Nathan Recounts His Burner History

Group organizing at Burning Man is a
big topic of discussion this year, and it has led to some very
interesting recounting of how various communities have participated
at the event over the years. This
, for instance, has some really great insights into the
organizing of raving at Burning Man since 1992. This History of the
Gayborhood is an effort to update the timeline of Queer participation
on the Playa over the years.

1993 – Early Days

In 1993, Burning Man was an event of
about 2000 people and there was no annual ‘theme’ for the
event, there were no organized streets, or registered theme camps. It
was much less governed by rules because it was such a small event,
there wasn’t really a need for rules. Plus, the gathering in
the desert was to make art with fire, and so the anarchist spirit
didn’t really lend itself to rules.

While the event was ‘anarchistic’,
it also was perceived at first by many early gay participants as a
‘straight event’ that was supportive of gay people, but
in the early days, appeared to not be a space where other gay people
were easily found.

Queer San Francisco Experience in
the Early 1990’s

Like the ravers and the San Francisco
Cacophony Society, queer creativity and participation on the Playa
had its roots off the Playa. The context of the early 1990’s
was very shaped by AIDS activism that was very visible at fundraisers
and parties, and these events had an edge that reflected the times.
Queer artists and event promoters who were helping create a wild
queer party scene in San Francisco during the 1990’s helped
create the context for Burning Man participation on the Playa.

Picture Left and Middle – Club
Uranus San Francisco 1991. Pictured Right, Ggreg Deborah Taylor, AKA,
Nambla the Clown. The early 90’s San Francisco “Club
Kids” brought their own style of creativity to the Playa in the
early years of the event. Photos by Mark Geller.

Queer activism and culture in the
1990’s generated from San Francisco sometimes took the form of
performance art and road trip adventures. Queer Nation’s “Mall
Zaps” and the “Lavender Tortoise” road trips to
Reno of the early 90’s organized by art and event promoter
Ggreg Taylor were examples.

Left: The first
Lavender Tortoise road trip to Reno with Roderick McFarland, Leigh
Crow, Jade, Kent Victor Schuelke, Becky Slane, Jim Provenzano, Jim
Rudoff, Jason El Diablo. The Lavender Tortoise trips eventually
became the model for the Trannyshack road trips to Reno. Photos by
Mark Geller.

Right: Veronica Klaus
and Ggreg Taylor at a mall “Zap” organized by Taylor as
the first of its kind in the 1990’s.

In addition to the 1990’s
activist and “Club Kid” culture, many other queer
cultural scenes were happening, such as the Radical
, Sisters of
Perpetual Indulgence
, and others. Like fire performance and other
kinds of radical art and entertainment happening in San Francisco,
the desert became a new place to celebrate radical culture of every
kind that was becoming more regulated in the city of San Francisco as
the 90’s advanced.

Left 1993 Sean Bumgarner and Ggreg
Taylor at club Product.

Right 1993 David Lowe, Nathan
Purkiss and Steven Murphy at club Product.

Queer Club Kids go to the Playa

In 1993, three queer San Franciscans
named Gabriel, Bart and Graham went with a car, a tent, and very
limited supplies to check out Burning Man. They were regulars at
Radical Faerie events, SF clubs etc. and had heard about Burning Man
as an arts event, but didn’t know any friends who were going.
So they went. They didn’t notice any other gay people at the
time, but when they came home, they told all their friends, and
started a tradition of coming home and telling everyone’s
friends about Burning Man. This group eventually grew into the
200-300 person queer Avalon village at the event for many years.
(More on that below…)

The Burning Man event in 1993 was
smaller and followed a rhythm that was possible with roughly 2000
people that is different than with 50,000+ people today. The entire
community could see when anything happened like the start of a
procession with fire breathers, dancers and drums that could be heard
from far away.

photo – the Burning Man raised in 1993 (no elevated platform or
theme these days…).

photo – The Monkey Bean coffee car. This coffee car was
effectively “center camp” in the early days. The only
place you could buy coffee or anything out on the Playa.

Photo – Black Rock Gazette, 1993 edition on the right. It was a
2-sided paper issued Friday and Saturday.

1993 Black Rock
Gazette. Events were listed from Friday to Monday. Below are 1993
Saturday-Sunday events.

From 1993 – 1995, the
event was mostly a Friday to Monday event with some rituals that
happened pretty routinely. During the day people would drive to Fly
Hot Springs or Gerlach for food. At night, random parties would
happen at different camps, but Saturday night there was a procession
of dancers and performers, and a series of art installations being
burned; Sunday night was the Burning of the Man himself. The rave
camp was placed a mile outside of the rest of the camping area, and
after all the fire events finished, everyone would head out to the
raves to dance until sunrise.

