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A Slam Dunk and a Heepwah

By Kristin Marie Bivens

Ozark, IL: If you have seen John Hughes’s 1985 classic The Breakfast Club, you might remember a slam dunk and a “Heepwah!” In the iconic film, brat pack actor Judd Nelson [playing the rebel John Bender] yells “Heepwah!” Trying to distract principal Vernon from the other Saturday morning detention attendees’ shenanigans, he slam dunks the basketball and clearly shrieks the Camp Ondessonk term. You can view the scene courtesy of You Tube: The Breakfast Club.

The Breakfast Club Poster

The Breakfast Club Poster

The common Camp Ondessonk expression “Heepwah!” means “all things good” or “all is good” or “congratulations.” Generally, it is a word specific to Camp Ondessonk and spoken by staff and campers, alike. Described as a “a magical word,” it is used to take the place applause or “ooh cool” or “huzzah” or “YES!”. How “Heepwah,” ended up in Hughes’s cult classic is not entirely clear.

According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), The Breakfast Club‘s Shermer High School library was constructed in the gymnasium of Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois [northwest of Chicago]. The high school closed in 1982, which, according to IMDB, was two years before filming began. Wikipedia claims the high school closed in 1981.

It is unclear [or at least outside the scope of my knowledge] why Bender yells “Heepwah!” after his successful slam dunk. However, Executive Camp Ondessonk Director Dan King shared he heard one of the production crew on the set was a former camper. Interestingly, IMDB claims: “The cast and crew often played basketball in the gym between set ups.” If true, Dan’s theory makes sense: Nelson, who reportedly stayed in character during filming, might have picked up “Heepwah!” from a crew member, then ad libbed it–a practice writer/director Hughes supported. Regardless, the use in the film and its appropriate context earn a Camp “Heepwah!” for its correct use.

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