There were times on the streets in Harlem when Rob and some frat brothers would get a gallon of wine and start dancing to the tune Heat Wave, or Dancing in the Street, by Martha and the Vandellas. The frat boys were Omega Psi Phi (ΩΨΦ), a fraternity Rob’s cousin was pledging in. Rob himself was a frat wannabe. In any case we hung with the crowd and attended their “Omega by the Sea” event, which was a ferry ride up and down the Hudson River—it was the black thing to do during the summer break.The sorority sisters were some kind of fine, but I couldn’t make much time with them; since I wasn’t a frat brother or a professional student at the time. They were looking for guys who wanted to strive for achievement. In other words, these broads were the 3Ss: snobbish, stuck up, and snooty. In the meantime, Flunkensteins (new pledges going through hazing) were moping around, running errands and being stripped of their self-esteem.
It was some hearty partying—like the movie Animal House, except on a boat. The highlight of excitement was when one of the rival frat brothers would get lit, and mouth off with derogatory remarks about the Omega’s. In almost every instance, it was a member of their longtime antagonist—Kappa Alpha Psi (КАΨ). The Kappa’s were always seen snooping around, and acting as undercover moles, with the intent of causing a major disruption. Their envy and arrogance would get them picked up and thrown overboard. We’d be partying along, and suddenly we’d hear a splash; immediately we knew some loud mouth had gotten thrown into the drink again. Those dudes were cruisin’ for a bruisin’; because this happened for a couple of years consecutively. In the meantime, I walked softly around the Omega’s, because I couldn’t swim.
I use to think that black fraternities were formed because the black students wanted to segregate from the white students. However, I eventually learned that they were formed because the white students wanted to segregate from the black students—just the opposite.
The morning after the boat ride, some of the brothers who were out to make an impression had rooms already rented out at the exclusive Waldorf=Astoria. This world renowned hotel of Art Deco elegance has been a primary site for Hollywood stories and location shootings. Within the ritzy hotel, I couldn’t believe the number of drunken frat brothers who were staggering around the lobby. I had to ask myself, “What the heck is happening to this town? Was this the same place I’d often see on the big screen, and the former location of the NBC radio studio?” Nevertheless, despite all the guys coming down from last night’s blast, no one on the hotel staff bothered to intervene or seemed to care. It transformed from a place of the haves, to a place of the have-nots. Indeed this was no longer the cosmopolitan hotel of café society.