Hollywood’s Vacation for the Soul

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Image: Hollywood Reporter

Hollywood Reporter has a big article Burning Man Turns 30: The Joys Pitfalls and Drugs of Hollywood’s Vacation for the Soul

I think it’s great to be celebrating Burning Man’s 30th birthday this year. I was born in 1973, so in 2003 I celebrated my 30th birthday. Some Burnier-Than-Thou types have been claiming that this is actually 31, because technically the first Man can’t be Zero. Like, if they go to a 1-year old’s birthday party, they go round to everyone saying “actually, this is the second birth ‘day’ of this child, don’t call it a first birthday because their birth was the first day”. If you want to get technical, then by the official story it is 33 because there were 2 Burning Mans built in 1990 and 2007. As we’ve shown in Shadow History Part 4, Larry Harvey’s 1986 Baker Beach burn was not the first one anyway. So let’s just go with “Burning Man Turns 30” and party up!

There are some interesting tidbits included in the Hollywood Reporter story. One is that the movie “Spark: A Burning Man Story” was funded produced by a venture capitalist:

Says venture capitalist Bob Zangrillo, founder and CEO of Dragon Global and producer of the 2013 documentary Spark: A Burning Man Story: “The perception of Burning Man versus the reality of Burning Man is so dramatically different. You go for a day and your entire view of Burning Man changes in 24 hours.”

That explains a lot, and is another sign that our 2014 analysis of Burning Man’s “transition” was on the right track:

Selling Out Part I – Wrapping the Gifting

Selling Out Part II – Who Could It Be Now?

Social Alchemist Seeks Sherpa For Startup Shenanigans

Here are some other highlights from Hollywood Reporter:

Industry “Burners” from Brad Falchuk to Dana Brunetti discuss the boundary-pushing wild festival in the desert, where inhibitions give way to abandon (drugs: yes; pants: optional), artists do extraordinary installations and the rich (of course) threaten tradition with private chefs, $10,000 tents and air conditioning.

Burners are an industry now?

…Cirque du Soleil, Coachella, Art Basel and Woodstock all rolled into one, under a layer of notoriously hard-to-scrub-off mineral dust. The entire week is capped by the ritual burning of the towering wooden Man effigy (2014’s was 105 feet tall) on Saturday night each year. “It’s really hard to explain why it’s so amazing to be in the desert with no shower, no physical comforts. It’s really harsh,” says Levi Vieira, a makeup artist who married his partner, Zack Bunker, a digital asset manager, there in 2014. “It’s really a vacation for the soul, not for the body.”

Is it really that hard to explain why?

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Just remember, Burners: as important as this may seem to your “industry” and “networking opportunities”, you’re taking your soul on vacation to a place where cult brainwashing is the raison d’etre and people walk around with contracts encouraging you to sell your soul. In a pentagram.

In 1996, Burning Man was the New American Holiday (according to WIRED).

wired 1996

In 2015 Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon’s Vacation went there – although BMOrg complained and got the scene deleted.

vacation-01 deleted scene

Now Burning Man is the must-see bucket list vacation destination for anyone in a creative industry:

“If you work in a creative industry, this is a must-see,” says Amazon Studios head of drama and 13-time attendee Morgan Wandell, who, over the years, has brought along ITV’s Adam Sher, Armie Hammer and John Stamos to experience the fun. Says artist Trek Thunder Kelly, who has been going for more than two decades: “Imagine that you’ve taken the red pill in The Matrix and walked into Alice in Wonderland on the planet Tatooine. You can have free waffles with a crew dressed like Elvis, make jewelry in a Bedouin tent, learn how to pole dance [and] take a seminar on making absinthe.”

“People can cut loose without people knowing who you are,” says Fifty Shades of Grey and House of Cards producer Dana Brunetti, who “Burned” for the first time in 2014. Notes Hand of God actor Julian Morris, who stars in the upcoming Watergate film Felt: “You want something that’s as loud and ridiculous as you can possibly imagine; someone lent me a sequined circus master jacket.” Jokes Gersh agent Jeff Greenberg, who has been going for four years: “Bring a tutu. Otherwise, you will look silly.”

And whatever you do, you don’t want to be seen looking silly at Burning man. Thank goodness for circus master jackets and sequins.

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Who wore it better? Burning Man Social Alchemist Bear Kittay, L; Burner Dennis Kucinich, R

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The 50 Shades of Grey Producer sounds exactly like the new kind of Burner being courted for VIP break-out sessions at Flysalen:

Brunetti, who went to Burning Man two years ago, did not have the festival on his bucket list. He ended up going because he met two women who are regulars on the Ibiza-to-Tulum party circuit at an event at the Chateau Marmont — “really hot girls. They were Russian,” he says — and they invited him to go, free of charge, on their private plane the next day to a luxury camp that cost upward of $10,000 a person. He said yes. “I was in an alcohol-induced state,” recalls Brunetti, who it turned out had a DJ friend, Zen Freeman, playing at the same camp. “I asked Zen what’s the deal with these girls. He said, ‘They go around the world and party. They are like female ballers.’ Another woman joined us too who’s a Victoria’s Secret model.” They flew at night, arriving at sunrise. “It started off phenomenally,” says Brunetti. “And then the three boyfriends [of the women] arrived. I was, ‘OK fine whatever, there’s plenty of other people here. Have fun.’ Then I got to the camp, and it looked like it had been raided. There was supposed to be a private chef and bar, and it looked like it had just been turned upside down. The camp had EDM music playing 24 hours a day. I was staying in a yurt. You couldn’t sleep. It just ended up being a total disaster. I tried to make the best of it. I just started taking whatever drug I could find. That was a last-ditch attempt just to save my trip. It didn’t help.” He was supposed to stay for a week, but three days in, he walked — after being waylaid by a sandstorm — to the small airport and got out via a Burner Air flight.