TUBE VIDEO of 1994 Priscilla Queen of the Desert Party
Stan Christenson, Jim Rudolph, Gabriel Plumlee and others

I have 4
hours of video from 1994 and 1995, but it takes a while to select
sections and convert to digital. Can upload more if you want…)

By 1996, the event grew in size
and some of these routines started to turn into bigger traditions.
The Saturday night procession turned into a full scale opera. The
raves grew from small-ish sound system events to huge parties with
fire performers and a much bigger scale. The whole event adopted an
Inferno “Hell-Co” theme of sorts, which wasn’t
expressed as an official theme, but functioned as an art theme that
was the first time the idea of a theme really came into being.

Early Avalon Village/Mudskipper community at Fly Hot Springs in
1994.Right the 1994 DayGloasis art project created at the Rave Area
by queer artist Graham Cruickshank with the group that would later
organize the Avalon Village community.

In this period of 1993-1996, Queer
participation was as anarchistic as the rest of the event. There were
no theme camps or very organized anything, but queer people
participated in the event and began building small communities within
the event that would later become larger village communities.


Early queer community at Fly Hot Springs left/midle. Nathan Purkiss &
Brian Mays right & Santiago Salsido far right, 1995.

– Nambla the Clown 1996. Middle – Fly Hot Springs 1996. Right –
1995 Saturday Night Procession

Burning Man Transitions to a more organized event

In 1996 Burning Man grew in size to
8000 people and had a series of accidents that required changing the
event. A person drove through a tent and ran over another
participant, and organizers for the event made efforts to maintain
the anarchistic spirit of the event while creating rules to also
promote safety. A map was created for the event and driving (unless
driving a permitted art car) was no longer allowed. Theme camps and
organized participation developed out of this, and the event theme
itself seemed to become an organizing tool. In 1997, the official
theme of “fertility – the living land” seemed
designed as a calming theme after the 1996 inferno.

1997 poster for the Burning Man Opera; Right: 1997 “fertility”

1997 – Is Burning Man Over?

Many 1997 participants wondered if
Burning Man could continue given that it adopted new rules,
especially the rule to ban driving, as it would prevent one of the
best features of the event, driving to Fly Hot Springs to soak for
the day. People also wondered if the organized road map and camps
would kill the anarchistic feeling of the event. But the event
continued to inspire people and work through these changes.

Queer Camps begin to organize on the

Some of the earliest queer camps began
to organize with the new theme camp system. Early camps that got
started were Jiffy Lube (which became M*A*S*Hcara
for a time), the Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar (which later became
Avalon Village), and others.

Jiffy Lube & M*A*S*Hcara

While Jiffy Lube had been around since
1995 as a sex-positive space, it registered in 1997 as a theme camp
with a different name – M*A*S*Hcara.
Using its historic “M*A*S*H style tent as an event area, Ggreg
Taylor worked with camp organizers to add a raised backroom entry
into the back of a semi-truck as a sex space with Wizard of Oz
footage playing. Very queer and fun. M*A*S*Hcara lasted a couple
years as a mixed performance art and sex space, until it renamed
itself “Jiffylube” and went back to becoming a mostly
sex-oriented tent. While M*A*S*Hcara had a very short time on the
Playa, it was a concept that was very similar to what would
eventually become Comfort and Joy in later years – a highly
creative space also celebrating sex-positive culture.

1998 crew top left. Ggreg Taylor, AKA Nambla the Clown, Top Right
(organizer of M*A*S*Hcara) Camp Jiffy Lube 2000.

2000 The Black Rock Gym and Beauty

In 2000 the BM theme was “The
Body”, and that year the
Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar was formed by Gabriel Plumlee, Nathan
Purkiss, Scott Barney, Huck Worden, Victor Torres, John Cordaro,
Patrick Schiller, and others who had been attending Burning Man since
the early 1990’s. The gym included a fully functional dry sauna
to and the beauty bar featured drag artists sharing beauty tips for
anyone who trusted them with makeovers.

Left Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar. Top Right E-L Wire Black Rock Gym
Sign. Bottom Left – Black Rock Gym fully functional dry sauna.
Bottom Right Spencer Day and Adam Shevel working out at the gym.

Left, Victor Torres
manning the Beauty Bar.

Center, Brian Mays at
the Gym

Right, Gabriel Plumlee
using the Black Rock Gym tanning facilities.

Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar was a first-time theme camp that would
eventually become Avalon Village.

