Each summer, America's male corporate elite meets for a summer camp at Bohemian Grove, a 2,700 acred forest in Northern California. Each member of the Bohemian Club can bring a guest. Also invited, for the enjoyment of attendees, are the nation's top male entertainers, artists and professors. These associate members don't have to pay the high Club membership fees but must preform in several productions at Bohemian Grove as well as on 20 or more Thursday evening events at the City Club in San Francisco.
Reference: G. William Dohmhoff, 'Social Cohesion & the Bohemian Grove', WhoRulesAmerica.net, April 2005.
The all male event involves lots of drinking, entertainment, outdoor activities and relaxation and most of all an opportunity to socialise, let their hair down, and bond. The gathering offers opportunities for intimacy and personal interaction in a relaxed atmosphere, and this heldps develop a class cohesiveness that facilitates the formation of joint policy objectives and strategies.
According to Alex Shoumatoff writing in Vanity Fair:
In the Bohemian Club, "bohemian" means something completely different from the free-living, poverty-stricken artist that the word usually conjures. It means toeing the party line, United We Stand. Unbohemian means being disloyal, betraying the pact, the global dominance group. It's the worst thing a member can be called.
According to Peter Martin Phillips, who attended Bohemian Grove in 1994 and wrote a PhD thesis on the Bohemian Club:
it was apparent that the term elite is a self-identifier for many Club members, and that because of that identity they feel they have an obligation and right to set the political policies and direction for America... The homogeneity of the Club and the close inter-relationships of the men, allows for the articulation of shared values and beliefs on numerous socio-political topics.
Membership is by invitation only and very exclusive. Most regular members, as opposed to the talented associate members, are business executives. They include "directors from major corporations in every sector of the American economy" and "at least one officer or director from 40 of the 50 largest industrial corporations in America", and 23 out of the top 25, attended Bohemian Grove in 1970. This heavy corporate presence was confirmed for the early 1990s camps by Phillips in his thesis. In addition 27% of the local members were listed in the San Francisco Social Register, indicating that they were part of the social upper class.
In addition, in 1991, Bohemian Club members and guests held 13% of the directorships of the most interlocked policy-planning groups and think tanks, including almost 40% of the Hoover Institute, 27% of the American Enterprise Institute, 26% of the Business Council, 21% of the Conference Board and 18% of the Trilateral Commission. In addition "in 1971 approximately one out of ten and in 1991 one out of twelve Grove participants were directors of a U.S. foundation."
In the studies that have been done for 1971 and 1991, a dozen or so senior federal government officials, including the President, were members of the Bohemian Club and another 20 or so guests at Bohemian Grove. There is a definite leaning towards the Republicans however. State government officials, particularly from California, are also present in force.
Over the years all the usual suspects have made appearances: Rumsfeld, Kissinger, two former C.I.A. directors (including Papa Bush), the masters of war and the oilgarchs, the Bechtels and the Basses, the board members of top military contractors—such as Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and the Carlyle Group—Rockefellers, Morgans, captains of industry and C.E.O.'s across the spectrum of American capitalism. The interlocking corporate web—cemented by prep-school, college, and golf-club affiliations, blood, marriage, and mutual self-interest—that makes up the American ruling class. Many of the guys, in other words, who have been running the country into the ground and ripping us off for decades.
Phillips' analysis of 1991 database matches found that 368 Bohemians or 18.9% of active Bohemian Club members have one or more of the following positions:
By adding the guests at the Grove, who usually have a slightly higher percent of the above indicators, it becomes evident that one out of every five Grove participants is a man involved in a decision-making position for one or more of the upper-most economic, political, policy or fund giving institutions in the United States. A person would have to look very hard to find such a dense concentration and variety of American socio-economic elites in one place anywhere else in the United States.
Members must have been nomated by two existing members who can vouch for his character and their application must give financial details as well as details of associations and the names of five people in the club who already know him. As well as nominating sponsors the applicant must have letters of recommendation from other club members and the full membership is given the opportunity to give their opinions on potential members. Then he must get 9 out of 11 votes from the membership committee before he can go on the waiting list which can be more than ten years.
