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THE CULTURE OF THE BOHEMIAN GROVE: THE DRAMATURGY OF POWER

Author(s): James Vaughn


Source: Michigan Sociological Review, Vol. 20 (Fall 2006), pp. 85-123
Published by: Michigan Sociological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40969163
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THE CULTURE OF THE BOHEMIAN GROVE:


THE DRAMATURGY OF POWER

James Vaughn
Western Michigan University
Abstract

This report is constructed upon the premise that the members and guests of
the Bohemian Club are elites in society as presented by C. W. Mills (1959) in

The Power Elite. I provide the reader with a description of the Grove
activities, which illuminates the two-phase emotional experience that makes

attending the Bohemian Grove so desirable for the Bohemians. I have


focused on the culture of the Grove to discover the processes by which the

Bohemians create and maintain social bonds through their formal and
informal rituals. The annual Cremation of Care ceremony is the paramount
social ritual in the Grove, and is used by the Bohemians for social bonding

and group catharsis. Blumer's (1969) research method is utilized for data
collection. Analysis is from both a symbolic interactionist perspective, as
well as from a dramaturgical perspective. While the Bohemian Club is a
private institution, there are implications in the public sector based on the

personal associations created and maintained at Club events. When

considering the significance of the social status and power of some of the
members and guests, the dramaturgical function of the Grove is understood
herein as a way for the Bohemians to utilize the backstage region with its
props, symbols, and backstage roles to solidify the Bohemian ' s social bonds

with one another. In the backstage region of the Grove, Bohemians can
explore artistic, political, economic, and military ideas beyond public
scrutiny. The implications of the personal relationships developed and
maintained in the Grove is that they radiate throughout the institutional
orders of society where the relationships can be used in the Bohemian's
professional roles in society. In some instances, it is asserted herein, the
Grove events may be used by powerful individuals to evaluate possible public
policies, or for potential candidates for public office to see how their peers
receive them.

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006


Introduction

In this Symbolic Interactionist case study, I utilize Herbert Blumer's


(1969) naturalistic inquiry approach to data collection in a full participant
field study to examine the culture of the Bohemian Grove. This approach
includes Blumer's exploration and investigation phases of data collection.

Data collection also includes extensive research of Bohemian Club literature

including the seven volume Annals of the Bohemian Club, and various forms

of printed ephemera that were acquired as an employee of the Club and


through personal acquisitions. These data were analyzed primarily using

Blumer's (1969) perspective as presented in Symbolic Interactionism

Perspective and Method, as well as Erving Goffman's (1980) The


Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Also utilized were G.H. Mead's (1934)

Mind, Self and Society, C.W. Mills' (1956) The Power Elite, and Gerth and
Mills' (1953) Character and Social Structure.
Overview of the Bohemian Club

The Bohemian Club is a private men's club, headquartered in their City

Clubhouse in San Francisco, California. The Bohemians are socially


prominent members of the highest stratum of society who typically represent
the heads of the economic, entertainment, military and political institutional

orders on regional, national, and in some cases, global levels. During my own
full participant study were met: Presidents of the United States of America,

Speakers of the U. S. House of Representatives, Secretaries of: Defense,


State, Treasury, and Energy, and Directors of the CIA. I also met Directors of

some of the largest U. S. Corporations involved in: banking, development,


military contracts, insurance, transportation, communications and energy.
Several individuals present during this field study were identified as judges,
elected state officials, lobbyists, famous entertainers, and academics from
some of the most prestigious universities in the United States.

The official motto of the Bohemian Club is "Weaving Spiders Come

Not Here" {Annals of the Bohemian Club vol. V: 401). This is understood as
an official sanction against conducting official business at Club events. The
Club is organized as a social club in which the members and their guests can
enjoy "...all that is best in that life, including human relationships, letters and
the fine arts.. "(Annals of the Bohemian Club vol. V: 401). Club activities are

typically a celebration of the arts and friendship, but I observed several


lectures that were intellectual discussions regarding public policies, political
ideology, and corporate philosophy as well.

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

The Bohemian Club also owns a retreat property known as

Bohemian Grove in Monte Rio, California, located 75 miles north o

Francisco. This Grove is where I conducted the participant-observationa


collection for this study. The Bohemian Grove is a 2,700-acre retreat in

redwoods along the Russian River, which has a central compou

individual camps, akin to fraternities, to which the members belon


Grove has various features like the Museum, the Grill, the Dining Circ

Art Gallery, the Campfire Circle, the Grove Stage, the Grove Clubh

Field Circle, the Lake, and the Owl Shrine. Two important annual event
hosted at the Bohemian Grove (there are several other minor events as

One of these is the Spring Jinks, which typically takes place aroun

Memorial Day weekend. The other, the most important event of the yea
members of the Club, and the focus of this investigation, is the Midsu
Encampment, which takes place over the last three weeks of July.

The Midsummer Encampment is designed to be a complete geta


from the rigors of daily life for the members and their guests. A

Encampment, the Bohemians relax and enjoy the company of their elite
and partake in fine food, spirits, music, and drama. Many Bohemians s
relax as they stroll through the forest along the Russian River and tak
occasional dip in the River. There are many occasions for lowbrow hum

well. Each contributes to the best of their ability to enhance the o


experience for their fellow Bohemians. The notion of "carrying a sp

Bohemia" is an axiom to call each to contribute to the creative events that

occur at Club gatherings. The shared experiences in the Club promote what

Steve Schadlich (1987) has called the central truth of Bohemia "The more
active one becomes in Bohemia, the sooner are friendships developed and the
greater are the satisfactions that accrue from creative artistic collaborations."
(Annals of the Bohemian Club vol. VI: 64). Therefore, Bohemians each help

develop plays, lectures, musical compositions/renditions, paintings and


drawings, or wherever their particular talent may be found, for the pleasure of

their fellow Bohemians.

The paramount event of the Midsummer Encampment is a Druidic


'mock ritual', the Cremation of Care ceremony. The Cremation of Care is a
ritualized sacrifice of an effigy of the body of the Dull Cares of the world.

Dull Care is understood to mean the accumulated stresses, boredoms, and


sins accumulated by each Bohemian during the past year. This effigy is
cremated upon the altar of Bohemia at the foot of the Owl Shrine. The Shrine

is a forty foot tall Owl Deity that symbolizes "...all mortal wisdom..."

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

(Annals of the Bohemian Club vol. V: 431) and is the tutelary deity of the

Club. Through the process of conducting this research, I came to an


understanding that the Cremation of Care is a formal ritual that functions as a
group catharsis for those that participate in it.
Literature Review

The literature reviews for this body of work include the works of
Herbert Blumer's (1969) Symbolic Interactionism Perspective and Method

Erving Goffman's (1980) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, George


Herbert Mead's (1934) Mind Self and Society, the work of Hans Gerth and

Charles Wright Mills (1953) Character and Social Structure: The

Psychology of Social Institutions, and C. Wright Mills' (1956) The Power


Elite.

In this work are utilized several sources for citations in the body of the text o
this Thesis which are not contained in the literature review but are deemed

worthy of mention at this juncture of the writing. They include: George


William Domhoff s (1974) The Bohemian Grove and Other Retreats, th
work of John van der Zee (1974) The Greatest Men 's Party on Earth, and the

Dissertation of Dr. Peter Phillips (1994) A Relative Advantage: Sociology o


the San Francisco Bohemian Club. Dr. Phillips has kindly provided a copy
for use in this work. This writing has also relied upon a collection of
Bohemian Club literature including the collected Annals of the Bohemian

Club volumes I through VII (Bohemian Club 1898-1997), the Club's


"Redbook" Bohemian Club History, Constitution and By-Laws, Hous
Rules, Grove Rules (1960, 1991), and The Camps Facts, Artifacts and

Fantasies written by Louis E. Gelwicks (1979).


Other information contained herein has been acquired from Program(s)
of Events from both Midsummer Encampments and Spring Jinks, as well as
from various other handbills, commemorative posters, maps and Club
Rosters which were given to the researcher by members and their guests.

Symbolic Interactionism Perspective And Method


Herbert Blumer's Symbolic Interactionism finds its roots in the tradition

of American Pragmatism along the lines of George H. Mead, John Dewey,


W. I. Thomas, William James and others. Based primarily on the ideas set
forth by Mead, Blumer establishes three basic premises. First, "...human
beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for

them" (Blumer 1969:2). The second premise Blumer postulates is that,

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

"...the meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the so
interaction that one has with one's fellows" (1969:2). The third prem
Blumer's paradigm is that "...these meanings are handled in, and mo
through, an interpretive process used by the person in dealing with the
he encounters" (1969:2).
Blumer has set himself apart from the rest of the theorists in the

sciences with his second premise in which the definition of the sit
enters and views "...meanings as social products" (1969:5). This con

allows the social actor to define the environment as it relates to their


including all of the objects in that world of interaction. Through the s
actor's utilization of the interpretive process in the dealing with object
actor "...indicates to himself the things towards which he is acting" (Bl
1969:5). Thus, through this internal conversation, the social actor is ab
deal with the emergent meanings in which the meanings are considere
formative process in which meanings are used and revised as instrument
the guidance and formation of action" (Blumer 1969:5). The individual t
acts in accordance with their current evaluation of the social objects at

The interpretive process is a symbolic one in which the actor utiliz


symbols of language to understand their definition of the situation.

