Spring Break Is Still Decadent and Depraved — and Awesome, Dude!

Try as it might, Fort Lauderdale can't shake some diehard seasonal partiers

Jessica looked embarrassed.

Then out of the room shot Sammy, a small, dark-haired girl with thick red lips. She looked at the illustrations on Kacey and laughed. But as he turned she looked mildly upset. "OK, guys, at least wash the swastika off his arm," she said. "I'm Jewish and I don't want it to look like Kentucky is a bunch of rednecks." Then she asked where the hash pipe was hidden and disappeared into one of the hotel rooms.

"Seriously though, how the fuck am I supposed to get permanent marker off the rest of my body?" Kacey asked.


"Use vodka," shouted Jason Curd, a Kentucky buddy who brought a backpack full of booze everywhere he went. "That shit won't come off with just soap. Especially the thing on your nipple there."

Kacey examined his nipples, which had both been colored blue. Around one was a series of concentric blue rings, like a target.

Sammy re-emerged with a small glass pipe in her hand. She exhaled a puff of skunkish smoke and passed the pipe to a thicker blond girl. Kacey leaned in on the blond girl, who had the straps from her bikini top dangling over the front of her towel. "This girl hooks up with all the basketball players at UK," he said. "She likes 'em big, if you get what I'm sayin'." Then he pointed to the 12-inch penis his friends had drawn across his stomach. "But I've got the biggest dick on this beach right now. It's drawn right here. They don't get bigger than this monster."

A group of spring breakers in yellow polka dot bikinis passed the Premiere and looked up at the Kentucky crew on the third floor. They put their fingers in the air and shouted up "Spring break! Woo!" Kacey, Sammy, Brad, Jessica, and everyone else on the balcony raised their hands and screamed back "Spring break! Woo!"

"See, I don't even know those people," Kacey said. "That's what spring break is all about. Fucking spring break, woo! Now who has my pants?"

When he turned, he revealed an even larger penis drawn on his back and pointing downward, as though it were positioned to enter him.

The roar of partiers still echoes off the thin walls of the Elbo Room, Fort Lauderdale's best-known spring break icon. On busy nights it thunders down from the balcony and out over A1A, over the bright, clean beach and into the teal abyss of the Atlantic. The sound hovers in the air, thick and malty like the mingled aromas of beer and sea breezes, hanging like the legend of spring break over the bar and the entire city, a phenomenon that dissipates but never fully disappears.

Some bars still get rowdy. Some kids still drink themselves into a stupor and fall off their stools. The occasional asshole still picks a fight or breaks a bottle. But no one seems to believe Fort Lauderdale is or will ever be the spring break Mecca of years gone by. When visiting students hit a critical mass back in the day, they were too destructive; it was too much to deal with traffic jams and drunks urinating along street fronts.

Today's diehards grew up watching MTV's spring break coverage every year. They heard tales about epic consumption, legendary debauchery. Most modern breakers vaguely know the quaint 1960 movie Where the Boys Are; they're much more familiar with the hardcore partying depicted in formulaic beach flicks like 1983's Spring Break or 1987's Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise. They've come to expect the pranks, the scores, the reserved kids who let everything go while they're as far as possible from their parents. Folks who like sweet-tooth love stories go to Paris if they can afford it; degenerates, perhaps now more than ever, come to Fort Lauderdale.

The city's party-central image was born in the late 1930s when the swim coach at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, brought his team down to practice at the Casino Pool, the first Olympic-size pool in Florida. Word spread of beaches that stayed warm in winter. By the time Where the Boys Are came out there were already beach-clad crowds engulfing the streets. The movie, based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout, was an hour-and-a-half-long summons to college kids to vacation here without fear of law or judgment.

It opens with a helicopter shot of a broad beach and a voiceover straight out of a radio cigarette ad that says "For 50 weeks of the year, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a small corner of tropical heaven, basking indebtedly in the warm sun. During the other two weeks, as colleges all over the country disgorge their students for Easter vacation, a change comes over the sea. The students swarm to these peaceful shores in droves, 20,000-strong. They turn night into day and the small corner of heaven into a sizeable chunk of bedlam. The boys come to soak up the sun and a few beers. The girls come, very simply, because this is Where the Boys Are."

In one scene, the chief of police tells his officers to do everything in their power not to arrest the crazy college kids: "Now, these kids didn't come down here to break the law. They'll break it for sure, but that's not their main objective. And remember that they are our guests. So I want every man on the force to try his best, his level best, to try to avoid arresting anyone. I know that this going to take great will power, but try. And above all preserve your sense of humor — 'cause you're gonna need it if you want to survive."

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