lead story playboy late-breaking stories el santo dark elvis

the bearI just spent 8 days at this crazy art happening in the Nevada desert. I had hoped to jot down some "bullet points" while in this high desert social experiment (think camping in post — apocalyptic Vegas with Salvador Dali and Mad Max) but invariably when it was cool enough to sleep at night, some distant low-end house music or tribal percussions or fire dancers or some Vegas-colored lights on wheels or the laughter of passer-bys wearing costumes that glowed in the dark would draw me out of my tent at 3 am and I'd wander off into the night instead of writing or sleeping.

Random notes—
I drove 8 hours from LA and booked a room in downtown Reno at the El Dorado Casino (mythical city of gold) one night before my friends showed up towing the "artcar" — a $200 Toyota converted into a motorboat we painted blue like Sea World.car I decided a binge on gross material excess before checking into the rave asylum called Burning Man was just the contrast I needed. Gorging on creature comforts (hot shower, fresh towels, minibar, $40 hands of blackjack, slots — noise! — glitter, free vodkas, room service, satellite TV, AC on full blast) before pitching camp in some lifeless, godforsaken lunar landscape outside Reno. I'm a big fan of contrast. And excess for that matter. If you think Reno, Nevada is the middle of nowhere you are mistaken. Nowhere is actually located 2 hours drive north of Reno. The sign says “Welcome To Nowhere.”

We caravaned along the black rock mountain range on a two-lane highway and I got excited when we spotted the refugee camp far off along the horizon. At the same time feeling uneasy. what was I thinking? Where have I come to vacation? The Sahara? This must be what ancient Bedouin tent camps looked like, I thought, except for the RVs and art cars. From a distance, I had been prepared to write the whole thing off as a silly freak show and I'm sure some weren't disappointed by their low expectations, but they were the minority. We formed a slow-moving line leading to the entrance and I realized even in the middle of nowhere there's traffic. High desert winds kicked up clouds of dust. I cracked the window and was greeted by a Mad Max-looking BM staffer wearing goggles and a paisley wrap. A 5 mph speed limit was strictly enforced to minimize clouding the camps with dust kicked up by moving cars and trucks. If they'd put the road downwind of camp this dust issue would have been solved, but this was a right brain operation all the way. Engineers need not apply. We stopped at will call to pick our tickets we bought online. The organizers charge 200 bucks a head to bikescamp out. Reminded me of Slim Pickens digging for change in his pockets to pay the toll in the middle of the old west. It was absurd of course but I went to will- call and got my pass. $200 pays for toilets and for the expected 20,000 in attendance, another $300,000 in local permits, which is basically a look-the-other-way bribe for the ritual of excess called "radical self expression." Entering the camp, a Walt Whitman type, sunburned, naked and wild-eyed, flagged us over but I avoided him. He was a BM staff member. When your buck naked there's no pockets for sunscreen.

After much debate, we circled the wagons near some porta johns along The Playa and had pitched tents about the time someone (me, I think) made a batch of tequila somethings on ice. We all felt better settled in & by dusk the atmosphere was charged with carefree delight. At the moment the sun drops behind the black mountains campers on The Playa began whooping and howling like packs of wolves during a full moon. I joined in. After dark, the camps come alive with the kaleidoscope of lights and serious low end house music, and tribal drums, and voices and laughter of people walking and bicycling around. We drove the boat car around checking out theme camps and fires and strange lights along The Playa.


"PLAYA" is Spanish for beach. Maybe when dinosaurs roamed these parts, but now it's an ancient lake bottom miles from any beach. Or maybe that's just one way of looking at it. Maybe it IS a beach and the body of water is on, uh, shore leave. he he he

The Playa has converted into an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole one mile in diameter, where you're never lost because as it turns out, you're always where you're supposed to be. Except for the shirtless dreadlocks guy we found shivering on the playa in the middle of the night. We gave him a coat and drove him back to his camp.