Blumer uses the concept of what he refers to as "root images" whi

are, "...human groups or societies, social interaction, objects, the h


being as an actor, human action, and the interconnection of the lin
action" (1969:6). The first root image is fundamentally the notion that

the first and last instances human society consists of people engagi

action" (Blumer 1969:7). These actions must fit together in the interpla
each individual acting within the context of the group. This leads us to
next root image, the nature of social interaction. Blumer places import

on the interactions themselves rather than some other determini

causative factor. On this Blumer states that, "...social interaction is a p


that forms human conduct instead of being merely a means or setting f
expression or release of human conduct" (1969:8).
The nature of objects is the next root image. "An object is anything

can be indicated... or referred to... a legislature, a banker, a religi


doctrine..." (Blumer 1969:10). Blumer classifies objects onto three t

physical, social, and abstract. Rooted in Blumer's idea that, "...the natur
an object. . . consists of the meaning that it has for the person for who

an object" (1969:11), actors can share the same time and space contin

yet have very different "realities" based on an object having a "...diffe

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

meaning for different individuals" (Blumer 1969:11). By utilizing "...a


process of mutual indications common objects emerge - objects that have the

same meaning for a given set of people..." (Blumer 1969:11). An object's


status is not fixed but is mutable dependent upon one's definition of the
situation within which the social act occurs.

The human being is an acting organism in which the person is an object


to themselves and action is based upon "... the kind of object he is to himself
(Blumer 1969:12). We view ourselves through role taking. There are, what are
basically developmental stages of self-roles. Blumer outlines first the "play
stage" of the single individual, to the "game stage" of specific groups, finally
the "generalized other" stage where the individual actor is able to take the
role of an abstract community through whose eyes they view themselves.
From the Symbolic Interactionist perspective, "The human being is seen as
"social"... in the sense of an organism that engages in social interaction with
itself by making indications to itself and responding to such indications"

(Blumer 1969:14). The behavior related to what is noted by the actor


therefore, "...arises out of the interpretation made through the process of self

indication" (Blumer 1969:14).

The nature of human action, as Blumer describes it, is that the


individual, "...has to construct and guide his action instead of merely

releasing it in response to factors playing on him or operating through him"

(1969:15). Here Blumer is in stark contrast of most of the theoretical


perspectives found in the social sciences, which do not take interpretation
through self-interaction into account. Group action can be, and in the case of

this article is, studied through this interpretational process of the social
actors. Joint action can be understood from a Symbolic Interactionist
perspective when the social researcher understands that "The interpretive
process takes place by participants making indications to one another, not
merely each to himself (Blumer 1 969: 1 6).

Interlinkage of action is the final root image. Joint action is the


"...interlinkage of separate acts of the participants" (Blumer 1969:17).
Human group activities are the fitting together of the various actions of the
individuals in an "...articulation of lines of action..." (Blumer 1969:17). The
collective behavior can also be considered in and of itself without having to
be broken down into its constituent parts. The understanding of social roles
allows the individual actors to understand the actions of others in a group or
culture. The human being is constantly encountering new situations that must
be handled with new definitions and meanings. In a complex social network

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

with hierarchy and history, social actors can be found driving the sys

which therefore, "...functions because people at different poin

something, and what they do is a result of how they define the situat
which they are called on to act" (Blumer 1969:19). Blumer also notes th
social actor, in forming new joint actions, "...always bring to that form
the world of objects, the sets of meanings, and the schemes of interpre
that they already possess" (1969:20). This is a way of saying that no
actions take place in a void, without continuity within an historical co

Therefore, Blumer points out that "Joint action not only represe

horizontal linkage, so to speak, of the activities of the participants, but


vertical linkage with previous joint action" (1969:20).
Blumer presents an expression, 'molar parts', which is of interest to

study. The larger social structures can be understood, from a sym


interactionist perspective to be, "...arrangements of people wh

interlinked in their respective actions" (Blumer 1969:58). This notion al


me to understand social structure as the concatenation of actions of the s

actors engaged in social interaction using the process of interpretat


meanings or as Blumer states, "...seeks explanation in the way in

participants define, interpret, and meet situations at their respective po


(1969:58). Finally Blumer states that large scale social organizations mus

"...seen, studied, and explained in terms of the process of interpre

engaged in by the acting participants as they handle the situations at t


respective positions in the organization" (1969:58).

The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life

Erving Goffman, in his work The Presentation of Self in Everyday


presents the perspective of the dramaturgical approach in which social
seen as a drama. The dramaturgical approach presents a view in whi
social actor attempts to control the perceptions of himself in the eyes o
other social actors with whom they are engaged in social interaction. Lik
theater, the social actor utilizes various props, other actors in collusion
regions to facilitate the successful dramatic production.
Goffman commences with a section on performances. Here the social a

must get their audience to "...believe that the character they see ac
possesses the attributes he appears to posses" (Goffman 1980:28). The

on the daily stage of life must also believe in the character being portra
order to succeed. Goffman describes the level of belief in one's roles as
at some point within the range of "...cynicism and sincerity" (1980:31).

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

can be utilized efficaciously by social actors to achieve their intended goal of


being believed.
The dramaturgical perspective considers the social performance to be

enacted within what Goffman refers to as the "...'front' that part of the
individual's performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed
fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance"
(1980:32). It is here that the actor fosters the impressions that are conveyed
to the audience. The front has a basic element of setting, which is understood
to include all of the physical props utilized in the drama. The setting is locus

based and the actor "...cannot begin their act until they have brought
themselves to the appropriate place and must terminate their performance
when they leave" (1980:33).
The personal front is another form of expressive equipment utilized by
the social actor to present the self in daily interaction. The personal front has
components of "...rank; clothing, sex, age, racial characteristics..." (1980:34).
Facial expression is another personal front that is presented in the social act,
but it is more mutable than the other forms of personal fronts.

The personal front is considered by Goffman to be composed of appearance


and manner. Appearance is understood to be "...those stimuli which function
at the time to tell us of the performer's social statuses" (1980:34). Examples
include the use of uniform or casual attire, and also of speech patterns and
jargon utilized in which the audience can interpret the role engaged in at the
time. Manner is here understood to be the "...stimuli which function at the
time to warn us of the interaction role the performer will expect to play in the

oncoming situation" (1980:35). Examples of manner are aggressive or timid.


The social actor can thus engage in routines, which utilize these elements of
the personal front across a spectrum of routines. The social actor must, in

order to have a successful dramatic realization, instantaneously

"...dramatically highlight and portray confirmatory facts" (Goffman 1980:40)


that support the character being conveyed in the social act.

The dramaturgical approach also incorporates the "...officially

accredited values of the society" (1980:45) in a fashion that Goffman


describes as idealization. This idealization is critical for social mobility
through the stratified society within which we live. Actors will attempt to

accrue the requisite "status symbols through which material wealth is

expressed" (Goffman 1980:46). Social actors must carefully foster

impressions in other actor's minds with the use of such idealized status

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

symbols, in order to maintain, and in some cases alter, their own social
through their dramaturgical performance.

The mystification of the performance is of importance to men

There needs to be control of what is perceived by the audience in orde


foster the intended meanings conveyed in the minds of that audien
restricting contact between the audience and the actor, this mystificat

arises. The audience and the actor must have "...restrictions place

contact, the maintenance of social distance, (to) provide a way in which

can be generated and sustained in the audience" (Goffman 1980:74

success of the social act could fail if close scrutiny were allowed.
The dramaturgical approach to social behavior continues with the discu

on the formation and utilization of teams. Goffman defines perfor


teams as "...any set of individuals who cooperate in staging a single rou
(1980:85). The cooperative effort of the team members is needed to ma
the definition of the situation be it that the doctor knows what she is do
that your dinner has been lovingly prepared using only the finest ingred
The team members must carefully maintain the act and not "...give th

away or disrupt it with inappropriate behavior " (Goffman 1980:88

team members, working in collusion, therefore have no ability to "...ma


that particular impression before one another" (Goffman 1980:88). The
players are in the know and must constantly strive to regulate the per
impressions cast off in the social act.

Regions and region behavior is of critical importance to this partic

article, and to the dramaturgical perspective in general. Regio

delineated from one another by boundaries. There are front regio

backstage regions in the dramaturgical model. Goffman describes the s


actor's front region behaviors to have "...the appearance that his activi
the region maintains and embodies certain standards" (1980:110). An ac
manner or politeness is the fashion in which they "...treat their audien

(Goffman 1980:110). The social actor's appearance, in relation to dec


is "...the way in which they comport themselves" (Goffman 1980

Impressions must be carefully constructed and managed in order to su


successful social act cast off in the front region.

The back region or backstage, is "...where suppressed facts mak

appearance" (Goffman 1980:1 14). It is precisely here in the backstage r


that "...the impression fostered by the performance is knowingly contr

as a matter of course" (Goffman 1980:114). Backstage behaviors sup

supporting role for front region performances. Here the "...parts of per

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

front may be adjusted and scrutinized for flaws" according to Goffman


(1980:115). A central feature of the dramaturgical perspective applied to the

analysis of the findings of this participant observational research can be


found in Goffman's statement that backstage "...the performer can relax; he

can drop his front, forgo speaking his lines, and step out of character"

(1980:115).

Some back regions possess characteristics that allow, even promote,


behaviors that contradict front performances. This is exemplified by hunting

lodges and summer resorts by Goffman in that they "...seem to fix


permissiveness regarding front, allowing otherwise conventional people to
appear in ...costumes they would not ordinarily wear..." (1980:126). Goffman
also postulates that the regions each posses their own jargon that would also
contradict the other region's performance:
The backstage language consists of reciprocal first-naming, cooperative
decision making, profanity, open sexual remarks, elaborate griping, smoking,
rough informal dress, 'sloppy' sitting and standing posture, use of dialect or
sub-standard speech, mumbling and shouting, playful aggressively and
'kidding', inconsiderateness for the other in minor but potentially symbolic

acts, minor self-involvements such as humming, whistling, chewing,


nibbling, belching, and flatulence. (1980:129) The backstage region contains

all the various props one would find in the bounded world of backstage
Broadway. Goffman argues that in the backstage region, stage props and
items of personal front can be stored in a kind of compact collapsing of

whole repertoires of actions and characters "...grades of ceremonial

equipment ...can be hidden so that the audience will not be able to see the

treatment accorded them..."

