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stories along The Way

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

“Great Horror Campout” - vulgar sanctioned abuse of a park system's gem

Is Griffith Park a emerging"Disneyland", or is it an Urban Wilderness Park? 

Lame duck Councilmember Tom LaBonge eats away at remaining habitat with this childish self-indulgence by loading it onto a fragile ecosystem of Griffith Park - a park that, to quote Labonge himself, is "the heart and lungs of Los Angeles."

Originally published by the Sierra Club.

by Carol Henning

Classy stuff.
The perpetrators of commercial exploitation simply cannot leave Griffith Park alone. Are you weary of reading articles about the ongoing campaign to use the park as a venue for tawdry spectacles that rake in profits for private business while inconveniencing the public? Then tell them to stop!

The Great Horror Campout is the latest money-making scheme of Ten-Thirty-one productions, the company that brought Haunted Hayride to the park. The Campout seems to be a longer, nastier version of the Hayride. It debuts at the Old Zoo June 6th and 7th and then goes nationwide this summer. “Only the dawning sun will save you,” cackles the Campout website. “CAMP AT YOUR OWN RISK,” it warns. “This camps [sic] only desire is to ruin you!” It lasts all night, during which time you will be chased by scary clowns (Last year they rode motorcycles.), ax-wielding rednecks, and the chupacabra (whatever they are). Campout patrons must agree to be “forcibly handled, moved, bound, hooded, chained and subjected to simulated torture” by the Campout cast of monsters. Writing about her fun experience at last year’s Campout, a young woman told Yelp that she got hooded and put in the van, put in a cage, locked in a trunk, trapped by a mothman, forced to get on her knees multiple times and made to break off a man’s finger. Gosh, can you think of a jollier way to spend a night? Another positive review praised the event for being “bloody, gross and loud.”

Some negative reviews called the Campout a “total ripoff; no scares.” Much of the criticism was aimed at the food served (The price included dinner and a sort of breakfast). It turns out the food was “all vegan and very gross.” One of last year’s patrons huffed: “This is why the rest of the country thinks L.A. is full of new age hippy freaks.” Not to worry. This year’s buffet dinner is being catered by Susan Feniger and Kajsa Alger of Street and Mud Hen Tavern. Mark Cuban’s $2 million dollar investment will make this year’s event a bit more up-market than the one last year, which was held near Chinatown. Campers complained about the dirt lot with few trees and about downtown lights, which made total darkness impossible.

Eager for an opportunity to better please patrons and to raise prices, Ten-Thirty-one Productions cast covetous eyes on Griffith Park’s Old Zoo area, the site of their yearly Haunted Hayride. As usual, the L.A. Parks Foundation, the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks Commissioners, and probably a certain City Councilmember, rolled out the (blood) red carpet of welcome to Ten-Thirty-one Productions. Thus, another event celebrating the violent, the bloody and the gross gets inflicted on Griffith Park. If the Hell Hunt, which involves some bathing in blood, a sacrificial voodoo ritual, and digging through road kill, along with being hooded and chained, appeals to someone you know, potential patrons can rent a two-person tent for $223 per person or a four-person tent for $159 per person. Organizers expect 400-500 attendees. There are special “Chicken Zones” for timid folks who want to camp at the Old Zoo but do not want to be dragged about by monsters. The Campout website promises that, if wimps cannot take anymore, they can shout “I WANT MY MOMMY,” and “the nightmare will end.”

And so realistic.
It is fun to write about bad taste, but the point of the story is this: The Great Horror Campout will occupy the Old Zoo, which has been designated a “wilderness area” within a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Aren’t such landmarks supposed to be shown some respect? In 2008, The Griffith Family Trust proposed Historic-Cultural Monument status for the whole park. This was supported by the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter as well as other environmental and community groups. What do the wilderness designation and monument status mean to Ten-Thirty-one Productions and to people willing to pay more than $200 for a “bloody, gross, loud” night? Probably nothing.

In April, an Earth Day event was held in Griffith Park to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge gave a speech. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti gave a speech about the value of wilderness. Griffith Park is an urban wilderness. In spite of its location in the middle of L.A.’s highly urbanized landscape, the park is home to large mammals, including mule deer, fox, coyotes, bobcats and one mountain lion. That is the thing about wilderness; it is not empty. It provides habitat for plants and animals. The hills above the Old Zoo are full of birds, bats and bunnies. They are one of only a couple places in the park where gray fox can be found. How will the resident animals be affected by strobe lights and sudden loud noises? At last year’s Campout, patrons who had dozed off in their tents were awakened at 4:30 a.m. by blasting music. Imagine having your rest or your night hunting and foraging interrupted by shrieking humans, “sudden loud noises” and “flashing lights.” But, who cares about traumatized wildlife when there is money to be made? Shame on the public officials who sell out Griffith Park so readily.

A quick look at the Big Picture should remind us that human beings are only a strand in the web of life on this planet. We depend on other animals, on plants, on air, on water. Until we value these more than we value a fist full of dollars, we will continue to destroy the world that sustains us.


If you would like to remind public officials of the consequences of their venal behavior, here are some names and addresses: 

Mayor Eric Garcetti
Room 303, Los Angeles City Hall
200 North Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Councilmember Tom LaBonge
Room 480, Los Angeles City Hall
200 North Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Lynn Alvarez, President
Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks Department
Board of Commissioners
221 N. Figueroa St., Suite 1510
Los Angeles, CA 90012