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Vanity Fair writer arrested for sneaking into Bohemian Grove

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Phillip Matier,Andrew Ross
SF Chronicle
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

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.

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The club insists the logging would thin no more than 1.5 percent of its second-growth trees, and that the idea is to protect the grove’s beloved redwoods from fires like the ones now raging around the state.

But Hooper doesn’t buy it, and is fighting the club’s cutting plan before the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

When Hooper enlisted the help of former Harvard classmate Shoumatoff to write about the harvesting controversy, the club fought back by hiring San Francisco PR man Sam Singer – last heard spinning the San Francisco Zoo’s side of the tiger-mauling story – to launch a counterattack.

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First, Singer branded Hooper as a hypocrite for running a logging operation that cut 5 percent of the conifer trees from a farm he owns in Mendocino County.

Next, Singer shot off a letter to Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter, demanding that Shoumatoff be pulled from the story because of his connection to Hooper.

But Shoumatoff – best known for the Vanity Fair article about mountain gorilla advocate Dian Fossey that eventually became the film “Gorillas in the Mist” – stayed on the story.

“Yes, I’m an old friend of Hooper’s,” Shoumatoff wrote to one of Singer’s associates in June. “But I am also a responsible reporter who tries his best to get both sides of the story.”

Shoumatoff warned that unless the club’s flacks started cooperating, “readers are going to get the idea that you’re hiding something and you are going to come off like a bunch of idiots.”

Now, however, it’s Shoumatoff who could have some explaining to do after he was nabbed Saturday night by security guards while allegedly trying to sneak into the grove compound.

He was turned over to Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies and held for six hours on a trespassing charge before posting bail.

We tried reaching him for comment at the Northwoods Lodge, across the river from the grove, where he was believed to be holed up in a cabin. He didn’t return our phone call.

Vanity Fair spokeswoman Beth Kseniak told us the magazine stands by Shoumatoff and his continued reporting.

This article was posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 4:00 am

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