Bohemian Rhapsody

(This is a 30-year-old story about a 130-year-old institution: the Bohemian Grove, on the Russian River in northern California. The Bohemian Grove is “summer camp” for the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country. There, each year in July, for two weeks (now sometimes three), these men act out like intoxicated adolescents, pausing every now and again to, out of the public eye, further shape the financial, political, and military direction of this country.

(I lived on the Russian River for four years in the late 1970s. After I moved, I wrote about the Grove for a newspaper circulated elsewhere. My piece primarily approaches the Grove from the perspective of a local resident. Some of the historical stuff was drawn from G. William Domhoff’s slim book The Bohemian Grove. In this era of the tubes, sizable chunks of Domhoff’s Grove work have now been placed online. Also available online is a piece by reporter Philip Weiss, who succeeded in infiltrating the Grove, and writing about it, nine years after my own story appeared.

(As Weiss’ piece recounts, the anti-Grove protest movement that was just aborning when I lived on the River kept itself busy during the Reagan era, after which it fizzled and pretty much died. In its wake came loons, like Alex Jones. Weiss in his story also confirms, from Ronald Reagan’s own lips, the tale I mention here about Reagan and Richard Nixon cutting a deal at the Grove in 1967 to assure Nixon’s ascension the next year to the presidency.

(The River economy remains today pretty much as I described it, though it should be mentioned that the area’s popularity with the gay community in the San Francisco Bay Area, which began in the late 1970s and continues today, has more or less saved the place from ruination.

(One significant change: the Bohos are no longer interested in preserving their trees. They are currently working to fell the largest remaining stand of old-growth redwoods in the region.

(While the names may have changed, among the people who frequent the Grove, from the time that I wrote my piece to today, the institutions that they represent have not. Because while people may die, corporations never have to. Not so long as outfits like the Bohemian Club survive, and thrive.)

The thickest stands of coastal redwoods on the planet once grew some sixty miles north of San Francisco, along the banks of the Russian River. The trees were not the tallest in the country, or the largest, or the most numerous; just the thickest, packed so tightly together that sunlight rarely reached the living floodplain below.

Area Indian tribes considered the river bottom sacred ground, dark and wet and the domain of powerful spirits. Even in the heat of the summer they would not venture into the perpetual coolness of the groves.

When the Spanish arrived they too left the river alone. Russians journeying south from Fort Ross halted their trek and returned to the fort once they reached these redwoods.

When it came time for the Americans, the trees began to die. Dozens of eager lumber companies moved in; sawdust boomtowns rose overnight. Clearcutting could have been perfected along the river: grainy old photographs display acres upon acres of stumps, set a measured twelve to twenty feet apart, stretching for seven to ten miles across the narrow valley, beyond the river, into and over the low coastal hills.

Twenty years into the twentieth century the boom was already over. Nearly every redwood on the river had been felled. The lumber companies moved on. The towns that had lived on the death of the trees, themselves started dying.

Until wealthy San Francisco patricians started trickling in, the river becoming a fashionable spot for summer homes, a quaint place in the country for the idle rich to spend a quiet month or two. Three-story palaces and small river bungalows were carved out of the hillsides, placed precariously close to the water. Then the advent of air travel opened up summer spots with more status, in Mexico and the Caribbean, and the fickle patricians moved on. The area economy slipped again. It is still slipping. A declining resort community now catering to middle-class tourists from San Francisco and Marin who come to fish, swim, bike, explore, eat, and buy. Some of the old summer homes have been sold, or rented to local citizens, but many more remain with those who seldom or never use them.

Those who wish to live on the River must learn to cater to tourists. From Jenner on the coast, to Forestville 35 miles inland to the east, there are but a few seasonal construction jobs, a handful of small family-owned lumber companies, and a bit of farm work. Everyone else serves in some fashion the waves of tourists who break en masse on Memorial Day and don’t completely recede until sometime after the first weekend of September. What binds together nearly everyone who lives on the River is a shared recognition that the River is a colony of the Bay.

For those who stick it out, an even stronger bond is forged by the River winters. By the time the final tourist has departed in late October, the fog has descended, strangely changed to a low, floating, Irish mist, shrouding the tops of the hills, hovering, not quite close enough to touch, over the whole of the valley. And for weeks. The clouds of mist occasionally break for thunderstorms, and the river then leaves its banks. But more often the sun is simply removed from the life of all beings, replaced by a slow, floating, glistening drizzle. Eventually, the “winter weirdies” creep in. The outside world, it no longer has any real existence; newspapers read like they come from some other place, off-world, inaccessible; those voices on the phone—are they really the same sort of people as you and I? All of nature moist and open and glistening, serenely strong and alive, but there can come the question of whether ye be. Finally the wet green shimmering shine, the slim slow sliding salamander of the watery mist, leads some to wonder whether some subsumed morn all might just . . . disappear. Every winter on the River more people leave their minds and bodies. But the eerie silent season is nonetheless welcomed, because it is only then that the River belongs to those who live there.