Bohemian Club membership in 2009 cost $25,000 initially and then $5000 each year, with a fifteen year waiting list. Members come from all over the country and even include some who are resident in other nations.
Fathers often bring their sons: "This can be understood as an introduction — a debutante ball for the male offspring of the power elite".
The club had no black or Jewish members until the 1970s and it is still an all male club and very few after that.
Around 1500 men attend Bohemian Grove each year. The opening ceremony each year at Bohemian Grove is "The Cremation of Care", a mock druid ceremony with a parade of mainly elderly white men in red robes and hoods and the symbolic burning of everyday worries (an effigy of a child called "Dull Care" under the watchful eye of a giant Owl statue. (In 1996 George H.W. Bush, Clint Eastwood, and media anchorman Walter Cronkite played the part of Lakeside Frogs.)
Throughout the two weeks there are many plays, variety shows, concerts, shooting contests, talks, art exhibits, and outdoor recreational activities such as swimming, boating and hiking. There is heavy alcohol consumption and a convivial friendly atmosphere. There are two major plays, the Low Jinks (a slapstick musical comedy involving hundreds of people) and the High Jinks, which is an"enormously elaborate production, with huge casts, large stage sets, much singing, and dazzling lighting effects". Female parts are played by males.
The Club's motto, "Weaving spiders, come not here" indicates that the Grove is not a place to conduct business. However, this does not mean that those attending do not network and conceive or agree the occasional deal. Nor does it mean that discussions of politics and world affairs are off limits.
However, the gathering of business elites on a first name basis within the shared experiential process of Grove happenings creates fairly rapid personal intimacies that transcends the Grove and cements relationships for future business contacts and deals...
More importantly than the actual in-house discussions of business matters, is the bonded friendship networks that are created at the Grove. It is quite clear that these friendship patterns extend into commercial and political circles outside of the Club.
The Grove is divided into around 120 camps of between 10 and 30 members, though some are much larger, whose status depends on their membership. Camps have stewards or valets to serve members. Each camp is the site of informal and impromptu entertainment and are open to visitors from other camps. The most prestigious camp is perhaps the Mandalay camp which has expensive lodgings and is peopled by corporate heavy weights, some of whom have servants with them. Another is the Cave Man camp that has featured former presidents and leaders of the Hoover Institution. Owl's Nest camp has included Ronald Reagan and a number of corporate heads and the Hill Billies has included George H.W. Bush and other corporate CEOs, directors and executives, as well as Walter Cronkite and Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart.
Each day, at 12.30pm there are lakeside talks or "chats" by professors, business leaders, cabinet officers, and presidents (past and future) in an informal atmosphere free from reporters. "Chats stimulate political and policy discussions among the men at the Grove, and serve the purpose of allowing consensual understandings to take shape. This is not to say that there is not disagreement among Club members... Lakeside Chats are a shared experiential process that enhances a sense of elite weness in unison with shared challenges and in opposition to common threats."
Lakeside chats allow the businessmen present to size up politicians and politicians to strut their stuff in front of influential and powerful businessmen. In fact the Grove is an essential venue for presidential hopefuls. "Collectively, Bohemians offer political candidates a concentrated network of potential contributors and influential contacts in the U.S. corporate world." For example in 1991 speakers included Bill Clinton (who was elected president in 1992), Helmut Schmidt (former Chancellor of West Germany), Dick Cheney (then Secretary of Defense) and George Schultz (former Secretary of State). In 1995 George Bush (former president) promoted his son as a future president.
The Bohemian Grove has long been a political networking point for Republicans. Dewey, Hoover, Wilkie, Eisenhower, Taft, Goldwater, Nixon, Bush, Ford, and Reagan have all been members or guests at the Grove along with significant numbers of cabinet members and White House officials... Eisenhower gave a premier political address at the Grove in 1950 setting himself on the path to the presidency, and presidential hopeful...