Three teen-agers who call Orange County home speak about themselves, their families and their hopes. Each is acutely aware this is a special, fleeting time. Yet they lead very different lives from one another and envision different futures for themselves. Randy Williams, 17, of Laguna Beach dreams of knowing the adulation of an audience. Felicia Reid, 17, of Fountain Valley longs to be an active member of the community, like her grandmother. Melinda Norton, 16, of Irvine speaks in whispered tones of Olympic aspirations. All believe they are lucky to be spending their teen-age years here, basking in the warmth of family, friends and the natural pleasures the county provides.
I was born to be in front of an audience," says Randy Williams. "My friends call me a showoff."
If they ever remake "Flashdance" with a male lead, Williams would be a contender for the part. Though the 17-year-old Laguna Beach resident has never taken a dance class in his life, this year he passed an audition with flying colors and was among the first group of students accepted into the new Orange County School of the Arts at Los Alamitos High School.
But for Williams, this is more than an opportunity to finally study dance; it's his last chance at "regular" high school. (Los Alamitos will operate as a regular high school, but students in the arts programs will take special classes in the afternoon.)
And he's taking it very seriously.
After flunking out of one continuation high school, Williams enrolled in another and pulled his grades up to become eligible for admittance to the school of the arts. Grades, plus talent revealed at the audition, earned him a spot in the school.
"I'll be 20 when I graduate," he says with a grin, running his hand through thick blond curls. "It doesn't bother me. I hope it doesn't bother anyone else."
"I dropped out of school in the ninth grade," he admits. "I always felt I was in the wrong place. I never felt right with my peers. Finally I stopped going altogether. It was a big mistake.
"Now, I've matured. I can deal with it. When I heard about the school of the art is I said, 'This is my one chance."'
Williams has trained as a gymnast for 10 years. "My mom took me to classes," he says. "I was a hyper kid." He stayed with it because "I've always liked the idea of being able to fly without wings. Gymnastics was the only way I could think of doing it with only your body."
His talent as a dancer comes naturally, he says. "I watch people on TV, shows like 'Fame,' 'Star Search,' 'Solid Gold,' and I watch someone do a dance step and practice it until I get it. When I'm in a bad mood I can dance and put myself in a good mood."
Williams' friends are also involved in gymnastics "and they have the same hobbies I do. I don't feel different. A couple of my friends and I try to choreograph routines together or work out at the gym together. We talk about gymnastics a lot."
Besides dance and gymnastics Williams has studied acting and has performed in school plays. "I've always wanted to act," he says. "Acting, you can be anything you want to be." He proudly pulls out trophies he has won at talent shows. One of his favorite musicals is "Cats"--he saw it in New York last year. "I love to dance to its music. I can do a cat," he boasts.
Williams comes from a wealthy family, a fact he neither hides nor flaunts. He leads a tour of the house he shares with his father, who has been divorced from Williams' mother for about five years.
The house is a block from the beach. In Williams' room is a wide-screen TV; in the garage is his new black Nissan 200SX. He talks of ski vacations at Club Med in France.
"I have a lot of amenities that other kids don't," he says matter-of-factly. "But for me, when I'm older, I'll just need the basic necessities of life--shelter, transportation and food. If they're not particularly nice, I won't be too worried about it."
His father, whom he describes as "my best friend," made his fortune in clothing boutiques and now manages his real-estate investment. "His attitude toward money is that he's earned it, and he did it the honest way," Williams says. "He's proud of what he has. And he does share it and give a lot of it away to charity. He's made me realize that no matter what job you have, you can hold your head up high because you're earning money honestly."
Williams' prized car is often used for spur-of-the-moment trips of Los Angeles with friends. "We drive through Beverly Hills," he says. "I love to look at the houses there. I know--kind of weird for a teen-ager, huh? But I love to look at them. And I like to go to L.A. It's an exciting town."
Still, he prefers the lure of Laguna. "I'm more the kick-back kind of person, take my stuff and go to the beach, do all that teen-age stuff. L.A. is too fast-paced," he says. "And I hate the smog."