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Spring Prom: The Sky’s the Limit : Magic Time of Limos, Gowns, Great Hopes

High school proms.

Special. Once-in-a-lifetime. Not to be taken lightly.

Indeed, they can t be taken lightly.

“OK, first they choose some swanky hotel,” explained Bette Reinhartsen, public information officer for the Anaheim Union School District. “Then they start spending money.

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“The prom tickets cost between $25 and $40 per couple. The corsages range from $4 to $18, the boutonnieres $2 to $8, professional photos $5 to $25. Gowns run from $50 on up to $250, the tuxes at least $30. Dinners can go as high as $75 per person.

“Then there’s the limo. In my time, the boys borrowed their fathers’ cars, or they had their own. But this is the day and age of movie stars, and the limo is the status symbol. That’s another $200 to $400.”

Are we talking about high school students?

“Believe me, you spend some bucks on these things,” confided Magnolia High senior John Hangartner of Anaheim. And Hangartner knows whereof he speaks: He attended two proms, his own and that of his girlfriend, who lives in Yucaipa. “We sure couldn’t afford everything twice,” he admitted.

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“It’s a huge amount of money for these kids,” noted Anaheim High School activities director Nancy Clement. “They save for months and months.”

If limousines seem the greatest expense--and also the most expendable--they have nevertheless been the trademark of the proms so far this year.

“Who knows what they do in those things?” wondered Clement. “I sure don’t know.”

Seemingly Endless Stream

Friday night at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, the scene of the Foothill High School prom, the stream of limos seemed endless. (The school is in the Tustin Unified School District.)

“Geez, there sure are a lot of them coming through,” noted Greg Okoorian, a chauffeur for Gold Key Limos in Newport Beach. “Mom and Dad must be doing something right. I’ve worked a few proms, but none of them have been like this.

“Heck,” he added, “I didn’t get to do this when I was a kid!”

Far more interesting than limousines, however--limos tend to look more or less the same--was the wide range of fashions worn by the students at this year’s spring rites.

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Men’s formal wear at the Newport Harbor High School prom at the Anaheim Convention Center showed decided radical chic/artsy/new wave influences: Complementing tuxedos were headbands and bandannas, saddle shoes and boots, earrings and even walking sticks.

Asked where the women of the affluent high school got their dresses, most had the same, initially surprising answer: “I designed it.”

“Almost everyone designed their dresses this time,” explained prom queen Marlo Mullin. “There really weren’t any to buy. We checked out Saks, Bullock’s, Nordstrom; we couldn’t find anything. Seriously, I don’t have one friend here tonight who bought her dress.” Few of the girls, however, said they were considering fashion careers.

Sometimes the effort was a joint one by the date and her escort: Rob Mase went through pattern books till he found a dress he liked for his date, Kindred Burns. “And I made it,” Burns said.

Do-it-yourself also figured prominently for the Newport men.

“I rented the tux, then I sewed on the suede trim,” said Sandy Ewing. “The tux shop doesn’t know that, of course . . . .”

One gentleman looked pretty dapper in a white tux with blue lapels. “Got it for free,” he confided, “out of a Dewey Dumpster.”

Newport Harbor High and Corona del Mar High both chose the Anaheim Convention Center for their proms, while Magnolia High came south to the Registry Hotel in Irvine and Anaheim High to the beautiful Mediterranean-style Pacific Federal Plaza building in Costa Mesa.

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Evening More Special

The explanation was simple: All the students agreed it made the evening more special to have to travel. Everybody knows the hotels in their own area, they said--and they wanted to do something different.

Anaheim High’s population is the most economically disadvantaged of the eight schools in the Anaheim Union High School District, according to Clement. Its prom nevertheless proved one of the loveliest, from the architectural beauty of its setting (Pacific Federal Plaza) on down to the flowers on the tables, the hors d’ouevres, the cake and certainly not least, the very traditional formal wear.

“We have a very high Hispanic population, a really high English-as-second-language population, and a lot of special education kids and (recent) immigrants,” Clement said. “And there’s a good cross section at the dance tonight. Everybody, everybody who can possibly get the money together--and money is definitely the biggest factor--goes to prom.”

Anaheim High School students showed a careful eye for color coordination. De rigueur were matching bow ties and cummerbunds--in every conceivable shade and pattern--matching shoes, and even matching walking sticks and gloves. Everything matched.

“And the rule is to always match the dress of your date,” explained Steve Mispagel, sharp in his yellow accessories.

Romantic Is the Rule

The rule for the ladies was romantic with a capital R--and that meant frilly, frilly, frilly. Most of the dresses came from bridal shops. Like their neighbors to the south, however, a fair number of Anaheim High women had had them made.