It is during the height of the tourist season, near the fevered invasion of July 4, that 1500 Bohemians descend on the River. Members of the most exclusive men’s club in the country, they are among the 1% of the American population that controls 30% of this country’s material wealth and 80% of its stocks. Many Bohemians belong to that 0.5% that has controlled a steady 22% of all American wealth for the past forty years. They are America’s ruling class, and each year for the past 100 years they have spent two weeks on the Russian River, at an idyllic 2700-acre spread off-limits to the public.

The Lear jets come to a stop on the runways of Sonoma County Airport, disgorging men in monkey suits, trailed by servants and secretaries. The male servants will make the journey to Monte Rio; the female secretaries will be left on call in Santa Rosa hotels, for there are no women allowed in the Grove.

The Cadillacs, the Lincolns, the long black limousines emerge from the airport to travel a short distance north on Highway 101, then head west down River Road, traveling past the cattle ranches and wheat fields of the Santa Rosa plain. Ten minutes after leaving the airport they cross a long curved bridge, drive over a slight rise, then descend to a crossroads marking a long-abandoned Indian village. Their route now links with the river, the chauffeurs smoothly guiding their masters over a dipping, two-lane road that follows the contours of the riverbed. The land is thick with madrone and redwood and fir, the procession passing under high boughs that block the July sun.

Thirty minutes post-jet they’re into the heart of the River, driving through Guerneville, the only town on the River desperately, pathetically wanting to be a city. It is here that the landscape first reflects the interests of these men: Chevron and Shell gas stations, a Safeway, Financial Federal Savings, and a recently built concrete bunker with fake wood finish housing a Bank of America. Formerly the site of the cheapest gas station in town and a night-owl chili joint, the bank now shelters relieved employees who only months before had labored fearfully in a temporary trailer, awaiting completion of the bunker’s construction. Daily they contended with rocks, eggs, tomatoes, paint, flames, and even local bad elements who sought nightly to rock the structure off its supports.

People did not want the bank there. Today, for the Grove, the bank’s president has arrived.

For five minutes a series of slow graceful curves out of Guerneville; these straighten out at the entrance to the hamlet of Monte Rio. The Bohemians pass Yee’s Chinese, Rio Hardware, and Fern’s Grocery, roll through two stop signs, turn by the Rio Theater, which occupies a quonset hut, offering a hell of a din on nights when it rains, then cross an ancient iron bridge, hard by the Community Food Store, staffed by protein-deprived people providing the slowest service in all the country, and The Pink Elephant, a serious drinker’s bar so favored by sots that it regularly requires bibulous San Francisco Chronicle colum-nist Charles McCabe to weave his way there from the city, in his hobbit-like Morris Minor, which is what in England they consider a car. Two years ago, the Elephant lost its entire back wall in a storm; the thing collapsed into the river and proceeded to float downstream. Patrons kept right on drinking. When health-department people came out from Santa Rosa to try to close the place down, area bikers, who have adopted and aggressively defend the Elephant, convinced them to leave. Eventually a sort of lean-to replaced the wall that had flowed out to sea.

Gliding past the chic Village Inn, where the cocaine is, the Bohemians come within sight of the Grove’s gate. And see that, for the first time in 100 years, they have a small welcoming committee. Nearly 70 people, mostly young ones, men and women, hair-covered, line the narrow road on both sides, pushed back into the dense berry vines and scrub oak by the sheer width of the black limousines. Standing beneath banners of the earth, each holds a sign.

Welcome James Harvey of Occidental Petroleum, wanted as a friend of nuclear power and the CIA, and for genetic genocide as owner of Hooker Chemical Company, perpetrator of the slaughter at Love Canal.

Welcome Fred Hartley, director of Rockwell International, wanted as a builder of weapons and owner of Rocky Flats.

Welcome Harry Gray of Citicorp, wanted for genetic genocide in connection with nuclear-power investment.

Welcome Stanley Hiller of Crocker National Bank, wanted for nuclear-power and South African investments, and for stealing $1.7 million from depositors.

