Beloved Burn­ing Man fes­ti­val co-founder dead at 70

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By John Rogers and Janie Har

SAN FRAN­CISCO » Larry Har­vey, whose whim­si­cal de­ci­sion to erect a gi­ant wooden fig­ure and then burn it to the ground led to the pop­u­lar, long-run­ning coun­ter­cul­ture cel­e­bra­tion known as “Burn­ing Man,” has died. He was 70.

Har­vey died Satur­day morn­ing at a hospi­tal in San Fran­cisco, sur­rounded by fam­ily, Burn­ing Man Project CEO Mar­ian Good­ell said. The cause was not im­me­di­ately known but he had suf­fered a stroke ear­lier this month.

Long­time friend Stu­art Man­grum posted on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site that Har­vey did not be­lieve in any sort of ex­is­tence af­ter death.

“Now that he’s gone, let’s take the lib­erty of con­tra­dict­ing him, and keep his mem­ory alive in our hearts, our thoughts, and our ac­tions,” Man­grum wrote. “As he would have wished it, let us al­ways Burn the Man.”

The cre­ator of the an­nual week-long sum­mer fes­ti­val in North­ern Ne­vada’s Black Rock Desert was hos­pi­tal­ized April 4 af­ter suf­fer­ing a mas­sive stroke. The Burn­ing Man or­ga­ni­za­tion did not dis­close his prog­no­sis, only say­ing that he was get­ting round-the-clock care.

Burn­ing Man takes place an­nu­ally the week be­fore La­bor Day, at­tract­ing some 70,000 peo­ple who pay any­where from $425 to $1,200 a ticket to travel to a dry lake bed 100 miles (161 kilo­me­ters) east of Reno, where tem­per­a­tures can rou­tinely reach 100 de­grees (37.8 de­grees Cel­sius) dur­ing the sum­mer. There they must carry in their own food, build their own makeshift com­mu­nity and en­gage in what­ever in­ter­ests them.

On the gath­er­ing’s penul­ti­mate day, the gi­ant ef­figy — or Man as it is known — is set ablaze dur­ing a rau­cous, joy­ful cel­e­bra­tion.

“A city in the desert. A cul­ture of pos­si­bil­ity. A net­work of dream­ers and do­ers,” is how the gath­er­ing is de­scribed on Burn­ing Man’s web­site.

An “es­o­teric mix of pa­gan fire rit­ual and sci-fi Dada circus where some paint their bodies, bang drums, dance naked and wear costumes that would draw stares in a Mardi Gras pa­rade,” is how The As­so­ci­ated Press once de­scribed the gath­er­ing.

While tick­ets now sell out im­me­di­ately, Har­vey de­scribed in a 2007 in­ter­view how he had much more mod­est in­ten­tions when he launched Burn­ing Man on San Fran­cisco’s Baker Beach one sum­mer day in 1986.

“I called a friend and said, “Let’s go to the beach and burn a man,” he told the web­site Green Liv­ing. “And he said, ‘Can you say that again?’ And I did and we did it.”

It wasn’t un­til after­ward, Har­vey re­called, that he had the epiphany that led to Burn­ing Man.

“What re­ally changed my life and what in some sense gave birth to the rest of my life and ca­reer is the fact that sud­denly all these peo­ple, on that beach, who we didn’t know, strangers, came run­ning to­wards that fig­ure,” he said. “The spec­ta­cle was fine, but it was peo­ple who joined us in such a heart­felt and in­stan­ta­neous way. It opened our hearts and that’s what made us feel and know in the end that we had to do it and keep do­ing it.”

Within a few years the event had out­grown Baker Beach and moved to the desert.

While Har­vey would speak fre­quently about Burn­ing Man in the years that fol­lowed, he would re­veal lit­tle about him­self and it was of­ten hard to dis­cern truth from fic­tion.

He be­lieved he was con­ceived in the back of a Chevro­let by par­ents who aban­doned him soon af­ter his birth, he once told the Reno Gazette-Jour­nal.

Adopted by po­tato farmers and raised near Port­land, Ore­gon, he said he hitch­hiked to San Fran­cisco at age 17, ar­riv­ing just as the 1965 Sum­mer of Love was end­ing.

Af­ter that first fire in 1986, Burn­ing Man flour­ished as Har­vey metic­u­lously over­saw its ev­ery de­tail from the var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties that would spring up overnight to its an­nual arts theme to the beau­ti­fully crafted tem­ple that ac­com­pa­nies Burn­ing Man and is also burned.

He laid out 10 “prin­ci­ples” for those who at­tend, in­clud­ing in­ter­act­ing and shar­ing un­selfishly with one an­other, de­vel­op­ing self-re­liance and, af­ter the event’s con­clu­sion, leav­ing the desert land­scape un­spoiled.


The “Man” burns on the Black Rock Desert at Burn­ing Man near Ger­lach, Nev. Larry Har­vey, the co-founder of the “Burn­ing Man” fes­ti­val has died. He was 70.

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