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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

By Sarah Alaoui, Sixth '12

In the late '70s, a group of students formed Student Organization for Alternative Productions (SOAP) and brought Dartmouth's legendary Fogcutter cocktail to campus.

"It's great," said Chancellor William McElroy in the Triton Times (January 30, 1978). "If I weren't so busy I'd come back for seconds."

Kamikaze headbands are strewn amid the debris of red cups and empty bottles. Young males and females lie sleeping in the half light of dawn—testaments to the previous night's indulgences. The Japanese headbands were made from Revelle College bed sheets silk-screened with Japanese phrases. And the cups and bottles? It wasn't Evian water. On any given weekend in the late '70s, before campus alcohol regulations were tightened, these bacchanalian bashes were not an uncommon sight. They usually happened near Mandeville Center or in front of Center Library, and provided a lively gathering place on a young campus—a reaction to a social scene that until then had been mostly devoid of energy.

Because UC San Diego was still a young university, there were only two sororities and no fraternities or student groups to energize campus social life. Many male students at the time headed over to San Diego State to take advantage of the fraternity parties there.

Faced with this stagnant campus social life, Chris Arrott, '80, Joe Formusa, '79, and Carlos Montalvo, '81, all Revelle resident advisors, decided to take matters into their own hands. They joined forces and formed AMF (Arrott, Montalvo, Formusa) Productions in the fall of 1977. Although they started it as an RA project, screening movies to raise money for dorm supplies and equipment, AMF quickly evolved into a generator of social activities for the whole campus.

"We were really raking in the dough by showing movies like the Rocky Horror Picture Show and James Bond flicks, so we decided to become an official student organization," says Arrott.

While watching the sitcom Soap in his dorm room one night, Arrott mulled over how the letters could be used for AMF, their own organization. Soon after, the Student Organization for Alternative Productions (SOAP) was born and approved by the Associated Students with an official 13-article constitution. They also chose an adviser, Hans Teuchert, acting assistant resident dean, to maneuver them through the University's rules and regulations. Over the next four years, Arrott, Montalvo, Formusa and their fellow SOAP brothers planned a series of impressive, themed fêtes and on-campus events. Perhaps their most celebrated were their famous Fogcutter parties that revolved around one particularly potent drink. These parties were generally lauded for successfully bringing a sense of community and college spirit to the young campus.

"We didn't need to go anywhere else. The parties were that good," says SOAP member, Kevin Elliott, Muir '80, who now works in finance.

Before SOAP was officially approved by AS, the first Fogcutter party was held. Montalvo had completed an exchange program at Dartmouth College and returned to UCSD with stories to tell and a gift to share—a special, age-old Fogcutter drink recipe given to him by the Bones Gate Fraternity. On April 8, 1978, at 8 p.m., the ancient concoction was inaugurated at Scripps Surfside, a small cottage with a beach deck that belonged to the University. Though not all of the ingredients can accurately be divulged because of adaptations over the years, the base of the drink is mostly vodka, bourbon, scotch, gin and sweet vermouth drowned out with various concentrated fruit juices. The mixture was stirred in a clean, plastic garbage can with a hockey stick and then a lit Marlboro cigarette was thrown in. After the ingredients were fully mixed, someone would be given the honor of chugging the first 14-ounce container of Fogcutter. In the SOAP handbook, a copy of the recipe is preserved with the words: "Chug…and you too can hold a conference with the Ayatollah Khomeini." Partygoers had their foreheads stamped with a ship and the word "Shipped" for each drink they were able to down—the design was inspired by the Cutty Sark whiskey logo. Anyone who was able to consume at least three cups was rewarded with a kamikaze headband.

"This was the most creative group of guys that you could ever imagine," says David Depolo, Revelle '81, now a lawyer, and the very first member to join SOAP.

Though the Fogcutter drink, and traditions that stemmed from it, were a highlight of the SOAP productions, there was more to the group. With close to 50 members, they were one of the largest organizations on campus, and so they also manned polling booths during AS elections. They sent a few members to each polling booth in Muir, Revelle, Third and Fourth colleges, and also one near the library. They were paid for their time and the money was of course used to plan more extravagant parties. One of the most memorable took place on Halloween 1978. SOAP prepared one punch with heavy doses of red food coloring so that the next morning, partygoers displayed bright red tongues as mementoes. And those wearing white togas were open to teasing about red fingerprints left as souvenirs of the night's amours.

The SMASH Party in the fall of 1979 was another favorite. Fashioned after the popular TV series, M*A*S*H, the event was held at the Coffee Hut and featured a live, 10-piece swing band from Los Angeles. The coffee shop was turned into the 4077th MASH, the Korean surgical unit shown in the program.