(1980:115)
Therefore the varieties of costumes, statues, and other prop& used in

social rituals are common items viewed backstage. In the case of the
Bohemian Grove, there are props that are for exclusive use in the backstage

region, akin to the costumes and makeup used by a Broadway actor


backstage prior to their front region performance.

In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Goffman continues his


argument with a section on discrepant roles. Here Goffman considers the
levels of communication between the regions and the nature of that social
world's secrets. These secrets can be discovered and/or divulged by those
enacting the discrepant roles. First are what Goffman (1980) calls dark
secrets which are "...facts about a team which it knows and conceals and

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

which are incompatible with the image of the self that the team attempts to

maintain before its audience" (141). Second are strategic secrets which
"...pertain to intentions and capacities of a team" (1980:141). Third are

Goffman's inside secrets "...whose possession marks an individual as being a


member of a group and helps the group to feel separate and different from
those ...not 'in the know'" (1980:142).
The discrepant roles Goffman defines include those of the informant,
the shill, the agent, the go-between or mediator, and those that he describes
as "...the classic type of non-person ...the servant" (1980:150). These roles all
allow the person enacting them privileged information that could destroy the

social act being presented. Most infer some level of deceit. I personally

enacted the discrepant role of the servant during data collection in the field
study. This role allowed me to "...enter freely into the back regions, on the
theory that no impression need be maintained..." (Goffman 1980:151). Since
I intend to cause no harm, the role of the informant was not enacted. The full
participant role as a sociological researcher was utilized while working in the
Grove to better understand the social world in the backstage region of the
Grove that would have been inaccessible by any other research method.

Goffman has a chapter on communication out of character. Among the

concepts he considers here is the treatment of the absent, in which backstage


a social actor may "...derogate the audience in a way that is inconsistent with

the face-to-face treatment that is given to the audience" (1980:168). Team


collusion is another topic of consideration in this section. Goffman considers
this collusion in the form of stage cues, which are transmitted without the
knowledge of the audience. Collusion can also be built when "...one member

of a team performs his part for the special and secret amusement of his
teammates" (Goffman 1980:185).
A realigning action is an example of a type of communication out of
character that is of import here. Goffman depicts one form of realigning
action as backstage "...fraternization between opposing specialists ...(where)
the impression of opposition that is fostered between the teams may be
discredited" (1980:193). This type of communication can mutually benefit
the 'opposing' teams in that "...certain purposes sometimes can be served
...when barriers between teams are lowered..." (Goffman 1980:199).

The art of impression management is the last section covered in the review of

Goffman's work. Goffman notes here the types of performance disruption


that the skilled social actor attempts to avoid. These include the "unmeant

gestures, inopportune intrusions, and faux pas (which) are sources of

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006


embarrassment and dissonance which are typically unintended..." (Goffman
1980:205). The idea of dramaturgical discipline has importance in that is the
litmus test for success in conveying the intended impression to the audience.
As Goffman explains "Actual affective response must be concealed and an
appropriate affective response must be displayed" (1980:21 1).
Dramaturgical circumspection is an important element of Goffman' s

perspective. He postulates that the social actor on a team must display


"loyalty and discipline ...and prudence" (1980:212). This is needed for the
faith building needed between team players and this will in turn "...markedly
affect the likelihood of carrying off a performance..." (Goffman 1980:213).
Goffman offers the following which is applied directly to my research:

Circumspection on the part of the performers will also be


expressed in the way they handle relaxation of appearances. When
a team is physically distant from its inspectorial audience and a
surprise visit is unlikely, then great relaxation becomes feasible

(1980:220).

Through these protective practices, the dramaturgical team can help manage
the intended impression conveyed in the presentation of the social act.

Mind Self And Society


George Herbert Mead's Mind Self and Society presents a perspective of

the individual in which the individual emerges developmentally through


stages of the self through social interactions that are processed symbolically

through the utilization of language. His work is the genesis of the

sociological field of study that is symbolic interactionism.

Mead's perspective grew out of his reaction to the deterministic

behaviorism of his contemporary and friend John B. Watson. The

behaviorism of Watson's was without introspection but rather with an


attitude of "...the Queen in Alice in Wonderland-' off With their heads' -there

were no such things" (Mead 1934:3). Mead was interested in the "...inner
experience" (1934:5) and the interplay between the individual's internal

subjective world and the external objective world. Mead viewed the

individual actor's "...attitudes, (as) the beginnings of acts" (1934:5). He


developed his model of the social behaviorist in order to "...explain the
conduct of the individual in terms of the organized conduct of the social
group" (1934:7).
Gestures are a central element of Mead's perspective. He describes the
behaviors of hostile dogs, which make their intentions clear to one another

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through their physical gestures, without the use of language. "Conv

in gestures may be carried on which cannot be translated into a


speech" (Mead 1934:14). Thus the conversation of gestures, which

between non-human animals, is considered to be non-significant as i

symbolic communication processed by linguistic symbols. The

becomes a significant gesture when that gesture has a specific "...ide

it and it arouses that idea in the other individual..." (Mead 1


Symbolically conveying an idea from one actor to another

interaction, such that the recipient and actor have a shared definiti
symbols conveyed, and that the actor is able to elicit in the recipient
attitude, is how Mead utilizes the term "language" (1934:46).
The individual utilizes the symbols of language in order to think

Mead explicates as "...an internalized or implicit conversatio

individual with himself by means of such gestures..." (1934:47). It is t


the human's ability to process stimuli symbolically that they gain an

to understand the complex range of stimuli that they encounte

physical world by assigning meanings to those stimuli. Thu

interaction of the human organism and their physical environm

control meanings in such a fashion that "Out of language emerges th

mind " (1934:133). The social actor in interaction with others i

environment develops a mind, which is understood to be a social pro


which the actor is cognitive.

Mead conceptualizes the self to be an active creative process i


one views the self as "...an object to itself, (which) is essentially
structure, and it arises in social experience" (1934:140). This so
proceeds through developmental stages. These stages begin in th
experience as an infant where the actor is in a pre-linguistic p

existence and is therefore, as Mead (1934) conceptualized without a s

"...is not initially there, at birth, but arises in the process o

experience..." (135). At birth, the individual has an "I", but lacks a "m

child gradually learns to process social stimuli symbolically and deve

of the self commences.

The development of the self advances through the play and game stages
of character development. The play stage is the first in which the actor plays

a single identity. "A child plays being a mother ...a teacher ...a policeman,
that is, it is taking different roles..." (Mead 1934:150). They enact their
perceived conceptions of appropriate behavior for that specific role in play,
and no other behaviors are enacted. This social development continues into

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the next level of sophistication in the game stage where the individual must
take the roles of multiple social actors. For success at the game stage, the
individual must "...know what everyone else is going to do in order to carry
out his own play" (Mead 1934:151). In such a fashion the human develops a
comprehensive set of expectations that have the qualities of the game being

enacted or as Mead puts it "...these different roles must have a definite


relationship to each other" (1934:151). Through this enacting of roles, the
social actor grows from the more immature play stage to the more complex
game stage and which is "...essential to self-consciousness..." (1934:152).
The final stage of the development of the self in Mead's (1934) paradigm is
known as the development of the generalized other. In this phase, the
individual must incorporate "...the attitude of the whole community" (154).
The social actor needs to also allow the "...various aspects of the common
social activity ...of an organized society ...(in which) they are all engaged"
(Mead 1934:155) to be enacted. This develops an internalization of the larger
social group within the consciousness of the individual actor in such a
manner that "...the community exercises control over the conduct of its

individual members" (Mead 1934:155). By engaging in an internalized


discourse with one's self by applying the notions of the generalized other, the
individual becomes a member of that social group and in accord with those
attitudes they have adopted.

Mead's (1934) model of the self is conceived as occurring in two

phases, which he calls the "I" and the "Me". These phases of the self are

understood in the clearest fashion that Mead presents: "The T is the

response of the organism to the attitudes of the others" and "the 'me' is the
organized set of attitudes of others which one himself assumes" (1934:175).
Mead (1934) compares the existence of the "I" to be a progression through
time "...of the ego, of the T" (177). It is understood that the "me" possesses
similar qualities to Freud's "super ego" as Mead (1934) compares, "If we use
the Freudian expression, the 'me' is in a certain sense a censor" (210). These
two phases of the self are what constitutes the self in both social interactions
with an entire group with which one identifies and/or belongs to, as well as in
internalized conversations with one's self.

The society in Mead's theoretical perspective is the extension of the


organized self. The social actors that compose a society have evolved selves

through interaction with other members of that society. The society


antithetically evolves out of the interaction of the selves, which compose that

society. The societies cumulative attitudes, beliefs, norms and mores

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constitute some of the various forms of control and cooperation that a


is capable of enacting and is figuratively the societies own generalized
Societies are bound together through the use of a common language as

(1934) has described "...language as a principle of social organization


Mead basically engenders the society with the characteristics tha

common to a healthy, complete thinking individual who possesses an "


a "me" who interact in a symbolic way.
Character And Social Structure

Hans Gerth and Charles Wright Mills present a model of the self in
society in their work Character and Social Structure, which is used t

understand the composition of the social structure. Also applied in this boo
is their concept for the method in which the individual engages in action wit

that social structure, namely by enacting social roles. Their work

compatible with their assertions made by the previously outlined socia

psychologists Blumer, Goffman, and Mead. Gerth and Mills view the self as

an actively produced product of social interaction within a given soci


context.

