Rev. Ivan Stang's Report

For Starwood info:


If people knew what it takes to put and KEEP one of these Starwoods together, much less 25 of them, they would be as amazed as I am that it continues to improve year after year. You would NEVER KNOW that every year, it almost KILLS the organizers -- or rather, they almost kill each other. Somewhat like X-Day Drills, but multiplied by a factor of 10.

AND YET -- great Slack was brought forth. SUMMONED UP!

This was the first Starwood for The Young SubGenius, Rev. Alex Thompson, and judging from his experiences as related to me, the festival continues to work on SubGenii in exactly the way it worked on me at my first one, in 1990. You go in ready to LARF at all the silly pagans -- and you can do plenty of that -- but when you wake up at the end of the festival, as if from a trance, you find yourself wishing it would NEVER EVER END.

Of course, the weather has a lot of bearing on this, too, and the weather this year was PRIME -- albeit astonishingly selective.

Also like X-Day Drills, Starwood isn't so much about the stage acts and workshops -- those form the skeletal "excuse" for the gathering -- but about seeing old friends in the flesh and hanging out. My FEET take far more of a beating than does my brain at Starwood because I spend most of my time standing in the middle of one camp road or another, YAKKING with folks. Starwood is 1500 hairless monkeys jabbering at each other like mad, except when they stop to drum or, finally, to go off in the bushes and FUCK something, even if it's just one of their own paws.

If you are one of the Starwood organizers, like Princess Wei and I are, you additionally get to enjoy moments of panic as you suddenly remember the chores you were supposed to have squared away 15 minutes EARLIER. Princess Wei in particular has important tasks that, while supernatural in nature, nonetheless involve careful timing, much dashing back and forth on the dark camp roads in a golf cart, and yet also calm and peaceful interaction with every single person who walks into the giant bonfire circle. (That recent article on Starwood in the Cleveland Free Times describes her Bonfire Ash.) Also, the Princess sings in two different folk music groups as well.

Nobody got killed! Nobody danced his or her way into the bonfire! Only two assholes had to be thrown out of the festival! And best of all, the lightning hit the PREVIOUS festival.

The weekend before Starwood there is a similar but much younger festival at Brushwood called Sirius Rising. On Saturday in the middle of that festival, a week and a half ago now, a motherfucker of a bolt of lightning struck a tall tree near The Roundhouse and infused THIRTEEN PEOPLE with the POWER of WOTAN. Weird ball lightning went ripping through merchants' booths. Those simply standing on the slightly wet ground near the strike suffered BURNT FEET -- blistered soles. SubGenius Rev. Bonini, who had a shop at Starwood called "Practical Rabbit," unfortunately happened to be holding onto a metal pole at the moment of the strike. She was thrown backwards across the road and knocked out. Her memory and thinking were scrambled for a little while afterwards, and it took days for her full math capabilities to return. She said it's as if she'd been running on one set of batteries her whole life, and suddenly the batteries were changed. Many of the lightning strikees reported that for several days afterwards, it felt "like being on mushrooms."

Pater Nostril was holding an electrical power cord in his hand when the lightning struck. He had UNPLUGGED IT, one split second earlier. If the lightning had hit a second earlier, he'd have been REFRIED at Brushwood.

I predict that all the women affected by the strike will, after mysterious 6-month pregnancies, bear strange children who are born already knowing everything. Men who were struck will father yet more of these alien children for years afterwards.

EVERYBODY'S KIDS HAVE GROWN UP. There were these NEWLY GROWN PEOPLE all over Starwood. One Starwood, your buddy is distracted by looking after his kids, but by the next Starwood, it's the other way around. For instance, why, I remember when Rev. Bleepo Abernathy's daughter, Rev. Baz Otherwise, was just a tiny string-like body with two HUGE EYES at the top. Now she's a grown lady doing live Starwood Radio with her Pa and Rev. Alex.

There are also PARENTS at Starwood. Princess Wei's mom started attending years ago because her hero, St. Paul Krassner, is a guest almost every year. Now, half the time Krassner is sitting with her watching the show. And Wei and I are watching Krassner. Chaperoning. Never Trust an Old Yippie with Your Mother-In-Law!

I always enjoy meeting with my fellow Cult Leaders. Sure, there's some small amount of competition with rival cults, but we Cult Leaders have to stick together too, or ALL our cults could be endangered. I was very happy to congratulate Oberon Zell for getting his cult, The Church of All Worlds, back from would-be usurpers (who luckily all died or else otherwise fucked up majorly). The Cult of the Living Bull, my favorite rival cult, saw their god Azo reborn. The god Azo is a plush-toy wind-up bull that, before last Saturday's bonfire, was black-and-white, like most of the Amish cattle in the area. Now, Azo is TIE-DYE colored! Living Bull guru Dennis Murphy let me follow him around with my video camera during the holy process of the change, animatedly narrating his efforts, which included activities like passing out road flares to his friends so they can all throw them into the bonfire at once. This creates hellish red flames that render the area around the fire into something like Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights."

