Schwarzenegger to speak at Bohemian Club conclave

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to address a throng of rich and powerful men on Friday under the towering redwoods at the Bohemian Grove as the annual encampment along the Russian River in Monte Rio enters its final weekend.

No one other than Bohemian Club members and their guests will hear the governor's speech, which is — like everything that transpires during the 17-day midsummer enclave — done in absolute privacy. Plutocrats and powerbrokers, including former presidents, annually flock to the 2,700-acre wooded retreat where neither women, other than grove employees, nor outsiders of either gender are permitted.

“It's a private gentleman's club,” club spokesman Sam Singer said. “People are coming to get away from the duties of daily life. They don't desire to be on the front page of The Press Democrat or The New York Times. “In real life, they get there often enough,” he said.

The club has about 2,000 members. Mixing their revelry and weird rituals with serious issues, the Bohemians hear from a series of speakers, this year including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who discussed “the future of news” and former secretaries of state George Shultz and James Baker on international relations and terrorism threats. The speakers list, including ex-President George H. W. Bush in 1995 and not-yet President Richard Nixon in 1967, remains a well-guarded secret.

But on Thursday night, the club's more artistically inclined members will go public, staging the 99th annual Monte Rio Variety Show at the river community's amphitheater, a fundraiser for three Monte Rio organizations. The show and barbecue are open to the public and expected to beat last year's record of more than $32,000 in proceeds, divided equally among the Monte Rio Fire Services Foundation, Monte Rio Elementary School Foundation and St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. “It's huge,” said Michele McDonell, a show coordinator and church member, referring to the show's $10,000 boost to her congregation.

A sellout is expected, but tickets may be available by telephone through Wednesday night at 865-2234. The entertainment lineup is not disclosed ahead of time, but the Bohemians “always guarantee a good show,” McDonell said. Headliners last summer included country music singers Clint Black and Zac Brown, while Bob Weir and the Steve Miller Band have performed in the past. (7.28.2010, Guy Kovner)

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