2000 Wind Sock & Tie-die cloth

In 2000 queer artists Jeff Kennedy and
Xavier Caylor (and others who would later be involved in creating
Audrey’s cabaret), created Playa art installations using
black-light radiant fabric art:

tie-dye windsock art by Xavier Caylor, Jeff Kennedy and others

The giant “wind sock”
fabric art piece included a tie-die tunnel that you could walk
through, as well as other cloth art installations on the playa. Jeff
also later organized a registered theme camp called “Audrey’s
Cabaret” that performed show tunes on the playa for several

Top Left –
Jeff and others walking through the “wind sock”. Top
Middle Jeff Kennedy in 2000. Top right and bottom left – more tie-die
cloth art installations. Bottom Right – Audrey’s cabaret
campmates (photo from Jim Orr).

Jeff had worked with Xavier Caylor
and others to create tie-die fabric art off the Playa for years and
helped organize “Flagging
in the Park” in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park
before they used their fabric art work to create the wind sock fabric
art installation on the Playa.



Left and Middle –
Flagging in San Francisco golden gate park. Right giant ball of
tie-dye art for dance party. Cloth art from queer San Francisco
events was brought to the playa in 2000 as the wind sock

2002 – Avalon Village

After creating the Black Rock Gym and
Beauty Bar of 2000 and 2001, many of the Gym / Beauty Bar campmates
wanted to start their own projects. Scott Barney wanted to create a
fairy-wing making factory camp called “Fairyland”, and
Huck Worden wanted to create a lush lounge called the Sacrafactory,
Jim Rudolf wanted to create a mobile café to serve Vietnamese
Iced Coffee, and Nathan Purkiss and Gabriel Plumlee wanted to bring
the gym and sauna back again. Instead of breaking up into several
camps, the groups returned in 2002 as Avalon Village.

Avalon Village plaza 2002,
Avalon Village 2003 with Huck Worden on stilts;
Avalon Village Sacrafactory, 2003

Avalon Village formed a community from
2002-2008 joined by several theme camps with about 200-300 people
camping at the village each year, (but about 500 people connected on
lists of the various camps attended on alternating years). The camp
was envisioned as a space for queer people to find other queer
people, and a highly interactive village of artists, performers and
queer / queer friendly community. Activities at the village included
poi spinning classes, fairy wing and tutu making, wrestling matches,
fire dancing, massage workshops, drag performance, queer discussion
groups, parties, daily sober meetings, serving Vitnamese Iced Coffee
daily, and many other activities.

Avalon Village was first
conceived as “the Isle of Avalon” for the Floating World
theme of 2002, but each year a variation on Avalon was decided for
the community, often using acronym A.S.S. for the years when the
community took the name Avalon Space Station and Avalon Synapse
Station, etc.

Avalon Village art towers on the plaza were lit up at night in blue
LED lights. Pictured here was Astro Pups camp tower.

Fairyland Wing & Tutu making crafts workshop with art panels and
story viewing area.

was exciting for most of the organizers of Avalon Village was that it
was created by people who were not club promoters or professional
artists in the default world.
started the Black Rock Gym and Beauty Bar partly because they had
enjoyed Burning Man for so many years without contributing an art
installation or theme camp. So the group felt like they needed to
‘step it up’ and create something.
Once the group made their first theme camp, everyone was hooked and
wanted to do more. It turned into a very committed community for many
years, and many of the community still participate through a camp
that would be formed later called “the Mudskippers”.

Left: Bart Broome attending Burning Man since 1993. Mid Left: Nathan
Purkiss, Adam Shevel and Anthony Ramirez.

Right: Bryan Hughes DJ’ing. Far Right: Scott Barney and Scott
Stauffer of Fairyland & Avalon Village.

Village People:

left: Chris Dayson; 2
Left: Viva; Mid-Right: The Plaza in a dust storm. Far right: Rahul
during the post-dust storm rainbow.

Fairyland –
Avalon Village Theme Camp 2002-2008

theme camp organizer Scott Barney in the middle.

Barney who brought a panoply of craft materials for the Black Rock
Beauty Bar went on at Avalon Village to organize a much larger craft
factory project: Fairyland. Building a beautiful wood frame structure
(one year two stories high) with wall panels that illuminated fairy
murals as the environment, Fairyland hosted an enormously popular
fairy-wing and Tutu-making factory. Wing-making materials made out of
recycled materials (wire hangers et.) and instructions on how to make
fairy wings awaited Burners who came, and people spent hours each day
crafting beautiful fairy wings and tutus of every kind to wear out on
the Playa.

participants John Cordaro (top left) and Steve Heist (bottom left).

the Fairyland structure (with ladder to 2
floor) in the center photos.

Astropups –
Avalon Village Theme Camp from 2003-2008

Astropup theme camp at Avalon Village; Right: the first Astropups to
arrive in 2000.

