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Chapter I: 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.”

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.


I had arrived at Georgetown with a pledge not to be the theater-

obsessed casual student I had been at Harvard; in particular, I was

resolved to leave Gilbert and Sullivan shows in my record collection.

The Boston area then was Gilbert and Sullivan Central in the U.S. I had

belonged to, performed in and been student president of the Gilbert

and Sullivan Club at my high school. It seemed like every local college

had a vibrant G&S group: Harvard, MIT, Brandeis, and Boston University

all performed two of the operettas a year. My family had marveled at

the brilliant performances of a young John Lithgow as the comic leads

in “Iolanthe” and “Utopia Ltd.” for the Harvard Gilbert and Sullivan

players. When I got into Harvard myself just in time for the anti-war riots, I

quickly was immersed in musical theater, with studies being secondary.

I did shows at Boston University, directed my first G&S production at

MIT, and became president (well, “King”---it’s a long story) of the

Harvard Players. I was also the next Lord Chancellor in “Iolanthe” after

John Lithgow. These distractions had much to do with why I had to get

into GULC via the waiting list.


So I was determined not to let theater distract me from law school

success. Then there was an orientation for first year students in the

Moot Court Room (it wasn’t named Hart yet), and as I gazed at the

speakers in front of a modern judge’s bench, jury box and witness

stand, the unwelcome thought popped into my head: “Wow! This is a

perfect set for ‘Trial by Jury!’”


I brushed it aside, but it kept creeping back. Then, in Contracts class,

Professor Gordon’s theatrical presence and witty style of terror

suddenly collided with my Moot Court epiphany, with the fateful

conclusion, “This guy is perfect to play the Learned Judge in ‘Trial’!”

I had already seen two Gilbert and Sullivan productions in my brief

tome in D.C., and was not impressed. I decided that the D.C. area

needed a transfusion of the vibrant G&S traditions I had enjoyed and

contributed to in Boston. Done right, no form of musical theater is

more exhilerating. Now I was thinking like a missionary.


That night, I shared my crazy idea with my room mates. Myron Dale, in

particular, was enthusiastic: a politically active Yalie, he had just

completed a year working for New York Democratic Congressman

Allard Lowenstein’s re-election campaign (He lost.) Myron concluded

that producing a show was pretty much the same as running a political

campaign, and convinced another one of my house mates, Jim Miller,

to co-produce a Law Center “Trial by Jury” with him, with me I

consulting and directing the show.


It turned out we were all bored with just going to class, catching a beer

at The Chancery, and studying all night. So were a surprising number of

Section I members. Not only was there no college campus around the

Law Center, there was no escape from the law. Besides the law

journals, all of the student organization were political or law related;

the closest to a true non-legal extra-curricular activity was The Law

Weekly, the venerable student-run weekly newspaper. As my house

mates and I circulated my idea around the Section, we discovered all

manner of previously undiscovered interests and talent. Two of the

women in the Section, Linda Kroning and Linda Bryant, had

backgrounds in costume design and construction.. The law student

husband of one of the women in the Section, Bob Halleck, was a skilled

pianist and musical director. The wife of another classmate, Sue Zakula,

later Gamble, was a lighting designer; still another classmate’s wife,

Bette Peason, was an artist, and another, Wendy Kirby a skilled

rehearsal pianist,musician and performer. We found a publicist; we

found someone who knew how to sell advertising…and many in the

Section wanted to perform.


As I saw my dreams of law school stardom circling the drain, I also

realized that my crazy idea just might become reality. But there was

one big hurdle to clear: I had to talk Richard Allen Gordon into being

the star of the production, but I had never said a word in class, and he

scared the daylights out of me...

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