Don't Dream It, Be It: The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show
February 3, 2014 7:50 PM   Subscribe

In 1975, Tim Curry gave what would become a rare interview on his role as Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Show and The Rocky Horror Picture Show on STOIC, the Student Television Of Imperial College. Here, in all its black and white glory, is that clip. If that's not enough RH(P)S, here's The Rocky Horror Picture Show - On Location, part 1, part 2, and part 3, also from 1975. And for your reading pleasure, the transcript of another interview with Tim Curry, writer and actor Richard O'Brien and composer Richard Hartley remember how three weeks at the Royal Court turned into a gender-bending 20th Century Fox extravaganza, plus history of the Rocky Horror Show, even more history (including how the audience participation began), and last but not least, the Rockypedia.
posted by filthy light thief (68 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite

Thank you for these links!!!
posted by xingcat at 7:51 PM on February 3, 2014

And if you're a virgin or just forgot what to bring, here's an illustrated prop list for live showings. Tip: don't throw things at the performers.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:52 PM on February 3, 2014

/throws rice at computer screen
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:09 PM on February 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Audience Par-Ti-Ci... (SAY IT!) Pation Album is available in its entirety on Grooveshark. A great recording of a very skilled audience during a showing during the height of Rocky Horror fandom in the 80s. Worthwhile listening for any fan, or non-fan, or wanna-be fan.
posted by hippybear at 8:14 PM on February 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Hah, I picked up that on vinyl on a whim, and have yet to listen to it. But when my wife had the whim to listen to the soundtrack, that wasn't quite what she had in mind, so I found the full album on YouTube, plus the remix tracks.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:18 PM on February 3, 2014

I still have my vinyl, purchased in the 80s, listened to it to death until I could (probably can still) do nearly every line. I was a master, and helped bring RHPS to my hometown monthly for years. Seen it SO MANY TIMES. Theater had a center aisle, I was front row left, aisle seat.
posted by hippybear at 8:21 PM on February 3, 2014

A few years back one of my theater companies used to hold retreats for the people in our playwrights' lab, at our artistic director's house upstate. One night as we were sitting around after dinner, he meekly put a big stack of envelopes and fundraising letters on the table and asked if we could stuff them, and we all sort of groaned but got to work. One of us got their computer and put their iTunes on shuffle so we could at least be entertained.

And a couple songs into it, "Time Warp" came on. We all started grinning. Our AD had been Riff Raff for Halloween once, so he started intoning that bit. Someone else took Magenta. Someone in the back of the room took the narrator's "It's just a jump to the left...." and by that point a few of us jumped up to our feet as we sat around the table, in time to do a step to the ri-i-i-ight. All of us still stuffing envelopes, but now all of us were singing "Time Warp," some of us dancing, all of us still stuffing envelopes. It ended, and the person who owned the computer put it on again and we kept at it.

And thus "Time Warp" spurred a team of ten tired people to stuff 400 envelopes in only about twenty minutes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 PM on February 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

I learned the steps to the Time Warp before I ever saw (or really even knew of) The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In Junior High, the theater teacher had us put on a weird medley of musical and theatrical segments, including the Time Warp. It was weird, but a lot of fun.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:33 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

To this day I remember the exact moment I finished my first viewing of RHPS. I stopped the VCR and asked myself two questions:

1) what the fuck was that
2) did I like it

I had no idea how to answer either. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen. So I watched it again, every afternoon after school, sometimes twice, for a solid week. I only needed the second time to be sure.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:33 PM on February 3, 2014 [10 favorites]

Also, Mr. Curry is one of my very few "drop everything, he's on" actors. My son's been infatuated with Transformers:Rescue Bots lately, and it really is a great kids' show, but when I heard Curry's voice (!) as the evil Dr Morocco, I became a true fan.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:37 PM on February 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

And seriously... I'm Going Home should be a theater standard by now. It's such a really really great song. I've done it as part of musical revues before, and get asked "what was that song? it was wonderful!" afterward. And when I tell them, they smile politely and walk away. It's a shame there's a "taint" to material from this show, because so much of it is really great.
posted by hippybear at 8:43 PM on February 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

More anecdotes and memories: Susan Sarandon took Natalie Portman to a live show, and earlier took Molly Ringwald when she was 11 or 12. And Susan is/was boycotting the show (or perhaps just activities related to the show) because she and the other actors weren't paid (much?) for their roles. She mentions that she did a number of interviews for an anniversary celebration, but I can't find any video of that online.