2003 the Astropups theme camp joined Avalon Village. Organized as a
camp on the Plays since 2000, the Astropups have brought a fun,
frisky, and fabulous nature to the Burning Man Playa in the form of
events, costumes, and personalities. They regularly held wrestling
matches, prom dances, parties and all kinds of good fun for many
years. Like many of the Avalon camps, first and foremost, the camp
was organized to foster a spirit of community and companionship.
Astropups are still
an active camp and their website is:

AstroPups David Millard and David Lai at the Gay Prom;
wrestling match;


AstroPups organizer Paul Carey;

Brian Maier and other pups at the gay prom.

Rendering of Astropups one year (date and artist unknown):

and Thin Air – Avalon Theme Camps 2002-2003

making a fully functional dry sauna for the Black Rock Gym, Huck
Worden created two different theme camps for Avalon Village in 2002
and 2003: Sacrafactory and the “Thin Air” lounge.


2003 Avalon Village Theme Camp the Thin Air Lounge, was a 1960’s
classic airport lounge with drag hostesses serving cocktails


2002 Avalon Village Sacrafactory theme camp. Photo of the entryway
into the SacraFactory, a deep purple lounge reminiscent of an opium
den where participants could invent new sacraments.

Cabaret – Avalon Village Theme Camp 2005-2008

Quixotes Cabaret
is a troupe of performers mostly from the UK who travel to the playa
each year to build a theater with performances both by campmates, and
any participants from the playa who wants to join in their stage
events. They have always been more of a “straight friendly”
group, but they made their home in the queer-friendly Avalon village
for many years. Brit actors are fabulous and fun, and Avalon
Villagers loved that Quixotes chose their home at Avalon for so many

Quixotes are
still active and their current website is here:

of Quixotes Cabaret setting up.

Iced Coffee Camp – Avalon Village Theme Camp 2002-2008

also had a mobile cart that would serve Vietnamese Iced Coffee daily
at the camp, then move out onto the Playa to serve VICC at night!

Leaf (Ken Bonnin) left in both; and Sparky (Jim Rudolph) right in

Montage – Avalon Village Theme Camp 2006-2008


Nathan Purkiss and RJ Merck.

photographer Wendell Delano.

Montage formed as an Avalon Village theme camp in 2006 and was the
brainchild of RJ. Merck working with photographer Wendell Delano.
Merck worked with Delano on building his photos into illuminated
montages on large wooden boxes. The montage boxes were
extraordinarily beautiful art pieces recounting images from years of
Burning Man past.

is a collection of Camp Montage photos featured at Avalon Village, as
well as Comfort and Joy and the Afterburn San Francisco events.

Camp Stella –
Avalon Village Theme Camp 2005-2008

Stella first became a theme camp at Burning Man in 2003 but joined
Avalon Village in 2005. The camp offered a clean and sober space and
daily meetings for Burners.

(left) and Jefferson (right) Camp Stella Founders John, Bart &
Friend at Celestial Bodies

Camps at Avalon – Celestial Bodies, Temple of Poi & IDC

the years several other theme camps joined Avalon for 1-year stints,
such as Temple of Poi, the Interplanetary Dance Commandos (IDC) and
Celestial Bodies. Temple of Poi hosted fire performances, IDC hosted
a dance space, and Celestial Bodies featured their famous saloon as
part of Avalon Village in 2009.

Avalon Village
“Uncharted Territories” – The Mudskippers

The Uncharted Territories was the community organized by
Nathan Purkiss, Anthony Ramirez, Don Raber, John Marasagan, John
Kisha, Anthony Williams, Gabriel Plumlee, Bart Broome, and others
that provided logistical support for Avalon Village. They built the
Avalon Village sign, lighted the village with solar powered blue
lights, did all of the administrative organizing for the village, and
some years built the Avalon Village Tower in the main plaza of the
village. They also created a “Sunken Pirate Ship”
environment within the village for camp mates to have a community
space within the village.

Psycho Bunny and Puck hanging out in the sunken pirate ship at
Uncharted Territories

Cookie Dough hanging out in the Sunken Pirate Ship.

Uncharted Territories Crew under the Rainbow. (Sean Niles, John
Kisha, John Marasagan, Jody Stevens, Gary Weisler, Nakhter Ahad, Don
Raber at the far right.

Avalon created a
learning opportunity at the Uncharted Territories that can’t be
offered at Burning Man very easily today. Avalon offered for people
who decided at the last minute they wanted to go to Burning Man to
join the Uncharted Territories camp and help work for the village.
Some of our favorite campmates were people who are by nature
spontaneous, and they don’t plan their lives a year in advance
– we wanted them to participate in the creativity of the

Participating in
the Uncharted Territories provided a way to share cultural
information, not only stories of how to promote safety etc., but also
sharing how participants could became active creators of art and
community. This is partly how Camp Montage got its start at Avalon –
RJ Merck came to our village as a newcomer, never coming to Burning
Man before, but after a very inspiring year at Avalon, he came back
to the Playa ready to create one of the most beautiful theme camps of
the village – Camp Montage.

