Betsey Johnson, Issa Rae, Mr. Mickey & More Share Their Best Prom Stories

by Emma Orlow
Now that prom season is in full-swing, we decided to ask some of our favorite people to share their best, worst, and, as it turns out, grossest stories from prom. Read on to hear how Betsey Johnson, Mr. Mickey, Julie Klausner, Lesley Arfin and more spent that "magical night."

Julie Klausner, Comedian & Writer 
"I went to my senior prom -- I have no idea why. I didn't give a shit about any high school-sanctioned activities. Bake sales, homecoming, plays. It was all gibberish to me. I guess Pretty in Pink brainwashed my generation in terms of "prom's" importance. I went with my 23-year-old boyfriend, and the actual event was a joke. We literally made an appearance, said "hi" to three people I knew well enough to say hi to, and then we went back to his place to make out while the town car driver my dad hired for the night waited outside. I later found out that the driver, whose name was Fred, had a gun in his glove compartment. Good thinking, dad."

Dave Nadelberg, Creator, Mortified
While making the upcoming teen angst documentary, Mortified Nation, I spoke to lots of people about their prom memories. And the number one thing that took me off guard was how many people mentioned their prom song. The prom song is a pop culture oddity. It's supposed to be the big, sweeping slow dance ballad that plays at your prom's finale. If the prom song's placement in movies is an indication, it's the kind of song that should torture teenage hormones and taint your perception of romance for years to come. (I'm looking at you, OMD's "If You Leave" from Pretty in Pink.) For whatever reason, that was not my experience. Maybe it was because I came of age in the era of grunge, but my high school's prom song was the un-syrupy, un-sentimental, brooding, Pearl Jam ballad, "Black." Sure, it's a powerful and poetic anthem. But it's just not really the slow dance grinder that the Prom Gods likely envisioned. Needless to say, no one made out on the dance floor at the end of my prom. Maybe everyone was just too depressed. It's the only moment of the dance I remember. And whenever I hear it on the radio, I love imagining of a bunch of teenagers in tuxes and gowns suddenly staring at one another, awkwardly mouthing the lyrics, unsure of what to do. 

Issa Rae, Writer/Producer/Actress, Awkward Black Girl
"I didn't go to prom because it felt like a waste of money, and I just didn't care enough to put ALL of that effort into a high school dance. The dress, the hair, the make-up, the champagne party, the after-party outfit, the limo, the fuss, the pressure. My boyfriend, at the time, wanted to go but I convinced him that I really didn't want to (plus he was a year older and had already done the prom thing, so it wouldn't have felt as special). I don't regret not going at all, but my mom really wanted to be involved in the prom process and was disappointed that I didn't go. I kind of felt bad for taking that mother/daughter experience away from her...but then she got the chance with my younger sister 5 years later so, regret OVER." [Photo by Christopher Dibble]

Peter Davis, Editor-in-Chief, SCENE 
"I went to a preppy boarding school in Connecticut and they didn't have a "prom" -- instead it was called "Senior Dinner Dance." Since it took place on campus, which was in the boondocks of northern Connecticut, I missed out on limousines, corsages, parents taking photographs and hotel after-parties with drugs, booze and sex. I went to the dance once (I was kicked out of school the next year). My sophomore year, a senior asked me. All year she had supplied me with weed and schooled me in the Grateful Dead and Joni Mitchell. I went to her dorm (in a blue blazer and khakis -- again, no fun Carrie-style powder blue prom tux) and we got very baked in the woods before going to the dining hall where the dance went down. I was too stoned to remember anything about the dance except eating a lot, but it was considered very cool that a senior had asked me." [Photo by Benjamin Lozovsky/]

Shareen Mitchell, Owner of NYC/LA vintage stores, Shareen 
I designed the dress myself, of course. I was a control freak even then and clearly was already very fussy on the design front. (My poor mom. God.) The dress was to be a halter with a deep v-neck and collar and a grand sweeping skirt. By this moment in my life I had discovered hair straightening. The crazy curly hair I grew up with was past my shoulders and was to be blown out and smooth. And, I had a very hot boyfriend who was a year older and was coming back from college to take me to my prom. He drove a vintage Mercedes convertible and looked like Sylvester Stallone only blonde. Seriously. The dress turned out perfectly, my hair was divine and, by the time I was putting on my mascara, I was feeling pretty fabulous about my whole situation. "We are going to be the King and Queen of the ball. No doubt." Hands down. I had this one in the bag. And then, at the prom, before dinner, he began drinking and drinking and finally was found passed out in his own vomit on the floor of the men's room. Oh yes, child. It was like, 9 o'clock. And then I saw a bunch of guys carrying him out to his car. Not pretty. I remember sitting in the car, staring straight ahead, wondering how this had happened. How had it gone so wrong? From the parking lot I heard the music and laughter and wondered how long I would have to sit there with him. Nightmare. I had to drive us to the after party. He slept the entire time we were there. And my best friend's date, Jimmy drove me home. I have no idea what happened to the blue dress. I may have set it on fire.

