The “irreverent gadflies.” When Baylor University students think about the NoZe Brothers today, they picture fellow students performing shenanigans around campus while wearing big plastic noses, wild wigs, and eclectic outfits. They think of The Rope, a satirical newspaper filled with nonsensical rhyming distributed around campus. But while shenanigans and satire have always been at the heart of the bizarre ways of the organization, working incognito has not.
The NoZe brothers began in 1924 as a counter organization to the very serious Baylor Chamber of Commerce, who they viewed as a “snooty bunch.” Officially the first social club on campus, the organization quickly grew in number and acclaim. The name NoZe Brothers, originally spelled Nose, originated from the first president’s especially large nose. This president, Leonard “LongNoZe” Shoaf, is still a figurehead, saint, and guiding light of the unruly organization. Another founder, John Moilliet, started the tradition of naming all members something to do with “noZe” and kicking off the trend of NoZeprose, the zany, rhyming lingo of the group. The goal from the beginning was quite simple: to find any and every weakness in or upon the campus environment and display it in a satirical manner. The subject matter over the years has ranged from Baylor administration to fundamentalist Christianity.
Absurdity indeed reigns when the Brotherhood is involved. In the 1960s, the Brotherhood painted an entire bridge over the Brazos in their signature pink and blue colors. In the 1970s, a group of female students decided to sell cookies to benefit the prisoners in North Vietnam. The Brothers followed their lead and sold “commode-roasted wieners” for the disabled grandmothers of World War I. Around the same time some Brothers also decided to direct traffic and issue driving citations, but the citations were of course nonsense. On that day students were charged with “driving a blue car down a black street on a green day,” parking on holy grounds, having the wrong color car, having three left tires, having an ugly car, or parking in a “constipated” area. Students were fined anything from 5,327 ½ cents to 100 tuna to a partridge in a pear tree. The money from the tickets was for an equally bizarre cause: placing AstroTurf in Baylor’s Russell Gymnasium. The stranger the task, the more fun the Brothers had.
NoZemen are also known for their event appearances, especially with homecoming floats. For the first few years, the Brothers used the Elm Mott fire truck as their float, but they soon branched out. One year, the float consisted of a sophisticated outhouse that members guarded with water pistols. Another year they wheeled a large, paper-mache, headless John the Baptist through campus. More recently, they fastened a rug to the bumper of an old truck and proceeded to “sweep under the rug” for the entire length of the parade route as a comment on recent scandals in Baylor athletics. Other stunts are a bit more innocuous, like satirizing the Wall of Jericho by parading around the annual Christmas tree in Burleson Quad, blowing horns, and declaring that the tree will soon fall. They have also been known to interrupt various events in Waco Hall, such as Pigskin and chapel, in order to distribute copies of The Rope. More regularly, they are known to paint the noses of statues on campus a bright pink color.
The NoZe brothers generally operate as a democratic organization, with certain executive positions that have changed over the years. Currently, the organization is headed by the “Lorde Mayor,” with the “Shekel Keeper” in charge of funds and advertisements, and a “Cunning Linguist” in charge of publications and correspondence. The rest of the senior members sit upon the “Bored of Graft,” overlooking various activities. All other members are known as “NoZemen,” and new members as “Neophytes.” Graduated members are “exiles,” anyone lucky enough to date a member is a “fortunate,” and nonmembers are “infidels.”
Yet the line between satire and sacrilege can be quite thin, especially for Baylor administration. The first major incident came in 1965 when the Brotherhood was expelled from campus for publishing curse words in The Rope. This incident came on the coattails of the Brothers painting the Seventh Street Bridge pink and blue and scrawling “Satch” (meaning good or affirmative) and “Gob” (meaning negative) across the beams. Dean of Students W. C. Perry saw to it that this was their last prank and used The Rope publication to take them down. Through the mediation of Brother LongNoZe, who happened to live and work in Waco at the time, the Brotherhood was able to return to campus in 1967, but with a new way of doing things.
The NoZe brothers did not want to change their ways to accommodate Baylor, so they decided to go underground instead. Costumes and fake noses became essential as they sought to hide their identities from administration and students alike. In fact, the Book of Holy Law, written to govern the Brotherhood, then articulated two absolute rules: guard identity and maintain the strictest secrecy regarding brotherhood activities. But this did not stop the storm of controversy surrounding the NoZemen. In 1975 they were once again almost kicked off campus for showing up at Pigskin after being expressly banned and presenting a NoZeman dressed in a foil bikini as their homecoming queen candidate. Though they managed to remain on campus this time, they soon met their demise in 1978 when they printed a fake version of the student newspaper The Lariat declaring that homecoming had been canceled. After returning to campus a year later, the organization was kicked off at least one other time in 1999 for a racially insensitive article in The Rope.
The NoZe brothers’ history is dotted with hilarity, intrigue, and trouble, but they remain a beloved part of Baylor student life. In all their endeavors, they hope to make Baylor a better place, but to have fun while they do it.