She was the brain, the sparkle, the gay rebel of the sorority, and wonder of wonders, she chose Laura as her roommate. That was how it began. Suddenly they were alone on an island of forbidden bliss…. Here is the first novel in the Beebo Brinker Chronicles, the classic 1950s love stories from the queen of lesbian fiction.
Sorority Houseboys Give Women What They Need
By ZACH ROSENBERG
Thursday, April 5, 2001
Houseboy Greg Lizak packs leftover food for the 50 sorority house members he works for. Lizak considers his job “a novelty.”
Greg Lizak’s watch flashes 6:25 p.m. – it is time to put on an apron and start scrubbing the pots and pans.
He has already taken care of today’s meals – setting and clearing the table for 50 hungry women. Earlier, he fixed the garbage disposal and swept the dirt off the floor. Later, Greg expects to change another light bulb.
“It’s a learning experience in how to deal with women, and it’s very interesting and eye-opening,” Lizak says. “You see them at both good and mediocre times.”
Lizak, a UC Berkeley senior, is a houseboy in the Delta Delta Delta sorority house. He performs basic maintenance duties and handles personal requests. He sneaks the occasional midnight snack to house members studying the night away and carries heavy luggage on hectic moving days.
But the kitchen and dining room are where he reigns.
He serves prepared meals, and his own two hands wash and dry every dish. And before turning off the lights, he takes one last glance to see that the kitchen is in order.
Although the work becomes routine, for Lizak and other houseboys, working in a sorority has its lure.
Sigma Kappa, Alpha Delta Pi and Delta Delta Delta are three of several campus sororities that employ houseboys.
Getting room and board in Berkeley is as hard to come by as a date on Sproul Plaza, and for students like Adam Clark, Steven Geddes and Lizak, housing, and even potential dates, come with the job.
Lizak says being a man in the midst of about 50 sorority house members is “a novelty.”
Each of the three houseboys spend 10 to 12 hours a week catering to the Greek females. While they expected to take on the usual maintenance duties, living in the house has opened their eyes to the web of daily sorority life.
“It’s just straight prostitution here,” says Geddes jokingly, a UC Berkeley sophomore and one of two Alpha Delta Pi houseboys. “No, really, it’s basically a maintenance job with flexible hours, and for the most part routine, but fun.”
Houseboys frequently observe the power plays between house members, become privy to secrets and establish friendships with the members.
“It’s better than a spy novel,” says Clark, a Sigma Kappa houseboy who commutes to San Francisco State University. Over time, a bond forms between some houseboys and house members. Sigma Kappas refer to Clark as “one of the girls,” and those at Delta Delta Delta gave Lizak the affectionate insider nickname “Naked Boy.”
“We treat them the way they’re supposed to be treated—respectfully,” says junior Sophie Khem, a Sigma Kappa member.
Likewise, the houseboys get a taste of the women’s personalities and learn many of their individual habits, Lizak says. Similarly, Clark says his understanding of the female perspective has helped him get “in touch with his feminine side.”
A strong feminine presence in the houses, however, can overawe the men. In an amusing but genuine tone, Clark points out that he copes with their attitudes when “all their menstrual cycles line up.”
The houseboys, however, are not the only ones to make observations.
“There is one I call ‘Conscience’ because she will usually point out if I am seen around with a girl,” Lizak says. “(Their) knowing of what you are doing and if you do not come home at night took some adjusting at first.”
While the sorority members willingly introduce the houseboys to other women, dating within the house is not permitted. Many “house-moms,” older women responsible for managing the house, warn the houseboys to keep “a respectable distance.”
While Geddes admits he would like to date some of his housemates, the residential contract he signed prohibits him from doing so. Clark, however, says he has dated house members, but tries to steer away from it to avoid uncomfortable living situations.
Khem says her relationship with houseboys never crosses the line of friendship.
“They know what they are doing here,” Khem says. “The relationship between the houseboys and the girls in the house is strictly professional.”
While most houseboys say their relationship with the sorority members varies, Geddes says both sexes live together comfortably.
“Everyone seems pretty open and friendly and, if anything, they are worried that they might be asking too much,” Geddes says. “Some don’t like seeing me sweep, and some of them point out spots—it just depends on the person.” Houseboys can participate in sorority events and trips, but rarely are Lizak and the others “gutsy enough” to bring dates along. They refrain, however, from taking part in female-dominated activities such as sunbathing and gossiping.
Some houseboys only stay to complete their duties and then adhere to their own responsibilities. Generally, the houseboys prefer to eat dinner apart from the house members to get a head start on the cleaning.
This daily routine is also broken by unusual situations the houseboys find themselves in..
Clark remembers when a former houseboy filled the part of the house “protector” when he chased away an intruder.
Admitting that the only thing he has chased away was a mouse, Lizak says the fun elements of living in a sorority are the daily interactions and small mishaps. Once, a member burned popcorn, prompting the fire department to respond.
Some of the house rules, however, can impose on the houseboys’ freedom, while at other times overall subservience can wear on them. On average, houseboys live in sororities for a year, leaving with a positive outlook.
“I have an oversized romantic idea of them being my girls,” says Clark, adding that he feels like an older brother at times.
A houseboy’s job benefits include food, board and a small stipend of approximately $100 a month that pays for some social life expenditures.
Additionally, the houseboys admit that being around women is also attractive.
“When I say I live in a sorority in Berkeley, everybody goes, ‘Yeah! All right! Way to go Adam!,’ ” Clark says. “I try to say that I leave them alone, that we’re just friends, but no one believes me.”