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High School Cruisers : Prom: Granada Hills seniors' dance aboard a sailing vessel proves to be an amalgamation of subplots whose endings will become enshrined in nostalgia.

May 23, 1991|MICHAEL ARKUSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nyia took her old boyfriend, only to leave him for another guy midway through the evening.

Jonathan took Emily on their first date, calling it a reward for enduring four years of high school.

Aly took Ian, and wished she had taken the night off.

These are some of the scenes played out by the Granada Hills High School Class of 1991. Saturday was the senior prom.

The event, as usual, was an evening of elegance, staged on a charter vessel off San Pedro Harbor. Shiny white limousines transported the rich-for-a-night teen-agers, decked in tuxedos and gowns, to celebrate their liberation from adolescence. After weeks of worrying, months of planning, and years of dreaming, the boat had finally arrived.

But the prom is not just an epic, and never was. It is an amalgamation of subplots whose endings, happy or sad, become enshrined in nostalgia.

And it happens only once.

"This is the night you've been thinking about since you were little," said Prom Queen Breanne Bolingbroke, 17. "You see it on television and you watch your brothers and sisters go, and now it's our turn."

Their turn actually began last May when planning got under way for the annual rite of spring. The band, Rembrandt, and the boat, the California Hornblower, had to be secured a year in advance.

Luckily, the seniors didn't feel pressured to match last year's prom at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

"Last year's class was a dud," said faculty member Betty Zigler, the senior class sponsor. "They didn't follow through on anything."

From November through May, a student committee for the 1991 extravaganza met almost weekly to organize prom-related festivities ranging from the senior fashion show to the election of the prom court. For a theme, the committee chose "Night Under the Stars," an appropriate description for a romantic rendezvous at sea.

Not everything ran smoothly. Students hoped to buy champagne glasses as permanent souvenirs, but because school administrators didn't want it to appear that they were endorsing drinking, the students had to settle for glasses with candles inside.

Yet most of the pre-prom panic was reserved for the teen-agers who had tough decisions: Whom to ask? And when? And how?

The boys at Granada view asking girls out as an art form. The key is patience and a little luck.

"You have to wait for the right moment," said Jordan Fisher, 17. "You have to wait long enough to get the best date you can, but if you wait too long, the girl you want is gone." Jordan played it right, and got the girl he wanted.

The girls don't care about patience. They want to be asked months in advance so that, instead of worrying about their dates, they can concentrate on more vital matters--their dresses.

"Guys wait until the last moment," complained Nyia Berry, 18. "We can't just go get our dress the day before."

Nyia shouldn't talk. She also waited until only a few weeks before the prom to pop the question. The first guy she asked had to study for college exams. The second, her boyfriend from sophomore year, Ron Young, 19, agreed to be her escort.

Nyia, meanwhile, went with her mom to purchase a dress. Girls want to make sure they get an original gown and many have them custom made. The worst thing is to find someone at the prom wearing your dress. A lot of shops keep track to help avoid that possibility.

At Topanga Plaza, Nyia cleverly maneuvered her way toward Nordstrom. "It won't hurt," Nyia said.

Her mother, Roberta Ricks, was defenseless. Proms mean a lot to mothers, too.

"My class didn't have a prom," said Ricks, who attended the High School for the Performing Arts in New York. "We voted not to have one. All of our friends were in Vietnam."

Nyia didn't take long to find her favorite at Nordstrom--a pink satin dress with elbow-length gloves. And, compared to a lot of dresses, it wasn't too expensive--$178. Many girls said they were spending as much as $300 on their gowns, usually with parents footing the bill.

The cost of proms has skyrocketed in recent years, and this event would be no exception. Once all the expenses are factored in--prom tickets ($105 per couple), limousines, corsages, hotel, clothes, etc.--the night can wind up costing $300 to $600, a far cry from the days of crepe paper in school gymnasiums.

It has grown so prohibitively expensive for many, in fact, that the Los Angeles Board of Education in 1988 adopted a list of recommendations to reduce costs, such as students sharing limo rides with other couples, and holding more school fund-raisers to help defray costs for individual students.

The unwritten rule is that boys generally pay for everything, but if senior girls ask boys from other schools, the girls pay. Many teen-agers use hard-earned savings or borrow money from their parents.

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