This post came about because my wife asked "how did anyone think this would be a successful movie, and how did those (now well-known) people get involved?"

On that point, here's Meat Loaf on The Rocky Horror Show - part 1 and part 2.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:45 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

In The Rocky Horror Picture Show Book, there's an anecdote about the head of 20th Century Fox seeing the first preview (which featured Lips saying something like "20th Century Fox Presents"), ranting about how obscene the preview was.

I could go to my shelf and pull out the book to look it up, but lazy.
posted by hippybear at 8:49 PM on February 3, 2014

Rocky Horror sequels and other media

Has there seriously NEVER been a MeFi post about Shock Treatment? O.O
posted by hippybear at 8:59 PM on February 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I spent so much time with the Rocky kids when I was a kid that it has warped my fragile little mind forever. My mom wasn't especially happy when my little sister suddenly knew all the words to Sweet Transvestite, either.

I always really liked Superheroes, the track that was cut from US screenings for quite a while.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:37 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

My hometown has a great little theater that has been putting on RHPS for, well, a very long time. I remember several weekends in higschool where I'd stay up late friday to watch friends perform, and then we'd all get up at 4:30 saturday morning to run a breakfast line for the homeless. (We we strange teenagers)
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:44 PM on February 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

In the late seventies my college-age son took me to the midnight showing of the RHPS. He told me it was a cult phenomenon, a parody of horror movies, and full of funny audience participation. I wouldn't have to participate, he said, but he would let me know what was going on. He took a newspaper and a lighter, not sure what else. He did a good job of including me and I think I finally relaxed even though I was pretty shocked. What I remember most from that night is learning that there was so much in the world I knew nothing about and feeling that I had been given a peek into a different world as well as a gift of trust from my son. I remember liking the music a lot, and actually enjoying the movie. That night was a major milestone in my journey to understand the world my son lived in. I remember the movie as, in some strange way, warm, gentle fun, as well as being hospitable--shocking but not threatening. I've seen it since, in theaters with audience participation and, most recently, online at night for nostalgic entertainment. I have a very fond spot in my heart for that movie.
posted by Anitanola at 10:28 PM on February 3, 2014 [29 favorites]

Oh man.

Grade 9 and 10.

Bloor Cinema.

Every fucking Saturday.

I knew all the words because my older sister used to go see it at The Roxy and she'd had it on vinyl since I was a kid.

Strange how my mother was literally the only person in my entire life who didn't realize that her 8 year old son prancing around in her heels singing Sweet just might turn out to be a little light in the loafers.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:29 PM on February 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just the other day I dug up an old photo of me and my high school best friend dolled up in drag on our way to go see Rocky. Looking back now, 15 years later, I turned out to be a kinky trans dyke; he turned out to be a straight cis guy with a good sense of humor and a conservative family who he liked pissing off.

And I was thinking about how important that was. Even in the super-liberal weirdass college town we grew up in, it was a huge, huge deal that there were spaces like that where even the straight kids were crossdressing and putting on bondage gear.

And the ethos behind it was a huge deal too: "Of course we're freaks, everyone's a freak, and anyone who says different is a fucking hypocrite." I only actually saw Rocky in a theater twice, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that that ethos was what got me through high school. We all had the sense that there wasn't really an important difference between straight people and queer people — that the important difference, the difference you had to keep an eye on, was between boring people and exciting people — and that just maybe there was a chance that the exciting people were gonna win in the end. And the movie kind of functioned as one of the visible symbols of that, whether or not you went to see it a lot (though a bunch of my friends did).