This change, like many Big Changes at Starwood tend to do, happened around dawn after the big Saturday night bonfire.

I try never to miss that post-bonfire dawn at Brushwood. Like X-Day's 7 a.m., the hour tends to weed out the dilettantes and the amateur lushes, so that only the hardiest or most insanely, dangerously drugged individuals remain. It is a TRULY weird and bent time and place. It is further bent by libations like free buckets of mead and jugs of Dennis Murphy's "DISCORDIAN JUICE." Normally, I avoid alcoholic beverages, but I found the Discordian Juice helped keep me awake and filming long after I might otherwise have collapsed.

Then, when I did collapse, I collapsed REAL GOOD. It allows a person to sleep for many hours even in broad daylight with the sun beating down.

I also tried something called "2CI," one of those new designer drugs that skilled chemists can make, in this case a mescaline analog. It was GREAT! We/I spent two hours with our eyes closed, watching 3D animated heaving oceans made of schooner rigging woven in ever-changing reptile-skin patterns, as seen through the "Find Edges" Photoshop filter.

There was another not-yet-illegal new drug going around called "DRAGONFLY," which has certain drawbacks -- it's sort of like LSD, except that it lasts more like 16 hours, AND is CUMULATIVE (acid isn't, really) AND takes a real long time to "come on." So people get bored waiting for the first hit to kick in, take a second or even third hit, and then stay up for THREE DAYS... which is NOT GOOD even under the BEST circumstances. Most people seemed to avoid that drug. There was also real ayahuasca, yes, same stuff as in the movie "Altered States, " a huge vat of it that had been brewing for days. Its reputation for causing those who drink it to spew wildly from both ends caused most folks to stick with lighter concoctions. For all I know, that big vat went to waste. So to speak, heh.

IMPORTANT NOTE: These pills and potions were not supplied by A.C.E. nor even KNOWN TO A.C.E., but were brought by attendees eager to share. I never saw any drugs being sold or otherwise distributed except between old buddies and other sinners not associated with the festival organizers or the campground.

The most DANGEROUS thing at Starwood is Ron Slabe's "Island Show." In a tradition that started about the same time as the first Burning Man, Ron and his friends build artful structures on the island, infuse them with remote-controlled fireworks to the tune of many thousands of dollars, surround them with fire dancers and jugglers, and then SET IT ALL ALIGHT so that it is an INSANE ISLAND OF LIGHT for an hour, while Ron's electronic music plays over huge speakers.

God DAMN, did we get some VISUALLY INTERESTING video and photos of that. Wei and I were shooting the BACKSTAGE of it, not the wall of light as seen from the front. From behind, it looks MUCH WEIRDER -- like a painting of Hell. GROOOOOVY.

Ironically, the only severe injury that I know of happened during the Island Show, but it happened to the ONE GUY who does NO DRUGS, and wasn't NEAR the island, and wasn't even WORKING at the time -- Regis Sedlock, Starwood's Greatest Sound Reinforcement and Recording Engineer. He was watching the fireworks from atop his recording van when he FELL OFF and separated his shoulder, requiring an ambulance ride to the hospital. He was back at work the next morning, but with his arm in a sling.

Pater Nostril and Rev. Phloighd were both working Brushwood Staff jobs during 8X-Day and Starwood, and having those two SubGenii "on the inside" has been indescribably helpful for the rest of us other responsible SubGenii -- as well as for A.C.E. staff, who, whether they know it or not, NEED SubGenii around, if only as balloon-poppers. A surprising amount of Phloighd's hair has grown back since his annual X-Day Drill Shearing. Wei and I indulged in Pater Nostril's home-brewed DOBBSHEAD BEER, for medicinal purposes strictly, to make our pups stop barking, but by Gobbs if it didn't provide way more than just medicinal relief.

The choice of restaurants is much wider at Starwood than during X-Day Drills. There are TWO restaurants PLUS Java Junction. And one of the restaurants, Phil's Grill, serves LOBSTER on Friday nights. It's a funny experience, eating fancy lobster at a picnic table surrounded by body-painted nudes and cave persons.

This being the 25th Starwood, it provided more opportunities for regular festival-goers to get all emotionally choked up and sentimental, even heartless old uncaring bastards like me. Traditions have developed quite spontaneously over the years (and continue to be invented) which have the same tear-jerking effect as any Christian or even SubGenius tear-jerker. I don't mean rituals and so on, I mean like SING-ALONGS and the lighting of the bonfire torches and the bonfire itself. The Brushwood owners surprise-presented all the A.C.E. members with a huge cake to celebrate the 25th, and the Chameleons -- the core club that is actually the heart of A.C.E. and the VERY EXISTENCE of Starwood -- did a special performance of an original song about Starwood by Rev. Victoria Ganger (aka Sister Melodious Chopps), which has unfortunately been running through my head nonstop for about 72 hours now, because it's a CATCHY NUMBER. And kinda tear-jerking.

