This is long…

but somehow, I’d never seen this until today.


Chris Miller’s Animal House

Copyright 1989 Information Access Company, a Thomson Corporation Company

Copyright 1989 Playboy

Playboy October, 1989

SECTION: Vol. 36 ; No. 10 ; Pg. 104; ISSN: 0032-1478

HEADLINE: Return to Animal House; writer of film revisits his old fraternity


BYLINE: Miller, Chris

BODY: The man who wrote the movie revisits the scene of the crime-and finds he

can still boot with the best of them.

Playboy, October, 1989

IT’s MAGIC MONDAY at the Alpha Delta house and the brothers have been drinking

since SiX A.M. They have worked their

way through Sunrise-Service Hour (tequila sunrises), Cartoon Hour (Kool-Aid

punch) and Lonely-Guy Hour (Thunderbird and

Mad Dog, straight from the bottle). Now it’s ten o’clock, and that means it’s .

. . Naked-inthe-Tube-Room Hour!

Seventy naked guys cram into the TV room, which is about as large as a small

one-car garage. Beers are distributed by dick

size-those with big ones get king cans of Bud; those with small cocks drink

from shot glasses. The worst, most repellent,

vile and disgusting porno tape available is popped into the VCR. The brother

keep checking one another out-anyone who gets a

hard-on faces rigorous punishment. No one’s quite sure what !he punishment

might be, since in the history of Magic Monday,

no one has yet gotten a hard-on during Naked-inthe-Tube-Room Hour, but they

keep checking anyway, just in case.

There’s a knock on the door. It’s the delivery guy from the pizza place-he

steps inside and freezes. Good Lord, what has he

walked in on here-a bunch of preverts or something? Oddly enough, despite the

large number of guys present, no one has the

money to pay for the pizza-because no one has any pockets. On the screen, the

cast is urinating on one another, sodomizing

dead animals, all sorts of neat stuff. “If you could wait till the end of this

sequence,” says the guy who made the order, “I’ll

run upstairs and get some money”

The pizza guy looks around, swallows and says, “Never mind. This one’s a

freebie.” He makes the quickest getaway ever

seen from a Dartmouth fraternity house.

Magic Monday is a tradition going back at least two decades at the AD house, or

Adelphian Lodge, as its members

affectionately call it. The hourly themes proliferate over the year:

Volleyball-inthe-Living-Room Hour, with Beach Boys

music and pina coladas; Ex-Athlete Hour, with Schlitz beer (because that’s what

washed-up old athletes drink); Blues Hour,

when they listen to Elmore James and drink bourbon; Christmas Hour, when they

chop down a tree, plant it in the living

room, decorate it with condoms and panties and drink eggnog; and, finally New

Year’s Hour, when they cut the tree up and

burn it, drink champagne and sing Aued Lang Syne. It’s a good time and an

important annual event.

The common belief is that the first Magic Monday occurred the day John E

Kennedy was shot. After all, is a not carved on

the pillar by the tap system in the basement, NOVEMBER 22, 1963-J.F.K.

DEAD-EIGHT KEGS? I could tell them different. You

see, I was there on November 22, 1963. First, it was a Friday, not a Monday,

and, second, what happened was less a

celebration of surreality than a wake; though, actually, it was a pretty good

time. No, the first Magic Monday occurred a

few years later, when a brother named Don chanced to stay up drinking one

Sunday night, and in the morning, the brothers

were so impressed that they blew off classes for the day and joined him. But

why muddy the underpinnings of a cherished

Adelphian tradition? Myths are more fun than facts.

Let me tell you another AD tradition: the Night of the Seven Fires. This is the

Hell Night that, in one form or another, has

marked the transition of more than a half century’s worth of AD pledges into

brothers. The early Sixties version: You had

to hike out to the snowy woods in the middle of the night and find, with the

aid of a mimeographed map, the Seven Sacred

Watch Fires. At each of these would be a complement of brothers waiting to

demand demented acts of you. You had to drop

trou and sit in the snow, consume impossible quantities of beer and wine and

vomit repeatedly, sometimes on one another.

