Tonight, on prom night, senior David Bailey will go down in Dana Hills High history for making a scene.
Against half his classmates' plans, against the administration's wishes, against tradition, Bailey and partner Nick Green, a Dana Hills alumnus, will stage an alternative prom--cheaper and better, they say--that coincides with the school-sanctioned prom.
The 18-year-olds have managed to split the senior and junior classes (those eligible to attend the dance) on an evening that would otherwise unite them. Individually, students have struggled with friends and dates over which prom to attend. Teachers who volunteered to chaperon the alternative prom are getting flak from co-workers. Parents trying to sift through rumor and reality have bombarded the school with phone calls.
"We're not really breaking tradition. A prom is where students at a school get-together on the same night in a formal atmosphere," says Bailey, a budding capitalist who would have thrived in the yuppie '80s. Besides Conquest Enterprises, a mobile deejay business he owns with Green, he operates an apparel venture with his family and says he has other plans in the works.
"With our event," says Bailey, "they're still going to a prom. People aren't going to spend the money twice, so it's not a matter of conflict with the school. Conquest '95 [as it's billed] is just the alternative."
Alternative proms are nothing new. But while they have been held for reasons of sexual orientation or racism at other schools across the country, Bailey says that theirs is not about social issues. It's about economics.
The official school prom at the Newport Beach Marriott is $80 per couple and includes hors d'oeuvres and dessert stations, casino tables, a deejay and a band of Dana Hills alumni that recently toured with Green Day. Raffle prizes run from massages to TVs to mountain bikes.
Conquest '95 at the Anaheim Marriott is $60 a couple and features a dinner buffet and dessert station, a cappuccino bar, casino tables, a caricaturist, karaoke, laser lighting and a complimentary long-stemmed rose to every young woman. Bailey and Green will deejay. Giveaways include sunglasses, free haircuts, pagers, a cellular phone and a 25-inch television.
Videos of the big night will be sold, including, notes Bailey, all the coverage that the duo expect to get after a week spent phoning and faxing news organizations. Their media savvy skills are remarkable. Besides a small portfolio of news stories involving this controversy, the two made sure they got ink when they formed their company last year, selling themselves on the angle that they can do better than older deejays in their 20s.
Generation Next strikes already.
Once upon a time, something "alternative" didn't necessarily mean better, just different. But with the onslaught of do-it-yourself, anti-corporate enterprises as Lollapalooza, 'zines and the Lab anti-mall, anything alternative is so very \o7 in\f7 among teens. It plays into the age-old need for rebellion that lets youth distinguish its own identity and find its own place as new adults in the real world. The Conquest '95 dance has capitalized on this sentiment.
While cost was a factor in senior Devon Costello's decision to attend the alternative prom, she admits dissent was definitely another. "Finally somebody is doing something different against the school. It's something the kids want," says the 18-year-old.
Junior Katie Groves, 16, says she couldn't have been happier when the Conquest prom was announced. "To me it's like a renegade thing, sort of. I thought in some way we as young people, we're taking a stand on our own. Everyone's so hyped about it. I'm shaking."
Mike Page, 17, is shaking too--his head, that is. Says the junior class president: "People don't realize that by not going [to the school prom] they're only hurting themselves next year. The money raised goes directly to the [incoming] senior class. It's hard to get students to understand that though."
Juniors are responsible for putting on the senior prom annually, spending much of the year planning the gala. The senior prom has been a fund-raiser for the following year's senior class since the school began holding them in 1975.
Indeed, most students say they have no idea where the money goes, assuming it's poured into the school's operating fund; Page says it benefits senior class activities. What's more, they can't understand the $20 discrepancy in the ticket prices.
Much of the cost for each prom comes from hotel bills. The Anaheim Marriott is charging $7,000 to Conquest while the Newport Beach Marriott costs $15,000.
Dana Hills High activities director Dianne Johnson says she has discussed the difference with the hotel. While Marriott has agreed to compensate the high school for any losses that arise from booking the dueling dances on the same night, she says the hotel can only tell her that the Anaheim contract with Conquest may be less elaborate than theirs.