Frat House Hazing Is Officially the Other Thing Jon Hamm Doesn’t Want to Be Asked About
Everyone knows American actor Jon Hamm because of his roles on Mad Men, 30 Rock and the Black Mirror Christmas special and because of the numerous pictures of the “Hammaconda,” his oft-sighted and conspicuously large bulge. Well, back in 2013, he told Rolling Stone magazine that he doesn’t want to talk about his “impressive anatomy,” and in a new interview with Esquire magazine he made it obvious that there’s a second topic he’d prefer not to discuss: the alleged 1990 Jon Hamm hazing incident.
Near the beginning of the interview, Esquire writer Maximillian Potter writes:
He shows a willingness, within what he deems reasonable limits of public interest in his private life, to discuss just about anything. But when I bring up the hazing, his tone becomes tinged with anger, and he doesn’t hesitate to let me know he thinks a line has been crossed. “I hope I didn’t sign up for a hit piece,” he says. The exasperation in his voice stems from the fact that Hamm has reached this new phase of his career through a lot of hard work, and he’s wary of the past, particularly the long-ago past, pulling him down.
The long-ago past, in this instance, refers to an alleged hazing incident that took place in the Sigma Nu fraternity house at the University of Texas in Austin during November 1990. At the time, Hamm was a 20-year-old sophomore.
A 21-year-old junior fraternity pledge named Mark Allen Sanders claims to have turned up at the Sigma Nu house at 2:30 a.m. and was then allegedly subjected to two hours of physical abuse including, he says, Hamm and his fraternity brothers paddling his butt with 30 swats, lifting him by his underwear and sawing the fabric back and forth “causing him great pain.”
Hamm then allegedly set the pledge’s jeans on fire, only allowing him to put out the flames before it scorched his genitals. Later on, he allegedly stood on Sander’s back while he did push-ups and then took him to a part of the house called “the Party room” and then “hooked the claw of a hammer underneath his genitals and led him by the hammer around the room.”
In 1991, Sanders filed hazing and assault charges against Hamm and seven of his fraternity brothers. In 1992, a warrant was issued for Hamm’s arrest, but the charges were dismissed in 1995 when Hamm reached a plea deal with authorities.
So here’s how it went when Potter brought up the hazing allegations in the interview:
When I bring up the incident, which was reported in Texas newspapers at the time and resurfaced in 2015, first in the tabloids and then in The Washington Post, Hamm bristles. He tells me, “I wouldn’t say it’s accurate. Everything about that is sensationalized. I was accused of these things I don’t… It’s so hard to get into it. I don’t want to give it any more breath. It was a bummer of a thing that happened. I was essentially acquitted. I wasn’t convicted of anything. I was caught up in a big situation, a stupid kid in a stupid situation, and it’s a fucking bummer. I moved on from it.”
Hazing is a serious matter. Approximately 40 American university students have died of hazing in the last decade, often from alcohol poisoning. A 2008 study estimates that 73% of university students have witness hazing in some form.
In Hamm’s case, though he escaped charges, Sanders dropped out of the University of Texas and the fraternity was soon disbanded from campus. Sanders also claimed to have suffered nerve damage, kidney spasms and a lineal spinal fracture from the hazing and had to undergo counseling to overcome the trauma.