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PostDeath of Steve Furst, "Flounder" (David Duggan, USA, 06/19/17 5:06 pm)
Not to divert WAISers' attention from weighty matters such as Helmut Kohl's death and the significance of the Qatari-other-Arab-Sunni-split to world peace and the West's foreign policy, but the entertainment world is mourning the death of Steve Furst, aka "Flounder" aka Kent Dorfman, in the all-time-best humor movie, Animal House. Flounder died Friday from complications of diabetes (no surprise) outside of LaLa Land, aka Hollywood, at the age of 62 or 63 (accounts vary).
In my view, the movie doesn't come together without Flounder. He's the guy whose brother was a member of the "Delts'" animal house ("Delta Tau Chi"-DTs for delirium tremens, chi for "chai" or life--get it?), loosely based on scriptwriter Chris Miller's experiences at the Alpha Delta frat at Dartmouth College. Dorfman and fellow frat-seeker Larry Kroger, aka "Pinto" (Tom Hulce, later Mozart in Amadeus) are out of place while being entertained by sorority girls at the ROTC-dominated Omega Theta Pi. So they wander over to the Delts where Flounder is a legacy and are taken in by pledge director John Blutarsky, "Bluto" played by the late-lamented John Belushi (who shares a distinction with galloping ghost Red Grange--both football players for Wheaton Central High School, 30 miles west of Chicago). As a pledge prank, Bluto convinces Flounder to take the horse of ROTC captain and Omega big-wig Doug Niedermeyer (played by Mark Metcalf, later the prison guard in Shawshank Redemption) to Dean Wormer's office and shoot it. Flounder discharges the weapon in the air and the horse dies of fright still upright. After the building and grounds crew have to saw the rigor-mortis carcass in half to get it out of the office, the Delts decide to take a road trip using Flounder's Lincoln Town Car (the mid-'60s model with the doors that open, not in parallel, but in opposition, all the better to double date on prom night).
On the road trip, the bros alight at Emily Dickinson College to troll for dates, whom they take to the Afro-friendly bar where Otis Day and the Knights are playing, just having returned from their successful gig, where else than at the Delts' basement toga party. Fearing that they have overstayed their welcome, the Delts abandon their dates at the bar (where one rather large patron had uprooted the table where the dates and bros were sitting, asking the famous line, "Can we dance wif your dates?" (mispronunciation in original). On the way out of the parking lot, Eric "Otter" Stratton, who had concocted the scheme to ask the Emily Dickinson girls for dates, crashes Flounder's car, causing Flounder to issue a plaintive wail about how he had gone so wrong.
Back safely on the Faber College campus, the Delts are haled before a campus disciplinary panel chaired by Dean Wormer and told that they had been expelled and their draft boards notified. "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life," the dean says to Flounder who promptly throws up on him. But Bluto saves the day and together the Delts concoct a final scheme to get back at the town and campus notables by converting Flounder's beat-up town car into an armored vehicle hidden under a cake-shaped float in a campus parade down city streets. Delta bro and handle-bar mustachioed biker Daniel "D-Day" Day (played by Bruce McGill, later the sheriff in My Cousin Vinny) is the architect of this conversion. The cake breaks off, the car becomes a "death mobile" crashing through the town, and the final scene after Bluto escapes pirate-like with Niedermeyer's girlfriend shows the town mayor choking Dean Wormer. Sorry to give it away, but I swear you'll laugh your rear end off even if you've seen it a dozen times.
Back to Flounder. Furst was 22 (or 23) when the movie was released, and it's hard when your career peaks that early. He had more than a cup of coffee on St. Elsewhere, the 1980s medical drama, and did voice-over and bit work since. Harold Ramis, who co-scripted the film died three years ago, but he had a productive life afterwards, directing Caddyshack and Groundhog Day, both genre movies that never quite equaled the sheer brilliance of Animal House. Two things are certain: America remains a country in search of a second act, and they don't make movies like Animal House any more. Steve Furst RIP.
JE comments: Yes, RIP Flounder. And my thanks to David Duggan for this fine stroll down Memory Lane--every Dartmouth alum has a special place in her/his heart for Animal House.
The rear doors on Flounder's Lincoln are called "suicide" doors. I learned during my trip to the LBJ Ranch near Austin that President Johnson was a big fan of the early '60s Lincoln Continental. Two of them are on display at the ranch.
On a personal note, we're back at WAIS HQ, Royal Oak, after a safe and uneventful trip across the Pond.