(Rebecca Bowe, SFBG.com, August 19, 2014)
[CLICK the above credit line for the full article]
Burning Man’s most notorious attendee, ultra-conservative Grover Norquist, has been confirmed as the closing speaker at a playa lecture series.
And get this: Norquist’s scheduled talk will be directly preceded by that of a faux guru, Kumare, star of the eponymous documentary Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet.
Kumare, aka Vikram Gandhi, is a New Jersey-born Indian American who gained a following in the U.S. after posing as a fake swami, growing his hair long and imitating his grandmother’s voice, according to a New York Times profile.
In his talk, the fake swami may well hit on a theme of experimentation and spirituality. As to what Norquist will discuss, “We said we’d be open to him talking about whatever,” said Chris Pezza, who is overseeing the lineup for the Burning Man speakers series Palenque Norte.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: I am pleased to say that in 2003 I was the co-founder of the Palenque Norte speaker series at the Burning Man Festival.]
An hour or so before our chat, Pezza had posted on Facebook (full disclosure: we’re friends) that Norquist had been confirmed as a speaker. As of Aug. 15, Pezza told me, Norquist’s publicist had indicated that the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform would be available to speak on Aug. 29 at 6:30pm.
“Fair enough,” a Facebook friend chimed in to comment. “By the time Friday rolls around he will have at least gotten a good case of mollysweats and visited the orgy dome. I hope he changes his name to Grover Lion though.”
Aside from Kumare, other speakers scheduled to take part in the Palenque Norte lecture series include Daniel Pinchbeck, who has written extensively on psychedelics, and Marian Goodell, the Chief Engagement Officer of Burning Man.
The fact that Norquist will share the stage with authors of psychedelic literature and members of the inner circle of Burning Man doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll talk about drugs.
“We expect to focus mostly on his impressions of Burning Man,” Pezza said, noting that the talk would most likely be conducted in an interview format.
Palenque Norte, which will share space [at Burning Man address 9:15 & D] with the Full Circle Tea House, was created by Lorenzo Haggarty in 2003 to serve as an “on-playa psychedelic conference.” Its name is a nod to ethnobotany seminars delivered by famed psychedelic researcher and explorer Terrence McKenna and convened in Palenque, Mexico.
Norquist, whose official bio says he formed Americans for Tax Reform at Ronald Reagan’s request, told the National Review that he wanted to attend the desert festival because “Burning Man is a refutation of the argument that the state has a place in nature.”
When I asked Pezza why he would want the likes of Norquist hanging out at Palenque Norte, he reminded me that “radical inclusion” is enshrined in the Ten Principles of Burning Man, drafted to reflect the community’s ethos and culture.
“Anyone may be a part of Burning Man,” that principle states, according to the Burning Man website. “We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”
“In this fantasy world of Burning Man,” Pezza said, “all of these people can co-exist.”