The way I saw it, okay, I was gonna be a freak no matter what. (At that point I wasn't even clear on the details — I just knew there was something nonstandard going on with me.) But there were kids who had a choice in the matter, and they were volunteering to be freaks right next to me just to fuck with the people who didn't get it. If that's not solidarity, I don't know what is.
posted by this is a thing at 10:33 PM on February 3, 2014 [25 favorites]

Man, that second-to-last link really shows you that the Waverly crew was the granddaddy of fandom.
posted by gingerest at 10:41 PM on February 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

How's Tim Curry doing now? Didn't he have a terrible stroke in the last few years?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:14 PM on February 3, 2014

I only went to RHPS a few times as a teenager, but they were very, very important times. I was just thinking the other day about whether my (currently nine-month-old) daughter will be interested in RHPS or whether the internet will make those kinds of safe spaces for teens to try on sexual identities and camp it up less necessary. Do kids go to RHPS now? Is that still a thing? I know there are still midnight showings where I live, but are there teenagers at them, or is it all olds like me?
posted by town of cats at 11:21 PM on February 3, 2014

RIP Kim Milford
posted by readyfreddy at 11:53 PM on February 3, 2014

My god I could have used RHPS when I was a teenager.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:42 AM on February 4, 2014

I was too young to see the film when it first came out but I remember reading an article (I think in my mother's Cosmopolitan ...) which suggested there was a long uncut version of the film that was genuinely shocking, featuring necrophilia etc. Is this a myth?
posted by Major Tom at 1:05 AM on February 4, 2014

I love Rocky Horror but it makes me feel sad now.

I had a beautiful friend in college named Steve. We were appearing in a school production of "Androcles and the Lion" and Steve gave his Caeser a wonderful manic edge. His girlfriend cheered him on.

To celebrate the impending presentation of the play, the cast were set loose in the wardrobe dept. to dress for a big Halloween party/screening of Rocky Horror. We had all heard of it but never seen it. The night of the movie we were wildly drunk, high, dressed like maniacs and ready to party. Steve had assembled a costume that really played off his magnificent skin and cheekbones. He was a tall blond, very striking, and the costume gave him a look very different from Caesar. His girlfriend seemed uncomfortable with it.

When the "Don't Dream It, Be It" number came onscreen, Steve suddenly stood up, pale in the projector light, and left the auditorium.

A week or so later I noticed Steve wasn't around campus; someone told me he had abruptly left and transferred to a school on the west coast. He never said good-bye to any of us. His girlfriend was stunned and had nothing to say about his departure.

A number of years later I learned that Steve was one of the first wave of AIDS fatalities. He died alone in California and refused help offered by his former friends.

Don't dream it, be it. I hope it worked for Steve.
posted by kinnakeet at 2:12 AM on February 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

I went a few dozen times in the mid-'80s, so I could probably still do the Time Warp even if I don't remember all the responses anymore. My favorite number in the show is the end of "Wild and Untamed Thing", which comes unbidden to mind at the strangest times.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:21 AM on February 4, 2014

In just seven days ( and seven nights )...

FWIW, my RHPS 'audience participation album' has always just been a tape of the audio ripped from the VHS... I participate quite well myself, TYVM
posted by mikelieman at 4:29 AM on February 4, 2014

2) did I like it


I only needed the second time to be sure.

So what did you decide?
posted by Evilspork at 5:16 AM on February 4, 2014

How's Tim Curry doing now? Didn't he have a terrible stroke in the last few years?

Tim Curry's website has a post dated December 2013 that says he is well enough to appear at a private autograph show and is doing some voicework for an animated film, but he continues to do physical therapy to recover from the stroke.
posted by briank at 5:28 AM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm always sad that Rocky is only a yearly thing where I live- I suspect the liberalization of society has contributed to it being less of a thing than when I was a kid. I did get a good laugh around 2000 or 2001 when I went to Rocky (it was one weekend a month where I lived then)- having just seen Fight Club, I yelled "His name is Robert Paulsen!" when the tablecloth is yanked away to reveal Eddie's body.

Ah, good times.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:32 AM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I hate this movie. I just hate it.
posted by JanetLand at 6:09 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

My god I could have used RHPS when I was a teenager.

