A review of books, articles and blog posts by Judge — a freelance writer who has shifted among jobs at a record store, substitute teaching, housesitting and most recently at a liquor store — describes an ’80s private-school party scene in which heavy drinking and sexual encounters were standard fare.
Judge wrote about the pledge he and his friends at the all-male school on Rockville Pike in North Bethesda, Md., made to drink 100 kegs of beer before graduation. On their way to that goal, there was a “disastrous” party “at my house where the place was trashed,” Judge wrote in his book “God and Man at Georgetown Prep.” Kavanaugh listed himself in the class yearbook as treasurer of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club.
“I’ll be the first one to defend guys being guys,” Judge wrote in a 2015 article on the website Acculturated. He described a party culture of “drinking and smoking and hooking up.” During senior year, Judge said he and his pals hired a stripper and bought a keg for a bachelor party they threw to honor their school’s music teacher.
“I drank too much and did stupid things,” he said in his memoir.
“Most of the time everyone, including the girls, was drunk,” Judge wrote in “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” a memoir of his alcoholism and recovery. “If you could breathe and walk at the same time, you could hook up with someone. This did not mean going all the way . . . but after a year spent in school without girls, heavy petting was basically an orgy.”
While many of his classmates moved on to careers in law, politics, business and education, Judge seemed to some friends to stay fixed in the experiences of his adolescence. Over time, his politics shifted from left to right, and his writing often focused on his view of masculinity (“the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion”) and his concern that gay culture was corroding traditional values.
In one column for Acculturated, Judge wrote that it is “important that for some brief moments in his life — preferably when he is young — a man should be, at times, arrogant, a little reckless, and looking for kicks.”
Judge — who did not respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment and who has deleted his Twitter account and taken down videos from YouTube and Vimeo — is a recovering alcoholic who has traveled a rocky road since high school. He took seven years to earn his bachelor’s degree at Catholic University — a delay he attributed to “my fondness for bars and rock and roll.”
“I was ready to destroy the world,” he wrote of life in his 20s. “I didn’t disbelieve in God — I hated him. . . . I was destroying myself.”
Maryland state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), one of Judge’s classmates at Georgetown Preparatory School, recalled him as “an unhappy person who was happy to make other people unhappy. ‘Bully’ may be an overused term, but he regularly belittled people he perceived as being lower on the high school hierarchy.”
Judge has remained close to some of his Prep friends, who describe supporting Judge through some of his difficult passages.
Three days after President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, Judge posted on Twitter a beat-up old snapshot of eight shirtless teen boys posing on a beach: “Members of the mighty GP [Georgetown Prep] class of 1983,” the tweet said. In the center of the photo: Judge and Kavanaugh.
From high school onward, Judge has been, by all accounts, a rebel — outspoken, profane, sometimes boorish, but also surpassingly loyal to his friends.
“My dad once said, ‘You were rebelling when you came outta your mom,’ ” Judge wrote in “God and Man,” “and he was probably right. I just had an instinct and desire to get into trouble, and science and psychotherapy are useless to explain it. I just liked causing trouble.”
Judge has written about his Prep years as a time of drunken debauchery. Beach Week, a summertime excursion with classmates, was a nonstop roller coaster of drinking, sexual encounters with girls from other prep schools, blackouts and more drinking. “It was impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated,” he wrote.
Such experiences filled weekends during the school year as well, and on Monday mornings during senior year, the boys would tell their Marriage and Sex teacher, Bernie Ward, about their excesses.
“The drinking was unbelievable,” said Ward, who later spent two decades as a radio talk-show host in San Francisco and served six years in federal prison for distributing child pornography. “It was part of the culture. A parent even bought the keg and threw one of the parties for the kids.”
Ward, who taught Judge, Kavanaugh and future Supreme Court justice Neil M. Gorsuch in his religion and sexuality courses, said his students “talked plenty about men and women and taking advantage and respect for each other. They took umbrage when I compared their rooting around with girls to dogs in heat. They’d say they were in love, and I’d say, ‘Wait a minute — then how come you have another girlfriend in two weeks?’ We’d have heated arguments.”
Judge wrote that he came to view Ward as an example of his school’s fall from Catholic orthodoxy and traditional discipline into a New Age emphasis on feelings and liberal notions about faith and politics.
Like Kavanaugh, Judge grew up in a Catholic Washington that formed its own social world, centered in the big old houses of Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac, places today known as home to millionaires but through most of the second half of the 20th century communities where police officers, civil servants and teachers lived alongside lawyers and doctors.
The big houses were perfect for large Catholic families, and the lives of kids and parents alike revolved around a core set of institutions — parishes such as Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac and Blessed Sacrament in upper Northwest Washington, and the private Catholic high schools within easy reach, such as St. John’s College, Georgetown Visitation, Stone Ridge and Georgetown Prep.
Judge spent two decades in Catholic education, from Our Lady of Mercy to Prep and on to Catholic University. But he came to believe that he had been “cheated out of a Catholic education,” failing to be assigned the great theological works, the rigorous texts he devoured later in life. Rather, he wrote in “God and Man” that at Prep he was “bombarded with drugs, alcohol, widespread homosexuality among the clergy.” The faculty at Prep, he said, had morphed from “tough guys” to “hippies and leftists.”
Judge’s father, schooled at Blessed Sacrament, Gonzaga and Catholic University, could read Latin fluently and readily used classical references. Judge, in contrast, wrote that he “learned about the female body, heard from New Age writers that I could create my own theological system, and learned about life in English class by reading ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’ ”
“I was a Catholic illiterate kept that way in a Catholic school,” he wrote in “God and Man.”