"While it is true that on one level, there was a certain Animal House appeal to what we did, on another level, the friendships and bonds that we made, and the bringing together of the whole school was a major component of what SOAP was all about," says DePolo.

Around the same time that SOAP reached its prime, AS was furthering its efforts to develop more social events and create a greater UCSD spirit on campus. Montalvo played a large role in AS during this time, and used his SOAP connections to reach out to a wider audience. As a result, AS began hosting beer bashes every Friday. The first one, in January 1978, attracted 1,500 people. At approximately noon, those fortunate enough to have no classes began to line up in front of the Student Center—then at Muir College amidst the eucalyptus trees, and now known as the Old Student Center. The light and dark beer was free, the pizza a mere 40 cents a slice, and the jazz was live. Though the lines were long, most of the participants were able to fill and refill their plastic cups as long as they had a hand-stamp confirming that they were of legal age. These TGIFs (Thank God It's Friday), were not limited to undergraduates and even administrators dropped by to socialize while enjoying a brew.

"It's great," said Chancellor William McElroy in the Triton Times (January 30, 1978). "If I weren't so busy I'd come back for seconds."

Then, in 1982, UCSD's early party scene changed. Joseph Watson, then vice chancellor of undergraduate affairs, began to enforce a new, consistent, outdoor alcohol policy. Due to safety and monitoring issues, certain areas around campus were specifically designated for students who wanted to host events that involved drinking. These included the four college quadrangles, the hump between the Student Center and the Main Gym, Muir Recreation Field and the grassy area between Urey Hall and the Main Gym.

"We saw an increase of severe alcohol intoxication on campus and cases in which student judgment was seriously limited," says Watson. "At the same time, we wanted to minimize the popular view that alcohol was essential to a good student life on campus and encourage other forms of social activities."

New security and supervision requirements were also implemented including the revised stipulation that in order for one to host an event with alcohol, a student "must provide seven people who will be responsible for enforcing California's legal drinking age by checking valid identification cards." In the past, the rule had specified only three individuals. Although the members of SOAP were careful about making sure there were guards at event doors to check identification, the new alcohol policy had an inevitable impact on the leeway they once enjoyed to steer their parties.

The fifth and final Fogcutter bash took place on the bottom floor of the Mandeville alcove, one spring evening in 1982. A Los Angeles band was once again hired and those unlucky few who were unable to snag the popular tickets, could at least peer down at the action. Though popular among students, Fogcutter V received complaints from administrators, and the official police report, which was shared with SOAP's principal members, indicated that crowd control outside the Mandeville alcove was inadequate. The report stated that there was alcohol consumption and a few fights away from the event, including in parking lots. It also cited people urinating and vomiting in stairwells and other public areas because of insufficient bathroom facilities. What concerned administrators the most was the apparent threat to personal safety of individuals, especially of women, many of whom were found passed out in bushes, lawns or bathrooms. The report continued that, "SOAP provided the best security they could, however it was obvious the situation was close to being uncontrollable." The result was the refusal to allow a future Fogcutter VI, "in light of prevailing facts, as well as an atmosphere of competitive drinking, which had a must-get-drunk attitude to it."

That was the end of the Fogcutter parties and, with the growth of the student body, enforcement of alcohol policies on campus became increasingly stringent. When the principal members of SOAP graduated, it also brought to an end the organization that had supported UCSD's budding social scene. However the trio had been an inspiration to future student leaders by giving the young University a social dimension that it had lacked in its pioneer days.

What started out as three students screening movies for fun in the Revelle dormitories, evolved into an organization that still has its alumni reminiscing about the Fogcutter days. They often gather for reunions, including a 10-year Fogcutter reunion held in a warehouse.

"We really believed that we changed the school—UCSD had a 70 percent attrition rate at the time, and we wanted to change that. We wanted to bring people together to have fun," says DePolo.

If SOAP directly affected UCSD's attrition rate, we will never officially know, but the creativity and innovation of its founders undoubtedly trickled down to incoming classes. While the organization was originally founded to supplement the lack of fraternities and social life on campus, it became an inspiration for future initiatives to accomplish this goal. A more active Greek life on campus, the Sun God festival and an ever-increasing menu of social activities are all now available to students, allowing them to experience a fuller sense of college life.

In this way, SOAP lives on.

Sarah Alaoui, Sixth '12, was an editorial intern with at|UCSD magazine from 2009 to 2011. She is now a Master's student in France.