I went to crash two parties and ran into trouble with each. The first I couldn’t get in. The second I could…if I coughed up $30.
The first was the homecoming dance for Madison High School in Clairemont. Their football team won the homecoming game the night before, 10–0. Earlier in the week, I had called to see about going to the dance to write about it. I was told by a lady in the finance office that only students were allowed in. I left two messages on the vice principal’s voice mail, but he didn’t return the calls. So I just decided to show up and crash it on Saturday night.
There was a table set up with a man and two women. I told them I had left a message with the vice principal, but he never called back. This man told me they couldn’t let me in. So I talked to a few students who were standing out front. Among them was a couple, and the guy, Andrew Leasau, played fullback on the football team. I asked if there were a lot of alumni at the game the day before and if the weekend was better since they won. He said, “Yeah, there were a lot of former students there, all ages. It was great that we won. Our record is 6–4 now.” His girlfriend, a cute Asian, asked me, “Are all the questions going to be for the football players? What about us volleyball players?” I asked her about their matching Hawaiian outfits, and she said, “The theme is ‘Under the Sea.’ It only took us a few minutes to pick these out.”
When my photographer took their picture, the man who wouldn’t let us in ran over to us, yelling. One of the other students standing there said he was the vice principal, and I wondered why he didn’t tell me that when we tried to get in. He asked why we were still on campus, and I said we just wanted to ask the kids some questions about the homecoming dance. He said, “This isn’t authorized.” I said, “So we can’t even talk to students?” He said, “That’s it! I’m calling the principal.” I almost started laughing when he pulled out his cell phone. I didn’t know if I’d have to stay after school and clean chalkboards or if somehow this incident would end up on my permanent record.
As he made his call, I talked to a group of girls. An African-American girl, who was a junior, told me she was a guard on the basketball team. I told her I was too when I played in high school. She had three other female friends. One of them ran track and field, and the other played basketball, and they were all different ages. I asked how the homecoming dance compared with parties they have at their homes. She told me, “Well, at your house you can play the music you want. Nobody tells you what to wear. Here, we can’t wear jeans. It’s a formal.” The vice principal started to walk over, and I mentioned hoping that the principal gave the okay to let us in. One of the girls says, “Oh, you won’t like her! She’s really mean. Ain’t no way she’s going to let you get in.”
The vice principal calmly explained that their homecoming had been pushed back because of the recent fires and that in the future, I’d have to talk to a few other people before getting approval. He was pleasant, so we agreed to leave. As we left, cars were pulling up blasting rap. A few other couples were walking to the dance from nearby houses. One couple was making out, leaning up against the fence. The other party was a prom for adults, held at the Marina Village near SeaWorld. The flyer I had seen said, “Did you attend your prom? Did you have a good time? Were you able to take that special someone? If the answers are no, now’s your chance to make up for it!” Ladies were told to dig out that prom dress, and guys a “nice blue ruffled tuxedo or bad suit.” I opted to wear my old letterman sweater, and when I walked in, a lady at the door said, “Hey, it’s Wally Cleaver!”
They had a basket with condoms, and they handed me one. I said, “This is going to put some pressure on me to score tonight.”
The $30 to get in wasn’t so bad, since there was a lot of food and alcohol, and it must have cost a lot to rent the room here, as well as the DJ. The DJ played mostly ’80s tunes, since most of the crowd were in their 30s and had graduated in the ’80s.
The dance floor was continuously packed. It was small and packed with about 25 couples dancing. The tunes ranged from dance songs by Prince and MC Hammer to metal and those annoying bands such as Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys.
I asked James Rogers, who put this party on, how he came up with the idea. He said, “In 1998 me and these two girls talked about throwing a theme party. We lived in P.B. So Cynthia Roth and I, a few months ago, talked about throwing a party. She mentioned a prom party, and I told her I thought about that years ago. I financed this whole thing. I’m a project manager for a large organization and used some of those skills. I managed the distribution of invitations, and we wanted to try and break even with the finances. But the prom, people always wonder — did you go? Did you get laid? People now were wondering who to take to this party! And some women who had weight issues and are head cases about that were surprised that they could still fit in these dresses that they had when they were 18.”
I thought I’d ask a handful of people at this prom party what their worst prom moment was. Rogers says, “I got set up with this girl, she was a sophomore. It was last-minute. And when I planned this party, people thought I was trying to make up for that.”
I talked about the prom with another lady, who told me, “I had just moved here from Minnesota and was set up. Since I was in college, I didn’t even like the idea of going to a high school prom. And all my date did was talk about his ex-girlfriend. And when he saw her there, he ended up dancing with her. He also hooked up with her later that evening.”
