Sometimes art reflects life, sometimes life reflects art. To those familiar with off-campus fraternity shenanigans, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron’s 2014 summer comedy, Neighbors, was a not-so-far-fetched fictitious depiction of what happens when a fraternity moves into a residential neighborhood that’s not down with their partying. Neighbors in-real-life is currently unfolding in Berkley, California, where a 61-year-old Vietnam veteran suffering from cancer is vowing to his deathbed to get neighborhood fraternities arrested or relocated.
According to a 20/20 report on ABC News, Paul Ghysels and his wife moved into her old family home, which is between two fraternity houses between -Berkeley’s Frat Row. They moved in years ago and things were fine for a while, but now it sounds like the fraternities vs. the neighbors war has escalated into something fierce:
Ghysels, 61, said he has installed more than $60,000 worth of surveillance gear around his house, and has compiled enough footage for a documentary on the debauchery. He said he has captured footage of half-naked women, public urination just outside his window and plenty of other lewd and aggressive behavior.
“I have video of them throwing 1.75-liter glass bottles of vodka off their tower, at the front door of our house,” he said.
It wasn’t always this way, though:
“When we first moved here things were actually pretty good,” he said. “We were invited to the fraternities for their Monday night lobster and steak dinners, and I did many things for the fraternities.”
But over the years, Ghysels said things have changed. With the explosion of cellphones and social media, he said, word of parties on Frat Row goes viral and, suddenly, the weekend frat parties ballooned from 50 people to more than 500.
“The behavior was becoming more outrageous,” he said. “[The parties] were going until 3, 4, 5 in the morning.”
Sounds… about right, as far as parties go. So what the hell are these fratstar animals doing? Sounds like pretty typical douchey frat shit:
Then he started complaining about the loud noise, garbage in the street, heavy items being thrown near his house and lewd behavior. Ghysels said that’s when things got personal.
He said some of his fraternity neighbors began to break into his house, throw pieces of furniture on his roof, vomit and defecate near his property line, even leave him death threats on his answering machine.
Wait a second. Breaking-and-entering? Throwing furniture on his roof? Death threats? Jesus, those are not harmless frat shenanigans that to make Bluto proud. That’s straight-up criminal behavior. And even worse, the cops aren’t stepping in to tell the houses to chill the fuck out or, you know, arrest someone:
When the Berkeley Police have been called, Ghysels said they have responded, but the parties haven’t stopped.
“We’re under siege and we’re not getting really any help from the university or the authorities,” he said.
And he isn’t the only neighbor complaining. Ghysels’ attorney Yolanda Huang has a copy of the long list of calls area residents have made to Berkeley police over the years concerning the frats. Huang says it’s an average of 400 calls a year.
“There’s no arrests,” Huang said. “They say, ‘Oh, boys, behave,’ but no one’s taken to jail.”
All this douchebaggery caused the poor couple to move from their home, which they still own. The Ghysels’ went to court and tried to sue, but they ended up pretty much powerless compared to the all-mighty-fraternity lawyers:
An attorney for several of the defendants in Ghysels’ suit told “20/20” in a statement, “after four years of litigating the deficiencies in [Ghysels’] complaints… the class claims were defeated and dismissed.”
Ghysels’ original lawsuit was dismissed. He appealed and refiled the lawsuit, now going forward under a Berkeley Municipal Code ordinance, which attorney Michael Osborne said “the 72 defendants continue to defend vigorously.” The defendants consist of fraternity undergraduate chapters, housing corporations, which own the various chapter houses, a property management company, a property manager, and the Interfraternity Council, which represents frats across the country.
And here’s the kicker: Ghysels is fighting cancer now, but he is vowing to continue waging his war against the neighborhood frats until he drops dead:
But Ghysels, who is now battling cancer, says he’ll keep fighting as long as he’s able so that he and his wife can one day move back home.
“I’m strong enough to continue this, and to keep it going until we have a resolution,” he said. “My friends say that it’s probably because of this that I’m still alive. You know, because I feel so strongly about this problem.”
You have to feel for the poor guy. He’s a property owner and, dammit, he has rights to live in peace. Meanwhile, wouldn’t you think kids who go to Berkley would be a little less… douchey? Come on, guys. This dude is a Vietnam vet and sounds like an all around badass. Stop being pricks to him and invite him to steak and lobster night again, like good neighbors should.