Judge spent years struggling with his faith. He relished boxing with God, questioning and testing his beliefs. He read his father’s copies of books by G.K. Chesterton and Thomas Merton, works that embraced the mystery of faith, an idea that appealed to Judge’s belief that the most complete people are those who, as Chesterton wrote, have “permitted the twilight . . . with one foot in earth and the other in fairyland.”
Judge, whose father worked as a writer and editor at National Geographic, launched his own journalism career writing for left-leaning magazines and journals devoted to change in the Catholic Church. But he soon concluded that he had been led astray by liberals and secularists, and he turned toward conservative views on faith, culture and politics.
A talented polemicist with a broad array of passions and interests, Judge writes often on movies, rock and video games, on theology and on what he views as the fallen nature of American masculinity. He has written in praise of handkerchiefs, “The Lego Movie,” Hugh Hefner, Marvel Comics’ creation of a Muslim superhero, and his favorite band, the Twilight Sad. He has lamented the decline of great album cover art, the crew cut and the art of conversation.
He writes often about his father, a towering figure in his life. “I wanted to be like him,” Judge wrote in one of his memoirs, “maybe even become a famous writer.”
Judge aimed to follow in his father’s professional footsteps, and he has been published in many local and national magazines and newspapers. His book about his grandfather, Washington Senators first baseman Joe Judge, won praise from The Post, NPR and the Boston Herald.
But he also earned a reputation as a prickly writer who could be difficult to work with, according to several of his editors.
“Doctors have called it attention deficit disorder, psychiatrists have cited my behavior as a cry for attention from my distant, drinking father, but at the end of the day I simply had a problem with authority,” Judge wrote in “Wasted.” His behavior when he was drinking was, he wrote, “not dignified.”
In the 1990s, he wrote about the D.C. arts scene for Washington City Paper, the alternative weekly that served as an early career stop for many prominent writers.
In 1998, Judge wrote a piece about 1950s-era swing dancing, recalled Brad McKee, the arts editor at the time. But when Judge pitched more articles about swing dancing, McKee rejected them; the weekly was more focused on the District’s booming punk-rock scene.
McKee said Judge blew up at him after the rejections. McKee, who is gay, said Judge sent a vituperative email wishing him the same fate as Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was beaten and left to die in Wyoming in 1998.
“He shows signs of true hatred,” said McKee, now the editor of Landscape Architecture magazine. “It was one of those few kind of showstopping moments at the paper.”
McKee said he forwarded the email to his editor, David Carr, who banned Judge from writing for the paper again.
Judge wrote occasional music articles for The Washington Post, but in the early-2000s, Peter Kaufman, then the newspaper’s music editor, said he terminated that freelance relationship over difficulties with Judge. Judge also wrote for other sections of The Post but said he stopped writing for the newspaper after an editor changed his characterization of the 1968 D.C. riots as part of a “moral and cultural collapse” to “social upheaval.”
He wrote that he later applied for but did not get a job at the now-defunct local news site TBD.com. He then published a piece in the Daily Caller trashing the site, which was run by the company that then owned Politico and WJLA-TV, as “gay. Very, very gay. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. . . . But TBD is gay and leftist, and that makes it hectoring and didactic, not to mention journalistically compromised.”
In recent years, Judge has turned mainly to conservative blogs and political outlets such as the Caller and American Spectator.
He also made some short films. Before they were scrubbed from the Internet, the actor Alec Baldwin noticed one and in 2014 sent Judge a message on Twitter: “Let’s make a weird little film.”
Baldwin said there was never anything real in the deal. “Judge sent me a bunch of flattering DMs after I followed him,” Baldwin said in an email Thursday night. “Said he wanted to write a piece on me for some conservative publication. I passed. Very quickly he was asking me for $ to invest in his film. I blocked him and deleted all of his messages.”
Judge also wrote about politics. Excerpts from his deleted Twitter page show posts and retweets in praise of Trump and critical of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and ousted FBI chief James B. Comey.
Registered in Maryland as a Republican, Judge has described living for years in the basement of his parents’ home in Potomac. Public records list his home at an address in Georgetown that turns out also to be the address of a UPS store.
Judge has lived through tough times. He was treated for cancer in 2008 and has written about the strain of that ordeal.
He wrote affectingly of his father’s death in 1996, but references to his father’s heavy drinking led Judge’s brother Michael to write in Washingtonian magazine about how the family “did come to fear one of its members. . . . Mark is a solipsist: spoiled as a child, always gazing inward, unable to recognize any pain but his own.”
Judge’s views about men and women seemed grounded in midcentury notions. In his high school yearbook, he cited a Noël Coward lyric, “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.” And in a 2013 column, he said that although “there’s never any excuse to rape, a crime that I think is almost akin to murder . . . what women wear and their body language also send signals about their sexuality.”
As far back as 1985, as a student at Catholic University, he wrote empathetic pieces in the student newspaper about the then-new AIDS epidemic, slamming “the attitude dominant in Amerikan Kulture” that gay sex was unnatural and the disease “some punishment from ‘heaven.’ ”
But as his political views shifted, so did his approach to sex and sexuality.
In 2003, a student named Eric Ruyak reported to school authorities that a Jesuit priest who was a teacher at Georgetown Prep had touched him inappropriately. Some Prep alumni, including Judge, rallied around the teacher, the Rev. Garrett Orr, according to several Prep graduates.
“Numerous alumni told me that Judge was going around saying I was emotionally unstable and a sexual deviant,” Ruyak said Thursday. “He told people that the only reason I wasn’t being expelled was my dad was a powerful lawyer and president of Prep’s board.”
Emma Brown, Alice Crites, Joe Heim and Ian Shapira contributed to this report.