Naughty, naughty Krug

[Updated 5/16/12 9pm – Oli from Zoo camp has spoken in their defense, analysis at the end]

Our recent post “Look daaahling, a Sparkle Pony” has been very popular, and seems to have stirred up a response from the BMOrg. And a good response at that – kudos to Evil Pippi, we support her sentiments and are glad to get some back story on the matter. Let’s be clear, Burners.Me’s position is:

Art Cars , Artists, and Art Projects should be able to do anything they want to raise the money to get them to Burning Man.

But that doesn’t mean, kill people, hurt animals, destroy Burning Man. Anything is anything within reason, and with respect to our values and our community.

In the case of the Town and Country alleged “birthday”, it doesn’t seem like the breach of the Decommodification principle, could be justified by the ends. It didn’t lead to any support for the arts, it was just blatant cashing in and over-the-top gentrificaition. And it left a trace. In other words, total commodification. And lack of respect for our culture.

It seems that the whole affair was a publicity stunt staged by Krug, and Town and Country were some of the hacks brought in for the event.

Krug, a centuries-old luxury champagne house, and its publicity machine, staged and hosted an elaborate dinner party at the trash fence on Friday night of the 2011 event. Pre-event, Krug’s PR agency pitched members of the media to photograph and report on the staged dinner for publications such as Town & Country and W Magazine. They invited society bloggers to the “exclusive” champagne dinner with the expectation of getting even more coverage, and pro photogs to shoot it. And it worked.

No harm done, right? Well, not only did they violate “Decommodification”, one of the Sacred Ten Principles; they also violated “Leave No Trace”, which really is the golden rule. Not only from BMOrg but also on the permit.

My friends and I came across the scene of the dinner on our art car, The Slug, en route to explore the deep playa late on Friday night. We slowed down to check out the remains of what appeared to have been a fantastically fancy party staged on a long constructed dinner table, lit by large hurricane lanterns. The stained tables had empty water bottles and other party residue strewn about.  And it was right along the trash fence. What a great place for such a dinner, we marveled. But was anyone going to clean it all up? Not a soul was around.  Krug just took their commodified photos and left the mess for us. 

apparently the Slug can be seen in the background

Now just, so you know, the Slug isn’t just any old art car. In fact, it’s

the skankiest, nastiest, Mad Max-ing-est art car out here. It started life in the mid-60s as some kind of truck, and now it’s smelly and dusty and LOUD. And unbelieveably cool. It’s pretty much the only car I would want to be seen on, and that’s really saying something.

Of course, being Burning Man, there’s always another opinion

If you don’t know it, The Slug is the least “artful” “Art Car” on the Playa. It’s just an old truck with an upper deck and a really loud sound system, but it’s been kicking around for a long time and it’s TEN TONS OF FUN!!! 

Anyway, the Slug is not at fault here. They’re just pointing out the Principles Violations. Back to the miscreants, the Naughty owners of Krug. We can’t just blame Krug, this seems like the acts of a minion not an owner. Although Carl’s title is “International Brand Ambassador”. Quite the diplomatic mistake, Mr Ambassador. NYC restaurant the Fat Radish was at fault too…

Carl Heline, Krug

Seizing the opportunity to entertain the creative spirits and bon vivants that had descended upon Black Rock Desert for Burning Man, the annual art event and temporary community based on self-expression, Carl Heline from Krug and his friends Phil Winser and Ben Towill from The Fat Radish embarked on an ambitious three-day build out for their dinner party in the desert.

Here is the description of the dinner from the caterers:

In addition to catering breakfast and dinner for the Zoo Camp (120 people spread across 30+ RVs), we built a dinner table for the 120 Zoo Camp guests and hosted a seated three-course meal (accompanied by Krug Grande
Cuvee) out on the playa. We began the build on Wednesday the 31st and completed it just hours before the first course went down the following day, with string lights, lanterns, and a walkway leading guests to the long table. Our head catering chef, Ana Morris, spent all day prepping the dinner back at the campsite, located about a mile away from the dinner site. Just before the dinner, our team drove our refrigeration van out toward the dinner and plated all the dishes from a makeshift kitchen space we created just next to the table.


