This story original appeared in the Inquirer on May 23, 1996.
Reach deep into your hearts and find, if you can, some sympathy for the senior class of Lower Merion High.
OK, they’re not homeless. And no, they’re not hungry. And yes, they attend one of the area’s most prestigious high schools, in a neighborhood of stately stone mansions and precision-clipped lawns.
But these poor benighted souls went through high school with one Kobe Bryant, high school basketball star turned Adidas shill and NBA shoo-in.
And Kobe, who is regarded by all as a decent, kind, personable, down-to-earth guy, has invited pop starlet Brandy, one-named singing sensation and star of the UPN sitcom “Moesha,” to the school’s Saturday night prom .
And before you know it, the prom‘s on MTV News, and the school’s grown-ups have been besieged by fearsome fire-breathing dragons such as local radio stations and Channel 6’s AM/Philadelphia, hungry for details on the dance.
“It’s been difficult,” said a secretary. “Very difficult.” So difficult that the superintendent referred calls to the principal and the principal wouldn’t come to the phone. So difficult that the caterer at the Bellevue, where the prom will be held, declined to comment (or even to read a memo from the school instructing him not to comment).
So difficult that senior class sponsor Susan O’Bannon was reduced to speaking in short, anguished bursts (“We’ve had to hire extra security!” “It’s been very disruptive!”) before finally saying that this was to be “a Lower Merion thing,” and that the school had nothing more to say.
Outside the high school on Tuesday afternoon, the rumors were as thick as the bus exhaust. Boyz II Men will be playing the prom ! (MTV said yes; the Boyz’ flack says no.) Kobe’s vacationing on Donald Trump’s yacht! (We don’t think so, although according to classmates he was slated to spend the weekend somewhere in Trump’s Atlantic City empire. ) Brandy 's going to sing!
“If she does that,“ grumbled senior Mike Didona, “I’m going to get up and leave.“
While the adults are having a collective hissy fit, the seniors’ attitudes toward Kobe, Brandy, and the ensuing circle of hype, can be summed up in one word: “Whatever.“ If Brandy comes, that’s fine. They won’t gawk or intrude. And, this being Lower Merion, they’re used to their prom being a big deal, replete with limousines, long gowns and weekends at the Shore - if not jocks, starlets, and a medium-sized media tempest.
“It’s fine that he’s going with her,'' said senior John Dauval, “as long as it doesn’t take away too much from a normal prom.“
But that’s a danger, said Suzy Sostmann, who’s in charge of ticket sales. “I mean, OK, it’s Brandy and everything, but this is ridiculous! It’s not her fault, but we should be able to have our prom in peace. We just want to have our prom and get on with our lives.“