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One Photo: One Story; and the Prom King is…..!

In the days and weeks leading up to our senior prom had I even wondered out loud about who would be prom king, I would have gotten an ass beating.

Bloomfield Tech was an all-boys high school in 1979. We took our fair share of jokes as to what our prom would look like being all-boys. People would say that we were a reform school, juvenile detention or prison. We were cool with that, mostly we were cool to each other. We came from all different backgrounds, towns and cities. We respected one another. There were a few fights, but we were boys being boys.

So, when my geometry teacher announced from the stage: “The 1979 prom king is “Mark Radziewicz”.

I was stunned.

The whole senior class was confused.

There had to be some kind of mistake.

They crowned me because I danced like a demented marionette or maybe it was my drumming.

If Las Vegas had odds as to which of the 80 senior boys of the class of 1979 would be named prom king, I would have been a 50:1 long shot.

The line would have looked like this:

Anthony Gasbarro (heavily favored due to the fact that he looked like John Travolta) at 2:5 Me 50:1.

In reality I wasn’t much of a dancer. I did go to Parrillo’s Disco once but that was only to use the bathroom.

Hell of a prom king I was. I didn’t hang on Bloomfield Avenue or on 6th and 7thStreet in Newark. I was a Polish Irish kid from Belleville with absolutely no pedigree for dancing. My musical tasted ranged from Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and John Denver. Once after a baseball game my coach Mr. Bromberg called me a big goof. There are your 50-1 odds.

I wasn’t even going to the prom. A girl I had originally asked backed out at the last minute to go back to her old boyfriend.

God Bless Roxane Tetla. She told me I was going, and she would go with me. Roxane was a friend and skating partner from USA Skates. She was pretty, cool as hell, and she bailed me out at the last minute. It became one of my most memorable nights in my life.

The music at our prom was performed by Hot Pepper. We were told that they were the backup band for the legendary pop disco group The Trampps.

The Trampps made Disco Inferno a sensation. It was featured on musical soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

If Hot Pepper was a group related to The Trampps, I haven’t found any evidence to that claim. They did rip through every song we requested from funk, rock, disco and soul. They were as diverse as our high school and we loved it.

The music took me, and I danced like a syncopated moron, bashing into my classmates on the dance floor. I whirled twirled and hopped and skipped like a half man- half monkey. My classmates stared at me like I had taken crazy pills in the limo. I didn’t know what was happening.

I may have done a slow dance with Roxane but most of my work was done solo. I knew I looked good in my rental white tuxedo from Starlight Tuxedo in Bloomfield, New Jersey. My white shoes carried me along the dance floor like a breeze. Until Hot Pepper called me out.

“We would like to ask Derek Wilson to come up and play the bass on our next number” the lead singer said from the stage.

I was happy for Derek and I knew he could play. Then they said something that scared the living shit out of me. “Mark Radziewicz” come on up and play the drums”.

78 classmates, their dates, a slew of teachers and every

waiter and waitress in the place turned and stared at me.

I never really played the drums; I took drum lessons with my football pants on when I was 8.

I did have a drum set but I only wrote “Razz” on the bottom of the kick drum in magic marker. I think the only real song I could keep time on was Tanya Tucker’s “Delta Dawn”.

Hell, I couldn’t play. I only told Roxane to impress her.

So here we are. Hot Pepper called me out. I mumbled something like “I haven’t really played in a long time”. They wouldn’t take any excuses and I had to respond.

So, I walked up to the drum kit and sat down. Derek looked at me like I was nuts. Roxane was beaming and the baseball team snickered. Hot Pepper’s drummer asked if I knew “Shame” by Evelyn “Champaign” King and I said “No”. He knew right then I was in trouble. He told his band mates “Let’s just Jam”.

That we did, we jammed. The drummer from Hot Pepper, whomever he is, is a kind and decent man. He sat right next to me and helped me along.

I started out all right with the initial beats and rhythm but then I got lost and dropped 4 sticks. He hit the big tom for me while I recovered, and he took the solo at the end. He made me sound better than I ever could have, and he bailed me out.

Derek whooped ass on the bass while I pounded away like a drunken four-year-old. We did get a hearty round of applause at the end, maybe they were just being polite.

At the end of the evening Mr. Snyder made a few announcements and then named me king. When he announced the queen, it was Arturo Abdemur’s date.

I remember thinking that Roxane should have been named queen and said aloud “She is not my date”. Mr. Snyder announced that the king and queen will now dance together. I swayed a few times back and forth with her and then went back to dancing like a maniac.

Arturo wrote in my yearbook in June. “To Goof: The Queen got pist (sic) at the King and the prom went to pieces. Good Luck, Artie”.

There are 15 mentions of my dancing from my classmates in my high school yearbook and this sage advice from my English Literature Instructor Mr. Anthony Perna “That you haven’t played drums in a long time is to your advantage.

I will remember you when I think of your prom; you were certainly the life of it. I hope you will always be happy and carefree. Travel light! Stay away from debts. Make others

happy too. I’m sure you will. AP”.

When I read that now it makes me happy. I never

thought Mr. Perna noticed me. Perhaps he didn’t until the prom but it’s still good advice.

Wherever you are Roxane Tetla, Anthony Perna, Arturo’s prom date, the members of Hot Pepper and the class of 1979, I hope you’re living a great life! I wouldn’t trade those memories for a million bucks.

I think John Migliore’s noted in my yearbook sum up our years together nicely. God Bless You John! I hope you’re well too.

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