By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
Standing well over six feet tall in a black suit coat and red tie, David Cates and his wife, Rosalie – herself dressed in a sharp evening gown – bore a striking resemblance to Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
With their masks held over their faces and the band playing a rendition of Rod Stewart, the Missoula couple summonsed the former First Couple in a “totally tubular” night dedicated to the 1980s and all that came with it.
“I still think of it as my angry decade,” said Cates, a novelist. “We lived on a farm in Wisconsin for most of the ’80s, so we were outside popular culture. ‘The Cosby Show’ – we missed it.”
The Missoula Food Bank devoted Saturday night’s fundraiser to a 1980s prom theme. Complete with big hair, lavender streamers and neon balloons – and with the New Wave Time Trippers playing everything from J. Geiles to David Bowie – the city’s aging hipsters packed the Wilma Theater to relive memories of their youth.
“You’re going to high school, going to college, it’s your formative years,” said Bret George, a 1985 high-school graduate dressed for the evening in a baby-blue tuxedo. “I was a cheapskate and never went to prom in the ’80s. I wasn’t going to spend money for a woman I didn’t care about.”
George, who’s name reversed is that of the star third basemen for the 1985 Kansas City Royals world championship baseball club, has since reversed his financial position, thanks to his wife Michelle.
She too had memories of the formative decade that opened with Blondie and Pink Floyd and closed with Bad English and Milli Vanilli.
“Prince shaped so much of my teen years,” she said. “I think of music, like ‘1999’ and ‘Purple Rain.’”
On the international stage, the 1980s saw the Soviet Union at war in Afghanistan, famine in Ethiopia and protest in Tienanmen Square. The Berlin Wall came down, the Space Shuttle exploded after liftoff and the U.S. invaded Grenada.
But on Saturday night in Missoula, it was popular culture that resonated with prom-goers, including Meredith McAfee. Dressed as Boy George, she came to embrace her “inner expressive person.” After all, she said, the long hair, vest and pearls were already on hand.
“When I think of the 1980s, I think of high school, neon, lace, records and partying,” she said. “I think of TV to a certain extent, shows like the ‘Cosby Show,’ ‘Family Ties,’ ‘Alf’ and ‘Small Wonder.’ There was a culture in the ’80s, and it was very prevalent and in your face in some ways, but it was fun.”
The edict put out by the Food Bank called upon guests to dress in prom attire suited for the decade, or as a 1980s pop icon. Prince and David Bowie were crowd favorites, and the night saw more than one Madonna, along with multiple reference to “Doc” Brown and his need to generate “1.21 gigawatts of electricity.”
The fact that it was also a fundraiser didn’t go unnoticed.