Friday, May 27, 2011


O.K. a couple of comments (tongue firmly in cheek)

1) I’m probably wearing that hip blue tux ‘cause it was hip back then. You know me….fashionista kind of guy. Or, maybe Moe Dobbie from Dobbie’s Mens Wear convinced me to wear it. He had me and about 3-4 other guys wear a tux to school about 3-4 different days & we were rewarded with a free tux because we sent him business. He was fond of saying (and I’m not joking)…’I’m Moe Dobbie & I’ll make you clean as a jelly bean, put pep in your step & pride in your stride!” Anecdotally, I hear (at least at BHS in Barrington) the free tux is now a goner. In lieu of that you hand out the cards for the various tux shops (of which there are many) & your name is on the card. If a certain # of your friends return to the shop with the card you get dollars for your tux. That kind of sucks. Does everything have to be a contest? Can’t you just give the kid a free tux for shamelessly plugging your business?

2) Tuxes (despite your great post) are NOT like bygone days. EVERYTHING is an up charge & like buying carpet, and mattresses; two things I hate to purchase in as much as comparison shopping is, well, impossible…well, let’s just place tuxes in the same category. You can’t call around to price shop on the phone, I learned that a few weeks ago. I spent $92 for John’s tux. I really wanted him to wear mine, the same one I was married in (’87…which by the way, still fits, although admittedly the pants are getting a little tight in the crotch…..but I kinda of like that look as it makes me feel young & like I belong in some club downtown. And it’s better than wearing pants that hang ½ way down your ass & show off your butt crack….a trend that no kid seems to realize started in prison where guys were auditioning off their backside but somehow the youth of America thinks that it is cool to walk around with pants to their knees. I’ll bet if they ended up at 26th & California one night they’d hike their pants up right quick…but I digress somehow). Anyway, my coat is a 44L & John we quickly discovered is a 38 so off to Mr. Tux. By the way, my quip when we walked in about, ‘where’s Mrs.Tux?’ was not funny evidently. I guess they hear that daily, & I thought it was SO original. Bottom line, the type of coat (3 styles,) vest (striped, solid or reverse striped, oh & color) as well as tie (solid, striped & what color, long tie or bow tie) all get baked into the price & of course you feel like an idiot asking the gal (Mrs. Tux?) what the price difference is between a one, two or three button coat so you shut up & just hand over your credit card, which is what I feel like I do a lot with my kids so why should prom be any different? I got even though….evidently they danced so much & it was SO hot that his date said he sweats more than her Greek father. The mom who hosted his sleep over had the girls march upstairs to change and the boys were herded to the basement whereby they were each given a garbage bag to label & deposit said tux. The next day that bag came home quite ripe & I’d be less than honest if I didn’t tell you I took some solace in seeing it returned to the Mr. Tux in that condition.

Oh, and as far as your question….I have no idea what we did the day after the prom. Judy, I have a tough time telling you what I did last Friday night let alone May 26th 1979. I don’t think though we would have had a band car wash on a Sunday though. Weren’t Sundays back then still a day of rest?

I remember your prom was at Botsford Inn, small room, opening to a courtyard. The theme was Nights in White Satin. My mom commented on the theme & I probably smirked under my breath like Smutley in the Whacky Racers cartoon. Ours was in A Squared at Campus Inn which I thought was a great call as no class ever seemed to migrate out that way. Our theme, picked by the class VP was ‘We May Never Walk this way Again.’ I remember two or maybe three ambulances…Someone dislocated his knee which might have had something to do with the “pre-game” he & his friends had. I don’t remember why the other two came…I think the other was someone was pretty drunk. Some had rooms at Campus Inn I think to get ready in (at least that’s how they sold it to mom/dad) so there was a lot of back/forth to the rooms/party. As your daughter can attest, it’s different these days. Once you’re in, you’re in & there’s no leaving the event.

And just to keep the spirit of ’79 alive at our 30th "Jimmy Smith" dropped like a rock at the bar at Genetti’s & there was much consternation as to whether or not an ambulance should be called. You’d think in our late 40’s we’d know better. I guess it was blood sugar related as Jimmie’s a diabetic.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PROM 2011

Beautiful Prom 2011
Prom 1978 Nice dress. I appear to be carrying a mini bridal bouquet. Nice blue tux, Greg.

Perhaps you haven't been to a prom since the BeeGees had a top-ten hit. Or maybe you are so old you wore something called a Gunne Sax to your prom (which is almost as ugly as a real gunny sack by the way). Or maybe you are a bit younger-- a member of the Footloose generation and your kids are not yet going to proms. At any rate, I am here to tell you what a prom looks like these days, at least from a mom's perspective

As Grace is dating a Senior, she went to the Senior Prom last weekend and here's how things look these days, at least in our little corner of the world. Some of this is the same across the country I'm sure.

How he asks: It is no longer acceptable to sit next to a girl on the radiators (that's where we hung out at my high school) and say , "So, has anyone asked you to prom yet?" and then if the girl says "no" to say, "Want to go to prom with me?"