Daniel and Anthony;
Bart, Nathan and Gabriel;

Avalon comes
to a close:

Avalon Village last organized on the
Playa as a village in 2008. The year before, 2007 had been a peak
year with dynamic theme camps, art, a beautiful plaza with multiple
towers lit up with twinkling blue lights, and great energy. By 2008,
many of the campmates were starting to feel burnt out about pulling
together the village for many years. It also seemed that Burning Man
was encouraging the village to break up into theme camps, as we had
feedback from them that the size of our village was unwieldy. Plus,
the American Dream theme turned off some of the queer campmates who
were very angry with George Bush at the time and decided not to go.
Those that did in 2008 still reported having a fantastic time that
year. But times were changing. We wanted something new again.

Puck, Mayor of Avalon Village in

The Mudskippers are Born!

In 2009 the Mudskipper Cafe grew out of the huge
collective “Avalon Village” from what was the camp known
as UT or “Uncharted Territories”. The 2009 Burning Man
theme of “Evolution” was appropriate for the change, and
the name “Mudskippers” represented the fun little
creatures that evolved from water to land roamers. So like the
Mudskipper taking its first step onto land from water, the Mudskipper
cafe took its first step to being an entity in itself.

Mudskipper People

Gayborhood Boom after 2009

In addition to Mudskippers, many other queer camps that
used to participate in Avalon continued to participate on the Playa
as well. Camp Stella, Quixotes Cabaret, Astro Pups and campmates from
all of the Avalon theme camps are still Burners participating at
various levels. In addition to those, other queer camps that had
never participated with Avalon (although were all friends) began to
explode with creativity and participation. Comfort and Joy became a
huge presence on the Playa. And later, the Queer Burners network
became something that Avalon always had tried to do, which was to
develop a catalyst for queer Burners to find each other on and off
the Playa.

Many changes happened that were improvements. New camps
expanded diversity even further adding new creative options on the
Playa. Avalon was a great project, but what used to be a registered
neighborhood during the Avalon years has now exploded into an organic
neighborhood, and that is a big new evolution.

Burning Man and Turnkey Culture

After the 2014 Burning Man event, turnkey (a.k.a. “plug and play”, a.k.a. concierge) camping in Black Rock City rightfully became a hot-button issue in our community. We share the concerns that turnkey camping, left unchecked, could undermine Burning Man’s principles, and we’ve taken measures to ensure that doesn’t happen.

In her keynote address at the 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference, Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell put it plainly: “We are absolutely committed to ceasing the plug and play culture.”

We are doing this in three ways:

  1. All theme camps must go through the same process and meet the same standard (including being interactive, open to all citizens of Black Rock City, successfully Leaving No Trace, etc.) to be considered for placement.
  2. Our updated Outside Services (OSS) contracts make it extraordinarily difficult for concierge service operators and potential organizers of turnkey camps to order necessary equipment to successfully build a turnkey camp without showing up on our radar.
  3. A new ‘Statement of Values’ on gifting has been developed to guide our actions and relationships with individuals and groups that provide financial and other forms of support to the nonprofit Burning Man Project.


SNARK sucks… but I digress

Seems like the only time I just in is when something is going on that just makes me feel really upset about the way the burning man community is heading. On that note… these dramas are always temporary. If someone does not have something to bitch about then life is not worth living???

I hate Burners.Me. I hate the tone it had last year and with the posts that Danger Ranger posted it seemed to stir the beast into a foamy lather that is not good for anyone. So, I expressed my concerns with Toaster who told me what he knew about Otis who was one of the main writers for Burners.Me last year. Otis opened and it seems he only wrote a few articles and stopped in January 2014.

No one wants any more drama than what we already have. The whole turn key camp situation is some-shit! Just glad that is almost over. But, Danger Rangers post just dumped gas on other issues with the guy from Burner.Me…

I suppose the same people who appreciate Burner.Me is the same audience that thrives on the Burning Man Facebook Group (I hate that space and left that group for all the snarky, negative and basically evil content). Check this out too [Link]

After all the noise, Burners.Me posted on their Facebook page that the blog posts on the Borg page were being blocked implying that there was some great conspiracy. That is the bullshit tone I am talking about from them. Maybe Burning Man found a way to shut this guy off? Maybe there was a glitch in the machine for a minute someone decided to make something out of it that there was not? Either way, the posts are on the blog site and are working just fine…

The last word on Plug n Play (PnP) Camps

Burning Man posted 2 items on this subject this week giving us the defining and final decision on the subject. It is something that many members of the community have been up in arms about because to many – the existence of these camps appeared to be in direct opposition to the 10 Principles we all hold dear.

