“Gossip Girl”: a show that reached countless viewers, grossed millions of dollars, earned endless praise. Too bad the drama of Gossip Girl couldn’t hold a candle to the HOT tea spilled in the Collegian, circa 1938.
I’m talking about “Campus Capers”: a column so juicy, so scurrilous, that even 80 years later the reader can still feel the burn of the author’s scathing tone.
“What East Hall brunette found out to her wide-eyed dismay, that the fire escape was locked one dark night (after 10 o’clock)?” the Campus Capers asked in September of 1936 in a random, mid-column interlude. That East Hall brunette knows exactly who she was. Finding her identity for the rest of us may be more important to me than finishing this article right now.
You want names? Don’t you worry. Campus Capers provides first, middle and last. Sometimes even Confirmation names graced the page of this hallowed gossip column. Running from September 1936 to February 1939, the anonymously authored Campus Capers seemed to know the details of every party, every date, and even the lunchroom chatter.
“Cassanova McGaffigan is on the loose again. He was seen at the Little Theatre with a fair young thing and later at the tavern with M.G. Stone,” the Caper reported in December of 1936. Classic McGaffigan, thinking he could get away with cheating on Stone. Little did he know the Campus Capers was recording his every move.
Even faculty were not safe from the Campus Caper’s unstoppable scathe. In February 1937, the author wrote, “Prof. Davidson was given a box of cigars. Thursday night he decided to get rid of them at the Delta Sig house. When he left the boys were found lying in the hall.” That’s no way to get tenure, Mr. Davidson.
But accusations don’t stop there. “Bobby Simpson again crashed through with an almost arrest. How many times is it, Bobby,” the Caper commented in March of ’38. The scandal, the smear, the slander. All from a bitter Hillsdalean sitting at his typewriter wearing a three-piece suit.
And Campus Capers didn’t just spread gossip. This talk of the town was also a poet. In March of 1938, the Caper composed this treasured piece: “Roses are red,/violets are blue,/sugar is sweet,/and that’s why I like salt on my potatoes.” This was poetry bookended by one-liners that ruined reputations. Even Robert Frost wasn’t capable of this literary domination.
And just when you thought Campus Capers couldn’t get any better, the newspaper pulled the plug on it. The column ended in a breath-taking fashion.The last four lines of the February 1939 issue read: “Now I sit me down to cram/to study for this darn exam,/And if I cannot learn this junk,/I pray the Lord I still won’t flunk.”