It was one of the greatest nights of my life.

This is difficult for some people to understand. Fraternity high-jinks are a

most particular form of behavior and are

regarded with neither sympathy nor affection by much of the world, especially

mothers, police officers, campus

administrators and other societal voices of moderation and control. It’s hard

to explain to those who have missed the

fraternity experience how richly satisfying mooning or booting (thats Dart-talk

for recreational vomiting) or eating your

underwear can be. People just don’t get it.

Which is why about ten years after graduating, I decided to write a book about

fraternity life in which I would present

America with the straight skinny-the reverse value systems, the fascination

with the repugnant, the cheerful flouting of

authority The book never found a publisher, but portions of it, converted to

short stories, appeared in National Lampoon,

where their popularity prompted editor Doug Kenney to propose that he, Harold

Ramis and I write a movie based on them.

The movie was Animal House.

Now, I’m aware that a lot of people thought that Delta Tau Chi in Animal House

was somehow based on their fraternity

Sorry guys-now it can be told-the house that launched the legend was AD at

Dartmouth. And although, to the best of my

recollection, no one at Dartmouth ever put Fizzies in the swimming pool or

offed a horse in the dean’s office, someone did

once boot on the dean (and his wife), and there was, in a house today known as

the Tabard, a mermaid with goldfish-bowl

breasts, and, in the AD house, there were guys named Otter, Mounder and Pinto,

and a ‘Sex Room,” and numerous black

R&B bands that played Shout and Louie, Louie. There was also a guy named

Turnip, who placed a phone call to a dead

Smithie, identifying himself as her boyfriend. Unlike Otter in the movie, he

didn’t get himself and his fellow road-trippers

dates with her roommate and friends. In fact, that idea had never occurred to

Turnip-he’d made the call out of sheer joy of


“Sickness Is Health, Blackness Is Truth, Drinking Is Strength.” That was the

house creed, and we tried to live up to it.

Pledges were taught power booting. if you drank enough beer and jumped up and

down a few times, it was no big deal to boot

your height-the trick was in keeping a tight stream and hitting the target, a

photo of Connie Francis, say, tacked to the

basement wall. There was a fellow who used to snooze atop the bar, naked but

for a beer cup over his dong. When a lady

would enter the basement, he would tip his cup. We built lewd snow statues, got

laid in a hearse parked out back, pledged

dead raccoon and once mooned the governor of New Hampshire. We had fun.

But how much fun, I wondered, were they having up at Dartmouth today? After

all, it was the Eighties now, the era of

AIDS, religious fundamentalism and the conservative backlash against the

indulgent Sixties and Seventies. What was more,

to those of us alumni who followed the news out of Dartmouth, it often seemed

as if the college had declared war on its

fraternity system.

The opening gun was firects in 1978. An English professor, James A. Epperson,

circulated a petition among the faculty to

have fraternities abolished for “interfering with college life and the health

and well-being of students.” The real stunner

came when the faculty voted 67-16 in favor of the proposal. Obviously, there

was serious resentment harbored against the

fraternities at Dartmouth.

To a degree, fraternities were under serious scrutiny nationwide. College

faculties had always tended to view them as

elitist, sexist, racist, anti-intellectual and overly involved with alcohol.

Now, in the Eighties, with their ranks swelled with

veterans of the Sixties-who by arid large hated &aternities-they were on the

attack. At many schools, especially the

smaller, private ones in the Northeast, boards of trustees formed study

committees. In 1983, Amherst and Colby abolished

fraternities outright. Gettysburg came close to doing the same, and at

Middlebury, there’s a continuing controversy over

the fate of their fratemity system. Indeed, aspects of Greek fife have been

under some form of study at approximately a

third of the 650 colleges where fraternities exist.

