OFF like a PROM DRESSTonight's dreams, tomorrow's memories and other wispy recollections of yore
Remember back in the day when Tony What's His Name was cheating on Tina What's Her Face and she dumped him right before prom and it was, like, the biggest deal ever?
It's still just as big of a deal for the class of 2004-except without the ornate scrunchies and the purple cummerbunds. These days, upperclassmen gather at San Diego's swankiest hotels and dance to the hippest mobile disc jockeys and follow the time-honored traditions of gaudy gowns, jerky jingles, freaky foxtrots and-gasp!-major minor-aged makeouts.
CityBeat surveyed 10 San Diego County high schools to find out what, exactly, kids these days are listening to at prom and who is playing it. Turns out, schools stopped hiring live bands to play prom about 15 years ago, ruling out the return of The Untouchables, who played Poway High School's big night in 1990.
Pro Sounds owner Efraim Nunez, who is servicing multiple San Diego proms this season, hates to admit it, but when he was going to his 1980 high school prom, it was still commonplace for live bands to play the big ball.
"That was before the big rap songs and hip-hop took over the dancing," he says.
Now his mobile entertainment company makes its buck off the scatterbrains who demand 20 different kinds of music in four hours or less. But though today's proms may be without a live band wheelin' into "Johnny B. Goode," they're not without their visuals. Some schools have learned from MTV and order up big screens, music videos and deluxe lighting systems to wow their prom attendants.
Aside from cost and flamboyance, not much has changed since 1980, really. Girls are still gaga over the love of their life and like to slow dance to a breathy love song. Guys are still worried about what happens after the dance and want to grope the night away. And those adult prom advisors still think those crazy kids are listening to "infernal racket."
"The music that the kids listen to is just plain loud as far as I'm concerned," admits Kevin Hopp, La Costa Canyon High School adviser. "It doesn't matter to me whether it's a band playing it or whether it's coming from a DJ-it's all noise."
Hopp doesn't understand how kids go from Usher to Phantom Planet to The Cure to Jessica Simpson to Madonna in one move, but ask any of his students and they'll regale you with tales of each song's merit. Most prom attendees, however, are into R&B and hip-hop tunes.
"It's not really the music we worry about at prom-the DJs have edited versions of that," says Scripps Ranch High School adviser Jennifer O'Connor. "It's the dancing style. The dance style right now is freaking. They like to be as close together as possible.
"But you know what? They like line-dancing songs, too. So we don't know what to expect. We have chaperones that have flashlights, and they have to spy on them a little, but at our school it's not as bad as at other schools where it's just horribly risqué."
CityBeat heard a lot about that "other" inner city school. Turns out institutions like San Diego High School, located on the edge of downtown next to City College, had a nice, well-mannered extravaganza just like the rest of 'em.
It is an easy generalization to picture the La Jolla High School kiddies sipping cider and listening to Switchfoot play live while less financially endowed urban dwellers have to sit cross-legged in the gym while someone's brother blasts a boom box. But really, it's all the same-just with fewer Beamers and Corvettes in the parking lot.
They even unanimously voted their favorite prom song. Hands-down. Utterly. Entirely. Certainly. Absolutely. Positively. With no question: "Yeah" by Usher featuring Lil' Jon. Which you could've guessed if you watched even a millisecond of MTV-or a clip of Chappelle's Show-in the last month. While 1986 grads were waltzing to Peter Gabriel's harmonies, the lovely ladies and gents of 2004 are bumping and grinding to sound clips of Lil' Jon yelling "Yeahhh!" or "Right!"
So while those crazy kiddies are dancing their last foxtrot to tunes that adults would admittedly rather have condemned, we send our condolences to the advisers who have to plan, organize, facilitate, carry-out and answer to any number of angry parents who wonder where their wee-one passed out the night before.
"We tried to get Maya to play prom this year, but it didn't work out," says Hoover High School adviser Daniel Camacho. "But even though it can't really compare to a big, live act, the DJs do a really good job. To keep hundreds of kids on the dance floor for hours is a difficult job."
Top 20 Prom Songs of 2004 (As voted by area high schools)
50 Cent, "In Da Club"
Outkast, "Hey Ya"
Justin Timberlake, "Rock Your Body"
The Darkness, "A Thing Called Love"
Jessica Simpson, "Take My Breath Away"
Kanye West, "All Falls Down"
Black Eyed Peas, "Hey Mama"
Beyonce, "Naughty Girl"
Phantom Planet, "California"
50 Cent, "PIMP"
Jermaine Dupri, "Welcome to Atlanta"
Christina Aguilera, "Dirrty"
Petey Pablo, "Freak-a-Leek"
Jay-Z, "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
Justin Timberlake, "Senorita"
J Kwon, "Tipsy"
Britney Spears, "Toxic"
Top 20 Old School Prom Retreads(As voted by old fogeys we know)
Madonna, "Like a Virgin"
The Cure, "Just Like Heaven"
Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes"
Whitney Houston, "The Greatest Love of All"
Los Del Rio, "The Macarena"
B-52s, "Love Shack"
Chris De Burgh, "The Lady In Red"
Eric Clapton, "Wonderful Tonight"
All 4 Love, "I Swear"
Lionel Richie, "Say You, Say Me"
UB40, "Can't Help Falling In Love"
Boyz to Men, "I'll Make Love to You"
Sinead O'Connor, "Nothing Compares to You"
The Righteous Brothers, "Unchained Melody"
Kylie Minogue, "The Locomotion"
Journey, "Open Arms"
Wham, "Careless Whisper"
Dionne & Friends, "That's What Friends are For"
U2, "With or Without You"
Rick Astley, "Never Gonna Give You Up"
Get your flashlights ready(The 10 schools in CityBeat's prom survey)
1. Vista High School
Date: May 15
Theme: "Japanese Garden"
2. La Costa Canyon High School
Date: May 22
Theme: "Midnight Voyage"
3. Scripps Ranch High School
Date: June 5
Theme: "Here's to the Night"
4. Hoover High School
Date: May 22
Theme: "An Affair to Remember"
5. San Diego High School
Date: May 8
Theme: "Sunset Serenade"
6. San Dieguito High School
Date: May 1
7. Eastlake High School
Date: May 15
8. San Marcos High School
Date: May 8
Theme: "Tonight's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories"
9. Poway High School
Date: May 22
Theme: "A Red Carpet Affair"
10. University of San Diego High School
Date: May 15
Theme: "Rendezvous in Paris"