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An Embarrassment of Riches

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An embarrassment of riches, one might call it. Bill Johnston, an unassuming 17-year-old, has pulled off a feat worthy of Warren Beatty. He is escorting 14 young ladies to his high-school prom this week.

The gallant young man from Waukesha North High School in Waukesha, Wis., wasn't even planning to attend the Junior Prom until his teachers elected him to the prom's honor court, which made his attendance mandatory. Unattached, and pining for no one in particular, he spread the word that he was looking for a date.

To his surprise, he was flooded with willing partners and simply couldn't bear to refuse any of them. At one point the entourage had swelled to 25 young ladies.

Though last week the count was still in flux (he is forgiving of those who renege in favor of other invitations), the group still numbered 14. Among them are members of the student council and the pompom squad and a set of twins--platonic pals all.

Faced with the daunting prospect of buying multiple corsages and pre-prom dinners, the enterprising youth went to work arranging for local businesses to spring for the meals and flowers.

He has even lined up two free limousines for the May 18 event. But with 14 dates, even two limos may not suffice. "If I can fit, I'll ride in a limo," Bill says. "If not, I'll have to go in my truck."

While his male peers may not appreciate his efforts, the young women seem delighted. Christine Lindow, one of his belles, says that she and her friends find the idea of a prom without the usual hoopla a relief.

The school's principal, Ryan Champeau, views the unorthodox date as ''a wholesome way to enjoy a school event."

As for Bill, he is decidedly not embarrassed by his riches. After all, ''I'm taking 14 beautiful girls to prom,'' he notes.--ewl

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