At the same time, though, fraternities have never been more popular. On the

rebound from their Vietnam-era doldrums,

undergraduate fraternities grew in membership from 230,000 in 1980 to more than

400,000 in 1986. This was widely

regarded as a reflection of the return to establishment values and conservatism

on campus, though it may have had more to

do with the resurgent desire of college men to raise hell and have fun with

their buddies, which, after all, is what

&aternities are all about. In any case, it seems unlikely that larger schools,

such as USC or the University of Illinois, will

ever do away with them-they’re simply too popular among both students and


Meanwhile, back at Dartmouth, the proposal to abolish the houses was ultimately

voted down by the board of trustees, but

there did ensue a period of crackdown that resulted in many houses, being put

on probation and given shapeup-or-ship-out

ultimatums. Then, in’ 1983, came the instituting of “minimum standards” for

fraternities and sororities. Since this program

called for, among other things, expensive renovations to the deteriorating

houses, most of which had been built in the

Twenties, .it was widely perceived as an attempt to do away with the

fraternities by breaking them financially

Then, in 1987, the board of trustees released a Residential Life Statement

calling for a reduction in the fraternity system’s

dominance of social life on campus, and shortly after that, the Hanover police

conducted their notorious undercover sting

operation, deputizing an 18-year-old girl and sending her, with an out-of-town

policeman posing as her boyfriend, on a

round of fraternities during the big spring party weekend known as Green Key.

Naturally, she was served beer, and eight

fraternities and two sororities faced the possibility of criminal charges for

serving alcohol to a minor The college got them

off the hook, but it made it dear that next time, the houses would be on their

own. This had a chilling effect on the admission

of nonmember guests to parties.

Finally, in 1988, the administration announced that starting with the class of

1993, rush would be delayed until sophomore

year. Since this would decrease fraternity membership-and their already pinched

treasuries-by 25 percent, there was

bitter resistance to the measure, all the more so because it was a dictate from

on high that ignored heavy student


After all this, you had to wonder if fraternity life at Dartmouth was any fun

at all any more. Specifically, I was curious to

see how the boys were doing at the house that had inspired Animal House. I

decided to find out.

I enter the lodge with trepidation. What am I going to find, 25 years and all

those regulatory institutions later? A skeleton

crew of intimidated weenies, sipping oolong and discussing Proust?

But no. The first thing that hits me is the smell. It’s the same smell; it

hasn’t changed in two and a half decades! Mainly

beer, with certain miscellaneous nuances. The place looks pretty much the same,

too. A bit more wre cked-up, maybe, but

it’s the same tube room, the same tap system and, running the perimeter of the

basement, the same beloved AD gutter

(today known as “the gorf”). In the erstwhile basement bathroom-converted to a

broom closet a few years back after a

brother tore out the toilet to mix a punch in it-I can still make out the

carved names of brothers from my era: Y BAGS,


Having recently concluded a very successful rush, the house has nearly 100

members, and it looks as though most of them

are here tonight. They seem a little cool; I wonder if I’m welcome. Or maybe

ies just a generational style-they don’t make a

big deal of things. There are so many of them, though, more than twice the

number we had ! The living room is like a subway

car! And, God, how’d they get to be so young?

I have brought with me, ,on video cassette, an assemblage of eight-millimeter

movies taken back in my era. As I show the

old flicks-glimpses of forgotten snow statues, of the brothers cavorting on the

lawn, of parties and our great perennial R&B

band Lonnie Youngblood and the Redcoats-pledges are periodically sent to “run a

rack.” They return with lengths of plank

covered with brimming beer cups, so that the brothers may indulge their taste

for malt beverage. As the tape proceeds, the

crowd especially appreciates the sequence in which several old ADs eat the

shirt of Bert Rowley, ’61, off his back. When

the show concludes, they signify their appreciation with a round of snaps and

sing a friendly (albeit obscene) song to me.

Then one of them hands me a full 12-ounce beer cup, and I see all these faces

looking at me with expectation.