“My mother made mine,” said junior president and prom organizer Lety Ayala, who wore a sumptuous gown with large rosettes at the shoulder. “She finished it last night, in fact.”

Fun dictated fashion at the Foothill prom.

Jarret Johnson of Tustin wore tennis shoes. “That’s so I can dance and stuff,” he explained.

Tom Bain of Tustin came in white tie--and shorts. Both, he explained, were rentals. “Yep, got ‘em at Arrow Tux Shop. I said, ‘You got any shorts?’ They said, ‘Yeh.’ I said, ‘I want ‘em.’ ”

Sunglasses, thongs and mufflers were also big with Foothill students.

What exactly happens at the proms is simple; there are three basic places a body will be at any given time.

- On the dance floor.

The dancing is nothing if not eclectic: To the same tune--Billy Idol’s “Flesh for Fantasy,” for instance--and in close proximity, one couple will be slow dancing and kissing, one will be break dancing and another will be ballroom dancing. Either a band or a disc jockey will do.

- At the tables.

Since for so many of the kids, dinner and, after the dance, “breakfast,” figure prominently, food is most often not offered. Tables, then, are for talking (some) and smooching (lots).

- In line for photos.

At the Newport Harbor event, an ashtray was provided for chewing gum; a colorful commingling of as many as seven different flavors at a time proved curiously fascinating.

Any drinking going on?

“Better not be,” warned Newport Harbor Principal Tom Jacobson.

Magnolia High Principal Don Keys said he experienced no difficulties whatever at the prom.

Strict School Policy

“We have a real strict policy at our school,” said Keys. “Anytime you do anything involving drugs or alcohol during school or any school-related activity, you’ll be transferred to another school. The kids know I’m not fooling around. If they’re going to get messed up, they’re not going to show up.”

Newport Harbor activities director Bill Nunan talked about the dynamics of prom dating.

“In most cases,” began Nunan, “the guys still do the asking. And I’m afraid to say there are always plenty of junior girls who don’t end up being asked, which is a killer.”

A lot of schools have stopped having proms altogether for that very reason, Nunan said.

“Kids put so much into the prom,” he said. “They think it’s so darned important. It causes the girls to break up with their boyfriends just before; kids get crushed because they’re invited or not invited or by whom . . . . So we try to low-key it; you know, it’s just like any other dance, no big deal.”

If you do happen to be one of the lucky ones going, a good part of the fun you’ll have seems to be before and after, rather than during, the prom.

“All of us (girls) were blindfolded (by our escorts) and taken to the beach,” recounted Nancy Coyne of Newport Beach, one of a dozen kids who came together in a van, “then we went dancing in the middle of the (Newport Harbor High) quad. Then we were taken to K mart and that’s where we bought these yellow socks we’re all wearing.

“After the prom, we’re going to go have breakfast at someone’s house; then we all brought bathing suits and we’re going to go Jacuzziing.”

Shawn Smith, also of Newport Beach, had his fill of the prom early. “I think we just want to get our pictures taken and get out of here,” said Smith, who wore an interesting outfit featuring earrings and a headband.

Dinner at Alfredo’s

The Foothill-Fun equation did not stop with clothes.

“We went out to dinner at Alfredo’s,” explained junior class president Paul Fiore, wearing sunglasses. “I took my dad’s car, a BMW 635. I thought I’d break it in for him. Later on, we’ll probably go down to the beach, grab a beer.

“Balboa’s a popular spot. That’s where everyone goes, there or Newport Pier. I’d say a third of the prom will be there, and they’ll stay down there as late as 2 a.m.”

Bill Kiefer and Krista Simor and their friends went to The Towers restaurant in Laguna Beach. Simor had lobster. “It was the most expensive thing on the menu,” one of her girlfriends noted.

“We had a blast,” said Kiefer, who settled on filet mignon. “We had tons of rolls. Hey, they have the best butter in the world. The best. And you can print that in your paper.”

In the no-expense-spared department, Armen Gugasian and his friends went to the Balboa Bay Club for dinner. “Our skipper took us cruising around on the yacht,” said Gugasian. “We’ll probably go back on the boat afterward.”

Gugasian & Co. arrived in a Mercedes-Benz 500L “Le Marquis” limo. “My dad has a car dealership in Beverly Hills,” he explained.

But Kiefer and Simor came up with just possibly the most appropriate after-prom plans.

“We’re going to go watch a horror movie at Bill’s house,” said Simor with a giggle. “You know the one--'Prom Night’ ?”


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