More than just a game
By Daily Bruin Staff
Nov. 15, 1998 9:00 p.m.
Monday, November 16, 1998
More than just a game
PRANKS: Through 60 years, 500 pounds of manure and countless
buckets of red and blue paint, the UCLA-USC rivalry has brought
the best (and worst) of the two schools
By Pauline Vu
Daily Bruin Contributor
The football teams who battle for victory on the field are not
the only heroes of the UCLA-USC rivalry.
There are the other heroes, the unsung heroes, the heroes who
prefer secrecy instead of full glory in the light of day.
They are the pranksters, and they represent UCLA on another
level, on another field. They fight not with athletic ability, but
with, for example, the guts to cut off Tommy Trojan’s arm and
re-weld it so that he was sticking his sword up his anal
Just as exciting as some football games are the intrigue and
planning that go into some of the greatest pranks of the rivalry
history, pranks that span both sides of battle.
One of the first pranks, and the one with the most long-lasting
repercussion, was the theft of the Victory Bell.
In 1939 the UCLA Alumni Association dedicated an old locomotive
bell, the Victory Bell, to the student body. At subsequent football
games the bell would toll out the number of points UCLA had.
After the 1941 Washington State game, the UCLA Rally Committee
was loading the bell into a truck when six Trojans, disguised as
Bruins, began to help them.
Suddenly, the six Trojans leapt into the truck and took off with
the Victory Bell.
The next year was one of secrecy and vengeance. The Victory Bell
was hidden, and its location moved about once every five weeks. At
one point it was hidden in the Hollywood Hills, other times down in
Santa Ana, and once under a hay stack.
The Bruins retaliated. That year some Bruins masqueraded as
Trojans to get close to USC’s guarded Tommy Trojan statue. They
then kidnapped the unsuspecting guards and threw blue paint on the
That year, Bruin raiding parties systematically searched the USC
campus and frat houses for the bell. The USC Homecoming bonfire was
lit prematurely. When threats to kidnap USC’s student president,
Bob McKay, escalated, the two schools decided it was time for a
McKay and Bill Farrer, the UCLA undergraduate president, met and
signed a pact that called for the cessation of destructive
activities and for the return of the Bruin Victory Bell – under one
condition. The bell was to be made a permanent trophy of the annual
game between UCLA and USC, with the winner taking the bell home for
Then the Kelps (which reportedly stands for Knights Earls Lords
Potentates Sultans), a men’s spirit organization that was to
conduct some of UCLA’s most ingenious pranks for the next decade,
was created in 1948 by Ed Hummel. One of their first pranks came
during USC’s 1953 Homecoming parade.
"USC used to have their Homecoming parade on Wilshire, in the
hoity-toity section of L.A. What the Kelps did was smuggle their
float into the parade," said Cadillac McNally, a later member of
the Kelps during the early 1960s. "They re-routed the parade into a
In 1958, the Kelps instrumented a prank that has found its way
into Bruin lore and campus tour speeches.
Unable to physically reach a Tommy Trojan guarded by over 100
students, the Kelps rented a helicopter and proceeded to drop 500
pounds of manure on the statue.
There is still a debate today, however, whether or not the plan
Several Kelps who participated in the prank were quoted in Neil
Steinberg’s book, "If At All Possible, Involve A Cow: The Book of
College Pranks," as saying the backdraft blew the manure back in
"There is a wash of air that blows much of what you throw out of
a helicopter back at you. We were covered with the stuff. How much
landed I do not know," said Irv Sepkowitz, who masterminded the
plan, in the book.
However, McNally is adamant that that sort of talk is merely a
"That’s what ‘SC would like you to think. (The backdraft) can’t
happen. When you open a helicopter door, things get sucked out, not
blown back in," he said.
USC has had its own share of clever pranks. In 1957, a USC
student decided to sabotage the card stunts that the Bruin fans
were famous for. He joined the UCLA Rally Committee, attending the
weekly meetings with dedication, while posing as a UCLA
The night before the football game, he rearranged some of the
cards to be placed in the corner of the student section. The next
day, when the first card stunt was flashed, a "USC" in bright red
and gold lettering stood conspicuously in one corner.
The card trick leader, stunned, quickly called to change to the
next stunt – to no avail. The infiltrator had fixed every stunt to
For the entire eight-minute presentation, throughout every
stunt, the "USC" flashed in the corner, eliciting cheers across the
stadium from USC fans.
The next year, 1958, the Trojans came up with another inventive
A few days before the game issue of the Daily Bruin was
released, some USC students sneaked into the print shop where The
Bruin was printed, obtained copies of the stories in the issue, and
created a bogus edition of the newspaper.
