Monday, September 07, 2009

The Shangri-las! Senior Prom 1965

On Sep 6, 2009, at 11:00 AM, one of my friends wrote:
Long live the Shangri-las!
* * *

This brought back a memory.

They performed at my Senior Prom, June 12,1965, Great Neck North High School, Great Neck, New York.

Janice Udell was my date. I wore a tux with a white dinner jacket. We all did. The girls all wore long, formal gowns with matching bags and shoes. We were all "grown up" ready to go on with our lives. Most were headed to college. We didn't pay any mind to the Vietnam War figuring it would soon be over... at least before we were to be involved.

We didn't smoke pot or even drink hard liquor. All the girls were Jewish so we definitely didn't get much in the way of any sex beyond what they called "petting" which was always above the waist, but with my dates it was almost aways above the neck!

The assassination of JFK two years previous was still the "Where were you" event in our lives... and we were all in the same place... in school, sixth period on that horrific day. While there were some 550 in our graduating class, we knew a lot of our friends since first grade. People raised families and stayed put.

I drove my father's car to pick up Janice who lived about a mile away. She was a junior. I loved Janice. She came downstairs in her gown and I almost fell over because she really cleaned up nicely! All girls look great on a prom night and on their wedding day. I fumbled with the box with the corsage and was glad that her mother pinned it on her dress because I would have stuck her with the pin, and that does not make for a really good beginning to any date, much less a prom.

We went to a very, very fancy restaurant for dinner... called Four South. I'd never taken a girl out to dinner before. It wasn't done. Dates were movies and dances and parties... not dinner. I was terrified of the head waiter, much less the cocktail waitress who wanted to know if we wanted something to drink. (18 was the legal age but on prom night in Great Neck, no one ever asked.)

I'd never ordered a drink before. I had once had bourbon and coke but didn't like it. The first thing that came to my mind was something else. "I'll have Scotch and Dr. Pepper." Well, I'm sorry but it sounded like a really good drink. The cocktail waitress looked at me like I had just landed from Planet Zardo... and asked Janice what she was going to have. She ordered a Manhattan. I didn't know what that was. I wondered if I should cancel the Scotch and Dr. Pepper and order a Bronx or a Brooklyn... but I didn't.

I learned a life-lesson. Don't order Scotch and Dr. Pepper. It will gag a goat.

The menu came. Bad deal. It was in French. Janice's didn't have any prices on it. That's always bad because if the girl does not know how much you are spending she is not likely to put out much later on. It's a well known formula. The more costly the date the more nookie you are likely to get in the back seat... if any. It was the first time I'd ever seen prices on a menu without "cents." They just put a long "dash" after the amount. And each entrée was in TWO digits? Holy crap! Ten dollars ($10-) for... wait... what is that? I don't know French. Janice didn't know French.

The waiter came to take the order and I pointed to something and said" I'll have "that." The waiter said that that was the name of the head chef. So I pointed to something else. It was "Les cuisses de grenouilles." The waiter said "Good choice sir, the frogs legs are very fresh tonight." Frogs legs? What? Who eats frogs? Answer: I was... because I was too poulet to admit I didn't know what the hell the menu was all about. But I was rescued. The waiter must have seen that I had turned as green as Janice's dress and said "Our steak diane is very good as well."

Steak? Steak! YES! I don't care if Diane makes it or serves it or even spits in it... anything but FROGS! Of course in my most sophisticated English-major voice I said "On second thought my good man, I think I will have that instead." The waiter knew I was a jerk, but it was not the first prom night he had ever worked and he knew we would tip him well.

He turned to Janice, "And for the lady?" You see, now this is why women are just "smarter" than men. They are not afraid to ask directions! She said "What fish do you recommend?" He said "Our sole is very nice tonight madam." Done. Simple. Why couldn't I have done that. It's because we have stuff between our legs and they don't. That's the only reason I can think of.

I don't remember much about our prom. It was held in the gym, but the decorations were so beautiful that you'd never know it was a gym. The theme was The Twelfth of Never since we held it on the 12th. I spent a lot of time throwing up the Scotch and Dr. Pepper, but it was OK because I saw a lot of my friends throwing up what they had as well. One of my oldest friends told me that vodka and apple juice does not go well with the garlic lamb chops with mint jelly he ordered at another fancy place.

For the girls it was more of a night to see and be seen, especially the senior girls who all had college-boy dates... who contrary to what you might think also go to the mens room to throw up their drinks too. The difference was that they had experience and knew the correct position over the porcelain goddess so as not to ruin the shine on your shoes!

After the prom the tradition was to go to Jones Beach and make out on blankets and watch the dawn. I really, really, really loved Janice. She was the girl I would invite down to college for weekends and with some luck she would have my children. What I didn't know was that I was alone in that thinking. To her I was a prom and a really nice dinner. She knew the score. I'd be going off to school in Virginia and she knew... what she knew... which was reality.

Still, this was an un-real night... for both of us and while I was sincere, she played the role and we slept on the beach cuddled together until the sun came up. We didn't do much in the way of sex... except think about it. Only the Catholic guys got laid that night... but they got laid every date night. Of course I didn't know that until later on. Had I known I would have converted in a New York minute.

For my friends and I it was the last night of youth. We were now "adults" and grown-ups." Life was not going to be as simple as it used to be for us. And while we relished that... there was an element of sadness about it as well.

The next weekend Janice had a party at her house. All my friends were invited. But I wasn't. I was totally crushed. I was devastated. What hurt worse was all my friends went... and didn't tell me about it. I was furious... in that way teenagers can be.

I saw three of my best friends last year. We had been planning a reunion for the past 30 years or so... but never brought it off until last April. Do you know that not one of them remember Janice or her party or how angry I was? Not one. And yet to me it was as if it had happened yesterday... especially when I hear "Leader of the Pack."

I wonder what happened to Janice.

If any of you know, tell her I still have the book of prom pictures with the pressed petal from her corsage... and some sand from the beach... I put there... in my youth... to preserve the memory.

Alan Canton, Janice Udell - GNN Senior Prom 1965

Note: Since publication of this piece, Janice and I were able to re-connect and have been corresponding from time to time

Alan N. Canton, Managing Partner
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