Betsey Johnson, Designer
"I went to every one possible. Constant petticoat drama...figuring out how to puff the dress out as far as it could go and getting my strapless dress stuffed in the bust while hiding the kleenex. I got caught 'parking' with my prom date by my parents. They pulled the car up and caught us 'necking.'" [Photo by Shannon Sinclair]

Lesley Arfin, Writer
"My prom was held at the Waldorf and I had to leave early. One of the dudes in our limo got kicked out for peeing in the corner of the room. He was wasted. It didn't matter because we all knew the good stuff happens after prom, which was true in my case. Prom itself was pretty boring. I remember a lot of 'I love your dress!' and 'Smile!'"

Mr. Mickey, Editorial Director, PAPER
"I feel about prom the way I feel about New Year's Eve and Halloween. It's amateur night. There is so much pressure to have fun and be fabulous and usually it ends up not being fun. At Hoffman Estates High School in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, we had one prom for both juniors and seniors. I only went my junior year. That was MORE than enough for me! I went with my dear friend Suzi Ostos. Suzi is now a super successful makeup artist for movies and TV although you'd never know it by looking at her hair and makeup on prom night...We had a great time but unfortunately my brother ended up punching out my drug dealer on the dance floor so I would say overall the night was a bit of a flop. But it will make a fun scene in the Lifetime TV movie of my life!" 

Sloane Crosley, Author
By the time my own prom rolled around, I had developed a crush on the class clown. He was all I thought about when not thinking about college applications. I knew he knew nothing of my feelings, and so I got up the courage to ask him myself. Alas, he was already going with someone else. Rejected, I adopted a This-Guy-or-Bust stance and decided to go stag. I had a great time -- despite the fact that our prom anthem was Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me." My last memory of the night is walking across Broadway in Manhattan, barefoot because my shoes had hurt, running to grab pizza and bring it back to the limo. Broadway is no Virgin Suicides-esque football field, but one can't have everything one imagines, can one? My only moment of classic awkwardness, when the traditions of the American prom butted heads with the reality of my choice to be dateless, came while in line for the photographer, when my group of friends split into couples. As I write this, there is a shoe box in my closet containing three versions of that photograph. In the first, I am standing alone. In the second, a male friend kindly jumped in to pose with me. But the third is my favorite. I am laughing and reaching out for someone's hand. I have no recollection of whose hand it was.
[A longer version of this piece originally appeared in Smithsonian Magazine. Photo by David X Prutting/]

Cat Marnell, Writer
I'm sixteen in this picture! A year into Ritalin-gobbling and a year and a half into peroxide, my oh my. Anyway, PROM: junior year it was on this BOAT in Boston Harbor. I was at boarding school in Massachusetts at Lawrence Academy. So the day of the prom I still didn't have a dress! I am a mess that way. I never do anything when I'm supposed to. And I wound up going to Newbury Street with my "for emergencies only" credit card (FACT: from ages 15-25, my entire life was an emergency) and buying this black...stripper gown! With cut-out panels and a slit up the thigh and no label in it -- definitely an exotic dancer dress. I had no idea! I rushed into this stupid Eurotrash store and bought the thing; you know, high school girls are into sleaze. I weighed like 80 pounds with no boobs or anything and didn't look sexy at all...well, maybe I looked pedo-sexy, which is a good look. Anyway, after the boat my boyfriend Robbie and I got drunk on rum and Hawaiian Punch in the basement of his parents' weekend cottage in the White Mountains in New Hampshire or some New England shit like that; I don't know. It was cute! I got kicked out a few weeks before senior prom the next year...but I had this fierce hot pink sequined Bebe miniskirt to wear to that. I wish I still had that skirt!

AndrewAndrew, DJs
Obviously we're from the future, where they don't have proms, but when times are tough we do hire ourselves out to escort wealthy people's embarrassing kids to their proms and make sure they don't violate the terms of their parole.

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