Krug might be a good champagne, but they shouldn’t have done this. Boycott Fat Radish! Boycott LVMH! We need a “Camp Town And Cuntry”, along the lines of McSatan

[Update 8:54pm PST: Burner Oli from Zoo Camp made this statement in their defense:

Hi everyone, my name is Oli. I am the creator of the Zoo camp.

I have been to BRC for the past four years. On my first year I was still living in France and heard about BM from friends in the US. That was 2007. At the time nobody in Europe knew about BM. On 2008 I finally hit the playa with 3 friends, knowing nothing about it. We discovered the playa, its amazing people and its values… a life changing experience.

On my second year we decided to create a camp and share this experience with other Europeans who didn’t have a clue about BM. On that second year the camp had 75 members and 70 of them were virgins on the playa. Burners were saying we were crazy to bring so many virgins but everything happened perfectly… playa’s magic!

On the third year the camp had 110 people, 60 virgins amongst them, and last year 130 people with at least 50 virgins. I mention this because I want to outline our passion for BM’s values and our passion to share these values with new people. Every year we have tried to bring more to the playa, more creativity, to give more time and energy.

Now please allow me to clarify the incident that you are talking about as I think it is worth explaining. You have shared what you saw and felt, please let me share with you what really happened.

Ben and Phil, two 27 years old amazing British guys who created a restaurant in New York (The Fat Raddish as you mentioned it), are our friends. They proposed to take care of the food of the camp, budget which has been divided within the camp members, as many other camps do. Everyday they prepared the food of our camp and also organized the dinner on Thursday night for my birthday. My birthday dinner on the Thursday night has been always been a tradition of our camp.

Carl, who is also a friend for many years, proposed to bring champagne to celebrate my birthday. The champagne he brought was shared at the beginning of the dinner with everyone who was there. The dinner lasted all night and over 700 people joined what was a great night.

Unfortunately it happened that Carl decided to publicize the fact of having bringing his Krug to the desert. When Carl offered to bring the champagne he clearly stated it would not be with any promotional intent. This has been done without Zoo’s approval. Had we known it was going to be used that way we would have refused it BIG TIME!!!

And yes, I personally saw photographers who were friends of Carl and who were taking pictures all night. I never imagined pictures would be used for press. In fact it was only after BM, once we saw the article in the press, that we learned they were used in a commercial effort.

In regards to the location, we were granted a permit for the construction of this incredible table at this location. Everything was cleaned up after the dinner and the rest was finished in the morning light. The only thing not removed immediately was the dinner table.

The table was incredible, it was built by Phil who is a fantastic architect. On Friday afternoon, when we came to dismount it, it was being used by dozens of burners who were using it to have lunch and dinner so we left it there until the end of BM. Over four days hundreds of people used this beautiful table. Phil and Ben even received a medal from the BM organization for its construction.

Now, how can you say that our Art cars were Krug art cars? Our Art Cars had nothing to do with Krug… nothing at all! They were built by the members of our camp, amongst them many burners who participated in the construction of the Waffle. That’s why it had the look with the wooden sticks that many people on the playa recognized.

I am deeply sorry for this incident. What was supposed to be my birthday dinner gathering friends on the playa has ended up being used outside of BM for commercial purposes. This was completely unknown to me and to the Zoo and the concept of it is against our will. We are sorry and can only regret.

However, I do not think the Zoo camp should be blamed as much. For 4 years the Zoo has integrated hundreds of virgins, coming mainly from Europe and the 4 corners of the world trying its best to promote the values of Burning Man.

Our camp is deeply in love with Black Rock and respect its values. To condemn hundreds of people who have participated in this camp because one person has crossed the borders seems very unfortunate.

I am the creator of the camp. Blame me if you must, condemn me if you must, ban me if you must. I take full responsibility. But please, do not deprive the rest of our members. During the last 4 years they have brought happiness and color to BM and it would not do justice to put on them the blame created by the act of one person.

We understand your concern, we agree and deeply regret that a border has been crossed. We have been living with it since last year and I tell you it has been a heavy burden on our shoulders.