To give you a taste, my first night on the Playa, I and this musician with a blue mohawk in our camp ventured across the desert sometime after midnight driving our artcar 5 mph out past the 150 ft neon Burning Boy sculpture that was the centerpiece of the event, a 1/2 mile to the 3-story YELLOW rubber ducky where they were serving cocktails inside the duck bar and playing jazz. duckA man in the crowd outside warmed himself by fire and told me he rode a giant dragon out to see the duck. He told me he wanted to leave but couldn't because "the rabbit" was still playing cards. I looked over past the crowd and saw a 6-foot furry white rabbit dealing at a blackjack table. And this was before mushrooms. Later I ate a few buttons hoping to further increase my traction on the whole experience...this galloping sense of wonder...inside the rabbit hole

stop staring at stars, keep moving, talking to yourself, out loud, just saunter past Burning Man patrol on the lookout for people wandering the desert

sensory overload — unlike life in LA, here there's relief from visual noise, especially advertising. with no vending allowed, no corporate sponsorship, and no tv, no one is selling at you. Instead of blocking everything out you want to see as much as possible

surprised by my thoughts

begin to recognize i was feeling — sharing the same fleeting, unique, ritualistic, paganistic experience with many strangers.

This feeling would gain on me and last the week

High Noon, day 2. still tripping... 107 degrees...

driving home slow across the Playa 5 mph in my artcar, a dragon fly pulls up and keeps me company for the drive. He seemed to recognize me as one of his own. Who are you, I asked, Carlos Castaneda? No, just some guy from last year's Burning Man who ate peyote and never left the Playa......(bug's voice) "help me....."

pick up pretty girl in the artcar. where you going?, nowhere, can i go, she hops in, later we run out of gas and leave the boat. 23 dollar bottle of black label for a 1 dollar gallon of gas, seems like a good trade at the time. turns out it wasn't out of gas.

abandon the artcar, and she suggests we visit the Genital Portrait camp. They laminate your genital portrait to wear around your neck like i.d.

by morning temperatures jump into the 90s, and the cooler of melted ice sullied by dirty hands, converts nicely into a bird bath for my dirty tired feet and various minor injuries.

apparently everyone's got liquor and mushrooms, even good looking blondes

unifying characteristics of the experience: attitude, generosity of spirit, animal instincts, enthusiasm, BURN IT.

transparency of the Event Organizers is a good thing


I saw maybe 10 sheriffs in 8 days. As many in one night where i live off sunset strip.

BM rules: 5 mph, leave no trace, be discreet, no vending, porta-john policy, no corporate sponsor, no cars on the Playa except art cars. pillars of an experimental imaginary society built on tent poles. i was admonished by friends for Lakers t- shirt. "no corporate sponsors" But i like this shirt! I was at this game when they won the 2000 western conference title beating Portland in game 7! took it off and went shirtless the for most of the trip. felt good. sun, dust, water truck, dancing in rave, fire.

4 am dance party i see walking home— naked girl dancing. I approach. "How happy are you?" i tell her. "Aren't you a bit overdressed?", she asks me. I toss my ski vest to dance then go pass out on my sleeping bag.

Having opinions is unwelcome, I discovered, whereas forming opinions is excellent fun and appreciated by all. Politics are verboten. enforcing this unwritten code, i politely sent the greenpeace huckster packing. time for my iced soy chai tea and a nap.

they said no cameras but everyone was snapping digital images and videotaping the burn. event doesn't translate easily to stills. stills turn experience to wood. can't capture sound, wind, vibes, music, lasers, lights, voices, laughter, flames, movement, dance, hallucinatory sensations.

camping near the porta johns is a bonus until the wind shifts

recycle! — the only fascist sentiment w/in the camps. That and BURN IT!

