747 at Burning Man Hijacked! Film at 11!

Last night the 747 at Burning Man got hijacked.

I wasn’t there.

I so wanted to be there. I was planning to be there. But like an idiot, I expected the start time I’d heard from a reliable source to bear some resemblance to reality, and so I left a really great small party with friends to get to the 747 just before the hijacking was set to start, waited in the airplane for almost 90 minutes, and then was so bored I waked back across the playa only to discover that the party was over.

For those wondering, the 747 is basically a giant chill space on the lower floor, with fuzzy couches and a vague attempt at art on some of the walls, and a DJ area on the second floor.

Dejected, I went to the Misterioso bar and grumbled to the bartender about having missed this epic event and wondered if it had actually happened at all. The woman sitting next to me introduced herself as Lieutenant Cupcake and told me she was there, and been a hijacker.

It had started – of course – about half an hour after I’d gotten back to the party that was no longer happening. If I’d just stayed at the party and left when it was over, I would have gotten to do everything, instead of nothing. There’s a moral here somewhere.

But my inability to do Burning Man right isn’t the point. I asked Lt. Cupcake to tell me everything – everything – about the hijacking. Her details have since been verified to me by others, and while I was not a witness are true to the best of my knowledge.

The incursion began when hijackers secretly scaled the airplane and released a giant banner over the side proclaiming: “We will only negotiate with Larry!”

At that moment, a crew of rough-and-tumble (alleged) DPW and Gate types wearing angry steward and stewardess uniforms charged into the plane, taking over key sections.

Then they brought out the plastic snakes. Threw them everywhere. Naturally people shouted about getting these motherfucking snakes off of the motherfucking plane. I mean, you would have too if you were there.

Finally, the DJ booth was seized and control of the sound system taken.

“It was a really interesting clash of cultures,” another witness would tell me later the next day. “You had this airplane full of people who were perfectly primped, wearing elaborate costumes, designed down to the thread, whose whole purpose was to go there and be looked at, and then they were suddenly interrupted by a bunch of dirty hard core types who were taking over the space – who were doing something creative with it – and the elaborately costumed people had no idea how to respond. They couldn’t process it.”

Back in the bar, a highly costumed girl from Switzerland stared at Lt. Cupcake. “I was THERE on the airplane!” she gasped. “It was terrifying!”

We stared at her. “Oh come on …” I said.

“No, I was really frightened!” she insisted, although she didn’t seem to hold it against anyone.

I gave Lt. Cupcake a gift, as an expression of my admiration and gratitude. Swiss Miss may have felt a line was crossed, but as long as no permanent damage was done or changes made, I consider this fair game.

Pranking art is responding to it: it is participating with it. A giant spectacle of a plane section dragged down to the desert was plopped in front of everyone, and instead of passively accepting it, these people engaged with it in a creative an amusing way.

Dammit, I wish I’d been there.

My hats off to you, hijacking heroes.

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat is Burning Man's Philosopher Laureate. A founding member of its Philosophical Center, he is the author of The Scene That Became Cities: what Burning Man philosophy can teach us about building better communities, and Turn Your Life Into Art: lessons in Psychologic from the San Francisco Underground. He has also written several books which have nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

21 Comments on “747 at Burning Man Hijacked! Film at 11!

  • MiRL says:

    “Pranking art is responding to it: it is participating with it. A giant spectacle of a plane section dragged down to the desert was plopped in front of everyone, and instead of passively accepting it, these people engaged with it in a creative an amusing way.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Inclusion and participation are becoming a lost facet of life at Burning Man, and it’s wonderful to hear that this kind of thing still happens.

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    • JV says:

      Was gonna say the same thing. This is literally the first actual Burning Man type event I’ve heard about this year on the playa. I’m sure there have been many. This one is mighty good, though.

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  • froggy zeke says:

    It’s too bad Some of the people who would have been there at the hijacking spent that time being detained for nearly an hour because of an out brakelight. Bruiser is calm cool and collected and handled it well, but come on, BLM. geez.

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  • Hillary Clinton says:

    Burning Man has been over for 20+ years.

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  • Rufio says:

    Pretty funny to hear Android Jones’ work described as a “vague attempt at Art.”

    This camp is composed of a very heterogeneous group. Yes, there are MANY sparkle ponies. But there are many more hard core burners who are trying to create something special for everyone- there is no VIP area, all events are open and inclusive.

    If you don’t see the tens of thousands of man hours that went into the creation of this project – maybe your eyes were not open. This is a second year camp – still finding our footing…and we are still pushing the envelope forward

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  • Bianca says:

    Hey guys! I’m Bianca and am a 747 Crew Mate. I helped build our plane in the Mojave Desert, and then came out on the 3 day transport with the plane. When we landed on the 17th, we were greeted by BM Gate crew with smiles and hugs. When we touched down at 9:30 and ESP, (just four of us) Ken Feldman, Sunflower, Rufus and myself secured the plane into the Playa with occasional help from HEAT and The Lamp Lighters. We bonded with DPW in mid-August. They would roll up in their chopped up beaters to share beers with us take us on empty Playa adventures. They have a tough exterior but they come from a place of love and warmth. DPW loves us. Gate crew would also stop by and hang and shoot the shit with us during build week. We felt a lot of love from them as well.