No no no my friend. Those days are over. Now, one must ask a girl to prom in a very creative and fun way. Skywriting is good. Texting is bad. An ad on a billboard is good. Calling on the phone? No way. Even sane girls (like my own) will insist a boy jump through this hoop. When her nice boyfriend Billy said, "So how do you want me to ask you to prom" (a ridiculously moot point as she had already bought the dress and isn't asking that question asking to prom?) she said, "You have to come up with something."

Yes, this is weird and kind of appalling to those of us who grew up in a simpler and more egalitarian age. But there it is. And that is why Billy was in our back yard on Easter morning laying out plastic eggs to spell something. He paused to consult the graph paper in his hand and Jeff looking out the window said, "What the hell? Doesn't the kid know how to spell prom?" Turns out Billy does know how to spell prom but having the heart of an engineer he had plotted the word out on graph paper to make sure he had enough eggs. Awwww. And in the golden egg he had written on a scrap of paper, "Will you go to prom with me?" so sweet. Of course she said yes.

The Dress: Well you know of course the girl must hunt for the perfect dress. That much has not changed. And you must have a dress that is unique--that has also not changed--and I was reminded of the subterfuge I was once a part of involving a dress shop that would not sell the same dress to girls from the same school and my going to buy a dress for a friend under an assumed name and I was not proud of that memory and I apologize to Karen Anderson. But anyhoo, today the girls have a more sophisticated technological way to deal with this problem. They set up a Facebook site called, "Don't steal my dress, slut" and they each post their dresses on there so no one will wear the same dress. Now it turns out that in this case, the term "slut" is an affectionate one. I guess this is like black people using the "n" word--because much to my surprise this is a kind and gentle site in which the other girls say things like, "Oh, that will look so good on you!" and "I was going to get that but since you already have it I will buy a different one!" Don't believe everything you read about mean girls.

The dresses are still long. Some are quite umm, sophisticated. Some look like something Edyta from Dancing with the Stars might wear. No one wears lace collars and sleeves that cover every square inch of skin like we did. Thankfully.

The Tux: You will be shocked, shocked to learn boys no longer wear colored tuxes with ruffles that have been "tipped" to match their date's dress. About the wildest thing you'll see is a white tux. Thankfully.

The Venue: They still have proms at cheezy hotel ballrooms with mediocre food. This much has not changed.

The Groups: This is different. You NEVER go with just your date to prom. You must organize a large and unruly group of friends and acquaintances, many of whom do not like each other or hold grudges against each other. There will be angry texts and maybe even tears and lots of drama. And the girls are worse. In this way, you can actually find yourself rejected by a group even when you have managed to procure a date and asked her in a clever way. Whew! It's tough to be a guy these days. When Grace told me about some of the current drama I suggested she just go to the prom with Billy. She looked at me as if I had suggested that I go to the prom with her. So you see, the group is a must.

Limos and drivers and buses oh my: Because you are traveling in a pack of 20 or so kids, you can no longer go to the prom in you date's Pinto with the faux wood panels nor can you borrow his dad's Ford Fairlane. No silly, this will not do. You need a large vehicle that you and 18 of your closest friends will fit in. The kid in charge will wait til the last minute to book the vehicle and you will end up paying an exorbitant amount of money for a round-trip to the prom in a limo that looks like it has not been cleaned since the weekend before when it was used for a bachelor party that resembled The Hangover. If you are really lucky, you will get a surly, resentful limo driver who is not happy to be carting suburban children around town and he will take you to a dark part of the city and demand more money if you ever want to get home. This is called "a life lesson" and will make a great story for years to come. As a parent, you don't really mind any of this if it means you are not stuck driving the after after after prom party shift.

After Prom Activities: Prom never ends when it is over. It really lasts a whole weekend and there are trips to Great America or the Dells (Wisconsin's family version of Las Vegas) and jaunts to someone's lakehouse. A good friend who has an older daughter warned me about this. Her advice was to decide well in advance how much of this you can stomach and lay down the rules before all the planning begins. Which I did. No overnight trips I said, you are not even a senior. Then when your kid comes to you with a well-thought out plan and complex schedule involving responsible chaperones you can cave and let her go anyway. Which I did.

So there you have it. Prom 2011 is not a whole lot different from Prom 1978 as I see it. You still have a lot of young people dressing up like grownups for one night and lurching around on the dance floor to a DJ. Moms still ooh and ahh over their babies all dressed up for the night and take way too many pictures of their babies squiniting into the sun.

And prom is still a night you never forget.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Everyone's name in this story has been changed except Arnold, me, and Maria)

Okay, okay now that he's all over the news again I think it is time to reveal my own Arnold story (for the few of you who have not already heard it). Yes, I have met the man--had dinner with him in fact--but I did not have an affair with him.

The year was 1981, the place Madrid. I was there for my junior year abroad. He was there filming Conan the Barbarian (a movie I still have never seen). His cast and crew were living at the Villa Magna, a fancy high-rise near the University and my ex-roommate "Wilma", a fancy girl from Louisville had moved out of our boarding house and into the Villa Magna over the Christmas break. Being blonde and American the Conan Crowd quickly found Wilma and she became friends with a lot of them and had parties with them that we were all invited to or sometimes we just all hung out in the Villa Magna bar.

