Like many a prom queen before her, the guest of honor was passed out fetchingly in the corner, her tiara refusing to stay nestled in her Cleopatra wig until a bobby-pin donor could be found—stat!—who let us harvest the pins straight from her pretty blond 'do. I was worried there might be a cute-boy shortage, so I brought my 18-year-old brother, Cake (who, despite his many, many shortcomings, is an incontrovertibly fine-looking and charming young man), but Nicole Brucker's handsome, Goth-boy date, Colin, was at her side, a prince among prom dates. When's the last time you passed out in a corner and your date didn't abscond with the first runner-up?
On the yacht's upper deck, there was dancing; downstairs, there was a good spread (we were all over that buffet) and pretty girls in sweeping satin dresses. An Orange County Register photographer snapped pictures. My friend Nicole is a good girl and bright, and she has really cute freckles. She's funny and dry, and she wants to be a writer. She has also managed to get herself arm cancer. Really, Nicole! Nicole is 17 years old—she turns 18 on Tuesday—and though her rhabdomyosarcoma (and I think it's an ailment that could use a few more syllables) was in remission when we first met almost a year ago, it's back, and her tumors are growing; they sap her energy terribly. She has decided against further chemo, and her doctors have given her a time line of weeks—and not many. Nicole, my love, when it happens, tell God and Joey Ramone we said hi.
Nicole's parents, Rex and Peggy, went to prom together 21 years ago, but Nicole's doctors didn't think she'd last till May 19, the date of Esperanza High School's dance. So at a prom thrown especially for her by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Nicole roused herself long enough to get crowned queen amid 150 friends and family and then hold court for a bit, demanding that I write about her party ("Your boss will be happy you did something in Orange County for a change, instead of Long Beach," she instructed me regally) and showing off the intricacies of her morphine drip, which we (especially my little brother) examined with interest. Her speech was slow—"I'm pretty zonked out from the tumors," she explained—and until everyone boarded the yacht, she sat in a wheelchair, which was awful, but I'd feared she would be strapped to a gurney or something, so let's be thankful for small favors. But when she wasn't publicly (though elegantly and with flair) passed out—joining such distinguished company as our esteemed President Numbnuts, Mr. Robert Downey Jr.and myself—she was coherent enough to bring up things we'd mentioned in passing a year ago and in good enough spirits to mercilessly mock the Reg.In addition to being fetching and pixieish, Nicole has exceptional taste.
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It was a gorgeous night, and the yacht did laps around Newport Harbor as a fine breeze blew. Some uncles and old family friends, including Greg the Fireman and Annie, His Special Lady, doctored Cokes under the table from a bottle of Meyer's rum, just like any other prom. But unlike other proms, there was no metal detector. And unlike other proms, I didn't spot any weeping girls or running mascara. Didn't the boys in attendance know that at a prom, one is supposed to ditch one's date and make her cry? I'm so sure!
"With Nicole's prom, we had what we call a 'rush wish,' with all that implies," says the Make-A-Wish Foundation's bitchen Orange County chief operating officer Mark Pilon—one of nine staffers and more than 250 OC volunteers. Make-A-Wish has always seemed to me one of those charities that does fine work but is really an excuse for socialites to throw themselves parties and make themselves feel beneficent. But after Nicole's prom, I've converted like I'm Jan Crouch. It was a fabulous evening so overflowing with happiness and love one could have gotten a contact high. It was organized in less than two weeks, with 40 or 50 people coming together to make it happen, and they took care of everything with an astounding professionalism and eye for detail. They even flew in the shoes Nicole wanted—Steve Madden's Tori Amos style—which had been discontinued, but one pair in the country was found in Nicole's size. In OC, Pilon says, they grant from 90 to 105 wishes per year. "We do constant medical outreach to reach every child who needs us. Parents are often leery because they think of it as a last wish. But it's not necessarily about that; we just want to bring strength and joy to kids who are having to undergo these things."
Pilon makes me cry as he tells me about a little girl whose wish last year was to have Cinderella place a locket around her neck. Damn Pilon. To volunteer or make a donation, call (949) 476-9474. If you don't live in the 949 area code, you should probably dial a "1" first.
Nicole Brucker: May 2, 1983 - April 30, 2001 Make a wish with Commie Girl: CommieGirl99@hotmail.com.