Welcome, Philip Hawley, Director of the Bank of America, wanted for investments in racist South Africa, financial imperialism throughout the Pacific Rim, and tearing down our chili joint to construct that concrete hideousness in Guerneville.

Throughout the afternoon the proud 1500 pass by, looking neither left nor right. They are more concerned with that KPIX-TV helicopter hovering over the Grove. This year, as every  year, virtually no one from the media has covered the Grove encampment: why then is that Channel 5 helicopter up there? Aloft, the news crew watches, as the Bohemians pass through the gates, speed to the right, and enter a huge parking lot carved from a beautiful circular meadow. From there the Bohemians board open-air buses, to be transported to the far corners of the Grove. Some pause and gaze again at the chopper. KPIX is owned by Westinghouse; the corporation’s president is due in this evening. No one doubts that next year there will be no KPIX copters buzzing the canyons of the Grove.

The public image of the Grove—what little there is of it—is that of a gin-soaked summer camp for rich old men, but it is actually business that is the main item of business. Nearly everyone attends the daily Lakeside Talks, where political officials and corporate czars discuss matters ranging from the state of the Deutsche Mark to the ten-sided conflict in Angola. It was at a Lakeside Talk in 1967 that Richard Nixon secured a promise from Ronald Reagan that he would not seek the presidency in 1968 unless Nixon’s cam-paign faltered.

A clear indication  of the power and wealth represented at the Grove is revealed in an examination of but one of 135 separate camps, Mandalay. With expensive lodgings high up on the hillside overlooking the lake, it enjoys perhaps the most rarefied atmosphere in the Grove. “You don’t just walk in there,” says one former Grove employee. “You are summoned.”

Mandalay members include Stephen Bechtel, chairman of the privately-held Bechtel Construction Company, currently engaged in the largest airport construction project in the history of the world, there in Saudi Arabia; when finished, the airport will feature a terminal designed to process a million people a day.

Bechtel’s Mandalay brethren include R.P. Cooley, president of Wells Fargo and a director of United Airlines; Dwight Cochran, recently retired president of the Kern County Land Company and a director of Montgomery Ward, Lockheed, and Watkins Johnson; Leonard K. Firestone, president of Firestone Tire and Rubber, manufacturer of deathtires, and a director of Wells Fargo; Jack Horton, chairman of Southern California Edison, and director of United California Bank, Pacific Mutual Life, and Lockheed; Edgar Kaiser; chairman of Kaiser Industries; and John McCone, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, chairman of Hendry International, and director of Standard Oil, ITT, Pacific Mutual Life, and Western Bancorporation.

The power of the Bohemian Club is perhaps best demonstrated by its ability to refuse members wishing to attend. In 1971 President Nixon planned to deliver a major speech at the Grove, but members of the media demanded they be allowed to attend. Bohemians did not relish the thought of reporters parachuting down on them while they sipped gin fizzes in their morning bathrobes, and so wired Nixon telling him he’d best change his plans. Nixon replied with a courteous note that said that although many men may aspire to the presidency of the United States, and all the power that entails, few may qualify for the presidency of the Bohemian Club, and the power that he wields.

bohemian: a gypsy of society; one who either cuts himself off, or is by his habits cut off, from society for which he is otherwise fitted; especially an artist, literary man, or actor, who leads a free, vagabond, or irregular life, not being particular as to the society he frequents, and despising conventionalities generally.

—Oxford English Dictionary

For centuries the French have applied the term “bohemian” to European gypsies as a strictly regional designation, insisting that this mysterious tribe came west either from or through the former country of Bohemia. But over the years the word got loose in the language, eventually becoming a useful label for such disparate individuals as penniless vagabonds, professional adventurers, eccentric artists, and those with highly irregular habits or beliefs.

When a wave of Americans seeking Great Literature and True Art invaded France in the mid-1800s, they found that Parisian artist colonies regarded Bohemians as legendary half-starved genuises living precariously poised on the razor’s edge between oneness with the godhead and a pauper’s grave. These young Americans were entranced by the whole scene, and returned home determined to be Bohemians themselves.

In 1872 an irreverent, renegade group of San Francisco journalists, writers, and artists formed the Bohemian Club, for “the promotion of social and intellectual intercourse between journalists and other writers, artists, actors and musicians, professional or amateur, and such others not included in this list as may by reasons of knowledge and appreciation of polite literature and the fine arts be deemed worthy of membership.” Original Bohemians included Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, and Bret Harte. Jack London, though preferring the term “vagabond,” joined and enjoyed the club, rarely missing the yearly encampments along the Russian River, just 40 miles from his own lair in the Valley of the Moon. London, in the Grove, can be seen there to the right, in the photo above.

