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Beauty Beneath
David Andrusia, Alum
Columbia College 1978

No one would dare call Earl Hall a beauty. It may actually be among campus's bleakest buildings; ironically, it is the geographical mirror counterpart--if memory serves--to the Maison Francaise, one of the loveliest.

Neither I nor anyone I knew actually ever had a class in Earl Hall. Had I been less incurious, I might have inquired as to its use--administration? research? physics courses? No matter, really: for me, Earl Hall's beauty was of the best kind, that which lies beneath the facade.

Way beneath: in its very bowels. That is where, on the first Friday of every month, the Gay Dance was held. For a boy from the provinces, ever the misfit, there was loveliness there.

In 1974, my first year at the College, it was no mean feat to walk/strut/sashay into "The Dance," even after dark (and even on a campus near-deserted on weekends; I believe Columbia had a higher commuter rate then). But my friends and I braved sporadic catcalls, fiercely descending to Earl's basement for our monthly ritual of solidarity and dance.

Some of us were Columbians; many more were not. All of us were happy to have an uptown place to party--and one that was a safe, sane alternative to the bacchanalian bars of the time. (Later-born babies: the revelry of the day would turn your heads around. For real.)

Earl Hall wasn't pretty by conventional standards--but then again, neither was I. My "prettiest place" may be no one else's, but it taught me to look behind facades. In 1974, the greyest building on campus was a small piece of Eden for me.

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