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Frat Party

Campus fraternities are in the news. The "Greek system." All most people know about them is what they saw in Animal House. One thing from the movie is dead-on: the biggest asshole in the frat, played by John Belushi, winds up a senator. They don't all end up in politics, but many do, although more are in the business world. And they aren't down on the corner selling potatoes. Fraternities are little training grounds for "entitled" men, entitled in the sense that they grew up as privileged citizens, destined for positions of power, money, influence.

In the mid-60s, I was a working musician in New England, a region packed with colleges and universities. Most of them have or had a street nearby, a "fraternity row," dedicated to houses with three Greek letters displayed in front. My band played for frat parties at colleges in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont... I saw fraternities from the bottom, the seamy side, and without wanting to, closely observed the behavior of future power brokers, banksters, lawyers, congressmen, the people we were conditioned to respect and admire.

The guys in the band were decidedly not from the upper classes. We'd had menial, low wage jobs and were attempting our escape from that world by means of music. I learned at the frat parties that the 'brothers" regarded musicians, like most everybody that did things, as servants. Well, that was okay. These guys apparently never thought about where their food or any other necessities came from. Same with entertainment. We provided a service and got paid for it.

The point of these parties was to get drunk and get laid. That's why we were there, so they could invite girls to dance and "have lots of fun." Alcohol consumption at these affairs was prodigious. I recall one toga party (yep, they really dress in sheets, to emulate ancient Roman decadence), with a huge vat of punch consisting of grape kool-aid and 190-proof grain alcohol. We made the mistake of drinking some of it and all threw up out the car windows on the way home, leaving purple streaks all over the gray & white '56 Pontiac. These classy frat guys really knew what the good stuff was

The big song at all the frats was "Louie, Louie." In those days everyone thought the lyrics were dirty, obscene, whatever, because the lyrics to the popular version by the Kingsmen were undecipherable. In fact the song is about a sailor going home to his girlfriend. For the record:

Louie, Louie, oh, oh, me gotta go

Louie, Louie, oh, oh, me gotta go

Fine little girl she waits for me

Me catch the ship for cross the sea

Me sail the ship all alone

Me never think me make it home

Louie, Louie...

Three nights and days me sail the sea

Me think of girl constantly

On the ship I dream she there

Me smell the rose in her hair

Louie, Louie...

Me see Jamaica moon above

It won't be long, me see my love

I take her in my arms and then

Me tell her I never leave again

Louie, Louie...

— Richard Berry

But in the frats, it was a dirty song and therefore the favorite.

The Frat boys' lack of respect for working people was nothing compared to their attitude towards women. One frat party at the University of Connecticut had the theme "Pig Party." Pig referred to any girl who showed up. The "pig" theme was emblazoned all over the walls for everyone to see, and it seemed all the girls who attended accepted the premise without a problem. Were they fishing for well-to-do husbands? At one point I went to check out the frat next door and the band was singing "Sloppy Seconds," possibly an original composition of theirs. The theme was not, apparently, uncommon on campus.

We played at enough fraternity parties to see that these future pillars of the community were not what they were reputed to be — they were essentially the same everywhere: crude, rude, and socially maladjusted. Entitled to any and all pleasures without fear of consequence. Yet there they were headed for the corridors of power and influence. From what I hear lately, nothing has changed. It still reminds me of the frats whenever I see a guy in a business suit.

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