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Revisiting Delta ‘House’

Jeff Tully

Coeds expect him to try and coax them into bed.

Guys want him to break out his toga and slam a few beers in the

name of fraternity brotherhood.


Older women look forward to running into him at the supermarket

picking through the produce section.

Actor Tim Matheson knows what it’s like to be linked with an

admired and beloved character in a wildly successful motion picture.


The John Burroughs High School graduate achieved movie stardom in

1978 with “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” Matheson played the role

of Eric “Otter” Stratton, a fast-talking, over-sexed, womanizing

preppy who ran roughshod over a band of hoodlum fraternity brothers

belonging to Delta House at Faber College, where “Knowledge Is Good.”

Twenty-five years after bringing Otter to life, Matheson said

people expect him to be exactly like the character, and truly believe

he must have been a drunken party boy in high school and college.


However, Matheson -- in Hollywood on Thursday for an “Animal

House” reunion to kick off the 25th anniversary DVD release of the

movie -- is nothing like Eric Stratton.

“In high school I really wasn’t a big guy on campus,” said

Matheson, who graduated from Burroughs in 1965. “At Burroughs I felt

like the odd man out.

“I was like a nerdy little kid, and they didn’t have any idea in

the world what to do with me. People didn’t know what category to put


me into. I was by no means a stud.”

Matheson said things didn’t get any better for him when he

attended Cal State Northridge.

“College was like high school with ashtrays,” he said. “It was

terrifying for me and it was really horrible. I lasted for just about

a year.”

With a movie and television career that spans 43 years, Matheson,

55, admits he got the show-business bug at a young age.

“I grew up in Burbank and I used to sneak onto the back lot of

Disney and the studios,” said Matheson, who started his own

production company in 1985 at Burbank Studios. “My paper route

circled Disney, so I knew all the ways in.

“I was so fascinated with the whole business. I was really taken

by the mystery of Hollywood and the excitement about the business. I

was convinced that once I got on the set, somehow that would get me

into show business. But it didn’t, obviously.”

Decades removed from the original release of the 1960s college

spoof, Landis said he is proud “Animal House” has become a cultural

classic. And the director knows the reasons why.

“This movie does have a genuinely wonderful screenplay and it is

brilliantly cast,” Landis said at Thursday’s event. “The movie has

such strong characters, like Tim Matheson’s character, and that’s one

of the things that has made it popular, and successful.”

At the event, Matheson and Landis were reunited with cast members,

writers and producers of the movie. The gathering culminated with a

parade down Hollywood Boulevard reminiscent of the movie’s dramatic

conclusion. Joining Matheson on the infamous Faber cake float were

Stephen Furst (Flounder), James Widdoes (Hoover), Peter Riegert

(Boon) and Martha Smith (Babs).