Well, it’s that time of year again—parents are sharing photos of their handsome sons and pretty daughters all dolled up for prom.
Recently, my best friend from high school shared a photo of his son that brought back unexpected memories. The boy is the spitting image of his dad, and he had a pretty prom date on his arm.
Back in 1983, when we were seniors at Galesburg High School, his dad and I were looking for prom dates. Words like “geeks” or “nerds” might best describe our social caste in those days.
Further complicating matters was that we shared an interest in a young woman who was not a nerd. In fact, she was a standout athlete in our class with a kind streak for stray puppies and social misfits like us.
So, unbeknownst to the other, we both asked her to prom.
And, she told us both “no.”
Here is how the conversation with me went.
“I was wondering if you’d like to go to the prom with me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Scott. I’m planning to attend with Charlie.”
He was a year older than us and a freshman at the University of Illinois. His dad was a doctor, and Charlie was a terrific tennis player.
He was also the class clown.
He loved to walk into a packed McDonald’s restaurant at noon, throw himself on the floor and feign an epileptic seizure.
As he would thrash around on the floor, good Samaritans would try to hold him in place and keep him from swallowing his tongue. Restaurant workers would call for paramedics.
But, as soon as emergency personnel arrived, Charlie would stand up, brush himself off and say, “Oh, never mind.”
Then there was the time he showed up for class dressed as Superman: leotards, a cape and a great big “S” on his chest. On another occasion, he wore a red, velvet dress with fishnet stockings to school.
Yes, Charlie Cohen was a bit of a clown.
And, when the day of prom rolled around, Charlie stood up his date and sent a friend in his place.
I suspect she was a bit perplexed by that development.
But, what about Charlie?
Well, he went on to star in a television program. Unfortunately, the program was “America’s Most Wanted.”
In 1988, Cohen killed his parents, who had moved to Delaware.
For two years after his parents’ slaying, he hid in various locations in the United States and Mexico until he was apprehended in New Orleans. It was later learned that he killed a banker in San Francisco while Cohen was on the lam.
He is now serving a life sentence for murder in a maximum-security prison in Delaware.
As I glanced at the photo I received of my friend’s son, I couldn’t help but smile.
We both have been married to fine women for many years and have wonderful children. And, we both have enjoyed wonderful, fulfilling careers.
On the other hand, Charlie, the picture of adolescent popularity, lives in a 6-foot-by-9-foot prison cell.
High school celebrity rarely equates to future success. But, at least my buddy and I can say we didn’t get to attend prom because of a future serial killer.
Editor’s note: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.