It was pretty fantastic. RIP, midnight shows at the Exeter St theater; RIP midnight shows at the Harvard Square theater. Thanks for making high school less terrible.
posted by rtha at 6:16 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dammit, JanetLand.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:20 AM on February 4, 2014 [12 favorites]

I hate this movie. I just hate it.
posted by JanetLand

I can imagine.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:23 AM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Rtha, the Full Body Cast still performs at the Boston Common googleplex every Saturday night...
posted by pxe2000 at 6:49 AM on February 4, 2014

My hometown has had the longest-running streak of continuous showings - THIRTY-SIX YEARS - until the boiler broke during the recent cold snap. Curse you, polar vortex!

(Magenta sat on my lap when I was 16. It was... very confusing.)
posted by desjardins at 6:53 AM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I saw this for the first time at a drive-in. People kept jumping out of their cars to throw things and dance. Then they'd jump back into their cars until the next cue came up. It was funny.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:30 AM on February 4, 2014

About 14 years ago, when I had just met a new group of friends here and started hanging out with them, we used to do dinner & movie afternoons at someone's aparment. Everybody brought food and we'd cook together and watch DVDs. I was still kinda getting to know them, and I'm naturally rather shy and quiet - even to this day I'm "the quiet one" of the bunch.

So one time, after dinner, they decide to put in RHPS. A living room full of 30-something gay men. The movie starts, and then I say, from the back of the room:

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away - God said, LET THERE BE LIPS!"

They all slowly turned around and looked at me, "the quiet one."

Me: "What? It's Rocky Horror. You don't just sit there and WATCH it."

And I then proceeded to do the entire audience participation routine, solo. (And a bit fumbling, cuz I was out of practice.)

The event is now a legend among the group, one of those "remember that time when..." stories that gets told over and over. Also whenever we're out at Showtunes night at the bar and a Rocky song comes on, it's like I have to give a command performance.

Still waters run deep.
posted by dnash at 7:40 AM on February 4, 2014 [21 favorites]

JanetLand: I hate this movie. I just hate it.

But have you seen it ... on drugs with audience participation? Susan Sarandan can be right - some audiences are all over the place, with timing off, alcohol on their breath, added to a mix of poor memories, ad-libbed lines, and regional variants with the call-backs.

It helps if you know the movie and generally what people will be saying throughout the movie, so it might only increase your hate for the movie. Or you might see people having a lot of fun, and your hate will fade, replaced by a feeling of giddy joy. Or something.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:57 AM on February 4, 2014

But have you seen it ... on drugs with audience participation?

That's how I saw it the very first time, back in the 80s. Yeah, there's nothing like sitting there with your date shouting obscenities using your name.

I think my hate might be here to stay, but I get that that's just an unfortunate name thing that doesn't really have any bearing on others' enjoyment.
posted by JanetLand at 8:10 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a name that's tied to a couple well known songs, so I feel your pain, JanetLand.

I love Rocky Horror but it makes me feel sad now

Oh, kinnakeet. I'm so sorry for your loss. The guy who played Frank here when I was a teenager (I can't remember his name for the life of me) was actually engaged to the girl who played Magenta. Years later, I've come out, and run into this heart-thumpingly gorgeous and familiar guy at a gaybar. We sort of did that "I recognize you but I don't know how" thing looking at each other, then started talking and figured it out.

There was a deep and sad irony in the fact that he spent his entire time playing Frank in the closet, and didn't come out until after he stopped doing RHPS.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:27 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

this is a thing, that was really well-put. I led a worship service at my local UU church this summer making the same points from the perspective of a cis-hetero weirdo who found an important home at Rocky. It was great to show clips and get everyone dancing the Time Warp at the end (and do a choir piece of "Over at the Frankenstein Place). I wasn't sure how it would go over, but it was amazing to hear people's stories afterward. This movie has changed people's lives in ways that are pretty unimaginable.
posted by rikschell at 8:31 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

JanetLand: Yeah, there's nothing like sitting there with your date shouting obscenities using your name.