Gerth and Mills utilize the expression 'the character structure', by


which they describe the features of the individual social actor. The character

structure is comprised of four components: the organism, the psychic


structures, the person, and the unifying expression of character structure. The

organism is understood as "...man as a biological entity" with inherent


"...structural mechanisms and undefined impulses" (Gerth and Mills
1953:21). They describe the psychic structure to mean the "...integration of
feeling, sensation, and impulse" (1953:22). The person is understood here to

be "...man as a player of roles..." in which we "...try to understand his


conduct in terms of motives..." (1953:22). In their model of the individual
social actor, Gerth and Mills (1953) present the unifying concept of the
character structure in which they define it to be "...the relatively stabilized
integration of the organism's psychic structure linked with the social roles of
the person" (22).

In The Character and Social Structure Gerth and Mills present a


paradigm of the social structure that I utilize. Their view of the social
structure is based on the notion that the structure is composed of institutions,
with their inherent orders and spheres of activity. The social institution is

based upon the social roles enacted by various individuals who's "...role
configuration is ...stabilized by a "head" who wields authority over the

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

"members" who enact the roles" (Gerth and Mills 1953:23). Gerth and Mills
(1953) describe their paradigm of the social structure by stating that "...role is
the unit with which we build our conception of institutions..." and continue
that "...institution is the unit with which we build the conception of social

structure" (23). They classify institutions by size and by methods of


recruitment, but they place in a paramount position the institution 's
"...classification according to objective function..." (1953:25). Therefore I
conceptualize the institutional order to mean consisting of "...all those
institutions within a social structure which have similar consequences and
ends or which serve similar objective functions" (Gerth and Mills 1953:25).

Gerth and Mills describe the various institutional orders as the political,
economic, military, kinship, and religious. Here it is understood that the
political institutional order consists of the institutions in which "...men
acquire, wield, or influence the distribution of power and authority within

social structures" (Gerth and Mills 1953:26). The economic order is

conceptualizes as being composed of "...those establishments by which men


organize labor, resources, and technological implements in order to produce
and distribute goods and services" (1953:26). The military order is comprised
of "...institutions in which men organize legitimate violence and supervise its
use" (1953:26). The kinship order in Gerth and Mills' model is understood as
the institutions that "...regulate and facilitate legitimate sexual intercourse,
procreation, and the rearing of children" (1953:26). The final institutional
order in Gerth and Mills' model is the religious order which they define as

those institutions in which "...men organize and supervise the collective


worship of God or deities, usually at regular occasions and at fixed places"

(1953:26).
The paradigm presented by Gerth and Mills continues with an

understanding of the social structure as having what they term spheres which

are demarcated from orders in that the spheres are "...rarely or never
autonomous as to the ends they serve and because any of them may be used
within any one of our five orders" (1953:29). The spheres that they delineate
are those of symbols, technology, status, and education. Symbols are herein
understood to give an understanding of human conduct through the use of
"...signs, signals, emblems, ceremonial, language, music, or other arts" which
are utilized to "...uphold or justify the institutional order" (1953:29). Gerth and
Mills (1953) hold the concept of technology to mean the "...implementation of
conduct with tools, apparatus, machines, instruments, and physical devices of
all sorts" and to the degree of "...skill, dexterity, or expertness with which

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

persons meet their role demands" (30). The sphere of status functi

consists of "...agencies and means of distributing prestige, deference, or


among the members of the social structure" (1953:30). The final sphere in

model is that of educational. The educational sphere is compris

"...institutions and activities concerned with the transmission of skills and

values to those persons who have not yet acquired them" (1953:30). Gerth and
Mills have given social researchers the freedom to "elaborate or simplify the
classification of institutional orders sketched here" (1953:31). Therefore, I
modify the institutional orders to include the order of entertainment as my
research has allowed me to develop this as an important concept.
The Power Elite

Charles Wright Mills (1956) presents The Power Elite, which holds a
view of society as having a group of individuals who are figuratively above the
masses, who can escape the tedium of daily life due to their station in life.

These power elites are in a position from which they "...occupy the major
command posts of the social structure" (Mills 1956:4). These power elites are
executives in the major institutional orders of modern society. Mills (1956)
asserts that within these institutional orders "...major national power now
resides in the economic, the political, and the military domains" (4). These
orders are officiated by the executives who's "...central executive powers have
been enhanced" (1956:7). As modern society has progressed, the directorships
of the institutional orders have juxtapositioned themselves in a "...triangle of
power (which)... is the source of the interlocking directorate that is most
important for the historical structure of the present" (Mills 1956:8).

Mills (1956) describes that the elite of the higher circles are "...simply those
who have the most of what there is to have ...money, power, and prestige" (9).

He defines powerful as "...those who are able to realize their will, even if
others resist it" (1956:9) which is basic to sociological thinking. The cadre of
the social class of the power elite come from "...similar origin and education
...(who's) careers and lifestyles are similar ...(with) psychological and social
bases for their unity" and Mills continues that "...resting upon the fact that they

are of similar social type..." ultimately leads to their "...easy intermingling"


(1956:19). Mills (1956) postulates that this intermingling of the executives
from the various institutional orders, especially those of the political and the
economic orders, has left the social structural map with a view in which "the
two cannot now be seen clearly as two distinct worlds." (274).

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006


The notion presented in The Power Elite is that at the top rungs of the

institutional orders resides a "...quite uniform social type which has had
exceptional advantages of origin and training..." (Mills 1956:127). The Chief
Executive Officers of the corporate, political, and military orders have traits

that are common to most of those who reside within the highest circles.
Those characteristics include, according to Mills (1956) "...urban, white,
Protestant families ...removed from wage work ...(with) fathers on at least
upper middle-class levels of occupation and income ...those with the highest

origins had the best chances for formal education" (128-129). For these
members of the power elite, finance came not only from salary but also from

"...stock certificates" (and) "...bonuses" (Mills 1956:129). Many executives


of today have "inherited their positions" (1956:131) in a trans-generational
hierarchy that perpetuates the highest stratum of society.

The members of the power elite are of such a like ilk that they have

what Mills (1956) has called "a fraternity of the successful" with enough
interconnectedness "...to ensure a certain unity" (281). They live in social
circles, which overlap and interconnect in private and public realms. Many of

the elites enjoy great celebrity, and many more enjoy great anonymity,
intermingling with the celebrities. There are those in society who are the
professional celebrities, who are "...new types of prestigeful men and women
(who) have come to compete with, to supplement, and even to displace the
society lady and the man of pedigreed wealth" (Mills 1956:71).
Mills also sets forth a sense of higher immorality within the ranks of the
power elite. This is based on the depersonalized corporate culture of enacting
bureaucratic activity. Mills (1956) posits that "within the corporate worlds of
business, war-making, and politics, the private conscience is attenuated - and
the higher immorality is institutionalized" (343). They enlarge the domain of
public secret, in the interest of national security, and they promote their own
interest.

Research Method

The research method that is utilized for this article is that which Herbert

Blumer (1969) presents in Symbolic Interactionism Perspective and Method.

I utilized a participant observational field study as an employee of the


Bohemian Club on the grounds of the Bohemian Grove in Monte Rio,

California. Throughout the course of data collection, I engaged in

conversations with the Grove attendees as well as making observations o


overt behaviors in the common areas of the Grove.

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Blumer's position on research methodology is that the social resear


must seek out the actual world under study. This can be found in t
arena of interaction, such as the Midsummer Encampment, as wel
literary sources, such as the Annals of the Bohemian Club. His res
method is referred to in this work as "Naturalistic Inquiry" (Blu
1969:47). The process of naturalistic inquiry is the "...embracing (of) th
procedures of exploration and inspection" (Blumer 1969:47). In the scie
quest for understanding as to the nature of a social world, the sy
interactionist does not establish a hypothesis, operationalize term
expressions, or manipulate variables in a model, as do social scien

utilizing other methodological approaches. Instead, the symb

interactionist goes directly to the social world under study and


"...respect the obdurate character of that empirical world..." (Blu
1969:23). This notion carries throughout the entire process includi

interpretation of the data where the researcher cannot impose any co


that would change the nature of the world under study. In other wor
researcher must assure validity.

"...the only way to get this assurance is to go directly to

empirical social world-to see through meticulous examination o


whether one's premises or root images of it, one's questions
problems posed for it, the data one chooses out of it, the conc
through which one sees and analyzes it, and the interpretations
applies to it are actually borne out." (Blumer 1969:32)
In order to understand the nature of a social world under study, the res

must, according to Blumer, use a "...flexible pursuit of intimate co

(1969:37) with the subjects under study in their social world. This allow

researcher to develop a good firsthand familiarity of that world. B

(1969) postulates that through this process of intimate contact the resea
will experience a "...movement from ignorance or an uninformed posit
greater and more accurate awareness of what is taking place" (39).
Naturalistic inquiry starts with the exploration phase which Blumer des
as,

...a flexible procedure in which the scholar shifts from on

another line of inquiry, adopts new directions previously untho

of, and changes his recognition of what are relevant data a

acquires more information and better understanding. (1969:40)

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

The research commences with very broad questions that progressively


become more precise over the exploration phase. Blumer (1969) suggests that

the sociologist utilize a protocol that "...should be adapted to its

circumstances" (41). The researcher must ask all varieties of questions in


order to "...sensitize the observer to different and new perspectives"
(1969:41). Naturalistic inquiry uses this exploration phase to set the agenda
for the next, more precise phase, the inspection phase.
Inspection is the phase in which the researcher begins implementation
of the process of analysis. Blumer defines inspection to mean,

...an intensive focused examination of the empirical content of


whatever analytical elements are used for purposes of analysis, and

this same kind of examination of the empirical nature of the


relations between such elements. (1969:43)
Here, the symbolic interactionist applies the questions developed in the
exploration phase to see if they are borne out in the "real" world under study.