We have always striven to do our best for burning Man, but sorry to have fucked up on that one.

PS: After four years and a lot of sweat for BM… I didn’t get tickets at the lottery this year…. maybe justice has already been done!]

I have to say, I feel for Oli. And it’s not just me – dearly departed Action Girl thinks so too:

It is not fair to say that the entire camp nor the art car’s organizer’s were necessarily implicit in the connection with Krug. Don’t really have that information. It could even be possible, I suppose, that few in the camp outside of the Krug representative & hired guns knew much about the commercial connection or thought the “birthday party” was anything but a birthday party.

Did they really SIN? When we see all the things that happen around us with war, crime, politicians – in the scheme of things, is this really the worst thing that’s ever happened at Burning Man? Can we blame everyone at Zoo Camp? Isn’t Burning Man about love, a world without hating and blaming? Sure, it’s clear someone hooked up PR and sponsorship for this party. And it wasn’t BMOrg. But it seems like they did get permits and approvals. And no-one’s saying money changed hands on the Playa. It was a way to fund a party, it seems like a great dinner, wish we were there.

That doesn’t excuse pollution, though. I don’t care if you’re on the streets of Manhattan or you’re a darktard speed bump on the Esplanade. Pollution is the biggest problem in the world. Burning Man should be a way to teach everyone to live in harmony with Nature, no matter how harsh. Burner Oli doesn’t really address the LNT…just saying “we cleaned up”. But, I’m not sure the Slug would lie. Then again, I’ve never heard a truthful word from a slug before. Have you?

So what you gonna do, Burners? Hate? Judge? Other negative emotions? Or forgive, love, include…and learn? 

[…more coverage over at Laughing Squid]

41 comments on “Naughty, naughty Krug

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  3. I would just like to say… In regards to the “mess”, the dinner was thur evening. The table and area was cleaned afterwords. It was after that that other burners decided to leave their mess’s over the course of Friday. And that was what the Slug saw Friday night. Nothing was left Thur night after the dinner. I was invited to this dinner because I just happened upon them while it was being constructed on Wed and started chatting with them about what they were building. They insisted we join them the next evening for the birthday dinner. It was lovely. The people there were genuine burners. The art car that did take on a Waffle look was lovely (and I’m glad to learn it was from those same creators, because that’s been one if my favorite pieces to date). I’m saddened by our community for lashing out with hate and creating their own story and running with it. I read somewhere that Krug made the art car and even provided outfits for hand picked guests and that it wasn’t even a birthday party. It’s just not true. Yes.. Someone with a burner media pass took photos. And yes it was in town and country. (I bought the issue to see for myself). The article was about burning man. Just like many other articles in many other magazines. The only mention of Krug in the multi page article was a caption under one of the many photos that read “sipping Krug”. Not saying that’s ok. Just saying whoa people! Calm. Down. Had they made this elleged big mess on Friday? Sure rip them apart. But they didn’t. And if it were exclusive? Fine. But it wasn’t. My only quam was that there was glass. I don’t bring glass on the playa because as much as I like to break rules, I don’t on the playa out of respect. But nothing was broken and all cleared away, so no harm done. And I know half of you reading this have meal plans at your camp. And if a member happens to own a restaurant or is a chef and wants to coordinate the meal plan.. Then freaking score! So what. *end rant.

    • Thanks for the comment. This dinner party was 3 years ago now, so I hope most Burners have got over their anger. As I said in the article, sounds like a fun time, wish I was there. The “Waffle” aka Uchronia was absolutely one of the best BM installations of all time.

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  18. A friend of mine said a woman was standing outside Zoo Camp and invited her to the dinner. My friend wasn’t part of Zoo Camp, so I question whether it was just Oli’s friends and campmates who were invited.

    Does this guy “Carl” have anything to say for himself. If Oli is throwing him under the bus, I think it’s only fair to hear his side of the story.

