It began in 2010 when Timothy Phillips threw a birthday party and invited the most interesting people he knew from across his diverse social circle. The guest list ranged from artists and ballroom dancers to business professional friends, to Burning Man friends at a time when festival culture was still on the outer reaches of the fringe. With the growth of social media such as Facebook, Timothy’s eclectic mix of contemporaries developed a sense of mutual curiosity after glimpsing each other’s Facebook profiles.
By setting an aspirational tone for each event, he created a space where everyone’s participation creates a living, breathing, creative mosaic for all. While some of his more conventional friends initially struggled to open themselves up to costuming, Timothy hit on a way to break down their inhibitions and open them up to new possibilities. He invited them to attend in tuxedos and ball gowns as ‘masquerade dancers,’ while asking his Burning Man friends to arrive as ‘burlesque dancers.’ The party was a smashing success. Some guests met new business partners, while others found a more personal connection, leading to passionate friendships and in some cases, marriage.
In 2014, just weeks before Phillips’ birthday celebration, his dear friend, a 29-year-old woman with a bright future, died tragically after being hit by a bus. Shocked and devastated, he couldn’t imagine hosting a gala and he cancelled it in order to mourn with his friends. Shortly afterwards, the Mythic Bride charity appealed his decision, confessing that he was their largest donor, and that without his help they could not continue their work. With that, Phillips agreed to throw a belated version of the party in December, calling it the Burrrlesquerade.
Timothy enlisted the help of friend Joe Che in 2015 when he formed Lightning Society, a world-class creative community that celebrates collaboration and connection. Joe, a former leader and guiding light of Disorient, one of Burning Man's most venerable camps. He brought extensive experience as a community leader and highly skilled event producer. When they put their hearts and heads together, the men realized that they could bring a piece of the magic of the Burning Man experience to New York City while removing the twin obstacles that made it inaccessible to many people: the festival’s distance from New York and its high cost of attendance.