Good God, I think, can I still chug one of these things? Well, it takes a

little longer than it used to, but, yes, I can! All

rightstill got my chops! The ADs cheer, the ice is broken. We repair to the

basement, where fine music is played,

multifarious brews are demolished and laughter fills the room. Sometimes, it

occurs to me, despite the passage of much

time, the essence of things remains the same.

I stay at Dartmouth for ten days. I check out the sororities, the coed houses

and, in addition to Alpha Delta, several

“mainstream” houses. I go to parties, drink off kegs, hang out in small groups
< br/>in &aternity rooms, doing a little herb and

getting philosophical. I find out two things.

First, fraternity life at Dartmouth is a lot more complicated than it used to

be. Parties must be registered; you have to fill

out a form at the campus police station before five P.M. on weekdays and noon

on weekends. Since a party is defined as any

time you go on tap, that means that you can no longer drink a keg without

registering with the police. Furthermore, since

the sting operation, the houses have had to post guards at all entrances to

their tap rooms during parties to check I.D.s and

make sure no underage nonmembers slip in. In addition, house presidents and

social chairmen, aware that they risk $

25,000 fines and even jail sentences if persons drunk on their beer crack up a

car, say, take great care to prevent such

drunks from departing, at least with their car keys. Meanwhile, there’s the

ongoing paranoia that Dean Wormer-like

authority figures are out to get them, that any time now, fraternity life as

they know it will be banished forever, the way

the samurai were abolished in Japan in the 1870s.

That’s a pretty tough row to hoe, compared with the relatively laissez-faire

early Sixties. But the second thing I notice is

that, despite the many modern complications, the peculiar Dartmouth genius for

having fun is undiminished. And although

much is different at the Big Green, what’s more interesting is how much has

stayed the same.

Take the AD house. We had nicknames, they have nicknames; the house currently

contains the likes of Goon, Chubber, Turd,

Hedgehog, Cowpie, Merkin, Mule, Gator and, in a nice link with the past, a new

Snot. We had a house lexicon; they have a

house lexicon, In 1962, we invested much of our neologistical energy on

descriptives for throwing up-there was “power

booting,” “spray booting,” “nose booting,” “sick booting” and the “Technicolor

yawn,” the last of these resulting from the

preboot consumption of food colorings. We also spoke of “wind tunnels” (when

your date breaks wind while your head’s up

her skirt), “reltneys” (hard-ons so big they stretch your skin until your head

flips backward) and “hooded hogs”

(uncircumcised penises). The current ADs have two great terms for an

uncircumcised penis”turtleneck” and “covered

wagon.” Also from today’s vocabulary: Dorky people are known as “lunch meats.”

Drinking is “hooking.” “Sweet!” is an

expression of approval. (“Hey, we just went on tap.” “Sweet!”) Smoking a bong

is “pulling a tube.” Doing mushroom is

“‘Shrooming.” A “chode” is a dick that’s wider than it is long. “Piling” and

“strapping” are fucking. And a “spank sock” is the

thing you keep by your bed to beat off into.

We did weird things to our pledges; they do weird things to their pledges. In

my day, as a sort of nod to AD’s past (it

started life in 1843 as a literary society), the pledges had to compose and

present papers to the brothers with titles such

as “My Sensations at Birth” and “How to Use Afterbirth in a Garden Salad.”

After one fellow-Seal-left a notebook containing

his pledge paper (“The Last Time I Sucked My Father’s Cock”) at Smith, ere it

into the hands of the dean, we got in a bit of

trouble and the practice was discontinued. And then, of course, there was boot

training and the Night of the Seven Fires.

These days, the pledge period is shorter than it used to be but correspondingly

more intense. The threatened punishment for

pledging infractions is the “Rack of Gnarl”-as many as a dozen 12-ounce cups

containing a mixture of catsup, soy sauce, dog

food, mouthwash and whatever other unappetizing liquid or semiliquid substances

happen to be on hand. You’re supposed to

drink every cup and, sorry, it’s bad form to boot too soon.