I am trying to gradually and calmly make a nice video documentary about Starwood, and I have tried to slowly break in the pagans and other Young Nakeds to my presence with a camera. Like my hero, Jane Goodall, who worked with chimpanzees, I want to help find a deeper understanding of the pagan species. For the most part they seem to tolerate me. I was harassed a couple of times about "the pit-chure rowles," and had to reveal my secret rank, but generally I was able to shoot freely as long as I was not in folks' FACES. Thus I have many killer shots of the spectacular, previously unfilmable bonfire event, but always showing the weirdoes FROM BEHIND or in silhouette. If I had tried even that much a few years ago, it would have been "smash the interloper first, ask questions later."

When I put together my first video logos for ACE, I had to use footage that had been CONFISCATED from LURKING CHRISTIANS who'd hoped to get evidence of baby-killing or at least open bestiality and sodomy.

I did also shoot some night-vision footage for my own prurient gratification, but that was mostly of my own wife dancing around the fire. I am really SICK that way.

But enough of these trivialities, you're saying. Get to the IMPORTANT stuff, you're demanding. WHAT OF POPE PERRO?!?

You will be proud to know that Pope Perro, this year's THAT, was as well represented, guerrilla clip-art postering-wise, as he was at 8X-Day. I MADE DAMN SURE OF THAT. Luckily, many of the Perroheads that I had placed during 8X-Day had weathered Sirius Rising and the earlier part of Starwood. Many of the Brushwood directions signs, warnings signs, official notices, etc., sported the fierce, proud, bug-eyed, jaw-jutting visage of our New Pope. But now there was a vast new field of fresh Perro targets: the dozens and dozens of green plastic porta-potties that dot Brushwood during Starwood! At all times I carried my little pre-cut Perroheads and, this time, a small roll of masking tape, so that ANY pause in my travels was accompanied by a postering of the Pope's pic.

Just as happened at 8X-Day, I didn't hear anyone utter a WORD about it for days. But on Saturday night, I was videotaping an excellent band in the pavilion, Paprika, pronounced pah-pree-KAH, which is fabulous, and all-female, including a gorgeous light plumper lead singer and the HOTTEST bespectacled lead guitarist… be still my heart… ( anyway, suddenly the lead singer announced that the band was dedicating the next song to Pope Perro!


While still shooting, I fished several of the medium-sized Perroheads out of my pocket and handed them up to the singer. She was ecstatic! They burst into a KICK-ASS Pope Perro/revolution song which eventually led up to the climactic Island Show.

The next day, I was sitting in the ACE store-tent at my swag table when those babes from Paprika appeared. I slathered all over them about how great I thought their band was and how proud I was that they had even NOTICED Pope Perro, much less intuitively realized that he was a truly WORTHY OBJECT OF ADORATION. When they learned that I was responsible for the "Popie Perro" pictures they thanked me profusely. (They called him "Popie Perro" for some reason, although the lead singer could pronounce his name in Spanish AND German a hell of a lot better than I can!) I don't think they gave a hoot about Old Pipe-Face but they sure did like that cute ugly doggie with the hat.

Speaking of INCREDIBLE YETI WOMEN, while walking around at sunset, before the bonfire lighting, I encountered a most amazing spectacle -- one of the most psychedelic op-art DRESSES I have ever seen, and, packed into it, a remarkable woman named Sable Holiday, Private Relations Specialist, who looks like the general idea of a porn star, with classic porn star "bolt-ons," butt and lips to match. Having been steeled by years of friendship with Rev. Susie the Floozy, I probably came off as less geeky to her than I really am, and for some reason she pretty much invited me to follow her around while she strode about getting ogled and body painted.

I meet the most interesting people at Starwood.

For instance, check out Waking Dream:

This multimedia and mask-making performance troupe has added so much to Starwood since they started coming that I can scarcely imagine the festival without them now. Because they give workshops for young and old in creating fantastic costumes, there are weird looking giants, stilt-walkers, monsters, and cartoon characters around every bend of the Brushwood roads throughout the week. The masks also provide an excuse for a parade,  improv play or whatnot every day. During the Saturday night bonfire, when everything becomes especially numinous, and things take on seemingly larger-than-life proportions, their huge rod-puppets make for spectacular sights. This year they had a 40-foot undulating, floating, red-lit tubular DRAGON that writhed and coiled its way around the fire circle, far over the heads of the crowd. And many "giants" strode around, combinations of rod puppetry and stilt-walkers. There was a full moon that night, so between the fire and the moonlight, the bonfire field looked just like something out of a special effects storybook movie, a scene from "Shrek" maybe, only NOT computer animated.

As Regis Sedlock and I, and Andy the pro video guy, organize and transfer the tapes, I'll be able to start draping Starwood audio over upcoming Hour of Slack shows, and I am DYING to start editing the video from this and previous Starwoods. I also have 8X-Day and teX-Day 1 to post-process, so my SlackWork's cut out for me. In the meantime, I'm posting Princess Wei's choice photos to alt.binaries.slack, the Starwood site and also SubSITE.

Thanks to ALL my fellow Chameleons for CONTINUALLY CHANGING!
-- Rev. Stang 7-26-05