I found Alex Wheelock ’13 in his spacious Gladden B basement common room, previously known as the faculty apartments, and he was all but hiding on a couch behind the wall, terrifying me as I walked into the room. After informing me that it was a good thing that my photographer couldn’t make it to the interview because he doesn’t show up in pictures, Alex invited me to sit down on the couch and we started talking.
I hear you have a 10-step plan to becoming famous. Where are you planning on starting with this? Why do you deserve to be famous?
That’s a good question … Well, so, this [interview] is step one on my 10-step plan to becoming famous. And for step two I think I’m either going to have to be in a boy band or something like that.
So, you’re going to accomplish that through your extracurriculars, right?
Uh, I don’t know if my extracurriculars are helpful for becoming famous …
What do your extracurriculars entail?
Well, I’m in both of the handbells groups at Williams.
Yes, so it’s basically if you imagine a piano, but every key is replaced with a brass bell.
So it’s that thing old ladies do at church?
Yes, exactly. And old people just eat that sh-t up. We’re like rockstars for old people. We play at nursing homes, and they just love us.
How do you get started with something like handbells?
Well, I took it in high school to pass a music requirement, so at the end of that course, my handbells director, who was this big, scary, 300-pound guy, was like, “So, you’re doing performance handbells after this, right?” And I was like, “Nah, I wasn’t planning on it.” He started cracking his knuckles and being all intimidating and was like, “You’re doing performance handbells.” And so … I ended up loving it!
So, are you just the quintessential nerd? Because you don’t look like the nerd that could be scared into playing handbells. Do you put yourself as a nerd or a ladies’ man?
Both! Absolutely. I wouldn’t say that they’re opposing. If you think about movies with nerdy characters, it’s the nerdy characters that everyone loves. Think about Fogel from Superbad, and whoever that guy in the Mac commercials plays in every movie …
So if you’re a nerdy character in a movie, which character are you?
To pick an obscure kind of reference, I’d be that guy in Adventureland. Yeah, I’d be that guy with the curly hair in Adventureland.
Is that just a superficial resemblance, or is there actually more than the poofy hair?
No, no, there’s more to it than that. He’s kind of Michael Cera-ish, without the annoying qualities of Michael Cera.
The other interesting Alex Wheelock story I’ve heard is that you do homework in bulk.
Oh! Yeah, I have a very unique homework habit. I normally don’t do any work for up to a month at a time.
Are you failing?
No. No, it actually works out because every month, I’ll just have a weekend from hell where I just don’t leave my room for a whole weekend. But then it’s great, because I have a month of fun time and then I have just a very, very small compact period of awful.
So when’s the next weekend from hell?
Not for like … not until finals, probably.
That’s way more than a month.
[Laughs] Well, maybe I haven’t thought it out so well.
Time for the classic question: What’s your most ridiculous college story that we can put in print?
I knew you would ask this question.
There are probably a lot that can’t go into print.
Yep. Give me a moment … okay. This one can print. This surprisingly also has to do with handbells. So last year at our big concert, I was playing with the quintet. We were playing “Bad Romance,” I had some friends in the audience, there were some people from Williamstown who were watching – you know, the elderly, they just came in droves – and we were in the section of “Bad Romance” where I didn’t play for, like, eight measures. So I went around to the front of the table and I ripped my shirt off and kind of swung it around my head and did a sexy little Lady Gaga-esque dance. So I threw my shirt into the audience, and I figured it hit someone in the face or something because everyone started laughing. So we finish the song, and I look up, and my shirt is wrapped around the microphone we were using to record the concert.
Did it impair the recording?
Oh yeah, we didn’t get a recording.
Did you get your shirt back?
Yeah. At the end of the concert, though. So it had to spend the whole time wrapped around the microphone just hanging over the audience.
Lovely. And that was Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on handbells? Did the elderly enjoy that?
Yeah, they loved it.
Okay, so – you play handbells, and you do your homework in bulk and you organically decorate. So I’m not really sure what you do all day long.
[Thinks for awhile] I … I don’t know what I do.
Nothing but handbells on the schedule?
Well, I also tutor at BaRT [Berkshire Art & Technology Charter Public School]. I teach little kids how to do math because secretly there’s nothing I’d rather do than talk about math. What I try to do is, everyday I’ll come to class with a math problem I did in college. I’ll take out some numbers, make it a little easier to understand, but it’ll be interesting.
Do the kids just love you?
They – they do tend to like me. I worked there for my Winter Study too, and another Williams girl did it with me, so at the end we were comparing thank-you notes. They pretty much said the same thing from note-to-note, but everywhere she had a “From” or a peace sign, I had a “Love” or a heart.
Aww, so they all have crushes on you!
Well, I am that nerdy math guy from the movies.