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Vanity Fair contributing editor Alex Shoumatoff was arrested this week after he tried to sneak in to the world famous Bohemian Grove, the exclusive getaway of some of the world’s most powerful men who gather there every year in July for two weeks. See San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross column.
In the woods: Vanity Fair contributor Alex Shoumatoff faces trespassing charges after apparently trying to sneak into the famous, rich and powerful Bohemian Club's annual retreat over the weekend.
For more than a century, the club has been hosting its secretive summertime retreats up at the 2,700-acre Bohemian Grove.
The party atmosphere, however, has been tempered of late by the club's battle with a fourth-generation member, John "Jock" Hooper, who resigned in 2004 over the Bohemian plan to harvest oak and fir trees from its wilderness.
Writer/environmental warrior Alex Shoumatoff booked his wife and kids into a Russian River motel Saturday, then drove off to join the merry men inside the Bohemian Grove.
But the New Yorker wasn't invited, not hardly. Shoumatoff is working on a Vanity Fair story critical of attempts by the Bohemian Club to clear some trees from the gorgeous, 2,700-acre camp near Monte Rio alive right now with the midsummer gathering often called the greatest men's party on Earth.
At about 8 p.m., he sneaked into the tightly guarded Grove. When security men confronted him about 90 minutes later, he was asking questions that made Bohemians wonder if he was truly one of them.
Shoumatoff was straight-up with the Sonoma County deputies who arrested him on suspicion of trespassing. He told them he entered the Grove to investigate "how the redwood trees are impacted by the members in the Bohemian Grove."
Reports from inside the Bohemian Grove said Shoumatoff initially made it past security by falsely pretending to be a member, using the name of “Roger Austin.” Despite being suspicious of his Pebble Beach attire, Grove security let him pass, but quickly discovered there was no guest with the first name of Roger, but there was an “Austin” at the Grove (no, it wasn’t Austin Powers).
The security team rapidly paced after the lumbering Shoumatoff, who was found cowering behind a Redwood tree, his amble girth giving him away. For those in the know, Bohemians freely urinate against the giant trees, so perhaps Shoumatoff is a bit jaundiced in the aftermath of his poorly planned hiding attempt.
After being detained and handcuffed, Shoumatoff admitted that he was a trespasser. He had a map of the Grove and $20 in his pocket, plus his notes that were confiscated by authorities. Clearly, Vanity Fair doesn’t pay well under editor Graydon Carter. Shoumatoff was arrested by Sonoma County Sheriffs and held on $1,000 bail for trespassing. He was alleged bailed out by his wife, who must make a more decent living than her husband to afford the bail.
Shoumatoff recently made headlines on July 16/17, 2008, including on the New York Post's Page 6 Gossip Collumn, from a trespassing arrest for attempting to sneak in to the Bohemian Grove, a men's club and 2 week camp in Northern California, while covering a story for Vanity Fair. The club is most-famously known for its combination of unique rituals and a membership list of the nation's and California elite, including former presidents and senior staff administration staff members, famous actors, news anchors, and other notables. Rituals include The Cremation of Care, a mock cremation of a mummy-like corpse that is floated onto a small pond and burned before a 40-foot cement Owl that was captured on film in 2000 by the controversial filmmaker and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and practices by club members that prompted former President Richard Nixon, who claimed he witnessed homosexual acts, to call it "the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine." After the arrest Shoumatoff was hit hard by public relations crisis manager Sam Singer, who was hired by the Grove and who is most-famous for spinning the lethal mauling of an 17-year-old before his two brothers by Tatiana the Tiger, which had escaped from the San Francisco zoo. Singer was able to spin Shoumatoff at online blogs, Conservative internet sites, and small news outlets as "caught in an embarrassing situation," "ungentlemanly," "overweight" (when Shoumatoff is not overwhelmingly overweight at 6' and 230lbs), and "biased," for example in this news article that appeared in the San Francisco Sentinal. However, discrepancies exist including how exactly Shoumatoff was captured and the duration of his visit. The reports claim that he was arrested "trying to sneak in" when it appears that he was there for some time prior to the Cremation of Care ceremony, prompting security guards to ask him his name when he provided a false name that was not on the guest registry. Questions have been raised by Singer, who claimed that Shoumatoff threatened the club earlier while attempting to gain entrance to the club legally prior to the incident, about possible bias. Shoumatoff was alerted to the story by his friend and college classmate, Jock Hooper, a former member of the club who quit in protest over alleged logging activities by the club of its redwood trees which live as long as 2200 years, who Singer who has also spun as "disgruntled." However, Shoumatoff is well known for unbiased reports including most famously in his profile of former Governor of Massachusetts William Weld, whom Shoumatoff also attended school with, in a 1994 article about his race against Senator John Kerry. Shoumatoff is also a senior contributing editor at Vanity Fair, who he has been writing for 22 years, the magazine recently revealed the 35-year old secret identity of Deep Throat. Vanity Fair has stated that they support Shoumatoff in his reporting and his arrest.
