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Hey, all you Tenleytown/LeDroit Park/Georgetown/College Park neighbors: Tired of beer-drenched undergrads stumbling across your pansies? Sick of prank fire alarms bringing half the city’s response team to your block at 3 a.m.? Wondering why sophomores have to act so damn sophomoric right next door?
Newton Street NE resident Darcy Flynn might be your new hero.
Flynn lives in Brookland, a Northeast neighborhood that hosts middle-class families, roomy Victorians, and the Catholic University of America. Due to an on-campus housing crunch, many Catholic undergrads have opted to move off campus to surrounding neighborhood streets, including an indeterminate number of rugby players who live two doors down from Flynn, in a house at 1232 Newton.
On Saturday night, Sept. 18, Flynn had just returned with his 13-year-old foster son from a movie at Union Station. As he trudged through his house to his upstairs bathroom, Flynn could hear the hoots and hollers from another daylong backyard party hosted by the rugby players. That’s when he decided that he could no longer live in a house with Animal House Sensurround.
That evening, Flynn became a state-of-the-art Dean Wormer. He pressed the On button to his newly purchased camcorder and began videotaping student antics from his bathroom window. Flynn’s semi-aerial view of the backyard activities focuses primarily on the back porch, where young males aimlessly wander, drink, and exchange conversation. Later, he moves the camera downstairs and to his back yard.
Think of the tape as John Belushi as directed by the folks who made The Blair Witch Project. It’s not quite clear what’s going on, but the gripping fear—make that the foamy beer—slowly mounts. The evening revelry includes an apparent initiation of some sort, which takes place off screen, in the house’s basement. On Flynn’s video, which he released to various local television news organizations, an unseen male tells others to “line up on the stage.”
Voices are generally garbled, though sporadic yelps and clear shouts like “Uh-oh!” and “The fucking thing!” work as leitmotifs.
“Ready? We ready?” chant other voices.
“We ready for another one? You fucking ready? Who’s next?”
“Beast! Beast! Beast!” shouts a bald male sitting on the porch, who seems to be trying to get a group cheer going. “B-E-A-S-T spells beast! I love beast!”
The tape focuses on the last candidate in line to enter the basement. The student spits on the ground, puts his hands on top of his head, and crosses his arms. A cry of “Oh, my fucking God!” soon follows.
“The next one!” someone shouts after that. More shrieks and pounding ensue. “Get him in here! Shit!”
A few minutes later, the shouts end. Students mill around the yard in their underwear and then parade along Newton Street to taunt Flynn, who has now set up the camera in his front yard. Twenty or so boxer-shorts-clad young men walk across the screen.
“Hiya, Darcy,” one says.
“My whole thing was to document what was going on,” says Flynn, who days before had shot scenes of police breaking up another neighborhood beer party—footage which he said he had tried vainly to get university officials to watch. All in all, it was standard campus-area stuff. Standard, that is, until the Sept. 18 documentary showed up on Fox 5 News a few days later. Then screen shots adorned the Washington Times’ Metro section on Monday.
A tall, freckled man who describes himself as a “devoted Irish-Catholic active in the church,” Flynn says he decided to go to the videotape after repeated frustration in getting Catholic University officials to address community complaints about undergraduate behavior off campus.
Neighborhood finger-wagging, of course, is a constant feature of collegiate news. In Brookland’s case, the neighbors had previously petitioned police for a crackdown on underage drinking and notified university officials of their concerns. Catholic University officials paid them no mind, according to Flynn. University officials won’t comment on specific allegations, saying an internal investigation is currently under way.
Locals say they generally support Flynn’s cinema debut. “The weekend starts maybe Thursday,” says Sister Mary Leo, a nun who lives on nearby Monroe Street and says middle-of-the-night carousing is common. “I think when Darcy Flynn came around with his petition, a lot of people were ready to put their names on it. There are more kids living off campus. And during party time, they lose sight that there is a rest of the world.”
“I’m picking up the feel of this community,” says Flynn. “Other than from those students, I’m getting nothing but support.”
Lucky for the students, then, that their one neighborhood supporter—rugby club coach Tom Walsh—is also the 1232 Newton landlord. Walsh says “it might be appropriate” to consider court action against Flynn, whom he considers a “latecomer who wants to change the nature of the neighborhood to something more of his liking.”
Catholic’s ruggers have long had problems with the school’s administration—last fall, the university disowned the team after players refused to dissociate themselves from Walsh, a volunteer coach whom Catholic officials apparently blamed for such rugby-player misbehavior as a brawl in a neighborhood pub. In Washington City Paper’s story about the ruckus (“Fallen Catholics,” Cheap Seats, 3/26), a former player claimed that an administrator had told him, “You guys aren’t a sport—you’re a fraternity.”
But the students’ gripe against neighbors like Flynn—who, after all, doesn’t hold their academic transcripts in his hands—is a different matter entirely. “It was a private party, and to me there’s an invasion of privacy there and perhaps a serious one,” says Walsh.
If Walsh—who like Flynn is a lawyer—decides to sue him, “it’s a race to the courthouse to see who gets there first,” says Flynn. Flynn claims he could make a good case for the residents of 1232 Newton being a nuisance.
Since the videotape aired, Catholic University officials have cited four house residents for misconduct and sentenced them to 15 hours each of community service and a year’s probation. In a statement expressing “deep and sincere regret that the peace and good order of our community have been violated,” university President the Rev. David M. O’Connell referred to the rugby club as “an organization that is neither affiliated with nor supported by The Catholic University of America.”
Rugby house residents say that their good, clean fun has escalated into race and class warfare. Watching a tape of the Fox 5 report, resident Sean Deiter points out a segment in which Flynn, who is white, is shown holding two of his four African-American foster children. That image, along with Flynn’s verbal description of the students as “white, affluent, and suburban” puts a “racial element in it,” says Deiter. “We’re portrayed as rich white kids tormenting this diverse neighborhood, trampling it.”
“It’s frustrating that he’s screwing around with our lives,” says junior Kevin Hennigan, who noted that the parading boxer-shorted students in the video were “being very orderly, single-file.”
A few days after the broadcast, with TV cameras rolling, Deiter and three other disciplined rugby players apologized to their neighbors, the Brookland community, and to Catholic University for problems resulting from their behavior. And Deiter maintains that the evening events did not include any type of hazing. “It was rookie night, and we were welcoming people to the team,” he says. CP