Hah, I can imagine, and I see how that would sour you on the whole thing.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:36 AM on February 4, 2014

Huh, just had a memory of talking about RHPS with my psychiatrist as a teenager, and him telling me that it's one of the single most popular movies for psychiatrists to discuss because of how many different themes the movie embraces: the whole spectrum of sexuality, masks, obsession, desire, power, love, hate, hedonism, debauchery, tragedy.. the list goes on.

Also am I the only one who, when they watch Clue, assumes that Wadsworth has a corset on under his clothes?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:37 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually, I got the DVD of Rocky Horror this year and just watched it. I had never seen it before without audience participation - which has changed over time and from place to place - and it was amazing what parts of the text I noticed this time.

The movie really stands up just as a movie.

I've often commented that it contains some of the few musically successful rock ballads - not just "I'm Going Home", but my personal favorite, "There's A Light." I need some new covers for my next show - perhaps I'll do one of those?

Poor JanetLand - you might want to see it on the DVD with no one else around. Janet is actually a very strong character, much less wimpy than Brad. BUT, I agree you have every right to be turned off by it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:45 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Janet is actually a very strong character, much less wimpy than Brad.

Agreed! Brad is actually just kind of a gormless twit. Janet decides what she wants, goes for it, and doesn't apologize or ask permission from any men. Maybe I'm beanplating but it's always seemed to me that she's the most put-together person in the movie: she walks the middle path between Frank's unthinking desperate hedonism and Brad's square. Always figured she and Brad split up after the events of the movie and she went on to be a powerful, in-control woman, and he lived a life of quiet hell in suburbia.

Mm these beans they are tasty.

I need some new covers for my next show - perhaps I'll do one of those?

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:55 AM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Along with David Bowie, TRH(P)S helped confirm my youthful impression that the lazy homophobia I grew up surrounded by was not only madly wrong but distinctly lacking in joy.
posted by Decani at 9:15 AM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Now that I think about it, Tim Curry in fishnets (and the local guy who played Frank) was waaaay more sexually confusing than Magenta on my lap.
posted by desjardins at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was a teenager in 1980s Arkansas. One weekend, an older friend got me to go with him on a special trip to Little Rock to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I haven't been the same since...and that's a good thing.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lest we forget Fridays' dawn-of-Reagan-era take on it: The Ronnie Horror Picture Show

Part 2.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mr. Bad Example... were we neighbors?! My Rocky Horror claim to infamy was attending a Riverfront Park outdoor viewing and blowing out a blood vessel on my vocal cords, sputtering out blood while singing. I was horrified and stopped singing immediately, but it mostly impressed the other participants.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:51 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've only seen the movie a few times, at the late great UC Theater in Berkeley. The soundtrack is the best thing ever to play on road trips.
posted by mogget at 11:21 AM on February 4, 2014

So in 1981, Barry Bostwick starred in a TV movie about fighter pilots called... Red Flag: the Ultimate Game (read it in your dramatic voice, the way Gene Siskel used to say "Benji the Hunted.") It was a pretty forgettable movie, and I blame Bostwick. I mean they remake it five years later with Tom Cruise and it's fucking Top Gun.

But anyway, I'm watching TV with my parents one evening and channels are being flipped, and up comes (don't forget the voice) Red Flag: the Ultimate Game. And there's Barry Bostwick in a flight suit. So I do what one does when one sees Barry Bostwick. I yell "Asshole!"

And then I have to explain to my parents why I just yelled "Asshole!" at our TV.

I'm not sure my mom ever quite got it. The one thing I remember her saying was "and it's always the same movie?"
posted by Naberius at 12:45 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's entirely possible we were neighbors, or at least in the same part of the didn't live in Jefferson County, did you?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:52 PM on February 4, 2014

So I do what one does when one sees Barry Bostwick. I yell "Asshole!"

Yeah, I feel kind of bad yelling "Slut!" every time I see Susan Sarandon, but what are you gonna do?
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:05 PM on February 4, 2014

When I first saw Dead Man Walking I kept waiting for Susan Sarandon to rip off her habit, jump on the judge's quarters, and start singing "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me".
posted by pxe2000 at 2:31 PM on February 4, 2014

My sister was a reliable cast member, alternating between Magenta and Little Nell as needed at showings at the old College Park Key, where the show would kick off when the theater's janitor would come on stage and beat himself up.