Instead of following the generally accepted cannons of research, the


researcher is "...flexible, imaginative, creative, and free to take new
directions" (Blumer 1969:44). This allows the researcher to understand the
social world more accurately, as to what meanings are intrinsic to that world.
The data collection of this participant observational study began during the

Spring Jinks weekend on May of 1995 and continued through 1997. By


implementing the exploration phase, I was able to allow the research subjects
to shape the direction of inquiry. Preliminary research had begun prior to the
field study by gathering information about the Grove through friends who
had been past employees. This was the initial development of a growing set
of sensitizing concepts that evolved throughout the course of this study in
order to gain a more accurate understanding of the social world of Bohemia.
Based upon the developing role as a staff member in the Grove, the members
of the Club treated the researcher as being in the know, as Goffman (1980)

describes with his notion of inside secrets "...whose possession marks an

individual as being a member of a group..." (142). During this initial


exploration I engaged in conversations with members and guests where

discussions included: the history of the Grove, and the Cremation of Care,
past Grove events, their camps, and our various jobs and education.
The inspection phase of the field study proceeded during the 1995 and
1996 Midsummer Encampment to the heart of what is understood herein to
be the paramount social event of the Grove, namely the Cremation of Care

Ceremony. During the 1995 and 1996 Summer Encampment in the

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

Bohemian Grove, I witnessed the Cremation of Care on two occasions. T

formal ceremony is what I had believed, and still assert, as being the m

significant event of the Bohemian Club. This notion is supported

comment expressed in a staff meeting at the beginning of the 1995 Su

Encampment when a member of the Club management said "...this

single most important event of the year for the Members and their g

(Vaughn: 2002). During the inspection phase, the research question

increasingly focused upon concepts of identity development, social bon


group catharsis, and using the Grove as a Dramaturgical backstage regi

Findings
The main focus of investigation for this study is the annual Cremation
of Care ceremony. The Cremation of Care is a ritual enacted at the foot of the
Owl Shrine located on the shore of the lake in the Grove during which an
effigy of the body of Dull Care is burned. The effigy embodies the spirit of

the "Dull Cares of the world", or as William Domhoff (1974) describes,


"...symbolizing the concerns and woes that important men supposedly must
bear in their daily lives" (2). The ceremony begins when the Bohemians are
called from dinner in the Dining Circle to gather for the Cremation. The
Bohemians migrate to the edge of the lake and take their place on the lawn.
Once seated, they watch as the effigy of Dull Care is poled across the lake in

a funeral procession and placed upon the Altar of Bohemia. Many club
members are engaged in the ceremony as members of a full symphony, opera

singers, hooded accolades, the Hamadryad (a tree nymph), Priests, and the
High Priest of Bohemia.
Through careful listening and personal conversations with Bohemians, I

came to develop a precise operational definition of the expression "Dull


Care" within the context of the Cremation of Care. This understanding is
exemplified by comments of Bohemians like: "Care is our daily obligation
and responsibility to family, work and the like" (Vaughn: 2002), or another
description as: "Where we banish our worries and recharge our batteries"

(Vaughn: 2002). In this fashion the research subjects themselves

operationally defined the expression "Dull Care".


The Cremation is considered to be a "mock ritual" as James Jewel has

stated in volume VI of the Annals of the Bohemian Club, "...they have


always been characterized as, 'mock ceremonials'" (1987:317). Jewel adds
that the Club has two basic perspectives on the Cremation "one serious and
the other deriding seriousness" (1987:317). Both of these basic permutations

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006


share the cathartic function of the Cremation as the assembled Bohemians
unite under the stars at the Altar of Bohemia. I observed that the Bohemians

generally take the Cremation quite seriously, possibly for a plethora of


reasons including simple revelry in a feeling of fellowship with equals.
Ultimately, the Bohemians engage in group-interactional rituals that generate
heightened emotional states, which free them from concern for their daily
roles.

I observed the 1995 and 1996 Cremations from the north shore of the

Lake. I was in direct juxtaposition across from the Owl Shrine about fifty
yards from the Altar. From this vantage point, clear observations were made
of all of the proceedings. The Bohemians were gathered on the shore of the
lake. Darkness had settled into the Grove. As the Cremation of Care

unfolded, I experienced several levels of emotion. One emotional state that


was experienced was astonishment that men of such high social status and

mostly political conservatives were assembled and engaged in this ritual.


Another was a sense of "calming, being soothed by the music" (Vaughn:
2002).
Overall, I felt that the Flame of Brotherhood was effective in releasing
tensions and helping to create a sense of togetherness in the darkened woods
as the High Priest led the proceedings.
This level of participant observation provided me an understanding of a
sense of social bonding, which I observed between the Bohemians. The men
were mostly drinking spirits, lounging in the grass with their companions,
apparently relaxing and enjoying the proceedings as the music played. The

Cremation of Care ritual appeared to make the assembled witnesses and


participants a single whole, darkness removing boundaries between them
forming a homogeneous group. Many of them reacted to the various portions
of the Cremation in unison as they "lifted their drinks together in response to

the words of the High Priest", or "swayed together to the music" (Vaughn:
2002). As the Cremation continued with the words of the Hamadryad's song
a quasi-religious sentiment permeated the proceedings,
The stars come in with the night, and the wind, like a presence, fills

the temple-aisles of the wood; It is yours, it is good, it is made for


your delight. Beauty, and strength and peace, they are here that
you find release from your mournful memories. Oh, cast your grief
to the fire. And be strong with the Holy trees and the spirit of the
Grove.(Annals of the Bohemian Club Vol. V 1972:427-428)

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

My observations of the Cremation, along with the words of th


Hamadryad, helped me develop an understanding of the process of how

Cremation of Care functions to promote a common mindset for

participants in that they are a single group or class of men, free from
Care. As I experienced my own emotional release in the Cremation of Ca
began to understand the Cremation of Care as a cathartic release of pent
anxieties and frustration. By integrating ideas from the field study
concepts presented in the Club and Grove literature, my understanding o
Club culture was developing, which was more germane to the perspectiv
the members than an outsider's perspective could afford. This understan

allowed a focus on the idea that the Cremation of Care primarily

cathartic function for the participants. In a group cathartic release in flam

the pent up anxieties, frustrations, pangs of guilt, boredom and the like,
Bohemians, "assign the 'sins and sorrows of every member' to perish in

flames." (Annals of the Bohemian Club Vol. VI 1987:324). Indulging in

libations and camaraderie of the Grove, the Bohemians unify as equals, b


only for a time. As the Annals of the Bohemian Club Vol. VI state, "and

for a little while, Bohemians are free from Dull Care and can devo

themselves to the pleasures of the Grove..." (1987:317).

The Cremation of Care has other implications in the quasi-relig

sentiment of the ritual. The Voice of Care arises from the wooded hillside

and heckles the assembled Bohemians, "Fools! Fools! Fools! When will ye
learn that me ye cannot slay? ...to dream ye conquer Care! ...I spit upon your
fire!" (Annals of the Bohemian Club Vol. V 1972:430). At this point in the
ceremony, the Grove falls dark as Dull Care extinguishes the fire on the altar.
The Bohemians conceive of Dull Care as a generalized controlling force over

them in daily life like a generalized other in the sense that Dull Care is
attempting to exercise "...control over the conduct of its individual members

" (Mead 1934:155). In response the High Priest summons the Voice of the
Owl, who replies,
No fire, if it is kindled in the world where Care is nourished on the

hates of men shall drive him from this Grove. One flame alone
must light this pyre, the pure eternal flame that burns within the

Lamp of Fellowship upon the Altar of Bohemia (Annals of the


Bohemian Club Vol. V 1972:431)
As this eternal flame of fellowship glows from the Lamp of Fellowship, the
Bohemians are empowered by the fellowship to banish the burdens of daily

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006


life from the Grove. This overt sense of belonging to the specific group of

Bohemian arises symbolically in the minds of the participants as they


"experience a joy in the lifting of our spirits" (Vaughn: 2002) as one
gentleman told this researcher.