On December 3rd two blogs were released on the “Voices of Burning Man” page; one form legendary Larry Harvey and one from the Borg.

founder Larry HarveyIn the midst of the current controversy about Plug and Play camps, there has been a great deal of talk about equality, but I think that much of this misses the mark. Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them. This is because our city has always been a place where old and young, and rich and poor, can live on common ground. The word for this is fellowship, as in the fellowship of a club or lodge whose members, however diverse, are united by common values and a sense of shared experience. But common ground is not a level playing field, and should not be interpreted as mandating equal living conditions.” – Larry Harvey [Link to the entire piece]

However, the real meat and potatoes came from a much more definitive post listed as from Burning Man that followed Lord Larry’s post. Together these releases provide the Burning Man COMMUNITY the final answer when it comes to the Commodified and #turnkeycamps; basically setting the standard back to the level any theme camp applying for placement needs to meet.

Below is from the Burning Man Blog: [Link to the entire article]

  • Camps should be visually stimulating, have an inviting design and a plan for bike parking and crowd management.
  • Camps must be interactive. They should include activities, events or services within their camps and they must be available to the entire Burning Man community.
  • Camps must be neighborly. This includes keeping sound within set limits, controlling where camp generators vent exhaust, and easily resolving any boundary disputes that arise.
  • Camps must have a good previous MOOP record 
(for returning camps).
  • Camps must follow safety protocols designed by the organization (this includes traffic management on the streets, proper handling of fuels, and any other areas defined by the organization’s production team).

end quote

Basically, we are interpreting that Turn Key Camps have to meet the same standards as Theme camps for placement. And we seemed to have received an apology in the end as well as a set of changes we can live with moving forward for the betterment of the community.

It therefore follows that the best reform we can enact is to stop placing these Plug and Play camps in a category that sets them apart from others. This was done informally, it was not fully thought out, and we apologize for this mistake.” – Larry Harvey [Link to the entire piece]

Plug and Play & Other Bad Things

There has been a lot of talk about things that went down at Burning Man in 2014 that people got fired up about. The big noise has been the value of Plug and Play (PnP) camps at Burning Man and how they (generally speaking) have failed to comprehend the 10 Principles. The MOOP map this year was a clear example of complete failures when it came to those kinds of camps on the playa.

PnP Camps: Pro or Con

Gypsy Flower Power abandoned moop, Burning Man 2014
Gypsy Flower Power abandoned moop, Burning Man 2014

This year the postmortem came with a stinging post by The Hun that asked about a specific PnP camp called Gypsy Flower Power International; a felonious level badly run camp. Take a look at the 9:00 & BFE as well as the 3:00 and BFE areas where such camps were positioned and see the bright red markings.

This site already did the finger wagging over the MOOP Issue in a previous post. What this post talks about is the problems or PnP camps versus the virtues. We have a lot of people with too much money injected into the Burning Man scene without the slightest grasp of this sense of community created by Larry and his cronies.

As for PnP camps there seemed to be more successes than failures in that department. But the failures were pretty big. Travis Puglisi has been making a lot of noise on Facebook and Burner.Me* [link] in defense of that system. He makes his money off of that business.

It seriously pays to read these if you have any feelings on the subject and read the comments on the pages. The Burning Man blog site has had some great posts while *Burners.Me has been more the Fox News of the Burner Community I would definitely read their posts but form your own opinion before leaning on them too hard.

Burner Express hates Radical Self-Reliance

Another issue stemming form this year’s burn we could learn from is the disconnect that Burner Express forced on a lot of camps. People who rode on BE were only allowed to bring limited personal items and not much at that.


While if the rider was in a plug and play camp where all their needs were met they should have been fine. People camping on their own would have probably been fine. But participating in a theme camp there was no way riders could bring their share.

Word was that the Borg told theme camp participants that their fellow camp mates would have to bare the brunt of addition items needed to make the camp happen. While that makes sense on many levels it took away the individuals ability to do more than the basic. That also included taking out camp trash at the end of the week because the rider was only allowed to take 1 bag of trash and 1 bag of mixed recyclables.

Many participants had to pay a lot extra to ship their camp gear on containers from their regions which in some cases was rather expensive.

Wrapping up

The enigma of PnP camps and their growing association with the Borg since 2013 has been a mind-boggling curiosity that has definitely sent Burning Man down a path (along with other things) of commodification and becoming that main-streaming juggernaut people joked about for all these years. Somehow the spirit of the event is still alive in spite of it.

While this author hates the PnP camps and their effect on the event it is not going to divert the path of the bullet already in flight.

