Walden West

Time Magazine
Aug. 7, 1964

Within the sylvan secrecy of Bohemian Grove, 75 miles north of San Francisco, there is a spot almost equidistant from the Russian River and Snob Hill Trail. It is called Cave Man Camp. There, for two days last week, Barry Goldwater slipped gratefully into seclusion, surrounded by centuries-old redwoods, water-lily-carpeted ponds, and a covey of U.S. millionaires and influentials, Republican and Democratic, who like to strip to their skivvies, swig Scotch in the sun, and forget their troubles.

Bohemian Grove is a walled-in Walden for the world-weary well-to-do; and no one—but no one—gets inside the gate unless he is either a member of San Francisco's intensely exclusive Bohemian Club or a carefully selected guest, such as Barry. A persistent reporter who hoped to follow Goldwater into the woods was advised snappishly: "The only way you'll get in is disguised as Herbert Hoover." Also rigidly forbidden: television sets and women.

Kennedy Alfresco. It has been like that at the fenced and guarded 2,600-acre Grove since 1878, when the Bohemian Club held its first summer escape camp there. The club was originally founded by newspapermen, who later invited the membership of artists, and eventually wealthy art patrons and businessmen. It has prospered nicely ever since, under its lazy-going motto, "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here." Today among its 1.950 members are, besides a collection of little-known but influential people, such diversified types as Henry Ford II, former President Hoover, Bing Crosby, Richard Nixon, Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Lucius Clay, retired General Albert Wedemeyer (Barry's host), former Defense Secretary Neil McElroy, and Old Aviator Jimmy Doolittle. There is al ways an eager waiting list of at least 850—and some people wait 15 years before they're tapped for membership.

The big event each year is the Grove's two-week hideout. Some 2,000 Bohemians and guests rough it in 100 different camps, ranging from tiny wooden shelters to elaborate lodges bearing bizarre names like Poker Flat, Star and Garter, Bald Eagle, River Liars and Lost Angels. The Grove routine is pretty shapeless, although each year a couple of glittering original shows are staged beneath the trees. This year the Bohemians did a musical about murder in a whorehouse called Dammit. Who Done It? in which, presumably, the moral was that too many crooks spoil the brothel. Occasionally, particularly learned or prized guests make informal, off-the-record speeches in the glade. Herbert Hoover has spoken there, and so have Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller. Attorney General Robert Kennedy addressed the Grove alfresco a few weeks ago. It was Goldwater's turn last week.

Made to Order. But generally the Grove is strictly for well-lubricated leisure. "We drink very little water up there," said one member wryly. "We play poker and we visit other camps. We do nothing much." On his first day there, Barry slept until 8:30 a.m.—late for him—then shaved, after heating his own water, and breakfasted simply on orange juice and oatmeal. For Barry Goldwater. the Grove's easy isolation was made to order. He had clucked newsmen for days. When reporters met Barry's plane in California. General Wedemeyer said to the Senator. "I suppose you'll want to give those men an opportunity." Said Barry: "No, I don't. There'll be no press conference." Then he vanished into the forest.