The culmination of the Cremation of Care is when the High Priest


ignites the effigy of the body of Dull Care with the flame from the Lamp of
Fellowship as the High Priest recites the closing lines of the Cremation,

Well should we know our living flame of fellowship can sear the grasping
claws of Care, throttle his impious screams and send his cowering carcass
from this Grove. Begone, detested Care, begone! Once more we banish theel
Let the all-potent spirit of this lamp by its cleansing and ambient fire encircle

this mystic scene Hail, fellowship; begone Dull Care! Once again

Midsummer sets us free! {Annals of the Bohemian Club Vol. V 1972:431)


The Bohemians symbolically purge their collective minds and hearts in
this ceremony, which is bounded by a sense of brotherhood. The purpose of
this is to give a special sense of belonging to the social group and I postulate
this to be an internalization of the social group's ideals. This is in agreement
with Mead's concept of a development of a "me" which is "...the organized
set of attitudes of others which one himself assumes" (1934:175).
The Annals of the Bohemian Club adds another aspect of the Cremation of
Care that eluded me until another deeper reading into the literature. Buried in
an account of the 1883 Cremation of Care in Volume II, was discovered that
the, "...idea was that from the ashes of the funeral pyre which destroy the
body of grim Care, Joy should arise, new-born, triumphant" (1900:126). This
account further details the sentiment of this catharsis and male bonding as,
. . .typified and carried into practice by a fire balloon, which, as the

last Roman candle exploded in the coffin of Care, ascended

gloriously into the midnight sky, to the merry music of the band

and the merrier dancing of the Brotherhood, cowled monks,


acolytes, neophytes, red-robed fiends and plain, ordinary members,
who, with joined hands, watched its ascent.
(Vol. II 1900:126-127)
This process has evolved into an elaborate fireworks display at the end of the

Cremation ceremony like the ones witnessed in 1995 and 1996. The

Cremation of Care concludes with free beer and the band's rendition of

"There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" {Annals of the Bohemian

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

Club Vol. VI 1987:323). The Bohemians then all proceed to the var
camps for further "drinking, singing, hanging out around fires, and
merrymaking" (Field Notes 1996).
The Bohemians hold the trees in the Grove to be sacred. This is

evidenced in the opening lines of the High Priest as found in the text of
Cremation of Care in Volume V of The Annals of the Bohemian Club:

The Owl in his leafy temple; let all within the Grove be reverent before hi
Lift up your heads, O ye Trees, and be ye lift up, ye ever-living spires. Fo

behold, here is Bohemia 's shrine and holy are the pillars of this hous
Weaving spiders, come not here! (1972:428)

The notion of enacting a sacred ritual within a "temple of trees", has root
into the Druidic heritage of the Cremation as Herman Wouk states that th

Bohemians, "...enact picturesque rituals vaguely redolent of Druidism.


{Annals of the Bohemian Club. Vol. V 1972:10). The Bohemians historica

consider the trees to be sacred as evidenced in the Annals of the Bohemian


Club Vol. IV in which is found a description of the first Summer Jinks in

1900, in the then-newly-purchased Grove, "...Bohemia's Redwood doma

that was to become posterity's eternal temple devoted to friendship, pleasu


to recreation and the allied arts" (1930:135).

In a Program of Events for the 1995 Bohemian Grove Midsumm


Encampment is found the following passage describing the Cremation:

The Cremation of Care is a mystical blending of druidica

ceremonies, elements of medieval Christian liturgy, passages

inspired by the Book of Common Prayer, traces of Shakespearean

drama and the 17^ century masque, and late 19* century
American lodge rites. (Starr 1995:19)

This gives insight as to the origins of the symbols used in the Cremati
of Care ceremony from which led me to a better understanding of the moo

which is enacted in the ritual. The mood of the ceremony gives rise

understanding the meanings interpreted by the individual actors. A multitu

of factors, the sacred trees of the Grove, the eternal flame of fellowship,
religious tone of the Shakespearean language, in the backstage region of t
Grove, being but a few, contribute to the catharsis of the Cremation in wh

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

"...Midsummer Sets us free" (Annals of the Bohemian Club Vol. V

1972:431).
The fundamental purport of the social psychological function of
participating in the Cremation of Care is that for the Bohemians, the

Cremation allows them to be free of the daily constraints of life, free of social

roles, norms, mores, obligations and expectations which allows the


participants to have an equal status with similar men in which they develop a

common mindset in a spirit of fellowship. Blake Winchell, Director of


the 1995 Cremation of Care states in the playbill/commemorative poster for
the event "One flame alone must light this pyre, the pure eternal flame that
burns within the Lamp of Fellowship upon the Alter of Bohemia". Winchell
continues: "With these words, the Owl of Bohemia shows the High Priest the
only way that Care can be banished - through the joy of our midsummer
fellowship" (1995). Once free of the daily drudgery, the Bohemians are free
to revel under the stars, as brethren.

Another very important function of the Cremation of Care is that for

those who enact the ritual, the social bonding of peers from the highest
stratum of society is also accompanied by a sense of place in the universe.
This is supported by a description of the Cremation of Care, which was found

in the Program of Events for the Bohemian Grove 1996 Midsummer


Encampment which reads, "In it we seek to cast off the shackles of Dull Care
that bind us to the reality of our everyday lives and, through the music and
poetry of the ceremony, for a brief spell find peace, joy and fellowship in the
magic of Great Nature" (1996:19). This alludes to the concept that within the
beauty of nature, a man can find his own nature. In the Grove the Bohemians
walk free from Dull Care in their hearts "...only as long as the selfless spirit
of great nature endures there" (Starr 1995:19). Religious sentiment is present
in the physical milieu of the trees in the Grove as Herman Wouk states in the
Redbook, "These oldest and grandest of living things are an almost visible
signature of the Creator put to His natural handiwork" (1991:6).

Symbolic Interactionist Analysis


In the Cremation of Care ceremony the individual actors all make
signals to one another regarding the release of pent up daily stressors and

anxieties. These signals are in the forms of gestures that begin with the
"standard Bohemian attire" (very casual clothing usually accompanied with a
drink and often a cigar) that contradicts their daily formal attire found in the

economic, military, entertainment, and political institutional orders. The

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

symbols that are exchanged continue with the group interacting together
the formal ritualized acts involved in the Cremation of Care. In the

Cremation they symbolically embody their anxieties, guilt, and other


burdensome emotional states into the form of the body of Dull Care. They
implement the symbolic flame of fellowship to purge their psyches in a group
catharsis. This catharsis not only removes their emotional burden, it kills it.
Their burdens of Dull Care arise into the night sky, along with a pyrotechnics
display in a figurative uprising of the human spirit in the wonders of nature
and fellowship. By interacting in this fashion, the Bohemians emotionally

unite with one another in the Grove. They engage in further "rituals of
drinking, eating, and sitting around campfires telling stories and jokes and the

like" (Vaughn: 2002), to strengthen interpersonal connections. The shared


social symbols in the Grove function, in Mead's (1934) terms to "...arouse in
one's self what it arouses in the other individual" (149). What arises is the
idea that "...we seek to cast off the shackles of Dull Care that bind us to the

reality of our everyday lives..." {Program of Events 1996:19). With this


freedom from Dull Care the Bohemians also experience an arousal in each
other's minds "...peace, joy and fellowship in the magic of Great Nature"
{Program of Events 1996:19).

This congruent thinking process is continually supported in all the


behaviors the Bohemians engage in while in the Grove. Thus the processes of
catharsis in the shared social experience of the Cremation of Care, provides
the Bohemians a means of developing intertwined thinking, in reference to
the context of the social group. This is the enactment of Blumer's (1969) root

image in which "The activities belong to the acting individuals and are
carried on by them always with regard to the situations in which they have to

act" (6).

By identifying with the enactment of the Cremation of Care ceremony


within the group, the Bohemians promote a sense of a generalized other, that

other being Bohemian. They have each accepted the generalized other of

Bohemia with "...the attitude of the whole community" (154). This

interactional process allows the Bohemians to develop a new definition of


their own situation, free from Dull Care that helps them to evolve a new
sense of a "me". The sense of "me" that Mead (1934) defined is understood
here as "He has their attitudes, knows what they want and what the
consequences of any act of his will be, and he has assumed responsibility for
the situation. Now, it is the presence of those organized sets of attitudes that

constitutes that 'me'..." (174). This new "me" as a Bohemian exercises a

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

controlling influence over each Bohemian as they adopt the general attitude
of the group.

Therefore the Bohemians align their social acts to those concepts of the

social group in an appropriate fashion. The social group of Bohemian


consequently functions to provide the necessary social norms and attitudes

that are requisite for a healthy social self. Throughout the Midsummer
Encampment, I saw the Bohemians continually giving off gestures, which
reinforced the group attitudes of "Elite, privileged, powerful, united as
fellows, and acting in a sense of propriety in the Grove" (Vaughn: 2002). The
Bohemians identify themselves as privileged to be in such a wonderful place,
with such wonderful brethren and openly revel in their pleasures. This
functions to free them from their daily roles, which they identify as
constraining their daily lives limiting or removing their personal freedom.

The Bohemians have, over the history of the Club, developed a

comprehensive set of symbols and props to enact these rituals. The ritualized
social objects like the Owl Shrine, St. John Nepomuk, and the abstract object

the Club motto, 'weaving spiders come not here', which is an official
sanction against doing business in the Club, have developed large scale social

group meanings for the objects. Such group meanings are an example of
Blumer's (1969) root image of the nature of objects in which the "...nature
of an object ...consists of the meaning that it has for the person for whom it is

an object" (11).
Each individual actor engages in interaction with the objects and
develops personal meanings, which arise out of the interaction based on their
personal definition of the situation. The variety of meaning, in the example of
the catharsis of enacting the Cremation of Care, is related to the personal

daily life activities of each social actor. A wide variety of social and
emotional ills can be embodied into the effigy of Dull Care and released in

the flames. Having experienced this release, the Bohemians experience a


sense of elation, within the context of the group, which brings greater
meaning to emotionally belonging to the group. Thus the identity of a self as
a Bohemian is forged in fire.

The Cremation of Care can be understood from Blumer's (1969) root

image notion of interlinkage of action in which "...the joint action may be


identified as such and may be spoken of and handled without having to break
it down into the separate acts that comprise it" (17). The concept of Dull Care
is a massive conglomeration of all of the daily activities of social roles that
all of the Bohemians enact in daily life throughout the institutional orders of

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

society. Coining together in the Grove to banish Dull Care in the flame

brotherhood on the Altar of Bohemia is herein understood to mean as Blumer

(1969) states as having "...a distinctive character in its own right..." (17). The
obdurate character of the Cremation of Care is that of a group catharsis which
frees the participants from their perceived constraints of daily life existing in
public scrutiny.
This research project has led to an understanding that the Cremation of
Care can also be utilized to interpret the molar units of Blumer' s symbolic

interactionist paradigm. The Bohemians unite in the Grove during the


Cremation of Care with a common definition of the situation, to banish Dull
Care. The concatenation of actions in the Cremation ceremony is annually
"...sustained by the meanings that people attach to the type of situation in
which the joint action reoccurs" (Blumer 1969:59). By coming together for
the Cremation of Care from the various institutional orders of society, the
Bohemians are viewed as actors from the molar units of the social structure
where they "...define, interpret, and meet the situations at their respective
points" (Blumer 1969:58) from the perspective of being a Bohemian.