Went to Burning Man once for 3 days. Couldn’t take it. Feels qualified to tell everybody else about it in the media, thinking that having failed Burning Man gives them some kind of social cachet.

The festival seems to be having its transformative effect, turning Ari Gold into Mother Theresa:

Explains Greenberg: “The first year I went, we talked about what we were bringing. I was bringing coconut water, and someone said they were bringing empathy, and I remember thinking, ‘If I hand you a coconut water and you hand back some empathy, I’m going to be pissed.’ Now I get it, the idea of listening to people and how it makes me a better agent and human. So getting that recharged every year is really important.”

BMOrg are still tilting at windmills fighting their war on ravers:

The festival recently has become more of an EDM scene — Skrillex, Diplo and Major Lazer all have done sets there — prompting the Burning Man Project (the nonprofit that runs the festival, which brought in $32 million in funds in 2014, according to its most recent annual report) to crack down on camps that publicize their DJ rosters ahead of time. The organizers — explaining in a statement that “Burning Man doesn’t have ‘headliners'” — don’t want it to be seen as a music festival. Says Jennifer Raiser, author of the new book Burning Man: Art on Fire: “Unlike, say, Coachella, it’s not about buying your ticket and waiting to be entertained. It’s about figuring out how you can entertain everyone else.”

In her case, she figured out that selling a book and using her Board position to promote it would be a great way to monetize entertain. Not to mention billing the charity tax-exempt non-profit $34,900 to help them write their annual report (they still spent almost $1 million on accountants and lawyers). She’s not exactly short of a quid herself, as we covered in: The 1%? All A-Board

Forget the War on Dance Music. Turn it up! Get your 2016 Burning Man Music Lineup Here, courtesy of Rockstar Librarian.

Read the full story at the Hollywood Reporter.

Also check out Broke Ass Stuart’s 2016 Edition: Which Famous Assholes Are Going to Burning Man This Year?

We’ll let Brad Falchuk – creator of the TV Demon “Larry Harvey” – have the last word:

larry harvey horror AHS-1x03_02American Horror Story co-creator Brad Falchuk, who has been a regular since the late ’90s but went two years ago for what he says was his final time. “Seeing Instagram posts from the playa is not what I signed up for. It’s become less participatory and more of a spectator sport.” He admits, though: “I am older and I’ve done it a lot. Things evolve and they change. I still have many friends who totally love it.” Adds Brunetti: “There are more people who are going more for the scene, which I know Burning Man isn’t too keen about. They don’t want what happened to Sundance to happen there.”






17 comments on “Hollywood’s Vacation for the Soul

  1. Pingback: Radical Copter Reliance | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/c0/5e/83/c05e833041e3fffdce7c51bcc30fa350.jpg

    “…and the rich (of course) threaten tradition with private chefs, $10,000 tents and air conditioning.”

    “Tradition,” yeah…sure… Sorta like taking a helicopter to Mt Everest:
    or skydiving to the North Pole:
    threaten “tradition.”

    Gotta work on that bucket list!

  3. I hope Dana Brunetti keeps talking about his experience to the media. He is the Burning Man ambassador to the masses that I want. Discourage as many people as possible. In fact, burners.me is doing just that, so really, I should keep my criticism of this blog to myself, going forward.

      • My biggest gripe with this site is the recurring images of Bear Kittay that keep popping up. Come on, man, I just ate.

          • Cheaper than buying into a CCamp.

            But even better, if every burner has a Motorola to whip out at the right time, their use as an unoffcial designation will fail. So…. next year they will have to make the “staff” desigantion more explicit – ID tags; or, they will need to color the mics.

            All good to address the implied differentiation of those who are in BRC. A differentiation that is against burner fundamentals.

            But the comped ticket in-crowd can always get some solace that they are working for the good of the Borg for those free tickets, beacuse…


          • It must be weird being comp ticketed by the Borg. Coming is no longer a free choice. You have obligations and Borg people to please to continue going. Weird. Never felt that type of obligation to “volunteer,” when there is essentially no other option to being there. Must really screw with your head.

          • Seriously, put that comped “volunteer” hat on and see how that feels.

            JV, this is another insight this Burnt Man experience has provided in my life, brought to focus by talking to the comped Burnt Man ticket holders at another burn.

            One of the professional societies I pay dues and volunteer time to, have this same problem! (And one does not!!) Once people start getting paid, or expenses covered, and are no longer making a free choice to participate – that is, they get tangible compensation – they have to see themselves as different from the majority who come there instead as a free choice to do the same “volunteering.”

            And with that differentiation comes the need to either see yourself as lesser or greater than the others. The comped (compensated) volunteers naturally see themselves as superior, having “earned” their Burnt Man Motorola badge of distinction. But the rest of us (i.e., me) see it the other way: you are here because of my money, you work for me, and your volunteering is not as altruistic as mine.

            For truly salaried people, the issue does not apply, because that’s literally their job. But when you are volunteers, be it making a theme camp, or doing DPW, if you are comped with tickets or expenses, you explicitly know you are different.

            One group I pay dues to and volunteer, comps certain people’s expenses to come to meetings, and those people see themselves as the elite. I see them as people who have agreed to work for me, because I am volunteering too without the compensation, but more because it’s MY dues that pay them.

            Another group without this problem does not pay selected fellow volunteer expenses to come to meetings. Both groups are far older than the Borg, but are truly non-prophet organizations.

            Comped people, and their attitude, are part of what does not work at Burnt Man, and why I have no interest in coming again. It’s not my home.

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