7 am prom queens wearing fur coats and aprons

names — what did THEY matter out here? I am The Wizard and I live on the corner of Abyss and 240 degrees. meet us at the Rubber Ducky after midnight for drinks and jazz. great! we'll be there

nowhere to be... despite brochure full of daily events

radical self expression — but no violence, mean people, lawbreaking, bestiality, no bottle rockets, cannibalism, hostile takeovers, no fightclubs, no satanic rituals... basically PG-13 rated radical self expression

Take viagra and walk around naked. THERE’S an NC-17 for you.

friday a couple moved in beside our camp like a toyota commetrcial and pitched camp with great care and efficiency. they had pressed khakis, matching moutain bikes, a new SUV, and the weekend to checkout some freaks and the big burn. at dusk i overheard the woman proclaim "ok, i'm ready for a beer." Meanwhile i was in my tent having visions of the sky kissing the earth outside my tent door....like the bear cub shrooming in that movie "THE BEAR." they left camp the following night soon after the burn.



Meteorman. like Thor (or Nicola Tesla), Meteorman hurls lightning tentacles from the top of his Ryder Truck. 30,000 watts. Excellent fun. But add a few amps and that guy's toast.

sublime quiet beauty looking at the heavens from high desert (altitude: 4000 ft)

one morning most of us were just getting up and milling about for food and water, when an edie brickell-style airhead wearing a wife beater, pink see-through shades and a wrap swept into our camp chill area, curled up on some pillows and wouldn't stop talking about her ex-boyfriend, about reclaiming her own life, and maybe sleeping around this week. (I learned later she was a pretty good singer but once someone annoys you it doesn't matter how good they sing.) I'd been sitting quietly in my beach chair after a bowl of granola sipping cold beer, taking in the shade, thinking about as little as possible, conserving my energy for my next adventure but with her every word polluting my brain, i wanted to opena panel & remove her batteries... however — feeling charitable, I tried to imagine she was still tripping from last night on acid, or magic mushrooms, or ecstasy, or drunk even, and —

Deciding to escape — simply hopped on my beach cruiser and went for a ride around the camp. Rode to the big carnival tent at center camp and stretched out on dirty rug and pillow cushion. Poetry readings. Flute player. Jugglers. Yoga. Tennis foursome from the Rich and Famous Theme camp. Nice touch.

Later I chased a water tanker on my bike but was too late to get drenched for my morning shower, so I rode beyond the perimeter as fast as i could peddle until the camps were far away behind me. i skidded to a stop and the Silence was alarming. The winds had died. It was eerie. Horse latitude eerie. I never felt so close to the earth, to early man, the formation of life, and the certainty of death. I stepped off my bike and removed my sombrero and walked barefoot around this ancient lake bed turned, with time and scorching heat, into alkaline powder. Surprising how good it is to hear the earth crunching under my feet...feet i hardly recognized all covered in powdery white film.

alkaline base desert floor....really? then let's plug the refrigerator into the dirt

propane heads blowing flames out of gas tanks, must love the musk..... Propane by ralph lauren?

I veer off toward fire and drums and topless dancers

lost is the ultimate destination

synchronicity out here- connnections, think it, and it happpens

5 am hallucinations — are glowing passer-bys walking past our camp or is my tent moving through space?

a girlfriend said take lots of condoms but i didn't get laid. need to adjust my standards next time, like the fed chairman lowering the rate.

Latin friend broke up with girlfriend one night and hated the world and called this whole event full of fake americans. advised him to reserve judgment while I go take a fake american piss. he got back together with her the next morning. I declare myself camp counselor on tequila.



1 am girls jumping from moving boats on the Playa. Falls under heading of "bad idea." Even the shamans of early man took a beating from the learning curve.

3 am man and woman naked freestyle wrestling at intersection of 105 degrees and midship. crazy shit.

4 am raid on our camp by friends... fuck you get up!...flashlights inside my tent... like germany in the 30s but cartoon characters instead of Nazis

buddy crashed artcar into someone's camp, passed out in someone's tent
later, hey, that's our car!

