In midsummer the phones are often crowded. On July 21 of this year Henry Kissinger sat at one of them, chuffing loudly to someone — Sunshine, he called her, and Sweetie — about the pleasant distractions of his vacation in the forest. This morning we went bird-watching. Treasury Secretary at the time. George Shultz, the former secretary of State, wearing hiking boots, had listened while sitting under a tree.
Kissinger had lolled on the ground, distributing mown grass clippings across his white shirt, being careful not to set his elbow on one of the cigar butts squashed in the grass, and joking with a wiry, nut-brown companion. The woman on the line now asked about the friend. The two of them were camping in Mandalay, the most exclusive bunk site in the encampment, the one on the hill with the tiny cable car that carries visitors up to the compound. Meanwhile, Kissinger had been offering Rocard advice: No one was supposed to know he was peering up at ospreys and turkey vultures and hearing Soviet speakers along with former American secretaries of State and the present secretary of the Treasury.
And David Rockefeller too. Every summer for more than a century, the all-male Bohemian Club of San Francisco has led a retreat into a redwood forest 70 miles north of the city, four and a quarter square miles of rugged, majestic terrain that members consider sacred. The religion they consecrate is right-wing, laissez-faire and quintessentially western, with some Druid tree worship thrown in for fun. The often bizarre rites have elevated what was once a provincial club for San Franciscans embarrassed by the rude manners of the Wild West into the most exclusive club in the United States, with 2, members drawn from the whole of the American establishment and a waiting list 33 years long.
Th encampment has become the primary watering hole for Republican administration officials, defense contractors, press barons, old-line Hollywood figures, establishment intellectuals and a handful of German speaking men in lederhosen. Ronald Reagan and George Bush are members. Today the Grove is stocked with Reaganites. Former Defense secretary Caspar W.
Weinberger, former attorney general William French Smith and former Transportation secretary Drew Lewis are all members. At the encampment last July, Al Haig was there, along with three other former secretaries of State: Kissinger, Shultz and William P.
Rogers Rogers as a guest of former national security adviser William P. Big business shows up: Akers, Bechtel chairman S. Noted and hoary writers and personalities are members: Scenting power, press lords skip in from all over the country: Every spring for many years now, Bohemian Club presidents have formally summoned such men to the Grove with great effusion: The Sun is Once Again in the Clutches of the Lion, and the encircling season bids us to the forest — there to celebrate… the awful mysteries!
Find home again in the Grove! Burn CARE and hurl his ashes, whirling, from our glade! It was a good time to visit the Grove. While president he had avoided the Grove, a custom Nixon cemented in when he canceled a speech planned for the lakeside in the secret encampment after the press insisted on covering it.
For me, the trick was getting in. A guest card was out of the question: And my attempts to get a job as a waiter or a valet in one of the camps failed. In the end I entered by stealth. I might last three hours before they put me in the Santa Rosa jail for trespassing. One day I drove up to the front gate and got a daunting glimpse of what looked like the Grove sheriff, a barrel like figure in a Smokey the Bear hat.
A set of checkpoints like the Berlin Wall seemed to stretch out behind him. Moore agreed to help me get in, providing me with a sort of underground railroad. She put at my service a mountain guide who demanded only that I keep the methods he devised for me confidential.
He had a keen geographical sense and a girlfriend who described a plan to seed magic crystals at the Grove gates to make them open of their own accord so that Native American drummers could walk in. The sociologists who had studied the place were right; there was no real security. Reporters seeking to write about the Grove had rarely been inside, and then usually for only a few hours at a time, but I was determined to have a good, long look, so I took care to blend.
Thus equipped, I came and went on 7 days during the day encampment, openly trespassing in what is regarded as an impermeable enclave and which the press routinely refers to as a heavily guarded area.
