Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at 8 AM, my eyes are tired—sunken—and my hand is gripping my morning coffee—black. New York City, as always, vibrates with the energy of thousands who live to work—the skyline stamped with hours and hours of all work, no play. With another sip—a gulp—I click through Snapchat until reaching the ultimate escape from city stress, my favorite free-spirited fantasy, Love Bailey.
Her signature cherry-red hair catches the wind, as Bailey poses for the camera, lets out a gallant squeal and drives off wildly, disappearing into the Temecula, California desert on a four-wheeler. In head-to-toe red—lips to match—she looks out of place against the natural, grassy backdrop, though this dramatic contrast is precisely why Bailey’s such a magic anomaly. I continue clicking through her Snapchat story: Bailey dances on a wooden deck—hands in the air—as billowing fabric surrounds her, moving with a similar flow; now she’s filming, this time capturing Domonique Echeverria, another earth angel visiting Bailey’s haven. Healing. Living.
They’re both staying at Savage Ranch, the world Bailey’s created far away from everyday civilization, where “limitless” living is an understatement for its surreal, sweeping environment. All walks of life are welcomed to the westward getaway to live their truth, explore their souls and relieve themselves of all manmade pressures. Here, genuine community is at the core—a vacation for those the world quickly labels “outcasts,” though on Bailey’s turf, there’s no such thing.
Slipping into the cultural visionary’s sun-soaked Snaps is today’s equivalent of flipping through the pages of a fairytale. It doesn’t seem real, but the fact that it is real—very real—is what leads my morning commute (and I’m sure many other’s) into an existential fury. Why am I on this train? Why New York? Why work at all? Bailey doesn’t live to work, she lives to love, her Savage Ranch symbolizing perhaps the exact opposite of today’s NYC culture—a rare, fabled destination that tomorrow’s queer culture will recognize in the same way today’s looks to Andy Warhol’s Factory for inspiration.
BULLETT recently caught up with Bailey to learn more about Savage Ranch, featuring an original editorial, which the artist created on her sacred land. To slather it on thick with the Savage Family, visit the Ace Hotel on June 18 for live performances, DJ sets and the full fantasy.
What inspired you to create something like Savage Ranch?
I was living in New York for a couple years and my friend Scott Andrew, who was a makeup artist and mentor to many kids in New York—his place was like our home base. We’d make dinners together every Sunday and have family time. He really helped nurture all of us. He passed away from cancer and it was a really dark time for all of us, who now didn’t have a place to call home. It changed everything really drastically, so I had to regroup and recenter as one would. I was tired of being homeless and sleeping on couches, so I came back home.
Once you were back in California, what happened?
At that same time, my mother had bought this property up the hill from the ranch, which is a proper lighthouse. She’d always told me she bought that for me, so I wouldn’t be homeless. While this was happening, her girlfriend Heidi Fless got out of jail. If you don’t know Heidi’s story, she was the Hollywood Madame of the ’90s, went to jail and had this big scandal. She came out of the woodwork and my mother has a soft spot for animals; Heidi had 16 macaws and was saying she needed help taking care of them because the birds weren’t being fed and she was on heroin, again—the manipulating sob story. So, Heidi had to move into the lighthouse and I was living with her during the holidays. It became really rough because her heroine addiction never stopped and that was the whole point of her coming to the ranch, so we could heal her and help get her off drugs.
Did she eventually heal?
That never really happened. She went into a tailspin and, [one day], started throwing all my couture and heels out of the top story window into the dirt. I was pulling for Brooke Candy’s Galore cover story at the time and all these fucking samples were just chucked out of the top story window. It was literally a nightmare. At the time, I was transitioning, as well, so my hormones were raging, this woman was going crazy—my life felt destroyed. She tried to extort the property and we went through the courts to deal with that. Luckily the courts discovered we actually owned the property, not her, but there was a time when the local police officers thought she did and escorted me and [my] mother off the property in handcuffs because we were ‘trespassing’ on our own property. It was this crazy whirlwind battle we had to fight in order to regain this piece of land.
If you see the land, it’s worth fighting for. It’s a refuge—a magical place that anyone would fight for. While that was happening, I had to move out for six months and recenter. I moved in with my friend, who has this garage in San Dimas. We created this body of work for six months, The Slather Film, which is what I’m releasing over the next few months. It was basically about my transition and being homeless—creating this magical world of art and beauty out of basically nothing. Once that happened, we finally regained the property and I moved back in. This home, for me, was like a place of refuge—a place where I could really sink my feet into the ground, center myself and bring the wayward children along the way to create art with them. That’s the story.
Where do you think your free spirit comes from?
