The new look for the Ghetto, aka Doomtown

They gave the Ghetto a new face yesterday, and a new name, too.

The Ghetto is where most of the folks in the DPW camp. It’s a private place and lots of things have happened there. Let’s just leave it at that, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

So sprucing up the Ghetto and calling it something else — Doomtown — is a somewhat controversial move, as you can imagine. Because let’s face it: the DPW isn’t exactly shy about its bad-ass reputation.

But does that mean that the work crews should live in (what some would call) squalor?

Ghost Dancer, who runs the Work Ranch, thought it didn’t. So he collected a lot of wood that was going to be burned at the end of last year’s event and stashed it at the Ranch. Then he drew up plans for an appropriately Wild West facade.  And Ghost Dancer knows a thing or two about that, because he spent 12 years in Hollywood doing just that — creating sets.

A work crew put it all together on a work weekend back in March, and on Sunday, they lowered the last pieces into place out on the playa.

Now,  we come from the city, and we’re merely the camera guy, but we thought it looked pretty effing cool. There’s an elevated balcony where you can get a look out at what’s happening across Black Rock City. There’s a container at the far end that Charlie wants to turn into a movie theater, capable of seating 30 people. “That’s what you get when you have somebody from LA around,” Charlie said.

And there will be beer, and plenty of it. That part won’t change. And our guess is that things will still happen in Doomtown, or the Ghetto, or whatever you want to call it.

Because we all know that appearances don’t always count for much. It’s not how tough you look are on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

On Sunday it was time to lift the balcony into place.
Gary of Heavy Equipment swung the structure over the facade.


The builders had about an eighth of an inch clearance, and it made it just fine.


It was Ghost Dancer aka Quinn who salvaged the wood for the project. Total cost? Under $100.


The crew became the first visitors to the balcony on the top of Doomtown.


About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

5 Comments on “Doomtown

  • Natasha says:

    Wow, Ghost Dancer! It’s beautiful! Can’t wait to see, touch, and feel it.

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  • Cooky says:

    Love the new facade! A well deserved upgrade for the DPW home.

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  • aQui says:

    Wow. That balcony makes me want to be DPW so bad…

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  • susan biggs says:

    John Curley YOU are the BEST thing that has happened to Burning Man ever. I look at you every morning at sunrise and just before bedtime because I know a great deal can happen on the playa during my sleep time. The photos are fantastic and give such added dimension to the wonderful commentary. Please keep it up! I will see you in about 12 days and happy to meet you. When you see the little one call her Lynneeeeeee and she will probably do a double take and know who has been in contact with you. SLB

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  • Adrena says:

    That is amazing! What a great base camp…straight out of Cowboys and Aliens :)

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