Shoumatoff comes from an old Russian family that goes back dozens of generations. He relates the family history, particularly of his grandparental generation (aristocrats who fled the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and made new lives for themselves in America) in his 1982 book, Russian Blood (see part 1 and part 2 of the original New Yorker magazine excepts from 1978). His paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, became a prominent portrait artist who was most notably painting President Franklin Roosevelt when he collapsed before her with a massive cerebral hemorrhage ending his life and famously escorted his mistress, Lucy Rutherford, away from the scene before the media arrived. Her brother, Andrey Avinoff a "gentleman-in-waiting" to the Tsar at the time of the Russian revolution, and an artist and renowned lepidopterist (immortalized in Vladimir Nabokov’s The Gift), became the director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh from 1925 to 1945. His paternal grandfather, Leo Shoumatoff, was the business manager of fellow-Russian-emigre Igor Sikorsky's aircraft company, which developed the helicopter and the first passenger airplane. His other grandfather, Boris Adamovitch, who he never knew even though at one point they lived within twenty minutes of each other in New Hampshire, was a colonel in the Empress's cavalry guard. His father, Nicholas Shoumatoff was an industrial and mechanical engineer who designed paper mills around the world, an entomologist, and alpine ecologist who wrote the books Europe’s Mountain Center, and Around the Roof of the World.
Shoumatoff was born into an aristocratic family in tsarist Russia, and emigrated to the United States in 1917, eventually making her home on Long Island. Her extraordinary talent for portraiture brought commissions from some of the most illustrious families in America, Great Britain and Europe. Her clients included members of the Frick, du Pont, Mellon, Woodruff and Firestone families, plus the royal family of Luxembourg. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sitting for her at Warm Springs, Georgia when he suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945.When she was working he said that he had "a terrific headache."
Andrey Avinoff (14 February 1884, Tulchin, Volhynia - 16 July 1949, New York City) sometimes referred to as Andrej Nikolajewitsch Avinoff or Andrei Avinoff, was a Russian entomologist and painter who became Director of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. He was especially interested in Lepidoptera among many, many other interests. He was the brother of the famous portrait painter Elizabeth Shoumatoff who most-famously was painting Frankin Delano Roosevelt when he died, and was a highly skilled artist himself who usually painted images of flora or fauna, or paintings with deep meanings with themes of religious or apocalyptic nature.
Avinoff, who was from wealthy family while in Russia with ties to nobility, and who served a diplomatic role in the Tsar's court as an "adviser to the Tzar," left Russia after the Revolution. In 1924, he was hired as an assistant curator of entomology at The Carnegie Museum; he was promoted to director of the Museum in 1926 which he remained through 1946. He was also a trustee of the American Museum.
Alex Shoumatoff, (born November 4, 1946 in Mount Kisco, New York), is an American writer, known for his literary journalism, nature and environmental writing, and books and magazine pieces about world travels, political and environmental situations and affairs. His byline is sometimes posted from some of the most remote corners of the world. He was a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, a founding contributing editor of Outside magazine and Condé Nast Traveler, and is a senior contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine, his main outlet since 1986. He has 10 published books and since 2001 has been the editor of a Web site, DispatchesFromTheVanishingWorld.com, devoted to "documenting and raising awareness about the planet’s rapidly disappearing natural and cultural diversity." Hundreds of pages of his writing since approximately 1970 are posted on the site, as well as his c.v. and biographical information. Career highlights include an article he wrote about the mountain gorilla advocate Diane Fossey eventually became the film Gorillas in the Mist and another film that purchased but never made about the Brazilian rainforest eco-martyr Chico Mendes. Shoumatoff was recently called "the greatest writer in America" by Donald Trump and was also recently called "one of our greatest story tellers" by Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair. Shoumatoff is arguably the most widely traveled magazine journalist, with the broadest range in subject matter, writing in English.
Graduating at 1968 into the turbulence of the late 1960s, Shoumatoff planned on becoming a poet in the great tradition that he had been studying in college, but after hearing the young Dylan’s “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” he decided to become a songwriter. After a brief stint on the Washington Post as a night police reporter, with a draft classification of I-A and having no desire to go to the Vietnam War, he enlisted in an obscure Marine Corps reserve intelligence unit, which trained him to be parachuted behind the Iron Curtain and to melt into the local population.
Shoumatoff was recently called "the greatest writer in America" by Donald Trump