Friday, June 14, 2024
Michael Stone Online

The Frat House that Gave Us ‘Animal House’

You’d say there’s nothing extraordinary about — nothing worth writing about — an old, dilapidated fraternity house, and I’d agree.

Except in this case.

Because it’s the one that inspired Harold Ramis in his contributions to the script of 1978’s “Animal House,” which ranks high in my (admittedly small) cinephilic library, mainly because it was my go-to re-watch in my early 20s. 

Ramis’ Zeta Beta Tau house — associated with Washington University in St. Louis but privately owned by fraternity alumni — was built in 1921, according to Zillow, and the frat moved in in 1948.

(Zillow says 1.5 baths for 8 bedrooms. Yikes!)

Ramis (also of Ghostbusters, Stripes, etc., fame) lived in the house in the ’60s. Here are a few photos of him at the school: photo, photo, photo

Coming across the tour video at the top is what prompted me to write this post. Its videographer, apparently a fellow frat alum, points out Ramis’ room. Fittingly, the famous John Belushi “COLLEGE” poster adorns a wall, and also fittingly, the house is a wreck — from graffiti to fire damage and garden-variety disarray in between.

The house was condemned in 2015, and the only update I’m seeing is the fraternity working with the city to have the condemnation order removed.

“Animal House” was actually shot in and around the University of Oregon in Eugene in 1977. The ramshackle Delta house shown in the movie was built there in 1903, used as a real fraternity house in the 1950s and ’60s, and torn down in 1986.

So if Zillow’s date is right — and when is Zillow ever wrong? — Ramis’ actual fraternity house is more-years-old than the one he helped iconize through foul-mouthed, toga-draped American humor.

As Belushi would encourage the Ramis descendants at Washington U.: “Nothing is over until we decide it is!”

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