire female employees, in a great blow for equality among wealthy people’s servants.
Not every male club member has been thrilled with the policy—former President (and Grove member) Richard Nixon was once recorded saying of the Grove—and this is a direct quote from the former president of the United States—“It is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine.” Just in case you thought Trump had a monopoly on slurs and uncivil behavior.
Strangest fact: Bohemian Grove is a theater camp. Every year, club members perform musical theater, written and composed by the members themselves. The camp has put on a show every year since 1902 (minus a three-year break for WWII). The 1975 show had an estimated budget of $20,000 to $30,000 (well over $100,000 in today’s money), and the performances can involve as many as 300 people. Somewhere there’s a billionaire captain of industry fondly reminiscing about the time he played a tree in a camp musical.
Thing we were happiest to learn: The Grove may have won World War II. While outside business is supposed to be left at the gate, the club’s bigwigs often make business and political deals at the resort (the club motto is “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here,” which is taken to mean that schemes are not welcome). However, the group made an exception for one scheme in particular—the Manhattan Project, which had an early meeting at the Grove. (Non-member J. Robert Oppenheimer was allowed to the camp for the occasion).
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: The club is trying to cut down some of its forest. The Grove is located in an old-growth redwood forest, which the Bohemians turned into a logging operation, producing 11 million board feet of lumber between 1984 and 2007. The club claims logging is necessary to thin out the forest and prevent fires, but several experts have pointed out that redwoods are particularly resistant to fire, so that justification is flimsy. At present, the club is prohibited from logging, pending a lawsuit by the Sierra Club.
Also noteworthy: One of the few outsiders who has been inside the Grove is conspiracy theory nutcase and all around horrible person Alex Jones. Jones and a cameraman snuck into the Grove in 2000, and later described their experiences in a Channel 4 documentary, The Secret Rulers Of The World. Based on his description, the documentary’s host said, “My lasting impression was of an all-pervading sense of immaturity… These people might have reached the apex of their professions, but emotionally they seemed trapped in their college years.”
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: Bohemian Grove has been depicted in fiction several times, at times more fictionalized than others. In one episode of Lucy, The Daughter Of The Devil, the Grove hosted a human sacrifice to Satan himself, played by H. Jon Benjamin. Our greatest living voice actor has had a remarkably varied career, which Wikipedia thoroughly documents, from his current gigs as the voices of both Sterling Archer and Bob Belcher to the stretch a few years ago when he was doing voice work for both WordGirl and Assy McGee.
Further down the Wormhole: The Bohemian Club’s spider-themed motto comes from Shakespeare, specifically act two, scene two of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Wikipedia’s “Fantasy Fiction” category is broad enough to cover both the Bard’s most surreal comedy and the fandom surrounding Harry Potter. The Potter community includes everything from extensive cosplay to Black Hermione fan art to Deathly Hallows symbol tattoos to fan fiction. Some of the best Potter fan fic has been given the blessing of J.K. Rowling herself, but the best-known piece may be the worst. In 2006, a bafflingly awful story called My Immortal appeared on FanFiction.net, and quickly gained renown as one of the worst pieces of fan fiction ever written. We’ll suffer through a punishment worthy of Dolores Umbridge when we read through it next week.