And Burner Express has been around a few years but became the only player left on the board with 2014’s change in strategy, but still ultimately provided an amazing service for a lot of people. It really is up to the individual who is traveling to make sure their sucks are in a row and that they are not the sparkle pony in the dust.

Queer Burner History Updated

One of our projects for 2014 pre-burn was to write a detailed history about LGBT Burners and how the Gayborhood came into creation. Along with it is some sordid history with the BMorg. It is all very illuminating and we find that some of those people who started the earliest incarnations of the Gayborhood in 1993 are still going.

Have something to add?

Feel free to contact the admins of this site through the contact form with your updates. Of course information with be verified and as soon as we can we will publish it.

Follow this link for the whole article!

Why Burning Man?

Photos by Dot

Going on 27 years, the Burning Man spirit has evolved so much over the years and grew from something quite intimate to a space where one gets lost in a sea of nearly 70,000 people. Yet we Why we do it....still manage to find one another and discover relationships /  friendships that maintenance on social media for 50 weeks a year but shine bright at our annual reunion. In the time we reconnect on the playa it is always fresh and like we were always there.

Why do we do it?

If this is your first year of Burning Man and the culture you are likely that person who is drunk on the kool-aide and carrying the shield of the 10 principles for all 4975816313_2b15a74de8they represent. Many newbs tend to loose some perspective in their early years depending on their adaptation to the culture. We tend to forget there are gray areas around those lines.

Why do we do it? Well, it could be all those sexy people? It could be that kinetic creative force out there that is intoxicating. Is it the drugs? The booze? The hugs? naked people… or maybe a little bit of everything.

All we know that by Labor Day all of us come away from TTITD changed.


While we will soon have a whole section on queer-story on QB [dot] Com it is important to reflect on where it came from to where it is in the modern day. There are some great articles out there on the

Larry Harvey - 1986
Larry Harvey – 1986

origin of Burning Man on Baker Beach, San Francisco 27 years ago. What started out with 20 people is hovering around 70,000 people. According to Burning Man’s census now almost a full third of those people are LGBTQ++ (lots of blurry lines out there).

Not bad for an event started by three heterosexual white males brooding over a lost girlfriends and decided to burn a ‘wicker man’ in effigy to drown their woes. What does that have to do with us queers?

sexually-attracted-toAll the Radical this-and-that are something we homos have been doing since the edge of time. It naturally appeals to our basic instincts while hetero men are snicker over putting on their mom’s skirt, we are looking for the right accessories and eye makeup – hunty.

Burning Queers

So when and how did so many queers get involved in this little shin-dig in the desert over all these years? While BMorg (Burning Man’s head quarters) has a lot of utopian ideals when it comes to

Photos by Dot
Photo by Dot

population all fitting together  like some kind of tapestry that tells a profitable story, the reality is that its not all puppies and unicorn farts. Homophobia does exist out there. There are dangers and that brings us to the Gayborhood.

The Gayborhood first evolved as queer camp started coalescing and it created an oasis that became a safety zone for LGBTQ++ members of the community. Safety and familiarity are the corner stones of the Gayborhood.

Do you remember?

There are some famous moment in Burning Man history and some of those have been featured in various video produced over time.

Only the last three were specific to the Queer population. Although some things some people might want to forget they were important growing points in the community.


The LGBTQ++ part of Burning Man is growing but our impact is sometimes glossed over, but we still take a lot of pride in what our community brings to the event and the culture.

Low Income Ticket Sales: FAIL

space hippiesTicket Sales are starting soon! We talked about it recently here with a quick breakdown showing how 61,000 tickets are planned to be distributed PLUS a limited 35,000 vehicle passes that we have to hope people do not horde.

Out of the 61,000 tickets announced Jan 8th/2014 only 4,000 are being provided to people of low or limited income. That means 7% of the tickets available are set aside for low income. According to representatives from Burning Man that is considered generous. (Harley in 2012 in a meeting that focused on the 2012 ticketing disaster and BM HQ when low income ticket available went from 1000 to 4000).

imagesOf course artists have money to burn! The $380 price tag is chump change to people who spin fire and do creative stuff… right? Because all that free art brought out there and put on display, theme camps and activities paid for by the community is no big deal.

We all know the the journey to get to Burning Man really is also part of experience. It is never easy and the escalated ticket prices set to match the escalating cost of setting the event (court fees permits) might eat into the millions of dollars of revenue.

NOT to echo the complacency of other blogs noted on our site, but the imbalance of ticket prices is simply leveraging out the people that made this event what it was. If it was possible, let’s see 10,000 more of those tickets made available at a lower rate. The last two years have seen a huge leap in the cost of attending. Who is left in a sea of plug and play camps and glamping?


What’s the word?