Impoverished artists and other natural gamblers were drawn to the Club, following the strong foreign scent of good fellowship, intellectual bull-slinging, and the 160-acre rural retreat the Club had found in the redwoods of Sonoma County.

As true bohemians, however, none of these people had much money. So before long the Club founders were persuaded by some of those granted membership “by reason of knowledge and appreciation” that the spirit of the Club would have to be compromised or the entire enterprise would collapse. “The members were nearly all impecunious,” a very un-impecunious member reminisced years later, “and it was apparent that the possession of talent, without money, would not support the club; and at a meeting of the board of directors it was decided that we should invite an element to join the club which the majority of the members held in contempt, namely men who had money as well as brains.”

By 1880, just eight years into the Club’s existence, a group of painters and poets were collectively complaining that “the present day is not as the past days; the salt has been washed out of the Club by commercialism.”

Two years later, the Club found a patron saint—John of Nepomuk, a priest of 13th Century Bohemia. After a somewhat wild youth, John had settled down and entered the priesthood. In the course of things he was assigned to tutor the heir-apparent to the kingdom of Bohemia. The two became close friends, and when the prince was crowned king, John became court confessor. Things went well until the king began to suspect his wife of stepping out with the Margrave of Moravia. John was summoned and ordered to provide the king with all pertinent details from the queen’s confessions. John refused. Repeatedly. And so was hurled into a river and drowned.

To the original Bohemians, still somewhat in control of their club, this John, who chose to die rather than reveal a woman’s secrets, was an admirable man, a fitting patron saint.

Several months after poet Charles Warren Stoddard regaled an audience at the Grove clubhouse with the tale of John, a small statue of the saint arrived at the Club’s headquarters in San Francisco. A Czechoslovakian count present for Stoddard’s oration had been so taken with this American appreciation of his fellow countryman, that upon returning home he had commissioned a woodcarver to reproduce the statute of Saint John that adorns the Prague bridge near where John was drowned. The gift was placed in the Club’s library, where it has since remained. Except for yearly trips to the Grove, where it is enshrined within a hallowed tree near the very center of the wood.

The Saint of Bohemia had arrived, but in the club itself the kings were pouring in. The statue of the silent John, with a forefinger carefully sealing his lips, had a very different meaning for the kings, than it did for the poets.

Status time: the Club had made the Blue Book, and by 1888 membership was more prestigious than involvement in any West Coast club but the Pacific Union. Patrician money purchased the 160 acres used for Grove encampments, a feat undreamt of by club founders. Several years later an additional 120 acres were purchased.

Meanwhile, the dissident broadsides were increasing in ferocity. “The entering of the money-social element has not benefitted the Club,” an anonymous pamphleteer wrote in 1990. “Social aspiration means death to genius and a general dead-level mediocrity. In the beginning, rich men were absolutely barred, unless they had something of the elements of true Bohemianism. Now they get in because they are rich.”

By 1927 the Club had purchased hundreds of additional acres for their river grove, and all real bohemians had evaporated. Modern art was banned from Grove exhibits because of its “radical and unreasonable departure from the laws of art.” Will Rogers was first denied membership and then barred even from the guest list, punishment for stealing the show at the one encampment he did attend, then describing it to reporters as “a form of weekend divertissement for tired businessmen from which it takes them about two weeks to recover.”

Today an “artist” squeezes into the Club “by hook or by crook, because he thinks he may be able to sell some of his brains to the merely rich,” as the 1900 pamphleteer put it. Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, and Jack London have been replaced by Art Linkletter, Herman Wouk, and Merv Griffin. Laff-riots like Milton Berle and George Gobel treat the moneyed-men to material a bit racier than that of their usual Vegas routines, performing for free, as it is understood that a command performance at the Grove is a great honor.

In today’s Bohemian Club, people like CSUC Chancellor Glenn Dumke qualify as “artists,” as do astronauts and nuclear physicists. Cyclotron develop Ernest Lawrence, frustrated at the refusal of University of California regents to allocate research funds, finagled an invitation to the Grove in the late 1930s, managing there to cuddle closer to regents John Neylan and William Crocker. When camp was over, Beylan appointed himself the head of a committee to oversee Lawrence’s lab, while Crocker kicked in $75,000 to get the project going.

