the history of bianca at Burning Man
as told by freeform, megan, steve, dr.jd, dpwk, and assorted other trolls

bianca's Smut Shack (the camp) first debuted at Burning Man in 1996. the camp was called "bianca's Smut Shack" and it had a fun little sign saying so. as far as i know, the only smut that occurred was during a "smut contest" held saturday evening for about an hour.

from 1996-1998 the shack was made of electrical conduit with 10x10 sections, which we used to form rooms. the size of the shack was 20x40 feet in 1996. (in 1997 and onwards the size has been 30x50 feet.)

Cute shack! It was so small. Situated in back of Black Rock City in the village of the Irrational Geographic Society, it was long enough for several environments, but only deep enough for one row, be it a bed, couch arrangement, etc. Somehow what I remember most about that year was view. Despite being in back of the city, it seemed like I always had a place to chill out on a couch and watch burning man go by.

in 1996 we didn't have a DJ booth or a kitchen. we did however have an electric grill, couches, chairs, reading material, and a small stereo system consisting of two mid-size speakers and a 300W amp with two cd-players and a mixer.

we grilled cheese and made pb&j and pancakes and the like but not nearly in the style or quanity we do now.

i think saturday night was the actual birth of giving out mass quanity of food items. it really started to take off that evening when i went outside and started giving out food to random people that walked by the shack. people loved it, and we invited them inside the shack. more and more people started to come in and it became a party.

on sunday night after most things had burned (sunday was the night of the burn back then) people came back and the party continued well into the morning.

after the event, we received lots of email where people thanked us for the downtempo groovy tunes (shackgroove), the couches and tasty food handouts, and the "chilled-out loving" atmosphere. (which was quite a respite from all the violence of HellCo and SeeMen shows)

Burning Man had theme camp "awards" in 1996 and bianca's was named "most hospitable camp". (yes, this is for real)

and thus was born: the prototypical playa lounge

the first shack, daytime, 1996
the first shack, night, 1996
smut shack during the day, 1997

bianca didn't hit it "big" until 1997.

1997 was first year Burning Man had organized streets (with names),
the first year for the horse-shoe look of the city/esplanade
the first year bianca was "officially" placed and mapped
the first year bianca was there for a full week,
the first year bianca was on the highly trafficed "esplanade corner"
the first year bianca had non-stop grilled cheese at night
the first (and only year) bianca had pb&j during the day
the first year bianca gave out water to anyone/everyone who asked
and the first year bianca actually encouraged smut.

the camp was called "bianca's Smut Shack" and there were now TWO plastic hanging banners declaring it as such.

we had beds, we had couches, we had porno mags, we had hundreds of condoms, we had 10 dark rooms, we had leather saw horses, we had massage tables, etc...

the addition of paddles, restraints, more curtains, cherry (i heart cherry!), and the more rambling room-like layout made for a much more licentious feel. I was titllated. I got off on reading the comics lazing about in the hot sun with randoms (not literally, it was just neat). I was irritated by certain large gentlemen with video cameras and barked at some. There was always dancing near the grilled cheese, and until the last day or so, it was a great place to hang out, be chatty, be spacey, be smutty, just be. A much higher energy affair than 96, to be sure.

by thursday, word had spread and bianca's was packed 24/7 until monday morning.

In retrospect, I now see that the combination of beds, leather implements, etc immediately whispered 'sex club' to me. Even though that stuff mostly disappeared by the last day (due to theft), I'd say that had a big influence on my perception of the shack -- and probably a lot of other peoples' as well.

i remember sending alx to reno to get 250 more loaves of bread. we went through over 750 loaves of bread that year.

i also remember personally serving grilled cheese to larry and marian when they came walking through the shack saturday night with wide-open gawking eyes as if they had never seen such a sight as bianca's.

it was FUN!!

then Burning Man 1998 came (along with the fat masturbating men) and all hell broke loose!! people were actually asking the greeters when they first came in where bianca's was camped that year.

bianca was once again on the highly trafficed "esplanade corner" and it was crazy from day one! tons of naked people all day long and the smell of semen permeated the air. i saw things i had never seen (in real life) before and really don't want to see again. it really was a full-on Smut Shack.

in 1997 there was a more overall "female" vibe to the whole place, but in 1998, there was a dominant "male" vibe and with that came a kind of violent, aggressive and oppresive feel. women felt uncomfortable to be in the shack. if you had your clothes off or even partially off, you were "fair game" for the more aggressive males.

it was exhausting.

the shack, 1998
in early 1999, it was discovered that there were amateur and semi-pro porno videos available for purchase with images of people from Burning Man while in bianca's camp!!
  in mid-1999 i got emails and phone calls from Harley and Marian asking that we tone down the vibe. fortunately, bianca had already had lots of conversations to this effect and so we were all in agreement. we talked about multiple ways to lessen the built-up expectations etc...

