Oregon Film Tour: “Animal House”
Visit filming sites in Eugene, the setting for a classic comedy about fraternity antics.
At 755 East 11th Avenue in Eugene, an unassuming plaque sits on the sidewalk in front of the Oregon Foot & Ankle Center. Here, the plaque notes, once stood the home of noted pioneer settlers A.W. and Amanda Patterson. Almost as an afterthought, the last two lines read: “In the 1950s and 1960s, the house was used by a fraternity and popularized in the late 1970s by the film ‘Animal House.’”
It’s all that remains of Delta House, the famed fictional frat where John Belushi and his brothers caroused in “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” a classic comedy shot in the Eugene area in the fall of 1977.
But while the Delta House is no more, you can visit other “Animal House” locations at the University of Oregon (U of O) campus and in the surrounding community.
In the film, U of O’s stately buildings and sprawling lawns provided a perfect comedic contrast to the renegade young men of Delta House, the hard-partying fraternity whose exploits set the tone for dozens of college gross-out comedies to come.
Most of the buildings are still standing today — the keen-eyed “Animal House” fan will find much to recognize on a stroll through campus.
John Belushi popped his own cheeks like a zit in Erb Memorial Union dining facility The Fishbowl, prompting a massive food fight. (The beloved Fishbowl, long a center of campus life, survived a recent renovation of the student union.)
The courtroom scene, where Otter (Tim Matheson) offers a high-minded defense of Delta House’s over-the-top antics, took place in Fenton Hall.
Women’s school Emily Dickinson College, where the boys capitalized on a girl’s recent death to trick her friends into dating them, is actually U of O’s Gerlinger Hall, one of three buildings that together make up the Women’s Memorial Quadrangle Ensemble, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Even the very seat of campus power was fair game: Dean Wormer’s office, where a horse famously dropped dead on a late-night raid, was the actual office of university president William Boyd, who reportedly accepted the studio’s offer to film on campus because he was still stinging from passing an offer to film “The Graduate” at another school he’d worked at years before.
The posh Omega House lives on too: Interiors and exteriors were shot at 729 East 11th Avenue, forever cementing the house where Kevin Bacon, in his first film role, gritted his teeth through a hazing, requesting “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” with every slap of the paddle.
There are many sites to see on and around campus, but no “Animal House” pilgrimage is complete without a trip to Dexter Lake Club (39128 Dexter Road, Dexter), the roadside dive where four Deltas take dates to see soul band Otis Day and the Knights. (In the film, the frat boys quickly leave after realizing they’ve crashed an all-black club. The scene’s racist overtones are the most egregious of the many moments in the film that have aged very, very poorly.)
The Dexter Lake Club is low key about its iconic status: There’s an “Animal House” sign tucked into one corner of the bar, a newspaper clipping about the film pasted to the wall by the bathrooms and a John Belushi drink special on the cocktail menu — $5 for a Jack and Coke, in tribute to the scene where Bluto chugs a fifth of Jack Daniel’s after the Deltas are kicked off campus. (“They took the bar,” he moans, heartbroken.) Otherwise, it’s a down-to-earth dive that features live local music and barbecue alongside the region’s staple entertainment: U of O football.
And speaking of football, crowds at Oregon Ducks games give a nod to the film between third and fourth quarters. During this break at every home game, Ducks fans dance and sing along to “Shout,” which was featured in the film’s famous toga party scene.
The truly committed will cap off their pilgrimage in nearby Cottage Grove, where the parade that ends the film was shot. Just try not to crash your Deathmobile into any bandstands.
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