With more than 5.5 million articles, Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, whether you’re throwing a term paper together at the last minute, or working out whether the billionaire’s gold-plated yacht that your tax hike is going to end up paying for will be seaworthy. We explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 5,529,165-week series, Wiki Wormhole.
This week’s entry: Bohemian Grove
What it’s about: Ah, the old campground. Hiking through the woods, singing songs around the campfire, crushing the proletariat under your boot, and other hijinks. Yes, Bohemian Grove is a campground, but not just any campground. The Northern California camp is operated by a private club whose membership contains some of the richest and most powerful men in the world. These guys make the rich kids across the lake look like the scrappy underdogs on your side of the lake.
Biggest controversy: When we say powerful men, we mean men. Women are forbidden to join, and while family members are allowed to visit the Grove, women and children must leave the property by 9 or 10 p.m. The Grove was sued for discrimination and took the fight to keep its He-Man Woman Haters Club intact all the way to the state Supreme Court. This club of billionaires made the legal argument that its members “urinate in the open without even the use of rudimentary toilet facilities,” and therefore they could not allow women to see such a sight, or, naturally, change their behavior in any way. The court ruled against them, but stopped short of insisting they admit female members, requiring them only to hire female employees, in a great blow for equality among wealthy people’s servants.
Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $15.00 (as of 09:35 EDT - Details) Not every male club member has been thrilled with the policy—former President (and Grove member) Richard Nixon was once recorded saying of the Grove—and this is a direct quote from the former president of the United States—“It is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine.” Just in case you thought Trump had a monopoly on slurs and uncivil behavior.
Strangest fact: Bohemian Grove is a theater camp. Every year, club members perform musical theater, written and composed by the members themselves. The camp has put on a show every year since 1902 (minus a three-year break for WWII). The 1975 show had an estimated budget of $20,000 to $30,000 (well over $100,000 in today’s money), and the performances can involve as many as 300 people. Somewhere there’s a billionaire captain of industry fondly reminiscing about the time he played a tree in a camp musical.
Thing we were happiest to learn: The Grove may have won World War II. While outside business is supposed to be left at the gate, the club’s bigwigs often make business and political deals at the resort (the club motto is “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here,” which is taken to mean that schemes are not welcome). However, the group made an exception for one scheme in particular—the Manhattan Project, which had an early meeting at the Grove. (Non-member J. Robert Oppenheimer was allowed to the camp for the occasion).