In my last post I talked about balance. Although I was talking about one person who was posting some very strong opinions on Burners.Me  it has since come to light that this one voice was not alone.  The tone of some blogs has been quite strong while it seems most burners want nothing but happiness and joy.

While even I have been critical in various posts of BMorg (Burning Man Organization) I have always driven myself to see the big picture. That is to say there is never a black and white in burner-land, I have learned there is a lot of gray area.

Burning Man Blogs of Note

There are tons of burning-blogs out there and many are worth following including but within context. No one wants to listen to someone ranting about the negative.

Here are a few samples of blogs out there:

The Miscreant

Now, the previously mentioned naysayer has also been a friend to the LGBTQ Queer Burner population and posts under the pseudonym M. Otis Beard“Grant Hitchcock” but on his site as “Whatsblem the Pro”; all aka M. Otis Beard and more.

He was recently under attack by prominent members of our community. He earned a few red rashes from people who took exception to his posts (seen on his new blog site

Otis was fired from Burners.Me and it ended up a very public mess, but he moved on to other ventures; hence


in the end each of the sites listed above carry a different tone and all are worth following. Burners.Me was founded following the ticket fiasco of 2012 and carried a critical torch on BMorg since. The only thing is, even with the dismissal of Whatsblem the Pro (aka Otis) it still carried a negative tone.

BAR (Burn After Reading) has been a generally balanced and positive view into our Burner community.

BurnCast is run by daBomb (her playa name) and features some great coverage of the community.


We all take away from these blogs what works for us. The king of Burner Blogs is the P.R. machine at Burning Man (BMorg) itself.  Take a look at the Burning Blog here.

Mainstreaming the Culture

One cannot go to Burning Man, as a queer person, and not see there is a large LGBT presence if you are looking for it. In 2011 Huffington Post writer and blogger Oscar Raymundo (@OscarRaymundo on Twitter) made some awkward observations in an article he posted way back when.

  • One side of the coin: Not everyone at Burning Man is in touch with their desire to be part of the LGBT community in Burning Man or out… and the variety of gray lines in between. Some choose simply to not put any kind of rainbow flag on their experience whatsoever.
  • Other side of the coin: Some actively engage in queer events, sex and other LGBT offerings.

In 2013 this author met a participant of Burning Man who at 33 years of age, 14 years of Burning Man, had come out of the closet that year AND was going to his first Queer event at Burning Man. It seemed I discovered a purple unicorn in the crowd, but as my experience grew with people in 2013 I met more just like him.


The company that runs Burning Man is called The Burning Man Project (formerly Burning Man, LLC) and have  sexually-attracted-toasked participants to complete an anonymous census every year and published it on their web site, but in 2013 they started an online census that provided great live information on attendees. Queer Burners is not affiliated with any official channel to Burning Man.

2013 Census Report | 2012 Census Report | Previous After-burn Reports

Much of the data is selectively compiled and presented significantly down-playing the LGBTQ role in the city. While we have been attacked in the past by some of the regional community (Regional Contacts and other members of the community – this story was already told in older posts – so refer to those) for having a Gayborhood, The impact of LGBTQ on the event itself, whether mainstreaming or not, is very significant.

The data above shows a full 3rd of the populace LGBTQ or blurry lines at least during the time of the event as of 9/2013. This includes a collective number of burners who were willing to answer the census randomly. The data does get updated on the link provided for 2013 and as of this date is still taking information.

Queer Burners

Well, outside of this project (this web site) we can clearly see there are a lot of Burners out there who are LGBTQ++ even if they are partaking in their own way and not with the Gayborhood or any other gay, lesbian or other camps/events/whatever. Blurring into the mainstream is a comfortable place for a lot of people.

It is the dream of some that we all mesh into one society anyway, which I believe is what the creators of Burning Man dreamed of with no lines for orientation, race or gender. It seems so Utopian until you point out this ideology was created by three white, heterosexual males* and then it sounds a little aryan nation. It’s not, just idealistic.

Embracing our ideological and social differences is as important as embracing our radical self expression. If that means you mainstream or engage other LGBTQ people that is an individual call.


While this project (QueerBurners [dot] Com) will continue to cater to LGBTQ++ Burners this includes mainstreamers, people who have their sexuality as part of their experience, and our friends who do not fit the cookie cutter shapes (straight and otherwise).

We are not fighting the BMorg (The Burning Man Project leadership) but we are fighting not to be marginalized. The existence of the Gayborhood has a very important purpose. There are people within the BMorg that are our friends and understand why the Gayborhood has an important role at Burning Man.

Everyone uses the space for their own needs temporary or not. This is Radical Inclusion at it’s best and we plan on keeping it that way.


*Original Founders: Larry Harvey, Micheal Mikel and John Law

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