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The Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society Saga
by Jack Marshall 

Somehow, a G&S fanatic ends up at GULC

The phenomenon that was to become the nation’s only student-
operated law school theatrical organization had its Big Bang a half-
century ago. Like so many momentous and inexplicable accidents, it
was sparked by a combination of odd coincidences, uncanny timing, a confluence of unique human interactions, good luck, and, somehow, a deep unfulfilled need that something in the universe wanted to see addressed. If Rod Serling were to adapt the amazing tale into one of his episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” he might intone, 


You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of laughter, a dimension of wit and rebellion. You move into a land that had nothing to do with the law and yet everything to do with it, one of unsuspecting people rediscovering how art and joy are essential to the most serious human pursuits. You just crossed over into…. 'The Georgetown Law Center Gilbert and Sullivan Zone.' 

And so we did. Hundreds of us. And the law school community,
sometimes kicking and screaming in protest, crossed over with us.


To fully grasp how strange this development was, it is important to
reflect on what the Law Center was like in the Fall of 1972. This was the second year of the new Georgetown Law School, a large, pseudo-classical white structure plopped down in the middle of a seedy area of Capitol Hill. The theory was that being close to the U.S. Supreme Court and the other D.C. courts would make up for the fact that there was nothing at all around the place---no campus, virtually no sources of entertainment---just street dwellers, a minor-league Hyatt, Union Station, and a little law-themed bar and bistro called “The Chancery.”

1973-03 Trial by Jury Cover.jpg

Students arriving there after first seeking to locate the school at the
Georgetown Hilltop and being informed, “Oh, no! The law school isn’t
here anymore!” reacted to the bleak surroundings like Butch and
Sundance reacted when they reached Bolivia.

I know I did. I had been a late arrival. GULC had ended up with an extra
Section, the result of its acceptance formula not taking into
consideration that the aura of a brand new building attracted more
“yeses” from accepted applicants than the old law school. I still didn’t
make the first cut. Waitlisted, I had decided to punt law school for a
year and was taking a vacation with my family in Yosemite National
Park when a Park Ranger tracked me down with a relayed telegram
from our next door neighbors in Arlington, Massachusetts. Georgetown
was informing me that a slot had opened up (that slot turned out to be
an admittee who had been mugged and shot near the school, and
injured so badly that he could not continue---you know: Bolivia) and
that if I was on hand for registration, I could claim it. Registration,
however, was the very next day. We drove like Mario Andretti to San
Francisco where I hopped a red-eye to D.C. and arrived without
acceptable clothes, with no place to live, and wondering why I was
there at all.

Eventually I ended up as the final housemate with four other First Year
GULC students in Arlington, Virginia. They were also members of the
unique Section One of the class of ’75, a hodgepodge of unrepentant
hippies, Vietnam veterans, older women entering the profession after
divorces or midlife crises, dilettantes (like me) and eccentrics. Later I
learned that our five professors---David McCarthy (Torts), John

Steadman (Property), Charles Gustafson (Civil Procedure), Heathcote
(Pete) Wales (Criminal Law) and, most essentially, Richard Allen Gordon
(Contracts)---discussed together and among their faculty colleagues
how this group of 128 were not like typical ILs at all.

For one thing, we refused to be intimidated, and this was the era of
“Paper Chase”-style teaching: everyone was expected to stand when
called on, no first names were used, and classes were told repeatedly
that their careers and futures depended on making a law journal. The
propaganda didn’t work on us. One reason was that there was a
surplus of leaders and iconoclasts in the group, including U.S. Senator-
to-be James Webb, the most decorated Marine in the Vietnam war,
and, like several other Marines in our class, not inclined to fear the
verbal barbs of law profs. The section also had an unusual number of
offspring from eminent and successful parents, like the identical Dale
Twins, Myron (one of my housemates) and Mitch, sons of the publisher
of the Cincinnati Enquirer and president of the Cincinnati Reds baseball
team, and Joe Garagiola, Jr., whose popular dad was the famous
humorist and “Today Show” co-host. The few women in the class (there
were eight!) were not inclined to accept any condescending sexist
attitudes from the professor or anyone else. It often seemed that the
members of Section One were interested in many things more than the
law, but I was determined not to follow their example.

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