Oberlin's reputation is literally getting soiled. Today on the national talk show Jenny Jones, two former residents of Big Five, a student house next to Tank Co-op, are going to publicize their old house's status as one of the Jenny Jones Show's Messiest Houses in America.
During Winter Term, junior Joseph Friedman and senior Micah Hughes, two people that live in the house next to Big Five, saw a Jenny Jones trailer which called for submissions for messy house photographs. They submitted pictures of Big Five, and the house was chosen as one of the six messiest houses in America.
Seniors Jackie Linge and Ann Grady were chosen from the photographs of individual residents from Big Five that the show requested.
The Jenny Jones film crew shacked up at the Oberlin Inn and filmed three days of Big Five renovation, which included Servicemaster, a new paint job, recarpeting and $5,000 worth of new furniture. "I personally apologized to those who had to clean," Grady said. Of the six houses declared the messiest in America, the show only paid for the three messiest to get renovated.
"It looks like the lobby of a Ramada Inn," Linge said. New decorations include "hideous art," plastic bamboo trees and faux wood furniture.
The show paid for the two students to fly to Chicago the next day for the show taping, where they stayed in a hotel with guests of the show. The other winners of the "messiest house" title included a couple from Arkansas, a man named Lucky whose friends said he smelled like a Burger King Whopper and two "biker chicks," Linge said.
After meeting with producers, hairstylists and wardrobe people, Linge and Grady were dressed and primped for the filming. Linge had a pastel blue suit with an elastic waistband picked as her outfit, which she didn't like. Jenny Jones also disapproved, and gave Linge her jacket to wear.
"The clothes were definitely not my style, and my hair was much too poofy," Grady said.
The two talk show veterans have talked to CBS news, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other local newspapers. "It can only make incoming classes better," said Grady, of the widespread publicity Big Five, and Oberlin as a result, has received due to their appearance on the talk show.
Five people drove from Oberlin to Chicago to watch the taping. The audience wasn't allowed to talk or ask questions of the talk show guests. "Everyone in the audience was just disgusted," senior Sabina Blaskovic, former Big Five resident who went to the taping, said. "People were like, `those are friends of yours?' "
The fame has made their families proud. "My mom has like, three VCRs set up," Linge said. "It's really ironic," Linge said, of the situation and title. "My dad's one of the neatest people in America."
How could people live in a pigsty worthy of national attention? "We tried to clean it up, but it always looked like chaos by the end of the day, so we just gave up," Linge said. But those who lived in Big Five knew what they were getting into, because of the house's notorious reputation. Linge said residents kept the lights off and the television on so the trash was harder to see. She moved out this semester because she "couldn't take it any more."
"There were definitely moments when [the mess] got out of control," said Grady.
The stories of Big Five filth are numerous. About a year ago, someone at a Big Five party threw up in a Cheese Puffs container and put it out on the roof, where it stayed for over a year. It recently fell into the drop ceiling in the kitchen and exploded among the light fixtures.
"I don't think it's that disgusting," Blaskovic said. "When you have 10 people living in a house, everyone's drinking beer, having fun, sure it's messy. It just depends on how you deal," she said.
Big Five has a filthy history. "The legacy of the house is filth," said senior Dan Selzer, former Big Five inhabitant. He said that in the 1920s, when Oberlin's football team used to win games and have student support, a majority of the team lived in the house that is now Big Five. They started an illegal "secret society," which was illegal by College rules, and got evicted from the house, according to Seltzer. "They've been bad ever since," Selzer said, of the team.
Big Five has had several names, as many of the boarding houses around campus have, including Iguana House and Graceland.
Three or four years ago, a group of men moved into the house and "destroyed the place completely," Linge said. It was redone three years ago, and then some sophomores who married each other to get off-campus living privileges moved in, according to Linge.
One of the residents, senior Leslie Olssen, was a big fan of Prince Buster, who had a "dirty" album called Big Five, which seemed to fit the house's atmosphere. So, for the last two-and-a-half years, that's been the house's name.
It's been a positive experience all around, in the eyes of Grady and Linge. "It's something I can give my grandkids," Linge said.
"I feel like I've brought Big Five to a whole new level," said Grady. "It's like the American Dream."
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 14; February 14, 1997
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