    On the night of the 31st when I rolled out of camp on my bike with my BF Zae, we turned back to look at our beautifully lit up plane that had a huge crowd of people dancing their faces off, and the. I saw the tarp; “We only negotiate with Larry”. I started to boil. I went into an adrenaline fueled war mode. Zae and I ran back to the plane and tore the tarp down. (We had no idea what was going on inside the plane) A guy and a girl ran up to us. They had 747 pins on them. I started talking shit and yelling “You have no fucking idea how hard we have worked on this plane! 15 days in a row before the burn even started, working 16 hours a day!”

    The girl explained very genuinely that they are DPW, and that Ken Feldman loved the idea and fully allowed it to happen; that it wasn’t a joke on us, it was performance art, and they were participating in our plane experience. I wasn’t sure if it was true. I went to Ken and he told me “Of course we were part of it! It was a ‘camp takeover’. We had a talk about it and I thought it was brilliant!” “Oh…” I thought, “So THATS how they got those 747 pins. Ken gave them to them.” I realized I needed to calm down and then actually felt bad for ripping the tarp down.

    As for this article I must correct some untruths. Yes there were small toy snakes on the plane. But the sound system was NOT taken over – the DJ did not step away from the decks and people kept dancing. Someone was, however, handed the microphone and he said something about “We will only talk to Larry to meet our list of demands” while a female stood on the stairs with a bullhorn and said “Everyone get on the ground this is a jack off!” I saw the video. Some people were laughing, but most were booing the takeover. They didn’t get it, and I didn’t either until it was explained to me. As Caveat has said in this article, they were participating in our plane experience, just as WE do every day. We dress like pilots and flight attendants, because it strengths our crew bond and because it feels good. We pat people down in funny ways as they walk through the insecurity check point, and then check their emotional baggage. (A baggage claim tag where you can write whatever baggage you’ve been carrying with you and then it burns with the Temple.) Our art is theatrical. They basically did a theatrical play on our stage, using our theater house.

    Our hijacking/camp takeover was an honor and we’re thankful for it. Much love to DPW and Gate.

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    • JV says:

      “Some people were laughing, but most were booing the takeover.”

      Sad to hear that, but not surprising. An event like this 747 takeover is the very definition of Burning Man, in my opinion. Funny, creative, interactive, unexpected, and related to yet temporarily transforming its surroundings. I guess the people booing were bummed their dance party was being interrupted?

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      • I’m not too worried about the booing… even at a melodrama production there is audience participation with cheers to the good guys and boos, hisses to the bad guys. That being said… it was an honor to be punked by the DPW crew. I LOL’d when I heard about the event myself but missed it (sad face). AND… I know a DPW person who kept the secret from me, so sorry you internet salts… it was not planned in advance. It was a real surprise. Well done DPW… Well done.

        BTW you are now placed on the ‘no fly list’ and will have to endure much more TSA (Touching Sensitive Areas) prior to boarding!!!

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    • Joseph West says:

      Yea, the best response to anything at BM is to just have fun and go with it. Getting agro and angry is usually a sign of dehydration and drinking a Bottle of water usually helps.

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  • Lolly says:

    Lolol! Awesome! More pranks again ,please. Still can’t forget 2010, when somebody pranked all the biggest art installations with Sothebys tags.

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  • Lesliegeee says:

    Hey! what about 2009 when thunderdome became hot topic. That was high-larious!! I love this prank so hard. I wish that people wouldn’t take themselves so seriously as to not understand that that is the spirit of BM!

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  • Pedro Cervenka ( turnerbroadcasting) says:

    #EndCannabisProhibitionBud Lite presents… ( singer: “Real American Heroes”) ….. Today, we salute you, Mr. Burning Man Airplane Hijacker ….. ( singer: keep on strokin’! ) …. While others were too afraid to mount an attack on the massive carcass of an eviscerated 747, you dared to dream . ( “Dared to dreaaam”) . You risk life and limb to hang a spray painted demand on top of an airplane that can’t fly anywhere. You diverted the flight path from where it was sitting in the dust… to… where… it was sitting in the dust.. But you weren’t satisfied. You demanded negotiations with Larry. So crack open an #endcannabisprohibition bud lite, Mr. Burning Man Hijacker. Because you gave everyone our fondest wish… (singer: ” Mr. Burning Man 747 Hijacker” ) …. Armed with only … A Salami ( “just you and your salami!” ) .. you ushered in a new era of terrorism , and battled bad weather, and dust to take a plane that was going nowhere and bent it to your iron will to land… nowhere. So here’s to you, Mr. Burning Man 747 hijacker.

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  • LadyBee says:

    Hats off to the highjackers – good prank!! As big and mainstream as the event has become – never forget that the old participatory spirit still burns on; more people are bringing art and the art is getting better and better. It’s a big playa out there – plenty of room for everyone – the artists, the pranksters, the sparkle ponies, the shirtcockers and those who only stand and wait.

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  • Rio says:

    We strolled in during the hijack. Even with agruff DPW gal blocking the stairs to the upper lounge (We really didn’t mind. Those folks BUILD this city for us.) it was all good fun and a great party. Really happy to have been hijacked. Viva Cubana. Hope Larry gave in to the demands.

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  • julia says:

    Lamest & most wasteful piece of non-art on the playa. even the hijacking sounds ridiculously put on. glad i didn’t experience that given the sight of that section of an old, not even complete, piece of metal that got plonked down for absurd amounts of money. i thought the whole thing was a joke and don’t imagine the ‘hijacking’ was anything better than that.

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