I got a second chance to to to prom, 24 years later, and it was way better than I dreamed. When I heard that Jack FM was hosting an 80s Flashback Prom with A Flock of Seagulls performing and Richard Blade DJing, and that the date coincided with my 6th anniversary weekend with my boyfriend Dave, I knew we had to be there. But the only way in was being Caller 13, and I’ve never had luck with radio contests. For 2 weeks I tried and failed. Once I got through, but I was Caller 2. Mostly I just got busy signals. My last ditch effort was entering online. I didn’t have much hope that would work, but I was thrilled to get a call on Tuesday that my online entry had been chosen. That only gave me a few days to find a dress and prepare for the Friday prom - paging Annie Potts!
I didn’t date in high school. I went to a tiny all-girls Catholic school with no brother school. We had proms, but I didn’t know any boys to ask, didn’t like getting dressed up, and several of my best friends weren’t going either. I didn’t give it much thought. I was a nerd and mainly obsessed with getting good grades to get into a good college. On prom night, I remember driving my grandma home from having dinner at our house. We passed an airport hotel and I pointed out to her that my prom was being held there that night. “Why aren’t you there?!” she asked, incredulous. “I don’t know. It’s not a big deal to me,” I said. She seemed quietly exasperated with me and, after I got back home, I heard her on the phone with my mom. My mom said I just didn’t seem to be interested in boys and was a late bloomer. It was odd that my grandma’s disappointment registered more with me than my peers’ opinions, as none of them had made a big deal out of my decision to skip prom. I wondered if I’d just made a big mistake. Over the years, I regretted not going whenever I would hear others’ prom stories, good or bad. I regretted missing out on the dating training that many got in high school.
Fast forward to the Flashback Prom! I felt lucky to be with Dave, who is always willing to dress up and go to any theme parties I plan or want to attend. He doesn’t really like to dance, but he was excited to be part of prom with me and committed to making it special. One trip to the mall helped us put our look together. 80s fashion is back in style, lucky for us. I found a fuschia and black lace dress at Torrid on clearance for $17. If I had more time, I'd have gone thrifting to look for a hoop dress, but this would suffice. Claire’s boutique, site of my semi-traumatic ear piercing in 1984, had the feather earrings and fingerless Madonna gloves I needed. The tuxedo shop didn’t have vintage tuxes but suggested the Miami Vice look. Dave found a white tux. Don Johnson was one of my earliest crushes (immortalized in my poem, Sestina for Sonny Crockett), so this idea seemed perfect. A jaunt to Target completed our looks with an aqua tshirt and slip-on sneakers for him and glittery nail polish and blue eyeshadow for me. I got my hair done big and curly (Thanks, Audrey!).
On prom night, we drove over Coldwater Canyon to Sportsmens Lodge, and I admired the view of the valley and thought about how much I wanted to live in LA when I was a kid and how it still feels somewhat dreamlike to me that I live here, even 11 years later. Sportsmens Lodge was the location of Dave’s and my first Thanksgiving together in 2008 and it’s the kind of retro banquet hall I really like. We saw some kids at their actual prom in another ballroom as we walked to our party. The ballroom was decorated with balloons and 80s wall appliques like Rubik’s Cubes and cassette tapes. Pretty in Pink, Coming to America and 80s music videos were playing on the screens and a DJ played 80s tunes. Everyone was dressed up in 80s fashions and having a great time. It was fun to be in a room full of people our age who look back on this era fondly. Lots of ladies were looking at Dave, who looked very dashing in his white tux. I felt proud to be with him and he was a great date, making sure we got appetizers, drinks and danced a lot. When A Flock of Seagulls came on, he even pushed to the front to remove a couple of balloons that were placed in such a way that they blocked the lead singer’s face. We had fun dancing to the band, close to the stage, as they went through all their hits from “Telecommunication” to “Space Age Love Song” to “I Ran.” Everyone sang along.
After the band ended, Dave made sure I got a pic with the singer. Richard Blade did a DJ set and that was a thrill for me, as I remembered watching his syndicated afternoon video show Video One before we had MTV. He is a classic 80s icon and gave me my first exposure to many of the new wave bands that I still love today. I asked Richard if he could play “Save a Prayer” or something slow. He said, “Beautiful choice.” But as the evening wore on, he only played fast songs. We danced all night anyway and had an awesome time. Finally, it was the last song - and it was a slow dance - the best possible choice of song “True.” This has been our song since we danced to it when we saw Tony Hadley perform a free concert on Fremont St in Downtown Vegas (see review and videos from that show). When we danced to “True” together, and it was in the high 90s on a Vegas summer night, we were surrounded by drunk and high people, the homeless and various downtown Vegas oddities. Picture dancing in the middle of the Star Wars cantina. Yet, I felt like it was just me and Dave, being serenaded by the classy Tony Hadley. So true...funny how it seems...and that is how I felt again at this prom, although there were lots of other couples in tight embraces on the dancefloor. It didn’t surprise me afterward that Dave had requested that Richard play the song - after Richard had not been able to fulfill his request to play the somewhat less romantic “Ghostbusters.” (Hmm..prioritizing "Ghostbusters" over "True"...we do still have some issues to work on ;)
Afterward, we went to Mel’s Diner, for the traditional post-prom late night breakfast. We played some more good tunes on the jukebox. I felt so glad to finally have a prom night with the man I love, not just a random date - a man who goes outside his comfort zone and shares my zest for life and sense of humor. Together we find joy in so many things around us and support each other through the down times. After 6 years, he is still the one I want by my side for all my future adventures. I know this much is true.