On July 29, 1995, former President George H.W. Bush stood beside a small lake ringed by towering redwoods and spoke to hundreds of wealthy and powerful men at the Bohemian Grove in Monte Rio.
Giving the final Lakeside Talk of the two-week summer encampment, Bush, a longtime Bohemian Club member, introduced his son George to the all-male crowd of American business, professional, social and political heavyweights.
"He used the occasion to say that his son George W. Bush would make a great president some day," according to G. Wil-liam Domhoff's chronicle of the Grove, subtitled "The Power Elite at Summer Camp."
Conspiracy theorists would connect the dots between that event on a languid summer afternoon in Sonoma County to the younger Bush's ascension to the White House in 2000.
They would likely have a field day with former President Richard Nixon's assertion, in his own memoirs, that his Lakeside Talk to the Bohemians in 1967 "marked the first milestone on my road to the presidency," which he won the following year.
Nixon, in a less-charitable mood, groused on his secret tapes that the Bohemian Club "is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine."
But whether the presidential anecdotes prove that the Bohemians, while strolling -- and boozing -- among 1,500-year-old redwoods along the Russian River are also plotting the future of the free world is subject to debate.
The 2008 encampment, which ends Sunday, found the San Francisco-based club embroiled in a local controversy, as well, over a proposed logging plan for the 2,700-acre wooded retreat.
Domhoff, a UC Santa Cruz sociologist who studies power and politics in America, dismisses the notion that capitalist schemes and military endeavors are plotted during the encampments, which date back to the 1890s.
"They're not out there talking about big things," Domhoff said, describing the Grove as "an Elks Club for the rich; a fraternity party in the woods."