By Margie Wuebker
NEW KNOXVILLE -- Laura Murphy and Jim Longley have discovered new meaning to the phrase sticking together through good times and bad.
Now they face the challenge of waiting to see whether voters across the nation will select their unique prom finery as grand prize winner in the fourth annual Stuck @ Prom competition sponsored by Henkel Consumer Adhesives Inc. of Avon, makers of Duck Brand Duct Tape.
The couple, who graduated recently from New Knoxville High School, used duct tape to make their prom attire -- a black pin-striped tuxedo and a strapless evening gown adorned with drawings of music legends like John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Marley, Louie Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Dizzy Gillespie and Jerry Garcia.
Hoping to win the top prize -- a $5,000 scholarship for themselves and their alma mater -- the couple invested more than 60 hours and used nearly a dozen rolls of duct tape to complete their unique entry.
Online voting begins at 5 p.m. today and continues through midnight June 27 at www.ducktapeclub.com. The competition drew 299 entries including 23 from Ohio. "Our photo is at the top of page 3 and we hope everybody in the area casts votes on our behalf," Murphy says. "I wasn't going to look at the competition, but I broke down Thursday. Wow, there are some talented people competing."
Participants were required to design and dress in prom finery covered with duct tape in a myriad of shades ranging from red and lavender to blue and fluorescent pink. The Murphy-Longley team opted for the starkness of black and white with shots of red for pizzazz.
They finished the ensembles with five hours to spare on April 24 -- the day of the high school prom. Murphy added a train to her gown incorporating the same flame theme as featured on Longley's tuxedo pants. A drawing of Joey Ramone added back interest to the tuxedo jacket and Longley finished with a distinctive red flourish on his tie. It matched perfectly with the Converse high-top tennis sneakers covered in brilliant red duct tape.
"We certainly created a stir when we walked into K-mart to have our pictures taken," Murphy adds with a chuckle. "Everybody competing for scholarships had to submit a color photograph to contest officials."
Shoppers applauded the couple as did people who flocked to the traditional promenade after reading about the project in area newspapers and seeing film coverage on television.
"The outfits were not as uncomfortable as Jim and I had feared," she says. "We wore them about an hour and a half before changing into regular prom clothes."
None of the other contest entries feature music legends like those Murphy sketched and made in duct tape. However, other creative efforts yielded everything from American flag designs to Chinese kimonos. One couple went to their prom dressed as Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty complete with studded crown and regal scepter. Entries ranged from modern-day mini skirts to space-age ensembles. One couple sported a large fluorescent pink bullseye when they stood side by side.
In addition to scholarships, participants are competing for $500 People's Choice awards in each of the three categories -- traditional prom attire, theme/costume attire and just plain silver attire.
The top winners must send their costumes to contest officials within seven days of their selection.
"Jim's tuxedo and my gown will be headed to Ebay if we don't win," Murphy says. "We plan to earn money for college one way or another."
Longley plans to major in creative writing and minor in jazz studies at Bowling Green State University, while Murphy has plans to attend Paul Mitchell Beauty School in Utah and later to take massage therapy training.
Contest winners will be announced July 7.