By 1942 the Club once intended as a haven for “the promotion of social and intellectual intercourse” had become a place where the Manhattan Project was born.

There is no reliable estimate of the total number of Grove employees. But considering all the cooks, waiters, bartenders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, drivers, and mechanics needed to service 1500 well-pampered men for two weeks, the number must run into the hundreds. The Club of course does not spend an inordinate money on labor, which in capitalism is known as “negative cash flow”: while some carpenters earn a union wage, most help is taken on as “temporary,” with no benefits, at minimum wage. This year striking San Francisco hotel workers were sent by their union to the Grove: refusing to serve the hotel guests, they wound up serving the hotel owners.

Temporary employees are trained by full-time staff to cook, wait tables, move pianos, haul appliances, drive buses, create costumes, construct props, and carry luggage, booze, ice, towels, tables, and members. For years much of this work was performed by black men. Today, a former employee explains, “most of those jobs go to gays. Because blacks won’t do that kind of work anymore.”

Most men who work at the Grove are reluctant to discuss it. They have been told not to talk about their jobs, and many believe the security checks that preceded their hiring will more or less go on forever. There is a vague fear that they will be monitored for the rest of their lives. Either paranoia or perception leads to a feeling that if they ever reveal Grove secrets, then through some dark magic the members will Know, and on some damp winter night their punishment will appear from out of the fog.

The full extent of the Grove’s security force is likewise unclear. It is known that when a president or similar potentate plans a Grove appearance, Secret Service agents descend on the area to round up the usual suspects, then stay on to maintain an obvious presence throughout the Golden One’s stay. It has been said that some Grovers bring their own beefcake bodyguards. Some of those who claim to have trespassed into the Grove tell harrowing stories of maddened pursuit by determined guards.

One continuously curious sneak commented that the Grove is guarded all along its borders, as in a prison. But since the guards keep people out, rather than in, this must mean the Grove is the world’s only freeland, with the rest of the planet serving as its prison.

As the sun settled into sleep Sunday night, the Grove watchers were still trying to get themselves organized.

Their small patch of land just before the Grove gates was bordered on the north by a ruined shed, on the east by a wobbling slanted platform designed to display Protest, on the south by a long line of folded tables covered with anti-nuke news, and on the west by a ’57 Chevy pickup and a jungle-rotted sedan, parked bumper-to-bumper. Inside this square, sleeping bags lay half-unrolled next to a heap of blankets and tattered rugs. A woman slowly, methodically assembled sandwiches of peanut butter and sprouts. A child spun a red tricycle in the dust. From an easy chair bereft of springs and spitting stuffing, a nearly-bearded man introduced himself as Robert, and asked if I’d come to join up.

There would be five or six people staying the night for the Vigil, Robert said, and he expected Many More as the week progressed. In any event, he said, they had always managed enough folks “to have a presence.”

Though small in number, this group had performed some serious research, assembling a sort of “hit list” emphasizing Bohos from particularly poisonous companies—Kerr-McGee, Monsanto, General Dynamics, Dow Chemical, Texaco, American Express, and the like.

Robert said they hadn’t much shared the fruits of their research with the locals. “The locals seem to know little or nothing about the Grove,” he mused. “And these are some of the most powerful people in the world.”

Actually the locals know all about the Grovers. Their attitude is just a little different. To many people on the River, the Bohos are just more of the same rich bastards they have to serve all season long in order to live there. As long as the Grovers stay holed up on their land and don’t actively sneer at people, then even the president of Monsanto or Dow is infinitely preferable to the Marin young ones who stream through to disparagingly pronounce the place “quaint.” Because there has traditionally been little contact between the Grovers and the locals, there has been little opportunity for open conflict.

During what was known on the River as “the phony Carter gas shortage,” however, Fern’s Grocery in Monte Rio became the site of some memorable scenes of class warfare. This was due to the fact that Fern’s was the only station around that pumped gas every day.

During a Junior Jinks encampment—a special session held each spring for Dow and Shell juniors to learn the ruling-class ropes—a young patrician entered Fern’s one Saturday afternoon and announced he’d “like to speak to the proprietor.” Since Fern and Red were both gone, the woman stocking potato chips said she might as well be the “proprietor.” The Junior Jink said that he’d just “completed a walk through your interesting town,” and thought he should drop by to let her know that he would be going for a drive in a while, and that there would of course be gas available for him before he set out.

He was informed that gas would of course not be available for him before he set out, because it was pumped on Saturdays only between 10 a.m. and noon, and it was now well past two in the afternoon. Exasperated, the Junior Jink said that she didn’t understand, that he needed that gas, and that he would of course pay her $20 over the actual cost of the gas.

