Prom Is for Suckers

Patricia Rodriguez (shown here with her band, the Shapes) wants "fun for fun's sake."

High school proms are tragic. The potential that something will go absurdly wrong is likely with teens amidst hormonal rage making sartorial decisions of taffeta and tails. Whether it was in the '70s or the '90s, those prom photos of yours will only raise eyebrows and suffer guffaws. Face it, retro is never in style when you actually lived through it. But a prom for your adult sensibilities could provide the vindication needed to escape that lingering humiliation of bad fashion and settled-for dates, not to mention for those who ended up staying home that long night.

The opportunity to conjure up a redemptive prom do-over sounds like a Fantasy Island episode. Fortunately, Dallas has its very own Mr. Rourke in the person of Patricia Rodriguez, who is half of the driving force behind local collective the Lollipop Shoppe, an outfit that proclaims itself "Dallas' Best '60s and Beyond Club." The Shoppe is joining forces with Mike Snider, the man behind the AllGood Café in Deep Ellum, to bring a second-chance prom to anybody and everybody, but especially to those who missed out the first time around.

"I didn't go to my prom," Rodriguez says. "I was really into the punk rock scene. I didn't wear dresses. It was too girly for me."

Snider proposed the prom idea and now, a few months later, the Lolliprom is just around the corner. He snagged the Sons of Hermann Hall as host venue (he books there anyway), wrangled snazzy door prizes for the best-dressed couple and individuals, gifts for every paid admission and booked Shibboleth, the 100 Inevitables and Rodriguez's own band, The Shapes, to play. In turn, Rodriguez created and designed the poster and promotions and will decorate the ballroom.

Snider has been a fan of the Shoppe for some time. "They sounded neat. I had seen their posters. It looked like my era and that's what I'm all about," he says. That era is the mod '60s, when swirling, psychedelic shapes in bold colors accompanied an array of groovy rock tunes and gritty soul. By design, the Lollipop Shoppe comes off as if the world of Austin Powers escaped from the dead-horse trilogy and landed here in Dallas to spread a message of dance, music and unity. Their posters are an exacting homage to that stylized line and shape of the time, recalling Mondrian, Warhol and '60s rock posters.

"Rock posters were more experimental with colors and images," says Rodriguez, who is also an artist focusing on contemporary art.

Naturally, this environment surrounds the Shoppe's usually bi-monthly parties around town. Their Sexadelic DanceParty last month had Avenue Arts in Exposition Park bathed in a hallucinogenic purple glow as roving multicolored spotlights eddied about the room and random images of propaganda films played on a large screen dangling from the ceiling. A few pedestals graced the walls for the Lollipop Ladies go-go dancers to shake their mod thing. Girls dressed in the tradition of Twiggy and Dusty, while gents suited up to the tune of 007, Connery-style, or Monkees hipster fashion.

Ironically, it's this same aura of nostalgia that hinders the Shoppe, according to Rodriguez and Gabriel Mendoza, the other half of the Lollipop team.

While Rodriguez comes up with the blueprint of each party, Mendoza, a 911 operator by day, handles the execution, overseeing the technical duties such as sound for the bands or double-checking the turntables, as well as getting out on the streets promoting the next event. On top of that, he DJs each venture under the moniker DJ PandaFlower alongside Rodriguez's alter ego, DJ Tiger Bee.

"People mistake us for a '60s thing," Mendoza says. "You don't have to be part of a clique. We just want to have a place where people can go listen to good music without the bar atmosphere." Rodriguez concurs: "We're very welcoming. We're the '60s and beyond, but people don't read past 'the '60s'. We don't care what people are wearing. We're very inclusive. It's fun for the sake of fun."

In fact, Rodriguez has a bigger and poignant take, seeing Lollipop events more as a community than a club experience. She encourages artists to display their work and invites DJs and bands to play. This point of view evolved from three short months in San Francisco. "I saw a void in Dallas that I wanted to fill. When I lived in San Francisco, I was inspired by the variety of things they had going on any given night," she explains.

Upon her return from the Bay Area, Rodriguez conjured up the idea of the Lollipop Shoppe, on the memorable date of Valentine's Day 2004. Initially she had trouble finding a proper venue, but finally Avenue Arts' Eddie Ruiz stepped in, and ever since, the space has become the pseudo-home for Lollipoppers. Eventually, Rodriguez and company ventured into clubland, showcasing bands at the Cavern and Club Dada and even a luau at the Double Wide. They've managed to expand beyond Dallas with parties in Denton at Hailey's and Mabel Peabody's and all the way to Austin clubs Beerland and the Carousel Lounge. "We're ready to hit new frontiers and turn other people on to what we're doing," Rodriguez says. In the meantime, they are content with sticking close to home, trying to spread the word.

Enter Captain Groovy.

Captain Groovy, aka Evan Chronister, is the secret weapon behind Lollipop's mission to expand musical horizons for all their visitors. At age 44, he calls himself the old guy as well as the conscience of the team when things may flare between Rodriguez and Mendoza. But his standout role is providing his free Captain Groovy Presents CDs for all who enter the candy shop. A self-certified music geek, Chronister breaks away from the '60s idea, offering auditory whiplash with '70s hard rock and post punk with a touch of Glen Campbell and Public Enemy. Chronister raves about Lollipop as if he had just received the touch of God. "It's like being in the ultimate nightclub. There is really positive energy there. It's like club heaven. It'll stay with you," he gushes.

Lollipop devotee Marcos Prado agrees with Chronister. As host of his own party, the Smoke, he understands the purpose the Shoppe wants to fulfill. "There was no place catering to what we wanted to hear. We were being somewhat music snobs. But ska, surge, fourth wave all got weeded out of clubs." The Smoke caters to a more obscure soul-based, dance-oriented fan base but is similar in concept. When asked if he is going to the prom, something he may not have heard in a long time, Prado, 29, simply says, "Yes. I just want to dance."

Which is all Rodriguez wants. Well, that and lots of people to fill the 400-capacity ballroom. Still, the prom takes on more meaning as she philosophizes on Lollipop's role in the Dallas club scene and even Deep Ellum's apparent decline. "When you see a void, you should see it as an opportunity to plant something good, to make things happen that you want to see, to do what you want to do. It's easier to complain than get off your ass and do something about it."

True enough. But there's also the idea of the former freaks and geeks finally having a slow dance all their own. Rodriguez, for her part, finally speaks to it: "Yeah, I did want to go [to prom], but it just didn't happen. The punk rock thing was an excuse. Deep down everyone wants to go."

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