for Burning Man 1999, bianca reinvented herself. we had an all new tent which raised the ceiling 6 feet higher, and we removed all the "rooms", which (combined with the new ceiling height) created a much more open and airy feeling to the shack. we had lots more lights outside and inside (thanks to an upgrade to a 25K gennie)

we had no beds, we brought no porno mags, or porno props of any kind. we created a large area just for dancing, we changed the name to be just "bianca's". we were not listed or mapped anywhere on any literature. greeters were instructed not to mention bianca's where-abouts. and, this was the year many bianca DJs were really into "trance". bianca became a place to go to dance all night long rather than a place to have/watch sex. (the music of the previous years was what is now called "classic shackgroove" and was actually an encouragment of smutty activities, due to its downtempo nature and smooth groovin' vibe)

and, the changes worked!! (though, due to a built-up rep, there was still smut in the shack; but nothing like 1998 or 1997)

bianca had her first honeymooners in camp with the union of two dear friends, so the mood was set. We had a permenent and stable home for bianca and her masses with the addition of the tent. But getting prepared for the playa, you know there are going to be surprises. What we were dealt was bitter cold. I remember arriving Sunday/Monday to 40 degree temps and biauncanauts strewn hither and tither after being caught in a wind storm while trying to raise the roof of the shack. And the cold persited. If you didn't have someone to cuddle with, you weren't going to be able to sleep, especially in a tent. And when you did sleep it was while wearing everything you owned. But the shack shook with good vibes, people dancing to keep warm. We were on auto-shack from wednesday on. That was the year we used a sattelite phone to call out for incoming trolls to bring long underwear and knit caps, not extra bread and cheese.

outside the shack, 1999
ann with perfect tray, 1999

Burning Man 2000 was the year bianca worked on finding the perfect balance/forumla for a groovy chilled-out house party/lounge with a good lovin' vibe. 2000 also saw several key trolls pull away or leave altogether and their energy/passion was missed, as it showed in the overall feel of the camp.

2000 also brought the three horsemen of playa unfriendly elements. From Tuesday at sunset to hours before the burn, first the winds blew, then the rains fell and the the cold descended upon us. We moved a truck to stategically block the winds battering the shack, but that didn't stop us from (on a couple of occasions) hanging onto the shack to add extra weight and keep it from blowing away. We were on patrol with broom sticks to push the water off the make shift/blue tarp roofs of the kitchen and the dj booth, whose ceiling supports buckled but for some reason never entirely gave out (though they did leak, as a few unlucky DJ's and grillers discovered.) And when it all cleared, Friday during sunset... we were wiped out, done, already burnt before the Burn. But we (I for one) looked around and saw others near us completely leveled; roof ripped off only a few hours after construction was completed or just flatted, unforgivingly into the playa, ground into the earth under some omnipitent foot that that randomly chose.... ummmm.... THAT CAMP, Splat!. So we recovered and dried off. We went to the Burn and ran around it and we came back and we partied and we loved, and thanked the heavens for the reprive, because it was a beautiful night. That was all the energy we had left.

All throughout, there were new influences on the playa, like hip hop and the black light district and a ton of el wire that was really never seen before. Also, for the first time, there was a very cohesive theme behind burning man itself, that really took off.

Thank heavens for the torch show that was moved to Sunday night, because we had a chance to have a bianca love-in. Others left the playa, but some trolls were too tired to move, if not pack. We sat with new friends and old, pods of three or four trolls dipped into the small crowd of others who just couldn't leave the playa. It was as small and intimate as burning man proclaims and tries to be. As the torches went off, there were no guards needed to hold back the crowd, people in the community looked out for each other and invited passers by to join their little groups and watch the show... Small and intimate, hmmmm....

We didn't realize it until we had left the playa and recovered for a few months. Those same people who'd been flattened were up and running again in a few hours, even if it was just two turntables and a sound system on the top of a rental truck. Who cared... 100 people were dancing around that truck! Inspiration! Simplify! Every one else was downsizing (and alot of us went back to the world and were downsized) It was time to put bianca on a diet. We needed a SIMPLE plan. We needed ideas that would work and a plan of action... streamlined... if bianca is going back to the playa, do it right.... bianca 2001 was in the pipeline.

Burning Man 2001 was the year bianca perfected "the forumla" and everything fell into place. the shack was a beautiful groovy chilled-out loving house party every night.

We actually started the year of planning -- mere moments after returning from our 2000 adventure -- talking about what would've been one of the biggest and most far-reaching projects ever seen on the playa (and we still might do that, some day.) But as the year went on, and many of us became unemployed or otherwise discovered that our resources were more limited than before, we found ourselves thinking back to what had actually been important, what we absolutely had to have to make the shack happen -- especially in the difficult weather we'd experienced in 2000 and 1999.

There was occasional mention of the idea that we were planning the same-old-thing for 2001... I think someone used the term "shack-in-the-box". The funny thing is, even if it is a formula at this point, it works really really well. While it may be the same-old-thing to a lot of us, it's still totally new and different and amazing to a lot of people who spend time in the shack each year.

bianca has always been about giving. To many of us, our favorite time is when we stand back and watch as people we'd never even seen before that night are grilling, serving, DJ'ing, dancing, loving -- full auto-shack. We merely set the foundation (though sometimes that's a hell of a lot of work.) Once it's out there, bianca fills the shack with love, every time. In a lot of ways, it's totally out of our hands from that point onwards.

mark and dave grilling cheese, 2001
blacklight bianca letters, 2001
For more pictures & links, see our previous events page.
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