No one envies the daunting task of trying to recreate an event like Smiley 80s, especially on paper. Along with Harwood Halloween, Pomona’s biggest party of the spring semester stands out as one of those fleeting moments in our college’s nightlife that practically disappears from public consciousness mere days after the festivities. Now, whether or not partygoers’ relative lack of consciousness on Saturday night accounts for that disappearance belongs in another discussion entirely. All in all, aside from clinging to the endless stream of goofy photographic evidence from that eventful night, we tend to forget about Smiley 80s fairly quickly. But that forgetfulness only speaks to the night’s transcendent quality—for at least a moment in our social lives, a party like Smiley 80s asks us to live for the moment over the memories.
Smiley 80s seems to encourage more friendly love amongst its attendees than most other Pomona College parties. Perhaps its status as the last major Saturday soiree before Spring Break prompts us to embrace those friends who we won’t see for—God forbid—five whole days. Perhaps our neon spandex and jean jackets don’t quite communicate 80s excess to our inebriated hearts’ desires, so we compensate appropriately. Either way, whether or not you and your buddies actually reach Smiley 80s, consider yourselves as fortunate as Sam and Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom; at some point, the party stops mattering as much as the journey there, and who you spend it with.
Any Smiley 80s pregame boasts its fair share of flushed, grinning faces, incessant photography, and in-depth critical discussion about how each costume functions in a “typical” 80s narrative. In my travels, I met glamorous prom queens, mustached fitness gurus, Magnum PIs and bow-haired young sisters who even factored a mother figure into their pastel-colored play. That not even the oldest Pomona senior could pee in a straight line by the time the 80s ended made this year’s costume configuration especially creative. At some point, people stop dressing up to imitate real 80s iconography and begin assembling a mish-mash of vibrant vintage garments belonging to no particular decade. Maybe one day the party will be renamed “Smiley Thrift Store.”
A band calling itself “80s Enough” provided the signature selection of throwback tunes, with assistance from DJ Trevor Flynn PO ‘13 for some of the more beat-heavy dance tracks. Between the snowy-topped bassist invading the crowd for some late-night lip-locking, or the manic-voiced singer leading a laughable sing-along to the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun,” 80s Enough fulfilled their role as harbingers of the ridiculous. The unexpected twists in their set left a lasting impression, such as when Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” morphed into No Doubt’s “Hella Good,” or when Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” served a as a no-holds-barred, perfect closing number.
Of course, nothing proved better entertainment than gazing out on a sea of eclectic dancing styles; after all, outside of the dank confines of Dom’s Lounge and fueled by the lavishness of 80s sound, kids tend to move a bit differently. Most of the time, dancing meant imitating the wacky wavy inflatable flailing tube man or engaging in a form of reckless swing dancing. However, the lawless outskirts of the crowd featured limitless possibilities for fuddled frolicking, and only the most uninhibited dared venture so far from the stage.
In the end though, nothing I have written quite captures the sense of electricity and spontaneity that characterized each moment of last Saturday night. Even now, looking back on the 35 minutes of Smiley 80s I remember only heightens my anticipation for next year’s festivities.