I waited till my last day to bring one in. My imposture included misrepresenting myself in conversation with other campers, and my story kept changing as I learned more about how life inside was organized. I said I was a guest of Bromley camp, where unsortable visitors end up. At 33, 1 was one of the youngest Bohemians, but I was welcome almost as a policy matter. I used my real name. No one inside acted suspicious, but paranoia about the Grove seemed justified, and I brought along my own version of cyanide: Interol, a tranquilizer used by actors to counteract stage fright.
One day a member asked if I was related to a Bohemian named Jack Weiss. In this way I managed to drop in on the principal events of the encampment, right up to the final Saturday, July 29, As the magic hour of 9: The friend and I leaned closer. Then everyone hushed as a column of hooded figures carrying torches emerged solemnly from the woods yards away, bearing a corpse down to the water.
You know you are inside the Bohemian Grove when you come down a trail in the woods and hear piano music from amid a group of tents and then round a bend to see a man with a beer in one hand and his penis in the other, urinating into the bushes. This is the most gloried-in ritual of the encampment, the freedom of powerful men to pee wherever they like, a right the club has invoked when trying to fight government anti-sex discrimination efforts and one curtailed only when it comes to a few popular redwoods just outside the Dining Circle.
Tacked to one of these haplessly postprandial trees is a sign conveying the fairy-dust mixture of boyishness and courtliness that envelops the encampment: No pee pee here! Everything in the encampment is sheltered by redwoods, which admit hazy shafts of sunlight, and every camp has a more or less constant campfire sending a soft column of smoke into the trees.
The walled camps are generally about feet wide and stretch back up the hillside, with wooden platforms on which members set up tents. Bohemians sleep on cots in these tents, or, in the richer camps, in redwood cabins. The camps are decorated with wooden or stone sculptures of owls, the Grove symbol. Members wash up in dormitory-style bathrooms and eat breakfast and dinner collectively in the Dining Circle, a splendid outdoor arena with fresh wood chips covering the ground and only the sky above.
It never rains when the encampment is on. During the day, idleness is encouraged. The rule is widely ignored. Another, unwritten rule is that everyone drink — and that everyone drink all the time. This rule is strictly adhered to. No one throws up. Now and then, though, a Bohemian sits down in the ferns and passes out. The sense that you are inside an actual club is heightened by all the furnishings that could not survive a wet season outdoors: Bohemians talk about roughing it, but at a privy in the woods near the river, there is a constantly renewed supply of paper toilet-seat covers.
All day long there is music in the Grove, and at night in some camps there are programs of entertainment: Any Bohemian is welcome at such events.
They sang from a small stage in front of a redwood on which was hung a framed nineteenth-century engraving. The scene was permeated by a kind of kitsch Black Forest imagery, and the setting seemed very Wagnerian — though the music was sometimes undercut by the soft drumming of tinkling urine off the edge of the porch, where the beer drinkers went one after the other.
It was set at crotch level, so you had to sort of crouch. Then the beer brewer himself came out to sing: He was a goateed giant with massive shoulders and a beer gut. The Cremation of Care. Cremation of Care, they fear, means the death of caring. They wore bright red, blue and orange hooded robes chat might have been designed for the Ku Klux Klan by Marimekko.
When they reached the water, they extinguished their torches. At this point some hamadryads tree spirits and another priest or two appeared at the base of the main owl shrine, a foot-tall, moss-covered statue of stone and steel at the south end of the lake, and sang songs about Care. Vaguely homosexual undertones suffused this spectacle, as they do much of ritualized life in the Grove. The main priest wore a pink-and-green satin costume, while a hamadryad appeared before a redwood in a gold spangled bodysuit dripping with rhinestones.
Just as the priests set out to torch the crypt, a red light appeared high in a redwood and large speakers in the forest amplified the cackling voice of Care: When will ye learn that me ye cannot slay? Year after year ye burn me in this Grove…. But when again ye turn your feet toward the marketplace, am I not waiting for you, as of old? The priests turned in desperation to the owl. Also, it was Walter Cronkite talking.
Cronkite camps in Hill Billies along with George H. Care went up in blazes. Around me the men exploded in huzzahs. Bohemian Club literature is pious on this score.