I glanced at some name tags. Some people wrote their real names. Others wrote the names of characters from ’80s movies. There was a Duckie, Long Duk Dong, and one gal had a tag saying Ima Hottie, which her friend put on her butt. Her name was Lainie, and she was a hottie. I asked about her worst prom moment. She said, “I went to Monte Vista High School, and the guy I had dated off and on, we decided to take pictures that day. We went to this professional photographer, and he left me there for an hour. My friends were singing ‘Stranded at the Drive-In’ like in Grease. I found out later he went to buy drugs. Then we were running late, and the other couples had to wait for us in the limo. We went to Top o’ the Cove in La Jolla, but that was just so my boyfriend could run in and get matches. The limo went to the drive-through at McDonald’s. To top it all off, he only danced one song with me, and he went and had sex with some girl at the prom. And my purse, which had $250 in it, was stolen.”
“Why did you have so much money in it?”
“I wasn’t sure about the after parties. Some of my friends said we’d have to pay for the hotel rooms.”
There were a few guys wearing white John Travolta suits from Saturday Night Fever. A number of guys were wearing wigs; one had a big Afro, another had a black mullet. Two guys were wearing blond wigs and prom dresses. A lady said, “They’re probably closet cross-dressers, and this is just an excuse for them to wear some of their outfits out in public.”
The women all had their hair up, and a few had pigtails. A few of them wore funny dresses, but most looked as if they wanted to look their best, whereas the men went for laughs with their outfits.
I asked Adam, one of the older guys there, who looked to be in his late 40s, how his prom was. He said, “It was in Washington. Every prom after mine was probably fine, but at mine, everyone just stayed in their rooms and did blow [cocaine]. I was there and wanted to go to the dance. They all wanted to stay in the rooms they got. I just stayed away from the drug scene completely.”
One lady overheard this and said, “I have a horrible prom story, but it was my fault. I didn’t have a date, so I was going to go with my best friend. But then this cute guy, the star of the baseball team, asked me. I went with him instead. There wasn’t enough time for my best friend to find another date. We even ended up going to the same college, and he never talked to me again.”
“What happened with the baseball player?” “He turned out to be a fucking dork!”
When people danced, a lot were acting goofy. I don’t know if it’s because they were covering up for the fact that they couldn’t dance or pretending that’s how they danced when they went to high school, but it was fun to watch. Especially when the DJ played Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” This was more fun than the serious vibe you have at your senior prom, where everyone wants to look cool in front of their friends, ex-girlfriends, etc. Everyone here was having fun.
I asked a guy with a cheesy ruffled tuxedo about his prom. He said, “I had this girlfriend the entire senior year. We were both virgins, but she told me we would do it after the prom. Well, at an after party, I got drunk. So drunk that, at the hotel, I couldn’t perform. I think there might have been barfing involved, too. She broke up with me two days later. And what’s worse, her next boyfriend she gave it up to on, like, the third date!”
Christine Eddy, who invited me to this party, said, “My worst moment was just that I asked a guy to go with me to the prom, and he said no. So I didn’t go to the prom. But the year after high school, I went with my friend’s brother. We ate at Carlos Murphy’s in UTC, a Mexican chain restaurant. And at the prom, I don’t really dance, so he just danced with all his girlfriends, and I went home.”
One guy showed up wearing a white tank top with a bow tie and cummerbund. He was dirty dancing with his date, and some girls were slipping dollar bills into his pants and shirt, as if he was a Chippendales dancer.
One lady said, “I went to an all-girl Catholic school. This guy flaked out on me, and I found out later he went to another girl’s prom that night. I had the dress, the limo, and went over and asked a neighbor. I found out later his hobby was making and setting off pipe bombs in the woods. This was in New Orleans. He ended up marrying a woman, having five kids, and joining some weird cult. But he was excited to go to the prom with me, and he turned into Mr. Octopus Man, with his hands all over me. We got this limo from a funeral home, and it only had an 8-track player. This was in 1991, and we were going into New Orleans. Well, there’s a 24-mile bridge, and we found out when we got across that our limo’s headlights had burned out. They wouldn’t let us through, and my friends piled into another car. I was stuck with this guy, going back.”
At midnight, a prom king and queen were announced. People started to leave but came back 15 minutes later. One man was killed and a woman injured when gunfire broke out at a “welcome home” party in the banquet room next door. The police said the shooting was gang-related. About ten cop cars surrounded the area and wouldn’t let anyone leave or use the exits. An hour later I tried to leave and couldn’t. When I went back to the party, the DJ was outside yelling into his cell phone, “I can’t leave. I might as well stay here and play music.” At 2:30, security threw us all out. We waited about 45 minutes, as the officers came to each car, asking for our license, and asking if we saw or heard anything that happened.