Student energies for food fights, panty raids, toga parties, pie tossing and Volkswagen stuffing have triggered University of California, Los Angeles, high spirits to more lethal levels.
Now KAOS is the campus craze, and that stands for Killer As an Organized Sport, which translates to extracurricular studies offering a major in make-believe assassinations.
Originated at the University of Michigan as simply Killer, adopted and adapted by the University of Florida as KAOS and imported two months ago to UCLA, this form of hit-man Monopoly is just that, a game where killer takes all.
It's elaborate, long-term tag played with plastic pistols and suction-disc darts.
Of course, none of the 24 KAOS members of UCLA is shooting for anything serious.
Yet . . . .
In February, a campus police spokesman at the University of Florida warned that an officer could well mistake a killer-player for a person armed with a real weapon, and that might bring tragic consequences.
That was before a Gainsvile, Fla., newspaper writer interviewed a KAOS player named Tanya [an unfortunate lift from Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army] and merged her story with comparable thoughts from an Army medic who had known real killing in Vietnam.
Last month, three campus officers did indeed surround and question UCLA coed Shelley Mazer after she was spotted prowling a dormitory parking lot, toy automatic in fist, in her attempt to fulfill a night contract. p
"It [KAOS] has not created a police problem, but I can see some inherent dangers." says campus Police Chief John Barber. Although our guys are kind of tuned into frats and sororities and their pranks, these [Los Angeles] police officers do play for keeps."
A recent front-page story on KAOS in the UCLA Daily Bruin quoted one assassin as enjoying the sweaty, heartpounding exhilaration of a pretend kill "like I'd really killed someone." That brought an angry letter from six nursing students who said that as "future mental health professionals" they were appalled and disgusted by the activity and questioned the mental stability of its players.
And Dr. Charles Wahl, professor of clinical psychiatry at UCLA, said he is aware of KAOS, is not overly alarmed by its game plan, but wishes "they [students] would stick to swallowing goldfish."
Undaunted by such put-downs -- even unaware of the soft doubts expressed by Barber and Wahl -- KAOS continues its stakeouts, stalks and spring-loaded shoot-outs and currently is 20 hits into a 23-kill series.
"We're down to Burt Bregman, an undeclared freshman, Bruce Mott, a junior in economics, and Chris Connolly, another freshman, and things really are getting intense," explains Cory Haibloom, 22, president of the UCLA KAOS syndicate. He responds directly to Richard Baltin, president of KOAS Central at the University of Florida where Haibloom was infected by the game last year before transferring his cinema studies to UCLA.
"Successful, clean kills are becoming difficult because the key word now is paranoia," he continues. "Players are taking their guns into the showers, traveling around in groups of five because we only allow two witnesses, answering doors with only faces showing because we prohibit head shots, and even sleeping in other rooms so they won't be killed in their beds."
For those who might think all of this sounds a little psychopathic, Haibloom is quick to confirm the silliness of the game.
"We've been brought up on all these movies -- Maxwell Smart, Matt Helm, James Bond, and they're all a lot of fun," he says. "So we see them, go home humming the theme and fantasizing about being a secret agent. Now, with KAOS, we can act out our fantasies."
Despite the implications of nomenclature, the organization of KAOS is far from chaotic.
Its 24 members were accepted in March after organizational meetings and payment of $2 dues. These met expenses for campus flyers and printed rules, plus the cost of an issue pistol -- an undersized plastic model of a colt .45 -- and three loads.
Each killer-victim gave the committee a personal rap shet including name, UCLA address, physical description, type and color of car and class schedule, for distribution to other killers-victims.
When the gun sounded at midnight March 31, the gunpersons collected their assignments to begin a week-long hunt of the dorms and their environs.
Seven days have been established as the time limit on a contract. Then the assassin is "terminated" in arbitrary CIA fashion by the committee.
Once killed, a victum must surrender the contract he was pursuing to the hit man who snuffed him.
To the loner roamer, says Haibloom, will go the Best Survivor trophy, likely a plastic pistol bronzed and mounted on board.
To date, nobody is close to qualifying for the Most Creative Assassin award, and that pains Haibloom more than the member who dropped out because he couldn't stand the suspense of pursuit and being pursued.
Haibloom remembers Michigan -- when an assassin lured his target to a United Parcel Service office for a phony pickup and then, in a friend's borrowed uniform, dropped him at the counter.
He recalls a Hall of Fame hit in Florida -- and a girl who arranged a date with her victum, dined with him, took him to her apartment and then, at the best, or the worst romantic moment, plugged him at very close range.
"We do have another award for the Best Assassin, and Dan, our most prolific, was my bet for that," says Haibloom. Was? "Yeah. Dan completed four before being killed."
Dan is Dan Peinado, an intense, cagey 18-year-old freshman in math and computer science. He remembers his comeuppance, which he got in a corridor.
"I'd hit two people in a five-minute span and was really high, quite oblivious to what was going on," he recalls. "Then somebody stepped out of an open doorway while I was talking to someone else. He put his gun between the other guy's arm and body and got me. I didn't even see it coming. Maybe I was set up."