Bohemian Rhapsody

Last week, the LA Times reported Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts since joining the high court, eight times the amount of any other Justice. One gift which received passing mention was private jet to the Bohemian Grove club. The jet was paid for by Harlan Crow, the wealthy Texas real estate investor who bankrolled the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and also ran an advocacy group that filed briefs with the Supreme Court. But just what is the Bohemian Grove club?

Dubbed “the greatest men’s party on earth” by President Herbert Hoover, the Bohemian Grove club is the most exclusive summer camp in the world. (Sorry, ladies, you’re not invited — the camp is strictly men’s only.) Members meet to “rough it” every summer for the last weeks of July. Situated seventy miles north of San Francisco on the Rusian River, the campground takes up 2,700 acres of redwood forest. And there are extensive precautions to make sure regular Americans can’t get anywhere near it: sentries “scan the outside areas with binoculars” and “infra-red sensors protect the perimeters.”

The club has approximately 2,500 members, with a combined wealth of roughly $100 billion. Every Republican president since Coolidge has been a member, as well as a few on the other side of the aisle as well. Members include directors of Fortune 1000 companies, corporate CEOs, top government officials and business elites. The waiting list is 3,000 men strong and the average number of years spent on that list is anywhere from 15 to 20.

The list of former and current Grove campers is long and varied. Former guests include Henry Kissinger, Hearst, George Schultz, James Baker, Richard Nixon, the George Bushes, Newt Gingrich, members of the Bechtel family. In 2000, George Bush asked Cheney to be his running mate at the Bohemian Grove.

So, what do you do at the exclusive Grove? The men produce skits, musical acts, listen to speakers, eat drink and socialize. The last night of camp, the men put on an elaborate play with a cast of hundreds. Members stay in cabins with names like “Toyland,” “Dog House,” “Cave Mans” and “Sons of Toil.” (Last year, George H.W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stayed in “Hill Billies.”) But make no mistake, this is definitely a rich man’s playground, with private chefs, servants and waiters. And according to the New Statesmen, the no-girls-allowed policy means peeing on trees is all the rage.