My friend "Mary" (no that's really her name, she doesn't care if I tell this story) started dating one of the stuntmen, a nice dumb kid from LA whose name I still see in movie credits from time to time. He's the guy in the cowboy hat on the left. The guy on the right is also a stuntman, Tony something. The girls are classmates.

One night that winter, Wilma called me with a last-minute dinner party invitation. She was hosting Arnold and his buddy Franco and Wilma's roommate, "Catherine" (the fabulously wealthy Belgian girl who had been sent to Spain to get over the death of her Grand Prix race-car driver boyfriend who'd been killed in a can't make this stuff up), had to cancel at the last minute. Did I want to come? Heck yes I wanted to come. It was free food and I was always a starving student in those days. It was a low-key night. The guys were exhausted from a tough day of shooting on horseback and I don't remember much about it except that I ate more than either of them which was kind of funny.

The parties were more fun-- an eclectic mix of American actors, crew-members from all over, and the students at our Spanish school who were mostly American and European, and our Spanish friends. At one party, I remember, Arnold grabbed Mary's ass as she was introduced to him. This was just his way of being friendly apparently. He also would work out in the apartment gym with my friend Wilma and give her fitness tips that also included a butt-grab--purely technical of course--to demonstrate what she should be working on.

I'm a little sad to say that he never tried to grab my behind. It may be because I was with my Spanish boyfriend when I met him the first time or it may be, as Mary says, he sensed I would deck him if he tried. Of course it can't be because my ass is not grab-worthy--it still is and it surely was in 1981.

Anyhoo, even then there were rumors that he was cheating on Maria (they were not married yet, still dating) with one of the European girls from my school and rumors about his co-star. I've been thinking about all this as the tawdry news unfolds. I remember thinking back then that surely even Maria, a cosmopolitan member of the Kennedy family would not be okay with this. Maybe I should have sent Maria an anonymous letter then. Maybe she could have avoided this.

Who know? She probably has received a lot of anonymous letters over the years and chose to ignore them.

Which is too bad. I feel badly for her, and her children, and the housekeeper, and I feel even worse for the 14-year-old "love child" who surely is the most innocent victim of all in this mess.

But I sure don't feel bad for Arnold. I don't suppose anyone feels bad for him.

Except maybe Tiger.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


"When you write a book about us I want my name to be 'Elizabeth'," my former roommate said at our recent annual reunion. She brings this idea up every year, but I'm not sure what the book might be about. I mean, how much does everyone want to hear about how great my college roommates are and how lucky I am that the eight of us are all still in touch?

Well, maybe you'd like to hear a little, so I'll blog about them.

First, I have to tell you that we all met (for the most part) our freshman year at the University of Michigan. We all had come to Ann Arbor knowing next to no one. We lived on the fifth floor of Williams house in West Quad and soon found out everyone referred to our hall as "the zoo" as it had until recently been where the football players lived and since they acted like animals --well they got the nickname. People would say, "Oh you live up in the zoo" and after awhile we just started calling ourselves that. We even had sweatshirts made to look like a sorority sweatshirts with the Zeta Omicron Omicron letters on the front. We were well-known for having parties with way too many men and too few women. It was a formula that worked for us.

We have been getting together nearly every year for the past 25 years. We are all in long-term marriages (mine is the longest I think at 27) and we all have kids. Between us we have 20 children (four of whom are named Nicholas) and 3 step-children and too many college degrees to keep track of including one MD, two RNs, three MBAs, one MA in landscape architecture, and a degree in international finance (there are more as some of us have multiples but you get the idea).

When we get together we do pretty much the same thing every year, as follows:

1. Tell the same stories: most of the stories are about boys in our past. Who went out with whom, who moved where to follow a boy, who was found in a closet with whom at which party etc. Sometimes, since we mix stuff up over time we need to untangle entire sagas. Three of the guys we knew in college are now husbands. There is some overlap.

2. Laugh until we pee: usually this happens when one of us says something ridiculously funny (unintentionally). This year that award went to the following exchange: "Has anyone gone through the change yet?" "I sure went through the change on that toll-road."

3. Cry: We don't always cry but we do when someone has had a tough year or a toufh loss such as a parent, a sibling, or a pet. This year someone had a sad story about a life-threatening illness she's been battling. So we cried.

4. Discuss who we would like to have sex with if we were gay: Ever since one of us came out of the closet years ago, we feel, for some reason, compelled to have this discussion. This year, I have to say almost everyone agreed on Kalinda from "The Good Wife" and Gwyneth Paltrow.

So there you have it. A brief discussion, if not a full novel on my awesome college friends. Some day I may write that novel. I could start with the story of a beautiful blonde with dazzling blue eyes from Traverse City named "Elizabeth" who grew up to marry the dashing international financier "John" with even bluer eyes and they had three children, one of whom got mixed up in a banana caper.... well you'll have to wait for the novel to see how that goes.