One thing you must know for this next pledging story-the ADs have always been

big on dogs. It’s still true today In the

current Alpha Delta composite, there are pictures of no fewer than four of

them, including one that’s deceased. So, OK; one

of the current pledging practices is that if the pledges can take over the

house and prevent a single brother from coming

inside for 24 hours, they don’t have to go through Hell Night. Well, a few

years ago, the pledges managed to take over the

house, throw out the brothers and actually held the place for 12 hours. The

brothers were getting worried. No pledge class

had ever pulled off what that one seemed on the way to pulling off; how would

the brothers ever live it down? Then one of

them had an idea. They grabbed one of the house dogs, taped him up, wrapped him

in a rug and hurled him through a

living-room window. That was it-the takeover was ended, the pledges had to go

through an even worse Hell Night than usual

to compensate for the inconvenience they’d caused everyone. For, you see, in

AD, the dogs are considered brothers.

There are some interesting hazing stunts at other houses, too. One &aternity

drops its pledges a few miles out of town,

naked, with an ax. The point is to get back to campus. Ever try hitchhiking

naked with an ax? The pledges of another

fraternity must participate in an event called Boot-on-Your-Brother Night. The

kicker is, you can’t change your clothes for

24 hours afterward; you have to wear them to bed, to class, to meals. . . .

A last pledging story: Some brothers in one house drove a pledge to New York

City divested him of his clothes and money

and left him there to make his way back to Hanover The pledge found a dime in

the street and called the Dartmouth Club,

where he made contact with a sympathetic alum who’d been through some of the

same shit himself The guy set the pledge up

with fine new clothes and plenty of bucks, the pledge flew back to Dartmouth,

and when the exhausted brothers finally made

their return to the fraternity, they found the pledge, resplendent in his new

duds, waiting on the front porch with a glass of

champagne for each of them.

Of course, one thing about Dartmouth that is different today is that between

then and now, the Sixties happened. And so

now, in addition to the standard types from my day-stoic jock, cool stud,

conservative zealot-you have introspective

hippies, crazed psychedelic pranksters and firebreathing radicals. You tend to

find these folks, when they join a Greek

society at all, in a couple of the coed houses, where they believe that, rather

than changing members to fit the house, you

change the house to fit the members. You also dispense with a lot of the hazing

and hierarchy-things are more communal.

You are also, by definition, nonsexist. But what I love about these folks is

that although they’re Sixties, they’re Dartmouth,

too. Each year, one of these houses holds something called a Decadent

Decathlon, which includes 12 events: Keg Throwing

for Distance, the Tap Suck, and so forth. One of the events perfectly

symbolizes the Dartmouth-Sixties fusion-the Bong

Chug. In this event, you must take a full hit from a bong, chug a beer, and

only then do you get to exhale.

There are other differences. Although there are three f
raternities and two

sororities that are predominantly black, the

mainstream houses seem genuinely unconcerned about their racial or ethnic

composition, which is a nice change from my

day. The AD house has black brothers, Hispanic brothers, Jewish brothers, even

a Moslem brother It’s not a big deal.

Also not a big deal is sex. I mean, they like it and everything, but it’s more

or less taken for granted. There were stories

about getting laid on a pool table, and in the 1902 Room at Baker Library and

even in bed, but, as I say, these were no big

deal. In the early Sixties, of course, sex was a very big deal. But that was

before coeducation and the sexual revolution.

With greater availability comes a blast attitude, I suppose. But it’s odd how

things turn around-in 1962, as far as the deans

were concerned, drinking was no big deal, but if you and your date were caught

with your pants down, you were in deep

shit. Today, they couldn’t care less what you do sexually, as long as it’s

consensual and you’re being careful about AIDS-but

drinking infractions can get you in serious trouble.

One thing that definitely has not changed is the high quality of partying at

Dartmouth fraternities. In the early Sixties,

parties were mainly free-form, though I do remember Phi Gamma’s Fiji Islands

Parties and a real good End-of-theWorld

Party during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Strange alcoholic concoctions with names

such as fogcutters, or gin and juice, or

purple Jesus punch were served, and people got even more blown out than usual.