The Cremation of Care has implications in relationship to Mead's


triadic structure of meaning. During the ceremony the Bohemians ritualize

social acts, which give off signals to each other, to which each adjusts to
coordinate the culminating social acts in reference to the intended meanings

of the group. Mead (1934) describes the triadic nature of meaning to be a


"...triadic relation between gesture, adjustive response, and resultant of the

social act which the gesture initiates is the basis of meaning..." (80). The
High Priest, Dull Care, and the other participants in the ceremony formalize

the group gestures in the drama unfolding upon the altar. Each member
interpretively processes the intended meanings in an internal "...conversation
of gestures..." (Mead 1934:81) from which meaning emerges for that actor.
This culminates in the adjusted social act relative to that meaning, in which

the Bohemians each release their burdens of Dull Care as they "...ask the
spirits of the Grove to enact the ancient rites to 'lift the curtain of dark that

we may see'" (Program of Events 1995:20).


By engaging in Mead's triadic structure of meaning in the Cremation of
Care, the Bohemians develop a mind in reference to being a Bohemian. Over
the history of the Bohemian Club, the members have developed their set of

symbols (Dull Care, Weaving Spiders, etc.) by which they communicate.

Mead (1934) describes that what "...symbols do is pick out particular


characteristics of the situation so that the response to them can be present in

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

the experience of the individual" (120). The implementation of these symbols


in the Cremation of Care which is operationally defined as a catharsis, allows
the Bohemians to be "...able to point out meanings to others and to himself

(Mead 1934:132). The Shakespearean language using the Bohemian's


symbols and jargon, with the gestures from Druidic ceremony and inspired
by the Book of Common Prayer used in the Cremation, is instrumental in the

development of the Bohemian mind. Mead (1934) posits that, "Out of


language emerges the field of mind" (133). The Bohemian mindset is one of
fellowship and freedom, privilege and wisdom, celebrating the arts while
unified in the Grove by the Flame of Fellowship from the altar of Bohemia.
They carry this notion with them throughout the year and return annually to
be refreshed and rejuvenated in the Grove.

From the field of mind that evolves in the Cremation of Care, the

Bohemians develop a self according to Mead's (1934) terms in that "The self,
as that which can be an object to itself, is essentially a social structure, and it

arises in social experience" (140). I contend here that the Bohemians


reference their social group in identity formation, "The individual
experiences himself as such, not directly, but indirectly, from the particular
standpoints of other individual members of the same social group, or from

the generalized standpoint of the social group as a whole to which he


belongs" (Mead 1934:138). The Bohemians each and as a whole, make the
requisite gestures and behaviors to support the social selves of each other.

Dramaturgical Analysis
When the Grove events begin, the Bohemians leave the Dramaturgical
front stage region and enter the back stage region. Within the confines of the

Grove, the Bohemians are free from observation of the general public.

Goffman (1980) describes such a backstage region as "...being cut off ...by a
partition and guarded passageway" (115). The gate and the guards do in fact
act as a filter or a stage door. Upon entering the Grove the Bohemians are
allowed to discard their public personas, or masks of their daily lives. Once
through the gates, the Bohemians exchange their formal business attire, a
normal front region prop, for the "standard", very casual Bohemian attire, an
example of a backstage prop. Nicolas Murray Butler has stated in the Annals

of the Bohemian Club, "When one arrives at the trees which mark the
entrance to the Grove he is, figuratively speaking, stripped naked of all his
honors, offices, possessions and emoluments, and is allowed to enter simply

as a personality and nothing more" (Vol. V 1972:401). This is

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

dramaturgically speaking, both figuratively and literally, leaving the


region and entering the backstage region. These gentlemen have very sp
public roles, which dictate their daily behavior. Everything from thei
to their jargon is regulated by the roles in which they engage in daily

While there is a range of public statuses amongst the membership


Club, they are all very socially prominent some regionally, some natio
still others globally. For those bohemians that are easily recognizable p

figures from entertainment, economic, or political institutional orders,

roles can be quite constraining. Simple daily activities can becom


headlines for many Bohemians.

Goffman presents the idea of giving a performance in w


impressions need to be managed to successfully carry out the role. To

goal, Goffman (1980) describes "...setting to refer to the scenic pa


expressive equipment... (and) personal front to refer to the other
...insignia of office or rank, clothing ...and the like" (34). The Bohe
leave their front region roles at the gate of the Grove for a short

holiday, free from the burdens of everyday life in the backstage region

Grove. Goffman (1980) describes the backstage region as an area


"...suppressed facts make an appearance" (114). The "open drinking

language often used in jokes, and general relaxed demeanor" (Vaughn:


expressed by Bohemians during the data collection periods are example

backstage behaviors in the Grove. These gentlemen do not cavort i

manners in the front region of their public lives. Goffman (1980) stat
backstage behavior, "Here the performer can relax; he can drop his fr

forgo speaking his lines, and step out of character" (115). I general

behaviors in the Grove that would be out of character for many of the
socially prominent Bohemians in their daily roles in the frontstage reg
public life.
The Bohemians make gestures that reinforce their role as a Bohemian
while in the backstage region of the Grove, which contradict their daily life
front region roles. A common activity in the Grove is "watering the trees"

(Vaughn: 2002) which is simply urinating upon the redwood trees of the
Grove. Herman Wouk describes this social gesture in the Annals of the
Bohemian Club in which the trees of the Grove "...smile down on poor
truants from Dull Care with majestic tolerance, as we sprinkle their greatness

with our wastewater" (Vol. VI 1987:12). These gentlemen's public roles


would disallow them from such a behavior in daily life (as would daily roles
for most of us). This gesture is a sense of total freedom for them. It bonds

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

them with each other and with locus. It sets them apart from the activities of
daily life, which helps to make them free backstage in the Grove.
The backstage identity of a Bohemian is in contradistinction to their daily
identities of powerful, conservative, and formal. This identification further

releases their psyches and allows for easier interaction with other group
members or team players dramaturgically speaking. Bohemians, who would
be in competition with one another in business, tend to be friends in the
Grove. By engaging in the formal and informal ritualized interactions within
the Grove, the Bohemians are fitting together lines of action in reference to

the social group or team as Goffman describes as "...individuals who


cooperate in staging a single routine..." (1980:85). Scenes that were observed
in the Grove were reminiscent of fraternity parties. The physical milieu in the

Grove seems specifically constructed to promote a fraternal atmosphere.


There are extensive male bonding experiences as the Bohemians gather in the
backstage region of their camps, sitting around the campfire, drinking and

eating the best spirits and cuisine, telling jokes and stories for mutual
pleasure. Lionel Tiger (1970) supports these male-bonding activities of all
males associations, in which men "...prefer to drink, talk, or gamble" (264).
In this backstage region, they are free to contradict their public front

stage character. I also posit that these very powerful men, who may feel
trapped by the burdens of daily struggle, enact sacrifices, exemplified here by
the Cremation of Care as a means to establish a powerful male identity in the

social group. I support this assertion with Lionel Tiger's (1970) statement
that "The literal or symbolic sacrifice of animals or other humans may also
function as consummation of a process of bonding and exercise power and
mastery" (237). This male-bonding sacrifice is dramaturgically interpreted as

enacting a discrepant role in the form of a dark secret which is

"...incompatible with the image of the self that the team attempts to maintain

before the audience" (Goffman 1980:141). The notion of a dark secret


applied to the Cremation as a discrepant role, is also supported by Tiger's
(1970) assertion where he describes where "...ritual tasks are sanctioned-

tasks which in other circumstances would be condemned as heinous..." (237).

Dramaturgical mystification of the Cremation of Care by "...restrictions

placed upon contact..." (Goffman 1980:74) of the general public, also

promotes a sense of in-group belonging and power for the Bohemians.


The principle props found in the Bohemian Grove include the Owl Shrine,
the statue of St. John Nepomuk, the Lake used in the Lakeside Talks, and the
actual trees of the Grove. The Owl Shrine with its Altar of Bohemia is the

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

principle backstage prop. A statue of St. John of Nepomuk, Patron Sain


Bohemia resides in the Grove during the Midsummer Encampment "...
his forefinger carefully sealing his lips, can be a saintly reminder of th
for discretion" (1974:10). The symbol of St. John is understood here

example of Goffman's idea of circumspection in which the team pl


exhibit "...loyalty and discipline..." (1980:212) to the team.

The Bohemians utilize the Lake backstage in the Grove for th


Lakeside Talks in which prominent speakers give presentations on v
topics. Giving a Lakeside is a good example of region behavior for
backstage region of the dramaturgical perspective. Giving a Lakeside Ta
the Grove is a special honor for the presenter. It is unlike any ot

presentation that they may give. A Lakeside Talk gives, ". . .a good feel h
particular problem will be handled is likely to be communicated" (Domh
1974:15). Domhoff adds that,
...most members think there is something very nice about hear

official government policy, orthodox big-business ideology,

new scientific information from a fellow Bohemian or one of his

guests in an informal atmosphere where no reporters are allowed to

be present. (1974:15)

The ideas that I heard expressed during the several Lakeside Talks I
witnesses are understood herein as presented in the backstage region in the
Grove. They were given to a private and influential audience of peers, in such
a fashion as Goffman (1980) describes as where "...parts of personal front
may be adjusted and scrutinized for flaws" (1 14). This affords the speaker the

possibility of "...checking for offending expressions when no audience is


present to be affronted by them" (Goffman 1980:1 15). The audience for these
Lakeside Talks is understood to not be a public audience in nature, but part of
the team in dramaturgical terms. According to the Annals of Bohemia vol.
VII, the topics of discourse of the Lakeside talks have a focus in which "...the
scope of the talk widens, edging into questions of politics, diplomacy, and
public affairs which tend to dominate weekend presentations." (1997: 242).