I grew up in Oceanside with my grandmother, Betty, who had dementia. She was a showgirl and her husband was an ex-colonel in the air force. We lived the suburban lifestyle and she took me to dance everyday, while the neighbors would flip me off and call me a ‘queer freak’ or ‘faggot.’ My grandmother really raised me and gave birth to the whole idea of dressing for pleasure—creating yourself and discovering your inner fantasy.
The ranch has attracted an incredible circle of people. How did you begin fostering that community?
New York was really the testing ground for this idea. I’ve always wanted to have a community and pick up wayward children along the way that want to explore and create. I thrive off collaborating with artists. I don’t like to be selfish with my work. I like to share the fruits with others and Scott [Andrew] really helped me create this network of family. I have a portal in New York that loves me and we have dinners. Sussi invited me over and we had a Savage dinner, and cooked borscht for the boys. Then, we went out to the Pier and Slathered it up. It really has this utopian vision, but you can create it anywhere—it’s not just the ranch. I take it on the road.
At the ranch, you’ve had some pretty special characters come through. Tell me about a few.
It ranges. We have a 60-year-old trans woman that I met on the set of Transparent that comes. We have an Indian man that comes and cooks Indian food for us. Paz de la Huerta was an interesting character that stumbled onto the ranch and really took it over as her own. She wanted to make it a place of healing herself without respecting those around her. She has a sense of entitlement and sort of selfish nature about her that’s really destroyed her character. She’s like a Heidi Fless, in character—all about the Hollywood bragging and name dropping. She picks up these people that fawn off her and take care of her, but we saw right through her bullshit and took her ass out of the property.
The land really shows people’s truths. If people don’t vibe with the land, the land doesn’t like them. The land exports them off the property without us having to do anything. We did a sound bowl ceremony with her to try and nurture her because she got hit by a truck, and that was the reason we were interested in helping her. But it really became this false worship that she was into—worshipping justice, worshipping money. It got dark and a lot of dark forces don’t really last on the property, so we had to get rid of her energy. But the ranch has an open, revolving door of energy.
Tell me more about the sound bowl ceremony.
We have bowls for chakras. It’s a crystal bowl that’s the sound of the frequency of your chakra. There’s seven of them for the seven chakras and we’ll play these around in a circle at the lighthouse. We’ll hum and mediate—we’re all on the same consciousness.
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
I believe in spirituality, but I don’t think I’m a spiritual person. I believe in self love—in love as a religion and exploring my own truths within that. But it’s not self-righteous religion, if you will.
I think what you’re doing is amazing because we’re in this age of digital relationships and you’ve created something physical—a world that can only be experienced in real life. That’s so rare, now.
Connecting with humanity is going to be the archaic form of art that doesn’t exist anymore because people are so far in the digital realm. It’s like going back to your savage nature, going back to your caveman nature, where that’s how we survive—with each other. We really become more aware, more intelligent and intuitive when we connect with others and we’re able to see outside our perception and see through their life—through their truth.
What’s an average day at Savage Ranch like?
On Sundays we do Slather Sundays, with pancakes, syrup and blueberries, and we do mushroom tea ceremonies where we go onto the property and search the land. There’s a labyrinth down below that has a zip line and a merry-go-round, so we’ll go wander there and to the forest. Frosty, our dog, greets you when you arrive and he’s always there making sure you’re safe, like a proper wolf. At night, we do bonfires, and we’ll do poetry readings or sometimes we have bands come out. We let our hair down and slather it up. We keep the focus on connecting with the land. I encourage people to go into the rocks and masturbate.
Do you think this kind of environment could exist in fast-paced New York?
I feel like the kids hunger for this type of energy. You don’t get to experience anything like this in the concrete jungle and hopefully when I come to town, it becomes a practice where we all get together and have dinner, cooking for each other. I think that’s one good thing I’m going to establish as the ‘Good Witch of the West,’ coming out to New York and maintaining these ideas and ceremonial activities.
You’re a trained dancer and you have an ongoing performance series centered on something you call, “Slathering.” Tell me the background of that word.
The word ‘slather’ originates from my mother, who worked in construction. She used this gray, clay-like material to slather on pipes and seal them. I was working with her one day, slathering on this substance and she walked by me saying, ‘Don’t be afraid to slather it on thick!’ It resonated with me and always stuck with me as a metaphor for life. Slather has this idea of creating something out of nothing—going for it and never holding back.
How do you feel these Slather performances and the Savage Ranch are enriching the queer community?
Internally, it’s acceptance of gender—acceptance of race. It’s us becoming more aware. I want to learn as much as others want to learn and I think coming together and learning together has really helped the consciousness.