The AD house, it was generally conceded, threw the best parties. We introduced

R&B music to campus with such luminaries

as the Flamingos, the Five Royales, Red Prysock, joey Dee and the Starliters,

the Crystals, and Little Anthony and the

Imperials. And the brothers put on behavior displays that foresaw performance

art by two decades. The moment in Animal

House when John Belushi pours mustard on himself was inspired by Seal-the

fellow whose pledge paper so amused the dean

of Smith-who at one party covered himself with yellow mustard and crawled about

on hands and knees on the dance floor,

biting dates’ asses and shouting, “I’m the Mustard Man, I’m the goddamned

Mustard Man.” Another time, Doberman or Dump

Truck or Troll or someone skied down the stairs naked, just as the band went

into Shout.

Nowadays, theme parties are the rage. One house has something called the Party

Without a Cause; everyone dresses as

James Dean and Natalie Wood. Theta Delta Chi throws a Louie Lobster Party,

wherein the guys wear lobster costumes, and

there’s a live lobster crawling around in the punch. Gods and Goddesses,

another Theta Dolt party, involves everyone

dressing as Zeus or Aphrodite-it’s basically a toga party SAE is known for its

annual Saigon Party (recently renamed

Welcome to the jungle), in which the house is filled with trees and live

monkeys. And Alpha Chi Alpha throws Beach Parties,

for which vast quantities of sand are trucked in and dumped all over the house.

The Medieval Banquet, a joint party thrown most years by the Alpha Chis and

Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority started life as a

Fifties Party, but one year the guys showed up dressed in the fashion of 1050,

and it stayed that way; the celebrants go as

wenches, serfs, knights, and so forth, sit around big tables and eat with their

hands. King Arthur and Guinevere order

people to chug and the party always turns inw a huge food fight, with tankards

of ale poured on people’s heads, roast

turkeys flying through the air and everyone soaked and ripped to the gills by


Now, at the AD house, they’re not too big on theme parties. The more usual

thing is get a deejay, invite a bunch of people

over, order a lot of kegs and see what happens. But each spring, during Green

Key Weekend. . . .

Saturday, my last day; tomorrow it’s back to the freeways and smog and

mortgages and the diaper changings of real life.

Turns out the ADs have their major annual party this afternoon on the front

lawn. They have this terrific funk band on the

porch, wailing away, and the yard is packed with partyers. But I’m not

dancing-I’m feeling grumpy about having to go home

tomorrow and, hell, a little burned out from trying to keep up with these

20-year-olds all week.

Thanks to last nights killer rain, much of the yard is a mud puddle today.

After a while, predictably enough, the brothers

decide to do a little mud diving. In fact, half the guys in the house quickly

join in, as do many of the dates and friends and

onlookers, and suddenly, it looks like Retum of the Mud Monsters out there. And

then-uh-oh-I spot seven or eight beslimed

pledges headed straight for me with crazed, demented smiles.

Well, I don’t feel like going in any mud, that’s for sure. Later for that,

jack. I put on my most persuasive smile. “Come on,

you guys, let’s just forget it, OK?” They blithely ignore me; I barely have

time to toss my wallet and shades to my amused

wife (who has been egging them on), and then I’m being carried across the yard

by all these guys-Donk and Oddjob and Mulch

and Scurvy and Snot II and Toast and Remus and Spock-and they find a

particularly juicy mudhole . . . and plop me into it!

And-whaddaya know? -it’s great! Suddenly, I’m not tired and I’m not grumpy-it’s

as if I’ve just had a burst of adrenaline.

And, man, I’m dancing my ass off, exchanging high fives and whooping like a

maniac, and it all comes back, that total party

feeling, where time is suspended and you’re in an eternal, fun-filled now. This

is it-the thing people join fraternities for-one

of those peak bacchanalian moments that know no equal. My sense of closeness

and connection with these boogieing mud

maniacs could not be greater, and I feel more in touch with the me I like most

than I have in months.

Ah, fraternities. Sweet.