Herein lays the notion that the speakers may indeed present insightful

information relating to public policy, as well as presenting possible

candidates for public office to an audience of powerful peers. The policy


ideas are not developed within the Grove, but are tested for acceptability
amongst peers.

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

Former President George Bush gave a Lakeside Talk I attended which


is a dramaturgical example of a very significant speaker with ramifications
that extend through the "web of influence" out into the institutional orders of
public life. Listed in the 1995 Program of Events was a Lakeside Talk listed

as "Speaker: George Bush, Former President of the United States. Topic:


"Reflections - Past, Present and Future" (45). During the speech, the former
President discussed "...what he missed about being President - and what he

definitely did not miss." {Annals of the Bohemian Club vol. VII: 248). The
former President culminated his speech by presenting his son George W.
Bush, the then Governor of the State of Texas, and the current President of
the United States to the group as "the one and only hope for our great nation"
as I recall. The assembled Bohemians met this speech and the presentation of
George W. Bush with great approval and roaring applause. The assertion here
is that the then Governor Bush was being put to the test of approval of the
prominent members of the power elite class of Bohemians, which he easily

passed. While George W. Bush was well on his way to ascending to the
office of the President, he was being presented to the assembled Bohemians
as a potential Presidential candidate. Domhoff has argued that the Bohemian

Grove "...is an ideal off-the-record atmosphere for sizing up politicians"


(1974:17). This Lakeside Talk is clear evidence of that. This talk was in the
backstage region beyond the scrutiny of the press.

This speech and other Lakeside Talks were given to an audience of


peers and without the recrimination of the press for any comments that may
not go over well in the public eye. In this backstage region of the Grove, the
former President Bush tested the waters as to how his ideas, and his son, the

current President Bush, would be received by an audience of peers, without


the fear of public scrutiny as "...speeches there are strictly off the public

record" (Domhoff 1974:19). During the course of the field study, I heard
several Lakeside Talks including one in 1995 by the then standing Speaker of
the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich in which he discussed his views
of social policy and implementing those policies for social change into the
21st century. There were five Lakeside Talks in 1996 that directly discussed
political views and American public policy in which the views and politicians
were sized up from a Dramaturgical sense.
Carrying a spear in Bohemia is another example of region behavior that
is found in the Grove. This is a central theme to membership in the Bohemian

Club. Mr. Ralph Moody states in the "Redbook" History, Constitution and

Bylaws, House Rules, Grove Rules, Guidelines for Sponsors , "Each

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member's benefits from his Bohemian membership are in direct ratio

participation in the Club's activities..." (1991:12). The Bohemians ca

spear in Bohemia in a backstage region as behavior that helps to develo


reinforce the social bonds that permeate the institutional orders of socie
Mr. Moody also states in the "Redbook" that carrying a spear in Bohem

beneficial to the Bohemian in that it is, "...through participation..


acquaintance is widened and lasting friendships are made. And la
friendships are the most valuable possessions that any man can ac
(1991:13). This quote supports the idea that the Bohemian Club ser
establish and reinforce strong social networks, bound by strong em
which extend throughout the character structure of the individua

actors and the institutional orders of the social structure.

Through their Grove experiences, these gentlemen strengthen their


emotional connections to one another. This allows them the opportunity to
rely upon those relationships outside of the Grove if they so choose. Within

the backstage region of the Grove, this researcher observed a common


exchange of greetings between Bohemians when they met. In these
interactions, many Bohemians would ask each other "What have you been
doing since the last Encampment?" (Vaughn: 2002). The responses typically

included "summations of business dealings and projects that they were


involved in at the time" (Vaughn: 2002). This researcher asserts that these
interaction rituals allow the actors to develop an "intimate understanding of
the activities and intentions of key players across the institutional orders"
(Vaughn: 2002). Upon leaving the Grove and re-entering the front region of
daily life, these Bohemians can then enact business decisions from an
"informed position, which has the function of reducing error through
knowing the actions and intentions of other powerful players on the team"
(Vaughn: 2002). In this fashion, the Bohemians develop a greater magnitude
of social cohesion amongst their fellow powerful elites of society.
In terms of social cohesion across institutional orders, William Domhoff

states that the Club "...builds cohesiveness among elites in America" (in
Phillips 1994:6). The second view is that of Thomas Dye from his "Who's
Running America (1983), in which the Club is viewed as "...primarily a
status function recognizing socio-economic achievement of already elite men
in society" (in Phillips 1994:6). The third perspective of the function of the
Club is that of Bohemian Club member Mr. Al Baxter. Mr. Baxter asserts
that the Club "...is a place of social enjoyment and companionship for men
interested in the arts" (Phillips 1994:6). There are therefore several reasons

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

to participate in the culture of the Bohemian Grove, depending on the

individual and their motivations.

A portion of the culture of the Bohemian Grove that helps to shed light
on the Club member's activities is found in the Club's Constitution, Article I.

This article states the idea that the Club is for the purpose of, "...the
association of gentlemen connected professionally with Literature, Art,
Music, the Drama, and also those who, by reason of their love or appreciation

of these objects, may be deemed eligible" (By-Laws, Officers, Members


1960:47). Domhoff (1974) describes this as a " ...quid pro quo arrangement
between the rich and the talented" (57). This offers the members a place of
opulence and exclusivity where the influential can enjoy the arts, and the

talented can ascend into the ranks of the elite. Domhoff also describes these

relationships as, "...cooperative and fraternal" (1974:58).


Conclusion

The Bohemian Grove offers a unique social institution for its members
in which they can be free of the daily cares of life. They can "remove their
masks" in the dramaturgical sense of things. They leave their front region
roles at the gate and share in the pleasures of a midsummer night's dream
with men of great social prominence, free of social ramifications. This type
of joint action, in which each player makes supportive indications to the other
actors in the group, gives rise to the shared meanings of being free from Dull
Care. The Cremation of Care is the principle formal ritual through which this
cathartic process is achieved. This ritual helps to establish and reinforce the
bonds of fellowship of the Bohemians as they enjoy their sylvan holiday in
the Grove. After the Bohemians enact this ritual, they also enact typical male
bonding behavior of drinking, and telling stories and jokes, in groups around

the campfire, leading to the development of common or at least similar

mindsets. Bohemians later leave the Grove and re-enter the world of Dull

Care with strong and tight emotional relationships. As John Erlichman is


quoted in Friends in High Places, "you have a relationship- a relationship
that opens doors and makes it easier to pick up the phone" (McCartney
1989:14). John van der Zee (1974) also describes the bonds forged in the
Grove Encampments thusly, "The Grove represents approval, acceptance,
entry into the old-boy network, where the jobs with scope that are only
dreams to most men... are filled through friends and acquaintances" (128129).

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VAUGHN: THE BOHEMIAN GROVE

In examining the culture of the Bohemian Grove and its members


guests from a social psychological perspective, I have come to the conc
that a major function of the Grove is to generate the emotion that ac

catalyst for social bonding for the members. The Bohemians conti

make indications to one another that perpetuate an understanding of pr

and the requisite high status afforded to Bohemians. The Bohe

"emotionally refer to each other with admiration and respect, even whe

derides the other" (Vaughn: 2002). In the Grove the Bohemians dev
self in reference to the group of Bohemians. They have norms th

specific to the Grove. They develop a generalized other within the con
Bohemia which has a regulative function for their cultural activities i
out of, the Grove.

On a larger social structural perspective, the Bohemian Grove affo

the Bohemians a private social environment that frees them from

scrutiny, but has ramifications outside of their purely social relations


refer to the extent of these relationships as the "web of influence". On
re-enter the front stage region of public behavior, they can act from a p
of understanding, knowing the intended actions of the other key play
society. These understandings from the Grove may help allow the social
actors to improve the likelihood of success of their own actions acros
institutional orders of society and conversely reduce failure. I also con
that the social networks of the Bohemians extends across the institutional

orders as presented by Gerth and Mills (1953). These networks also extend
through such organizations as the Hoover Institute, the Brookings Institute,
and the Tri-Lateral Commission. The Bohemian presence in these groups, in

conjunction with the Bohemian presence at the head of government and


corporate elite positions, results in a closed loop, which functions to support
the interests of the cohesive social class of power elites some of which are
members of the Bohemian Club. The class interests of the power elites are

reinforced in corporate policies, political ideology, and think tanks. The

Bohemians act cohesively as a social class. The Bohemians, having

developed selves in the sense of Mead and Blumer, allows for the cultivation
of group cohesiveness.

My approach taken by using Blumer' s naturalistic inquiry in the


Grove's backstage environment allowed me to understand the mechanisms
by which the Bohemians develop emotional bonds in the group catharsis of
the Cremation of Care. By their participation in the formal and informal
rituals in the Grove, the Bohemians are freed from the constraints of their

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MICHIGAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 20 FALL 2006

daily roles. They release their pains and frustrations in the Flame of
Fellowship as they banish Dull Care allowing them to create new selves as

Bohemians.

REFERENCES

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San
Annals
San
Annals
San

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