He was told that gas would next be pumped at 10:00 a.m on Sunday morning, but that he best arrive before 9:30, because by that time cars were already 20 deep outside the store. Outraged, the Junior Jink cursed the store, the lord, and the river, and shouted: “I’ll never be coming into this place again! You’ll get no business from me!”

“Well, that’s fine,” replied the young woman, returning to stocking potato chips. “You never came here before, so I don’t suppose we’ll miss you.”

The conviction that River natives were somehow too dumb or deranged to accept bribes could be read on every Grover’s face whenever he was turned down. Red was especially ever-eager to inform the Bohos that they’d sealed their fates and in fact forever soiled themselves as soon as they pulled out their $10s and $20s and $50s.

Sometimes Red would patiently explain to the rapidly panicking Bohos that he and the other owners of River gas stations had written a letter to their suppliers, and to the government, noting that the River survived on tourism, that “your phony gas shortage” was killing the tourist industry, that deliveries to the River were being cut back more drastically than those to urban station-owners, and that anyway everyone knew that the shortage had been contrived by greedy bloodsuckers and their political enablers, who wanted to rake in ever-more dollars while lashing everyone else into the poorhouse. The River gas-sellers had sent a copy of this letter to the Grove, Red said, and he suggested the gas-seekers go read it.

Other times, bribing Bohos would earn the sort of volatile outburst from which Red derives his name, as he bellowed that he could and would continue to give free gas to the town drunk while forever denying even a drop to the president of Texaco.

During the gas-war years the phone lines on the River also went haywire each July, due to circuit rerouting and overloading caused by busy Bohos. There were lengthy periods of time when long-distance calls could not be completed into or out of the River; the callers received nothing but busy signals. These two-week communication breakdowns prompted more local griping, especially since the Grove has always blithely maintained that they operate only a small central switchboard, and that members are too busy resting and relaxing to want to use the phone. The Bohos come to the Grove to “cremate their care,” as they put it in Bohospeak, so nobody there could possibly be responsible for the sort of ceaseless phone-yammering that would cause the circuits to go down.

The locals didn’t buy it. As the phones continued to fail, finally even the UPS drivers and cheese merchants on the River began to wonder aloud why groups like the SLA and the NWLF didn’t get sensible and leave off kidnapping heiresses and mining power plants to just bomb out the whole Grove bunch. Then an apocalyptic evangelist began riding the River, spreading his theory that the Soviets had targeted great missile clusters on the Grove, and that everyone on the River was soon doomed to die while the Bohos cremated their care.

Communication breakdowns, bribes, and missiles are not all the Grovers bring to the River. “They’re not real tourists, because they don’t leave much money,” one businesswoman says. “They just sort of . . . invade. Only the hookers see any money. And most of them are from out of town.”

No one knows how many Bohos engage in that activity known in Bohospeak as “jumping the river.” The only real investigation revealed significant activity. In 1971 the county’s reform-minded sheriff busted Guerneville’s Gas House Tavern for serving as a pickup joint for Bohos escorted from the bar to nearby cabins and motel rooms. Twenty women were turning roughly three tricks a night, most of them Bohos. Some interesting names would have been revealed had not the employment by the district attorney—brother of former California Senator John Tunney, Grove guest—of a prostitute as his chief witness allowed the judge to dismiss the case.

It is only when the Bohemians are in their Grove that a young woman with bleached blond hair, black leather boots, black leather shorts, and a skimpy white vest sits beside a bulldog in a brand-new white MG there in the line at Fern’s, waiting for gas. And it is only then that a closer look reveals that her heavy makeup and dark sunglasses do not hide the many cuts and bruises on her arms, and her neck, and her face.

The Grove is for the business of those who run the world, but by virtually all accounts it is a peculiar “pleasure” that dominates Bohemian conversation. Even more than jumping the river or expanding into new markets, the members speak of pissing on redwood trees, and they speak of it often, and at length. The members seem to have an inordinate fascination with this function, and although no theories have ever been advanced to explain it, the quintessential ceremony and ultimate image of the Grove is finally the heavy, balding man in a silken robe standing beneath the morning sun with a gin fizz in one hand and his dick in the other, wobbling slightly in the center of an ancient sacred forest, aiming a rich alcoholic stream of piss at the base of the redwood where the wooden statue of St. John sits, finger laid carefully across his lips.


3 Responses to “Bohemian Rhapsody”

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