BURNING MAN: $500,000 in proceeds and no trash disposal service?

girls talking like forest nymphs
no idea what people do back home, never really came up in 8 days
peter pan syndrome, timothy leary aftershocks

super cool youth a little bit uncomfortable to hang around, like maybe it's uncool to ask what they do back home, talk about work, politics, news, movies, books but i sense a degree of cultural literacy they don't teach you in the university college of knowledge. they wake and bake, prefer soy chai tea to coffee, mismatching thrift clothes to solids, mohawks, purple hair, blue hair, yoga, music, spirituality... turns out, a welcome change from my everyday.

did you use the condoms?
what's the hurry?
you drink too much, this is the best opportunity

THE VISION: of an exceptionally beautiful brunette crossing The Playa barefoot and topless at 10 am, 100 degrees out, holding a pillow against her naked breasts. I circle back in the artcar and offer chilled champagne, no words just a smile both ways, I take a snapshot, and we part ways. This is the kind of place where if you want a ride you nod and jump on and since she didn't ask I didn't offer, out of respect for her solitude. I'll never forget her as long as I live, I think to myself, and crank up Led Zeppelin's Dazed & Confused....then head off to pick up my friends across the Playa...if only i can remember where i left them..... 240 degrees and Abyss....?....

Big art, size and scale matters on the Playa, especially fire.

fireRule #1 - BURN IT (garbage, dirty clothes, bad relationships, ugly thoughts...)

breathed a pound of playa dust up my nose

painting with fire

fire entertains, warms, lights, dances, cooks, burns
20,000 heathens watch the Temple burn — rain of fire, lovely until her hair's on fire!

no ethnic diversity. brothers and sisters are too smart to drive 12 hours to camp in 100 degree heat. which explains the absence of serious rap hip hop R&B presence

acceptance. seeing. prejudice is a turnoff. judgment is a fart in the tent. here the only offense is not trying.

galloping sense of paganism
tequila, flutes, drums, firedancers

hike home, tired feet from dancing all night, barechested, sun beating down
burning man, sheriffs, "must maintain"
sunglasses, without them a nuclear blast? me, narrating my adventure out loud, blend in, respect silence

steel toed chippewa boots grow heavy at 5 am, stumble toward our camp, but spot a rave still going so i go inside, dark, moist, grass, waterfall, lie down on 6 ft subwoofer
woman kisses me on forehead

horrific visit to porta john. oh, the humanity...

8 am- wake up pouring sweat, inside tent i could roast a chicken
wet down my chest with bottle of arrowhead.

water, must have water
going out, get dressed, jeans, boots, ski vest, no costume oh well
naked margarita happy hour
percussion, fire dancers, veer off

firedancing, shirt off, black lights
rave music?
Meteorman's back, in a bee suit, making lightning on top of step van, to heavy metal!
green percussion band, topless fire dancers!!
exit trip over laces
i'm ok
next day, swollen thumb, shoulder, elbow. i tripped over my beach chair last night. oh right. i forgot.

I came for 4 days and stayed 8.

Report Filed by
Five-O Correspondent "The Bear"


Issue One
Previously on Five-O
Evel Knievel & more!
hitman elvis
Dark Elvis
Compelled to Kill
by the King!
swingtime strippers
Swingtime Strippers
Babes Ahoy!
isaac hayes
Isaac Hayes
Shaft vs. South Park
at the Hollywood Bowl
jason priestley
Jason Priestley
Man of Action!
The Five-O Salute
mexican wrestling
¡Viva el Santo!
L.A.'s Lucha Libre
Cinema Slam
stanley rubin
Ace Producer Stanley Rubin
With the RKO
Studio Scoop!
 werner herzog
Werner Herzog
Plotted to Kill Kinski!
Condemns Psychoanalysis!
Five-O July/Aug
Evel Knievel & more!
jeter girl
Jeter Girl
Kristielee Wilcox
From Box Seats
to the Bronx Jail!
lawrence tierney
Lawrence Tierney
Noir Superpower
The Five-O Farewell
burning man
Burning Man
Pagans Take Nevada
Five-O Undercover
40 Years
August/September 1962
Playboy Magazine
jermaine jackson
30 Years
Jermaine Jackson
Debut Album
20 Years
william shatner
10 Years
William Shatner
National Lampoon's
Loaded Weapon
my bloody valentine
10 Years
My Bloody Valentine
U.S. Tour 1992
theron productions