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    • I’ve deleted the directors name and company from the comments, at his request. He has contacted us to insist that this video is not a commercial in any way:

      “I’m very confused. How is my burning man video of my trip with my friends have anything to do with this? I brought some black star with me because I love the beer and I drink it all the time. In no way was my personal home video of y friends a beer ad for black star. I am a four year burner and am stoked for this year. I am completely respectful of the culture and what burning man stands for. Please clarify why I am involved in this or my company? I feel like I just got thrown under the bus.”

      • I pulled together a lot of links to this story, not as stylishly as you did, to be sure, (at, and received a similar email from the director of the Black Star video. But, to me his response does not pass muster for these reasons: Black Star beer is a client of that person’s company, ButcherShop creative (SF), which is named in the video credits and video description. Additionally, Black Star is the *only* product clearly displayed in the video, in 2 closeups and 2 long shots, and ends up appearing in 11% of the video. There’s also the factor that Butchershop talks about creating (for Black Star’s campaign) “video content in the form of The Great American Road Trip…” which, to me, seems also to match the video. – I am opening myself up to critique here, I know, but I believe that no matter how many years one has been to Burningman, using it to surreptitiously film an ad is wrong and causes great damage to the event by attaching individual profit to collective community efforts.

        The only actionable interest I have here, is to dissuade those who would attempt similar things in the future. Should the video be re-edited to remove the filmers’ commercial client, I would happily remove that part of my post, and leave it as calling out only those who persist in using Burningman for advertising and marketing profits.

        • Where is the evidence that Black Star Beer is using Burning Man to promote their brand? I checked out the Great American Road Trip campaign, the beer makes no mention of Burning Man anywhere. The video you’re talking about is not listed as part of this road trip, or anywhere else on their site. Not sure how your calculation comes to “the beer was in 11% of the video” from 2 shots, I would say it’s not even shown for 10 seconds total. I can’t find any link between “Burning Man Black Star Beer” anywhere on Google. It’s not even in the tags for the video. To say that Black Star beer is using Burning Man for marketing the way that Krug did is a false accusation, IMO. What MOOPS did they make? Where is the invite to the “Exclusive Beer Dinner”? Where is the art installation that Burners weren’t invited to?
          The issue of BMOrg charging $1000 for front row seats to the Temple Burn is a far more blatant violation of decommodification than this, why don’t you call them out on that? Makes me think you’re on a witch hunt rather than addressing the real issue here.

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  21. Oli from Zoo Camp works in marketing and promotions for Krug. Oli’s campmate Carl is the brand director for Krug. The dinner was hosted by Silkstone, an events planning company which owns Fat Radish.

    • Yeah, just reading that now. Benefit of the doubt REVOKED…What say you to this, Oli??? (copied from the ePlaya comments)

      “Oli, maybe not everyone in your camp knew, but how in the hell could someone with your background, with your experience, with your expertise in promotion/branding not see what was happening around you?

      You are neck deep in the cross promotional world of PR companies and websites in NYC (like and party clubs in France doing business/cross marketing events with Moet Hennessy

      And someone could draw some pretty strong conclusions from the fact that Institut Bonheur promotes mostly Moet Hennessy spirits at its events, that Antoine Arnault (son’s of the owner of LVMH) owns a part of your businesses in the USA, that your business partners are Pierre Raygot (PR manager) and Elie Riachi (Artistic-DJ director) for the Zoo camp/Institut Bonheur.

      Seems like this dinner was a way to thanks shareholders and business partners at
      no cost for Olivier, Pierre and Elie. Then Moet Hennessy can use BM’s
      trendy image to promote Krug as a trendy champagne (See Also: pre-sold article to W, referenced here but taken down, and the pre-sold article to Town & Country )

      So Olivier, either you are not being honest, or maybe you don’t know your promotional business as well as one might expect.”

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  23. I have no grievance with Zoo Camp, from the facts I’ve heard. My beef’s with Krug and possibly their agency.

    • Except that you really should have done a better job cleaning up after yourselves. Other than that, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Boy am I going to be pissed if that is mis-guided.

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    • we explore, Burning Man responds. Then we respond. Such is how dialogue gets crafted. Without freedom of speech, freedom to criticize, there is no dialog, only totalitarianism

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