That's No Lady

updated 05/24/1993 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/24/1993 01:00AM

THE DRESS ITSELF WAS A KNEE-LENGTH red-taffeta-and-sequin size 10, low-cut with spaghetti straps. Worn over black fishnet stockings, it should have been a safe fashion choice for Prom Night in Knoxville, Iowa. Gracing the beefy shoulders of 18-year-old Knoxville High senior Brett Martin, however, it was simply dressing for disaster.

"I just wanted to have fun," says Martin, who dreamed up the cross-dressing caper when his friend, Terry Massick, 18, was dumped by his intended date. Martin, whose 22-year-old girlfriend had no interest in the prom, agreed to be Massick's escort. Martin's sister, Jennifer, 20, helped him. "We made the spaghetti straps to hold it up," she says. "He has really broad shoulders." Jennifer also applied Brett's blue eye shadow and apple-red lipstick. Instead of pumps, he wore his grandmother's red slippers, wrapped in plastic to protect them from the rain.

And so, on May 1, Brett and Terry inched into the school's circular driveway, their white Pinto bumper-to-bumper with cars carrying other corsaged couples. Principal James Thornton, who had got wind of the prank, intercepted the boys and ordered Martin to leave. "The principal had said, 'I think you're trying to make a mockery of my prom,' " says Martin, who refused to go. Then, as he waved to cheering classmates, Martin, charged with trespass, was led away in handcuffs by town police officers. (The charges were later dropped.) Massick, dateless once more, continued on to the gym and danced the night away.

Not everyone in Knoxville, a small farming community 45 minutes from Des Moines, is pleased with the notoriety—or with Brett Martin's fashion statement. "If they let him do it this year, do five or six do it next year?" asks Lynette Rankin, 30, a cook at the high school.

Martin, who is planning to go to a community college in the fall (he wants to be a chiropractor), is unrepentant. "I guess I would do it again," he says. "This whole town is just entirely too serious. Might as well have a good time, the way I look at it."

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