Then they kidnapped the truck driver who was about to deliver
the genuine editions of the Daily Bruin and replaced them with the
The stories were the same, but the tone was entirely
"I can’t see any hope for our team," said UCLA coach George
Dickerson in the faux paper.
"I’d feel much better about our chances against those terrific
Trojans if we had a couple of players who understood the game," one
The bogus editions of both newspapers were to continue, off and
on, well into the late 1980s.
The Thursday before the 1988 game, the "Daily Bruin" ran a
headline that read, "Presidential Candidates Dukakis, Paul agree:
UCLA is for losers." There was also an article about Hustler
publisher Larry Flint receiving "UCLA Media Man of the Year"
The next day the "Daily Trojan" ran a more realistic headline
with "USC celebrates 100th year of academik excellence" along with
an article in the Sports section about the instrumental role the
USC song girls, lead by captain Cheryl Sleezum, played in football
recruiting at USC.
One of the last major pranks played in recent years was in 1989
when USC students released hundreds of chirping crickets in Powell
Library. Two paper signs taped to the wall read:
"Hope you enjoy studying today, Bruins. USC beat UCLA. Signed,
the Trojan Boys."
And then there are the not-quite-successful pranks.
McNally recalled that in 1962, five members of the Trojan
Knights came to the UCLA campus during "Beat ‘SC Week" to
distribute leaflets saying that the Kelps organization was made up
of Bruins too stupid to play football. The Trojan Knights also
planned to conduct other acts of mayhem.
They were caught by the Kelps, however, who were on
round-the-clock patrol of the campus.
"We caught them by Royce Hall and took them to the Fiji House
for interrogation, to see if they knew how to spell, if they knew
how to add, what their plans were," said McNally, who came in time
to see the interrogation.
The Kelps shaved a "UCLA" on the heads of the Trojan Knights,
with at least one letter on each head. They shaved their eyebrows
as well and painted their faces blue. Then they fed them breakfast
and tied them to the flag pole for a pep rally. The campus police
eventually rescued the Knights.
In 1979, though, it was the Bruins’ turn to be caught. when the
LAPD found half a dozen Bruins trying to saw the head off Tommy
Trojan. Eight years later, a police helicopter spotted 13 USC
students attempting to convert the letters of the "Hollywood" sign
There were also years when the rivalry spilled into violence and
In 1966, a riot ensued on the UCLA campus after USC was chosen
over UCLA to go to the Rose Bowl by the Pac-8, despite the fact
that UCLA had a higher standing.
Hundreds of students marched into Westwood and onto the 405
freeway. The mob of students stopped traffic for three hours on
Westwood Boulevard. One car with a USC sticker was spotted and
forced to stop. Although its owner escaped harm, the car didn’t.
The trunk was pounded in and the wires ripped out of the
A controversy erupted in 1982 when UCLA moved from the Coliseum
to the Rose Bowl. At the Coliseum, even when the Bruins supposedly
had home field advantage, USC’s Trojan horse, Traveler IV, would
make rounds around the field whenever the Trojans scored a
A movement was started to stop Traveler from being allowed into
the Rose Bowl. Hundreds of letters poured into the Daily Bruin and
an anonymous ad was placed in the newspaper urging students to ban
the horse from their new stadium.
Ultimately, however, the ruling was made: Traveler would be
allowed to come to the Rose Bowl.
So one UCLA student decided that if USC could have a horse in
the stadium, so should the Bruins. He borrowed a Clydesdale horse
from the Anheuser-Busch Company, and during the game, whenever the
Bruins scored a touchdown, Joe Bruin came riding out around the
stadium on a horse of his own.
In recent years, there have been fewer pranks and none on a
large scale, like some of the pranks of yore. Jack Powazek, the
assistant vice-chancellor for facilities management, recalled that
a few years ago four Trojans came over to UCLA and caused $5,000
worth of damage with spray cans.
The Trojans were caught and forced to pay the money it took to
clean it up.
"Graffiti is a serious crime. If people are caught, we will
pursue them to the fullest. Putting paint on things and
sandblasting the paint off costs money to do that," Powazek
However, he stressed, that was an atypical year. Damage is not
normally that great.
Despite this, many Bruins and former Bruins look fondly upon the
many rivalry pranks that have spanned the decades.
"We wanted to have more fun than those dorks at ‘SC. And if you
can’t be on the field, this was one way you could participate,"
McNally said.University Archives
Trapped by UCLA night owls while on a raid, several USC students
are tied to a UCLA flag pole and put on display for all of the
students to see. (circa 1969)
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