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Prom and Circumstance

Cameras in Hand, Southland Teens Record a Night of High Fashion and Higher Expectations


Gardenias at the wrist. A rosebud on the lapel. Pink taffeta and slow dancing.

Starry nights and whispered promises. One last kiss. One last dance.

Memories are made of this.

And this. . . .

Principals with Breathalyzers. Security guards at the door. Zero tolerance and one-strike-and-you're-out.

Bras that don't stay put and cummerbunds that come undone. Stage fright and dirty dancing. Breaking up, making up, sometimes even throwing up.

On the eve of the senior prom for four Southern California high schools, The Times handed several students disposable cameras and asked them to record forever the highlights--and lowlights--of this night of nights.

In 27 frames or less, our roving photographers from Jordan, Roosevelt, Costa Mesa and Westlake high schools snapped memories in the making.

From less than flattering rearview shots of their parents taking pictures to more silly than shocking bedroom scenes of post-prom slumber parties, these candid cameras recorded an evening of surprisingly sweet sentiment and fun.

For girls, it was fashion's Holy Grail. For her Friday night prom, Julie Collett of Costa Mesa cut all her afternoon classes to be manicured, pedicured and professionally made-up. "Part of the excitement of prom is looking fabulous and putting on a truly dreamy dress. My mother actually made mine. It was princess satin on top with the light dreamy netting over the skirt. Oh, it was so beautiful. . . ."

With themes like "All Night Long" and "Disco Fever," these senior proms were decidedly retro, recycling nostalgia for the '60s and '70s into nostalgia for the '90s.

Under strobe lights and mirrored balls, boys in Nehru coats and pinstriped tuxedos Macarenaed, twisted, hip-hopped and boogied. As the dance floor heated up, they dropped their jackets on their chairs to dip, glide and even waltz their pastel-wrapped partners around the floor.

Girls in silver sandals and hard-sprayed, upswept hair skipped to and from ladies' rooms in giggling groups. In privacy, they passed around lipsticks with names like Shimmering Lilac and Kandy Kisses and penned requests for the deejay on tiny scraps of paper.

The songs, like the prom itself, reflect universal yearnings: "Stand by Me," "I'll Stand by You," "One Moment in Time" and, of course, "Forever Young."

It was a night of dressing like grown-ups and acting like kids. As Becky Smith of Thousand Oaks, one of our photographers, put it, "I think of it as the last night we'll all be together until, like, our reunion, when we'll like be, like, a-a-ah-adults!"

As all our photographers agreed, if you don't remember your senior prom, then you probably didn't go.

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