In January of 1848, James K. Polk was President of the United States, beloved by the people, successful in fulfilling his campaign promises, and victor in the Mexican-American War.
In July of 1849, he was dead.
The reasons behind his death are shrouded in mystery. “Cholera,” say some history books. “Acute cholera,” argue others. “Too much hard work (which caused Cholera)” yet others insist. One fellow even owns a website in which he insists that Polk was poisoned by eating breaded tilapia seasoned with arsenic during a midsummer stopover in New Haven, Connecticut on his book tour to promote sales of his memoirs. However, he also insists that Richard Nixon was amphibian and that the actual value of pi is 7.
However, as far as Polk is concerned, he is 99% correct. The arsenic was actually in the Montreal steak.
Who was capable of poisoning this ex-President? A small group of Yale University seniors, known only as the “Rump Parliament”, dedicated to taking over the government through intimidation and threats and through official channels creating a New World Order. Each year, the members of the group chose a new set of seniors to continue the campus wing of the group while they themselves went into the world to become bankers, lawyers, and politicians, taking over the halls of power from the inside.
The New World Order, as planned by the Rump Parliament, was to be a meritocracy in which the intellectual and social elite walked across the broken backs of their inferiors in order to create a better tomorrow. It called for an iron fist to control the unwashed masses. It also called for several new breweries to the New Haven area. Needless to say, this was wildly popular at Yale.
When Polk, by annexing a good third of Mexico in the Mexican-American war, threatened to prove that democratic government was still a viable alternative to autocracy AND caused the price of tequila to skyrocket, the Parliament decided that action needed to be taken. Thus the fatal Steak and the sad end of James K. Polk.
Immediately after the death, however, a faction within the Parliament rose up and rebelled against the leadership. Enough is enough! said they. We will not kill for beer! They marched out of the group meeting and proceeded to the nearest bar.
Each half of the newly fractured group tapped a new class of seniors the next year. The first group eventually adopted a name more appropriate to its evil purposes–Skull and Bones. The second group swore to remain ever-vigilant in thwarting nefarious deeds wherever they might arise, in the name of the Rump Parliament and its great shame. They became known as the Rumps, which was modified over time into the form in which it is known today: Students Against Sweatshops.
Meanwhile, tired of the arcane elitism of one side and the pointless earnestness of the other, a group of enterprising students formed a little periodical to lambast both sides. “We’re gonna raise a rumpus!” they said (they were Canadian), and sure enough they did. The Rumpus, to be exact. The Oldest College Tabloid was born.
The story of how that Rumpus was raised is recounted below by the great prophet Joseph Frenkel as seen in Volume 10 Issue 5.
Many great things are created out of boredom. Consider that Alexander Fleming made penicillin one rainy afternoon because there was nothing good on TV. Or that our eleventh president, James K. Polk, wandered into Mexico on a whim, only to conquer and annex a third of it. It should come as no surprise then that the most significant development of our time, Rumpus, should also have been born of that same unyielding force that guides mankind. Oh, and a Canadian conspiracy may have been involved; records from that time are spotty.
What we do know of the Rumpus saga is this: Once upon a time, long ago (in 1992), Canadian mastermind Ryan Craig was spending a quiet summer on the Yale campus. He was joined by his brother Aaron, friends Chris Douvos and Dave Friedman, and then-girlfriend Euny Hong. They were getting over a “minor [YPU] scandal known as ‘Prog-gate,’” which we know little about… They were hardly heartbroken, and as Chris notes, the “YPU was dead to us.”
So what was the group of Calhoun students plus Euny to do with their free time “on the playground that was the Yale campus”? Various ideas began to emerge, and Ryan decided to defraud Yale. Summer programs had “unwisely” provided Ryan with a three-room double, into which he promptly installed Chris and Euny. Furthermore, neighbor Shohei “Speed” Kuga, “a Japanese finance genius,” had photocopied Ryan’s dining hall card so that he, Chris, and Euny could eat free.
At the time, Yale was suffering even without Ryan’s help. Bad publicity abounded, largely fueled by the incompetence of President Benno Schmidt, who not only had a ridiculous name but lived in New York, from which he could comfortably make decisions to jeopardize Yale’s future. National publications were busy berating the university, but Yale’s magazines and newspapers seemed oblivious, as Ryan & Co. soon noticed.
Ryan explains that “the YD‘N’, Herald, and New Journal continued to run pieces like: ‘Your Room: It’s Where You Live,’ and ‘New Haven Continues to Rank as One of Connecticut’s Poorest Cities.’” Well, gee, if we had wanted to know that, we could have just asked Country Ray about it. Chris concurs that Yale’s wide array of publications printed sob stories about New Haven or “in-flight magazine” literature. There was no magazine at Yale about stuff at Yale, and with that realization a cover slogan was born and a revolution begun.
The original plan was to produce a serious journal with three or four investigative stories per issue, perhaps a magazine version of 20/ 20 without that annoying old guy, or 60 Minutes without their own annoying old guy. But the plan failed, thankfully for today’s Rumpus readership, who would have suffered from terrible withdrawal if the word “sexily” did not now appear four or five times per month.
The main reason for Rumpus’s degeneration, or perhaps regeneration, into tabloid-dom was one simple fact: Dave realized that tabloids used the cheapest type of paper. And what, after all, was the point of printing a magazine on tabloid-size pa- per were said magazine not a tabloid?
