Friday, July 15, 2005

Doug Moe: Prom drag means fun for MTV - THE CAPITAL TIMES

By Doug Moe
July 15, 2005
I IMAGINE school administrators in Lake Geneva are not exactly thrilled to have a crew from the MTV series "High School Stories" coming to town early next month.

The MTV show, which is subtitled "Scandals, Pranks & Controversies," is interested in the case of Lake Geneva Badger High School student Kerry Lofy. Lofy was a senior last May when he attended the school prom wearing a black spaghetti-strap dress and a blond wig.

School officials called the police, and Lofy was escorted from the prom and issued a $249 ticket for disorderly conduct.

A Madison law firm, Hurley, Burish & Milliken, offered to represent Lofy for free if he wanted to fight the ticket.

At the time, one of the firm's attorneys, Erik Guenther, issued a memorable quote: "The only thing that Mr. Lofy did wrong was wearing a purse that didn't match the dress and open-toed shoes before Memorial Day."

It was Guenther who told me this week that MTV is interested in the story and coming to Lake Geneva. He said there is a pretrial motion hearing in the case scheduled for July 27. Guenther said that while Lofy feels his First Amendment rights were violated, he is not interested in a civil suit against the school, but would like to have the disorderly conduct ticket dismissed. If it isn't, Guenther said, they will go to trial.

A dismissal of the disorderly conduct ticket would not stop the MTV show, which I must admit I was unfamiliar with until Guenther mentioned it Wednesday.

I did a little research on "High School Stories" and learned it debuted in February of last year.

At that time, the producer, Marshall Eisen, said criticism that a MTV show about high school pranks might glorify the pranks and encourage copycats was off base.

"Ultimately, with each of these stories, everybody gets in trouble," Eisen told the New York Daily News. "You see what seemed to be a harmless prank go awry. ... There is a moral to the story, and the point is that everybody's actions have a consequence."

Allow me to translate that quote: "We may be glorifying the pranks, but this is a great idea and a hit series on MTV is a gold mine."

Even for adults, "High School Stories" can take them back to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when the pressure was on every senior class to out-prank the one that came before.

In the first episode, four high school seniors from a school in Maine are suspended for stealing a 70-pound statue of Colonel Sanders from in front of their town's Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

The kids might have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't seem like a good idea to take pictures of themselves with the statue and then have them developed at the local Wal-Mart.

Just last month, a MTV crew was in Greensboro, N.C., to recreate a cross-country track meet for "High School Stories."

In the meet, the boys teams went off about 10 minutes ahead of the girls. The route went past some woods and was marked by dividing tape. One of the trailing boys was inspired to move the tape on his way by, resulting in many of the female runners getting lost in the woods and the race being ruined.

The girls actually took it pretty well. On hearing MTV was coming to re-enact the prank, one of the racers, Liana Blue, said, "That's freaking awesome."

Certainly the Lake Geneva incident has the potential to make fascinating TV. An Associated Press report in May gives you an idea of the possibilities for the re-enactment:

"Lofy says he is not gay but went to the prom with a gay friend who did not have a date. He had been warned by school authorities not to wear the dress. He was turned away at the door when he showed up in the dress, blue earrings, platform sandals and a necklace, and carrying a purse.

"He returned an hour later in a leisure suit and was allowed to enter. During a risque dance routine that caught the attention of the 400 people there, the 6-foot, 185-pound Lofy ripped off his clothes to reveal the dress, according to the police report.

"He was escorted from the building by a police officer and served with the ticket when he showed up for school Monday."

It's not hard to figure how the MTV folks heard about this dust-up in Lake Geneva . Lofy and his dress made it into newspapers from England (the Times of London, no less) to Australia.

Guenther, the attorney, said that even NBC's "Today" show expressed interest, but that Lofy didn't want to miss school and a track meet that was scheduled for the day when "Today" wanted to tape a segment.

It's clear in talking to Guenther that he sees some humor in the case, but the attorney also feels censorship is a slippery slope. He says the case law supports his client, and if you try to stop someone from wearing a dress to the prom, what kind of free expression gets shut down next?

Guenther said Lofy is planning to attend college in Colorado, where he will study ski hill management. The lawyer hopes to send his client west with a clean record, and the promise not to wear open-toed shoes before Memorial Day.


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