It only took two words.
On Nov. 20, 2004, 1,800 Harvard students and alumni held placards spelling “We Suck” from their side of the Harvard Stadium during The Game.
David Aulicino ’05 and Michael Kai ’05 turned an absurd proposal to ridicule Harvard into a widely-known deception, called “the greatest prank this side of the Mason-Dixon line since the Boston Tea Party” by Maxim magazine.
The moment Aulicino and Kai conceived of The Prank, they made a decision that not only cemented Yale’s status as the better school, but also guaranteed them a place in Yale lore.
Post-prank, Aulicino and Kai were celebrities.
“Everyone heard about it,” Aulicino said in a phone interview. “Almost immediately after we put the video online, a lot of people knew my name and would randomly stop me down the street to say ‘David? That was awesome!’”
Now fast-forward one year. It is Camp Yale 2005, and a group of three blonde senior girls are having a drink at El Amigo Félix.
At some point in their conversation, ignoring the piercing sound of salsa notes in the background, Thayer Hardwick ’06 brings up the words of wisdom her mother had shared with her during the summer.
It was senior-year advice:
“Find a job with health insurance, work hard on your essay,” Hardwick recalled what her mother said, “and bring back the February Club.”
With nothing but an old Feb Club calendar from 1978 and a strong sense of purpose, Hardwick and two friends, Stephanie Dziczek ’06 and Cody Dashiell-Earn ’06, revived what today is arguably one of Yale’s most anticipated traditions of debauchery.
More than 10 years after its banning, the Feb Club was back — bringing hedonistic merriment to Yale seniors during the frigid New Haven winter once again.
“You mix a great idea with a few Yale girls who are disciplined planners and who are intense about partying,” Dziczek said in an e-mail, “and the result was a real Feb Club revival.”
Hardwick, Dzickek and Dashiell-Earn reached celebrity status. They earned it.
Determination to fulfill one’s goals therefore stands out as a major factor in the road to campus-wide recognition.
Evidently, it also helps if you’re hot and play sports in spite of broken bones.
Michael McLeod ’09, former tailback for the Yale football team, was the Ivy Most Valuable Player in 2007 — Yale’s first in 20 years.
According to the Yale Athletics Web site, McLeod was given the award “after running for a school-record 1,619 yards and 23 [touchdowns], and leading the nation for most of the year in average yards per game.”
A broken toe in the last five games didn’t affect his performance.
“I was in the paper a lot because of football,” McLeod said in a recent phone interview. “Being one of the most recognized athletes, I guess I gained celebrity status.”
Hard work, talent, and looks, however, are not the only requirements for stardom at Yale.
Or at least not during the last decade. Being opinionated about sex helps too — and I’m not even talking about Aliza Schwartz ’09.
It was the fall semester of her sophomore year when Natalie Krinsky ’04, a Canadian-born Jewish teenager, published the first story of her column “Sex and the (Elm) City.”
Krinsky graduated with a book deal for “Chloe does Yale,” a semi-autobiographical account of college sex life, and the certainty that virtually everyone on this campus knew who she was.
To this day, “Spit or Swallow? It’s all about the sauce” is the most read article of the News online.
Not many contemporary undergraduates ever met these renowned Yalies, however.
The Campus Celebs of the Decade are known for the product of their work: a prank, the revival of a tradition, a number of touchdowns, a sex column.
Certainly, the deeds seem to be more legendary than the authors themselves.
“People remember what they did,” Matthew Smith ’07 said about Aulicino and Kai in a phone interview, “much more than who they were.”
The current on-campus celebrity, Sam Tsui ’11, fits this category.
A first tenor for The Duke’s Men, Tsui’s career in music has surpassed Yale’s walls: Wikipedia’s “List of Yale University people” acknowledges his status as a “YouTube sensation” since his “Michael Jackson Medley” reports more than three million hits on the popular video sharing Web site.
“I really like Sam Tsui,” Genevieve Bates ’12 said. “A lot of his covers are much better than the originals.”
But most Yale students are really good at something. From this assumption, there should be a lot more celebrities around.
“It’s very difficult to separate yourself on this campus,” Matthew Eisen ’10 said. “There are so many people doing great things: science students, writers, performers …”
So there must be something else to this stardom, a kind of confidence and energy that separates these students from everyone else at Yale.
“People who stand out among these big fish must have an off-the-wall personality,” he explained.
These celebrities may or may not regularly appear on national television, like Krinsky or Tsui; they may not have brought back an old tradition nor excelled at your favorite sport.
Maybe they weren’t even that cute.
But the Yale celebrities of the ’00s, as those of any other decade, were your idols.
You know who they are, and you want(ed) to be them.