My Senior Prom

It’s hard for me to even image the devotion I felt for rock & roll as a youngster. It was a cause to live and die for. I remember driving my rustbucket, slant 6 Duster 15 miles of winding back roads through 8 inches of snow to make band practice in the basement of Mark Deeley’s parents’ house in Rochester, New Hampshire.  I was 17.  The drummer didn’t show up that night (intelligently, in hindsight), and I took that to mean he was not committed to this band.  It was a cover band, practicing in a basement, gearing up to getting work in the local hotel lounges and Asian restaurants and bowling alleys.  I would do anything for that band. One of our first gigs was a wedding, some relative of Mark’s. In the hall I was approached by an important looking man.  He had an air of confidence about him.  I had my leather pants on. He introduced himself as the owner of one of the big clubs in town, Club Victoire. They had bands every weekend. He would hire us if I would do him a favor, help him out of a jam. No, it’s nothing illegal. He told me about his problem. His daughter was in charge of the senior prom, which was two weeks away. Her boyfriend had just dumped her (“and if I ever get my hands on him . . .”)  And if I would escort this young lady to her prom (tux and dinner—taken care of) he would give my band a gig at his club. I didn’t hesitate.

The band was impressed by my courage, (“What if she’s a dog?”) and told me I didn’t have to do it; we’d get a real gig eventually.  But I was committed. Obsessed, maybe, as young people can be before the world tears at their convictions and ideals and rips them to shreds.

I didn’t even go to my own prom. I didn’t fit in in high school, until I got together with some friends and formed a band. That was the limit of my social life. I’d had a serious girlfriend for a while, but due to a terrible stroke of luck, she happened to live 2000 miles away in west Texas, and she had dumped me that spring. I don’t think I’d ever been to a school dance, in fact. Maybe one. I was pretty scared of girls in general. And I hated the thought of dancing. I just wanted to be in the band, behind the scenes, watching people have fun. But I was willing to do this for the band.

As the date approached, I was fitted for my tux. It was silvery gray, with a huge 70’s lapel. I was a fraid to get a haircut before the big date, and this was just before I discovered the miracle of Vaseline, so I had this big puffy do and I looked like the guy who played Shazam on TV.  I bought the corsage and drove up to Rochester to the guy’s house, a trailer, actually. I wonder what they thought when they saw my ’72 Duster pull up in a cloud of blue smoke, bondoed and spray painted, riding on junkyard tires. He met me at the door and sliped me $100 (Is that gonna cover it? You need more?), and then she appeared. She looked disappointed. Maybe I did, too. But we made the best of it. I let her mom pin the corsage onto her gown. And we set off for dinner with a gang of her friends in Portsmouth. Thankfully, I knew one of her friends—we were in a band together briefly. So I had someone to talk to when she was off with her friends. I tried to be cool, but it was awkward in that get up, not knowing anybody.  She asked me at one point if her father had paid me to take her out. I was young and not experienced in lying to women but I knew I had to be delicate. I couldn’t flat out lie, though, so I said something like, “He paid for the Tux is all. I’m here because I want to be.” Ok I lied.

The prom was held on a small, local cruise ship. I hung close to my date but let her go off and be with her friends, too. When the band started, she grabbed my hand, and I gamely, willing against my very nature, followed her onto the dance foor where we were the only couple for a while. I’m so glad there weren’t video recorders back then. The party rolled on and people relaxed, I hung out with a guy from the band and talked shop. I don’t remember much else. I suppose there was some Stairway to Heaven climax.  But there was no party afterward. I took her home, shook hands goodnight. My part of the deal was DONE.

Grant PrettymanComment