"I can definitely taste the bacon in this chocolate," said some guy sitting in the row behind me. I wondered if he was eating bacon-infused chocolate just to be adventurous, sort of like Harry Potter jellybeans, or if the strange chocolate was in honor of Kevin Bacon. We were, after all, at the Dartmouth College Film Society's "Tribute to Kevin Bacon" event. The event seemed peculiar and misplaced. Why does Dartmouth have film awards and why were they giving an award to Kevin Bacon? Maybe it was the lure of a B-list Hollywood star on campus or maybe it was the fact that there just is not much else to do in Hanover, New Hampshire, but the theater was packed.
The event began with an hour-long compilation of Kevin Bacon movies -- from Animal House, to Footloose, to his cameo in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and a Will and Grace episode where Bacon makes fun of himself in the infamous "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. After viewing several carefully snipped movie clips, Bacon himself came out on the stage to accept the framed certificate that is the Dartmouth Film Society's award. I could not help but wonder what he was thinking as he accepted this award; "great, I can add this to my resume under the 'Awards Received' section," or "some actors accept Emmys, I accept certificates...what is my life coming to?" Either way, he feigned gratitude and attempted to make a speech, but cut it short by saying, "like politicians, my best speeches are written for me. I'm better at the question and answer part."
The awkward recent Dartmouth alum picked up on cue and transitioned into the Q&A part of the evening. His first question was not so smooth, "So here you are, Kevin, accepting this award at an Ivy League institution when you did not even go to college. Do you regret your decision to never obtain higher education?" The irony was that Bacon stars in the infamous college movie, Animal House, that is based on one of Dartmouth's most disgusting yet most alluring and popular fraternities. Bacon claimed that he did not regret his decision because he knew what he wanted to do with this life and did not need to spend four years "discovering" his passions. As a junior with no idea what I want to do after college, I fully respect and admire Bacon's decision. He did claim that sometimes he "felt like a dummy" and the whole snotty Ivy League crowd chuckled with an air of arrogance. The Dartmouth alum continued with his questions. It was interesting to hear about Bacon's life in such a candid fashion, but he was not actually that interesting and even admitted that he was vain, uses hair products, and likes to be watched. At one point he brought up darkness, demons, and therapy and I felt like I had learned too much about this actor and his offbeat psyche.
After some crazy 30-something woman told Bacon that she was going to go home and watch the nude scene in Wild Things, the ever-smooth interviewer told Bacon, "speaking of things that make you uncomfortable, we are going to end our evening here." But the evening was not over.
Here is a photo of Kevin Bacon playing pong at the frat that Animal House is based on. You can see the crowd - I am the girl with the headband in the background on the left!
There was an after-party at the very frat that was made famous in Animal House. The party was for ticket-holders only and the frat looked cleaner than it ever had before. There was a real bar serving legitimate beers instead of Keystone Light and an array of little sandwiches. Students were standing around mingling as Bacon made his entrance. He was short, but all his vanity paid off because he was quite attractive for a forty-something. The president of the fraternity took him on a tour of house and the crowd followed. The tour ended in the basement where the theme song of Footloose was playing in his honor. While Bacon did not seem interested in the music or dancing, he was willing to play a game of pong, the official drinking game of Dartmouth College. Bacon seemed to have a knack for the game and even sunk the ping-pong ball into a cup of beer with his paddle a few times. I have never seen so many people watching a game of pong. Students swarmed around, taking photos with their cell phones and laughing. He probably thought us students were so lame, but we were excited to have a Hollywood star taking part in classic Dartmouth drunken revelry.
The game ended and Bacon left the building. However, the excitement lingered in the fraternity all night. One sophomore boy told me, "I just played pong with Kevin Bacon! I was just hanging out and the next thing I know, I'm serving to Kevin Bacon!" Since Dartmouth students take a lot of pride in their pong, being able to say that you played against a Hollywood star is a very big deal. The sophomore boy can now claim that he is connected to Kevin Bacon in less than six degrees.
While Bacon never even went to college or was part of a fraternity, he is an important part of the Dartmouth experience for his role in Animal House. Maybe he thought his night at Dartmouth was lame and wished he was at home with his wife and children, or maybe he appreciated taking a real role in the college social scene that he made famous back in 1978.