So Ryan lifted letters from the New York Post mast head and transformed them to spell Rumpus. But wait a minute, you ask, where did the name Rumpus come from? What genius invented this brilliant moniker? Was it Dave in the bedroom with a candlestick, Chris in the kitchen with a butcher knife, Ryan in the bath- room with a plunger, or Euny in the foyer with the revolver?
Let’s let Dave tell the story: “We all had a suitemate named Alex Sion. He was a burly Filipino chap who was quick to violence but loyal to friends and drink.
One night, the year before Rumpus got started, Alex burst into the room and announced, ‘Tonight there is going to be a rumpus. Things are going to snap, pop, and come unglued.’ The line soon be- came an inside joke.”
Indeed, Dave. It would seem that the name was obvious, but in fact there was a great debate in the days following the tabloid’s conception. Ryan wanted to call it Frank, apparently in honor of an Ottawa publication of the same name. But, honestly, Ryan, did you really want a magazine that everyone would think was gay porn? Don’t answer that.
Fortunately for the greater good of mankind, Ryan, Chris, Euny, and Dave were having lunch at the Educated Burgher when the situation resolved it- self. “What are we going to do next?” someone asked. The reply: “We’re going to have a rumpus.” And have a Rumpus they did.
With a sound concept in mind, the group went to work building the two pillars of any successful publication: articles and ads. Selling ads was easy, as Ryan soon realized that other Yale publications charged exorbitant prices, thus forcing New Haven businesses into poverty and debt. Rumpus rescued starving retailers with ads costing at most $65 a page. Retailers flocked to Rumpus in such numbers that the first issue actually made a profit. This is amazing when one considers that Rumpus’ current yearly debt rivals that of Afghanistan, forcing the editors to sell their publishers into prostitution in order to make ends meet (ha!). Not that the publishers mind all that much.
Now, with 32 advertisers featured in the first issue alone, you may be thinking: Who needs articles? Wouldn’t it be simpler to create a magazine of ads alone and skip all that tiring writing and editing? While this concept may work for bridal magazines (or so I’ve heard), it simply wasn’t an option for the hardworking Rumpus staff. Articles had to be written and the Rumpus reporters first went to work in July 1992.
At that time, and still today, three tenets governed all Rumpus articles: They had to be about Yale, they had to be true, and they had to be interesting. To that end, the first issue contained articles about the horror of Yale’s dining halls and smut found in the stacks. As a testament to the genius of the original Rumpus team, or to a severe lack of originality today, Rumpus is still printing the same articles (see “Cluster Porn” and “Say What? Say Rat,” February 2002).
Few Yalies knew what to make of the first issue, as they tried to decide if the articles were true. Even the staff was un- sure about Rumpus’s survival. “We thought we might last two or three issues, at most a year,” writes the ever-confident Ryan. Nonetheless, issue two came out with “Yale’s Best Bathrooms,” a parody of U.S. News’s “rankings mania.” Issue two also pitted Rumpus against other Yale publications with the launch of Remedial Media, then headed by Aaron Craig. In issue two, Rumpus also spied on a Yale Record meeting and attacked the secret societies for a “Secret Society Special Issue.” With that, Rumpus’s “get everyone to hate us” plan was coming along splendidly.
In issue three, Rumpus went after bigger targets: the YD“N” and Yale President Howard Lamar. Ryan explains, “We parodied the YD‘N’,” with headlines like “Dining Halls: It’s Where We Eat” and “Yalies Enjoy Going to Class.” The article on Lamar ignored that he was an interim president and launched into speculation that he would soon get “the boot.”
Issue four, though, really brought Rumpus the fame it deserved and created a tradition of annoying Betty T. and the Yale administration. For issue four brought none other than the infamous Blue Phone Map which listed the phone numbers at which one could call each Blue Phone on campus and make it automatically pick up. Many have wondered how this feat was achieved and now, in a Rumpus exclusive, comes the full story, as told by Dave: “It was the coldest night of the year. Euny had a key to the JE college master’s office, which was the only place that had caller ID [that would work with the blue phones]. She went in there, as the rest of us fanned out, called Euny and got the numbers. Betty Trachtenberg was not happy .” That’s putting it a bit lightly . Ryan notes that no fewer than 20 blue- phone-incident-related police reports were filed that year.
Issue four was marked by several other milestones. It brought the advent of Captain DA, and roused press coverage by local newspapers. The Bridgeport Post wrote a short column on Rumpus while the New Haven Register devoted a front- page story to the founding staff. “It Must Have Been Two Very Slow News Days,”read the headline of the Rumpus article about the other papers’ articles about Rumpus.
The main story in issue five was a fine piece of investigative reporting, in which Rumpus staffers found Yale faculty and administrators who owed library fines. The cover read “Yale Libraries to Provost Rodin: ‘Pay Up!’ – Yale’s chief financier, Judy Rodin, must pay an outstanding library fine of $3.00.” Richard Brodhead still holds a grudge, it seems, as he wrote in a recent email to “give my best wishes to every one of your collaborators except the one who did the story about my library fine.”
Most importantly, issue five marked an entire year of Rumpus, proving that the publication was here to stay. Now under the wing of corporate giant R.T.A. Publications, Rumpus is ensured many long and successful years to come. And to Ryan Craig, Aaron Craig, Dave Fried- man, Euny Hong, and others, we say thank you. None of us would be here without you. We’d be in a ditch some- where, writing articles for food, or worse yet, working at the Record.