April 8th, 2013  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

Larry Harvey’s Flying Stetson – a true story from the Global Leadership Conference

April 8th, 2013  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

Larry Harvey and hat (photo by Jim Urquhart, courtesy of Reuters)

This may not seem like much, but for those of us who were there it was electric.

“I wore my hat,” Larry Harvey said as he took the stage for the keynote address at the Global Leadership Conference.  They were practically the first words out of his mouth.

I will dwell on the substance of Harvey’s keynote later – for now, it suffices to say that he opened with a little history about his hat.  About how he wore it, and it became iconic, and soon everywhere he went people were asking him:  “can I try on your hat?”

He always let them, and the hat must have had magical powers, because it always looked good on them.  Gradually he stopped wearing the hat, except for ceremonial occasions.

Then he gave his talk – a talk about how the Burning Man Project is being designed to support the Regionals;  about how there are hundreds of people now across the world beginning the very same journey that he and the other Burning Man founders made.

When he concluded his speech, a half hour later, he said that everything is changing, but his hat still looks best on other people.

Then he tossed it into the crowd.

With a great flick of the wrist, like a Frisbee, it soared up close to the ceiling of the Grand Ballroom … then curved in mid-air, and came down into the crowd.  It was a moment of magnificent theater.

Larry Harvey’s hat was caught by Clovis, a Regional Contact from Austin.

Clovis – wearing his own hat

Clovis held it up high.  The crowd roared.  “I knew this was coming,” he would later tell me.  “I didn’t realize he’d throw it, but, when he started by talking about his hat, I knew he was going to finish with it.  I just didn’t … it came right to me.”

It did.  It flew right into his arms.  He raised it up.  The applause was defining.  Larry Harvey left the stage.

And then … Clovis threw it back into the crowd.

That was the moment.  That was the moment great theatre turned into an epic event.

He got the hat, he held it in his arms, fair and square, nobody would have said a word, we were happy for him, cheering – and he gave it back to the community.

It soared over to the other side of the auditorium.  It was caught, put on a head, strutted around … and then tossed again.  It flew to someone entirely new.  Who put it on, then tossed it again.  And again, and again, and again.  It belonged to us  all, and we wanted it in the air.

“Well, what else was I going to do with it?” Clovis asked me later.  “I mean, obviously I was gonna throw it.”

But it wasn’t obvious to me.  I don’t think I would have.  It wasn’t obvious to Marian Goodell, who said in her own presentation how amazing she’d found that moment, that idea.  He’d gotten his hands on the ultimate schwag of the conference … a status symbol he could dine out on for years … and he gave it to everyone.

It wasn’t an obvious move to most of us in that audience who sent the hat back and forth across the room for a good five minutes, until finally someone brought it back up on stage and gave it to Megan Rutigliano, the Mistress of Ceremonies, who told everyone to get the hell out of there and go to lunch.

Clovis?  The man’s my hero for the week.

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man.  His opinions are in no way statements of the Burning Man organization.  Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com.

25 Responses to “Larry Harvey’s Flying Stetson – a true story from the Global Leadership Conference”

  1. Jon Mitchell Says:

    Every aspect of this story is delicious.

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  2. Brody Says:

    Yep. It made me think of Chip Conley’s speech about communal effervescence. Clovis took it from just the end of a good speech into something that made me proud to be a member of our community… Something that raised the energy of the room into joy.

    (PS- damn you caveat, I was going to write about this too, but you beat me to it and did it better than I could. I’m glad you did!)

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  3. Bean Says:

    Of course he threw it.
    Gotta love Clovis.

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  4. NobodobodoN Says:

    It’s not just about “giving to the community”, it’s about being playful. Clovis would rather share fun with people than be cool, and that’s what makes him so cool.

    Also, if I may be so pedantic, I think you mean the applause was “deafening” rather than “defining”, though I suppose it may be both.

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  5. ChimCheri Says:

    So happy the world can finally understand how amazing Clovis is all the time! Austin has known this for …like….forever! Thank you for writing this and putting a smile on my face today!

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  6. jimstone Says:

    >but my hat still looks best on other people.

    That bullshit didn’t fly at Helco either.

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  7. Karen Sloane Says:

    That was a particularly glorious moment in a week filled with many glorious moments. It was the perfect symbolic point to cap the vibe of the entire event. Thank you Clovis!!

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  8. kip kipple Says:

    That’s the Clovis , I know!!

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  9. Tiara Says:

    Thank you for a beautiful written account of one of the highlights of the conference!

    For the record, I said to Thomas Monclova, who was sitting beside me, “we’re never going to get to lunch unless someone gets that hat to Megs,” and he should be credited as the “someone [who] brought it back up on stage.”

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  10. Tao Jones Says:

    We love Clovis for exactly this. Glad to see him playing well with others.

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  11. MadameStrange Says:

    Clovis is our hero pretty much every week around here. (fuckers)

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  12. Heyu Says:

    Clovis rocks! It was brilliant.

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  13. Caleb Says:

    Thanks for being you, Clovis

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  14. Bunker Says:

    I told Clovis (half-jokingly) he could’ve kept it & auctioned it off in Austin for our CORE project ;) After he promptly retrieved it, the hat made a new history by being photographed on all of the summit participants. Can’t wait to see those portraits!! <3

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  15. Sarah Says:

    Thanks so much for writing this up. The moment was so touching and amazing and I’m glad to be able to share this entry with those who weren’t there for it.

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  16. glenda Says:

    the moment is etched in my memory forever……..Thank you!

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  17. Globinski Says:

    It was a moment of magic!!! :) It flew perfectly.

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  18. london escorts Says:

    nice post, very usefull.. i’m the big fan

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  19. regynalonglank Says:

    I am a huge Clovis fan. Gotta love that sassy attitude. I did a blog post about this too, what a great day to be a hat!

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  20. Firas Says:

    Excellent story, reading it I felt like I was there.

    Thank you

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  23. The Prince of Neptune Says:

    I suppose the rest of the substance of his speech was irrelevant to the power of the hat fun. sometimes i think that can be true of playa experience too. what i mean by that is the substance of )’( peer dialogue (though deep and meaningful) pales in comparison to the power of Black Rock City.

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  24. Christy Kundalini Says:


    I guess Burning Man is the energy of the Larry Harvey Being.

    @ [elsewhere]

    his playa name is Clovis?

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