Thirty five years ago.
I’m sixteen. The world seems full of serious weirdness. Walter Cronkite’s talking about crazy violence in places with names like Afghanistan and Iran. In America, serial killers are running amok. Ted Bundy, Son of Sam, and the Hillside Strangler are in the news.
Before the year is out, two Popes are gonna die.
I’m on a double date with two girls from school and my buddy, Greg.
On the Eastern Shore, getting your driver’s license has always been a big deal. Greg hasn’t had his for more than a month.
We travel across the Bay Bridge (a challenge for any new driver and probably against his parents’ instructions) and around the circles in downtown Annapolis (even more of a nerve-tester) several times before finding a parking spot. The four of us walk to the old art deco theater, buy tickets, and go inside.
And the way I look at the world changes.
“You guys playing cards?” – Flounder
Poor Kent Dorfman. All he wants for himself, and his buddy Larry, is to be accepted. It’s Rush Week 1962 at mediocre little Farber College. The “blimp and the wimp” shoot high, but their first choice, everybody’s first choice – the Omega fraternity, turns out to be full of elitist assholes. When Dorfman asks the Omega’s his stupid question, he’s a marked man. He and Larry are deemed “undesirables” and invited to join Mohammet, Jugdish, Sidney, and Clayton in social oblivion. Twice.
Right from that very first scene I learned that the group everyone wants to be a part of knows it. They know it and use it against everybody else. They look down in-crowd noses and judge with biblical harshness anyone not passing inspection. Watching Niedermeyer and Marmalade treat our young heroes so poorly, I decided that though I might never beat the Omegas I knew in life, I’d damn sure never join them.
“Grab a brew. Don’t cost nothing.” – Bluto
The boys are discouraged enough to try “the worst house on campus” – Delta House. They’re greeted by a flying headless female mannequin and a drunken Bluto who pisses on them while offering free refreshments. A man we come to know as D-Day rides his motorcycle through the front door. There’s a party going on.
I learned that people who care the least what other people think are having the most fun.
“Now, she should be good looking, but we’re willing to trade looks for a certain…morally casual attitude.” – Boon
Kent and Larry are accepted by the Deltas and renamed Flounder and Pinto, but Delta’s on thin ice with the establishment. Their drunken antics and subterranean academic standings are thorns in Dean Wormer‘s side. Guests at their debauched Toga Party include the dean’s wife and the mayor’s 13 year old daughter. Which doesn’t help.
Women. In Animal House, Otter’s the expert, but Boon has the cool, pretty girlfriend. And he eventually loses her because he’s not attentive enough. This taught me that if you’re ever lucky enough to get a cool, pretty girlfriend, pay attention to her, and that if possible, you should always try to help your friends get laid, too.
“I won’t go schizo, will I?” – Pinto
Boon, Katy and Pinto hang out at Professor Jennings apartment where he turns them on to pot and amazes Pinto with the mysteries of the cosmos. Jennings answers Pinto’s pre-smoke query with “It’s a distinct possibility.”
That’s where I learn I should never take any drugs until I’ve asked the person handing them to me if they’ll make me go schizo. My pharmacist seems tired of it.
“They took the bar! The whole fucking bar!” – Bluto
“Double Secret Probation.” Dean Wormer revokes Delta’s charter and all their property is confiscated, including “the stuff we didn’t steal!” Otter, Boon, Pinto, and Flounder take a road trip. They con some liberal arts girls into going out with them and abandon the girls in a roadhouse where the white boys are such a minority Otis Day won’t even acknowledge them.
The establishment can hurt you, but they can’t do anything that a road trip can’t help you temporarily avoid.
“Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” – Dean Wormer
When the road trippers return, Dean Wormer has Delta where he wants them. Their midterm grades are so bad (Bluto has a zero point zero) he’s expelling the lot of them and notifying their draft boards.
With all the venom he spits out his dictum, Dean Wormer is imparting good advice. It’s all fun and games until someone gets vomited on.
“Over did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!” – Bluto
The young men of Animal House are at their lowest. It’s only after Bluto delivers this pep talk for the ages does the fraternity rally to respond to Wormer’s near-fatal blow.
If everyone agrees with you, it doesn’t matter if you have your facts straight.
“Ramming speed.” – D-Day
Lovable losers win, winners lose. Pinto, Boon, and even Bluto get the girl of their dreams. As credits roll, we find out the future of our heroes. Examples: Otter winds up as a Beverly Hills gynecologist and Bluto makes his mark as a distinguished senator.
If you’re going to do it, even if it’s stupid and futile, do it all the way. Things might work out for you in the end.
After high school, when the time came for me to make my own decisions about the future, I joined the military.
I didn’t have to go to college.
I’d seen Animal House.