I knew the score well, from the crackly record I'd listen to on giant clunky headphones tethered to the stereo in the living room on an arc of coiled cable, and I had The Official Rocky Horror Picture Show Movie Novel, a lurid tome published at the five year anniversary of the film in 1980, which told the story in a sort of hardcover comic book comprised of movie stills, and which, all these years later, is worn, but lovingly so, like the way an old teddy bear becomes the ruinous embodiment of comfort and care, with a mark where I tenderly separated two pages I'd inadvertently stuck together whilst masturbating to a close-up of Peter Hinwood's gold-suited pelvis on page 77 in a yellow rubber dish glove that I'd promptly return to the kitchen sink after each session.

When my faggotry moved from the unspoken variety to the well-curated sort, the first book I found on the subject that was not a stuffy, largely incorrect treatise on sexuality or the genuine horror show of Larry Kramer's Faggots, which I'd read up to the point at which analingus was described in detail and then thrown, in a bout of nausea and self-hatred, into the space under the back deck, was Aaron Fricke's coming out memoir, Reflections of A Rock Lobster, in which attendance of Picture showings was a key moment of comraderie. Within a year of having read the book, I was expelled from high school, but I had a job, a savagely dented Datsun station wagon with one black fender, and was living in a filthy illegal basement apartment just off campus, and I set out to finally be it after waiting so long.

It was 1986, the president was the man who'd ruin America, everyone was falling down dead with AIDS, and still, I was set. I had my props, carefully remembered dialogue explained, via impossibly expensive long distance calls to Greenwich Village, by my sister, and I showed up at the theater, found my seat, and discovered that you cannot live in the world you anticipate purely from anecdotes and lurid hardcover photographic comic books and the remembrance of a man some years your senior who'd found solace there and written about it.

The old Key was gone, of course, replaced by a strip mall Hardees, so I was at the Beltway Plaza 6, but the crowd was bustling, all loud and exuberant and stinking of cigarettes and cheap beer, and I took my seat, waited for the theater to go dark, and—

—it was one continuous shouting homophobic larf after another, hurf durfed at the screen with all the spit and force of flatulent frat boy machismo bullshit histrionics. I sheepishly tried to holler out the lines of the script, circa 1981, as taught to me by my sister, but the words "fag" and "faggot" and "fag with AIDS" were everywhere in the air like a whirling cloud of yellowjackets, stinging with each raspy blowhole outcry from some dick in Izod, and I could hardly take in the movie, I was so angry.

This was supposed to be our place.

I drove home in a dull rage, playing my cassette of the soundtrack over and over, stuck on the excised "Superheroes," which seemed to perfectly sum up the crashing disappointment that, after all these years, Brad's letterman compatriots had stormed the theaters and ruined everything. I'd back the tape up, over and over, on my short drive across town, singing tunelessly along with the oooooooh oooooooh AAAAAAAAHooooooh until I was home, circling the block for a space I could cram my savagely dented Datsun station wagon with one black fender into, then stomped into my apartment.

"What's wrong with you?" asked my flamboyant and irritatingly always nude roommate.

"Went to see Rocky Horror," I said, in a full pout.

"Oh, I don't do that. All they do is yell 'faggot' all the time."

"Yeah, I didn't think it was supposed to be like that."

"It wasn't. Welcome to the eighties, I guess."

I listened to "Superheroes" at work all week, hitting the rewind on the tape deck as I drove around town with a car stinking from hot fresh pizza, doing penance to the gods of youth for the sin of being poor and disconnected, but when the weekend rolled around, I resolved to claim my space.

I waited in the line, forcing myself into a neutral face instead of the rictus of dread that would have come more naturally, bought my ticket, and this time, instead of sitting near the back, I took the center seat in the front row.

Those lips were enormous, enough to drown out the whole world, and I sang along, letting the stupidity recede into the dark behind me. I said my piece, threw all the right objects on cue, and let the screen peel away and wrap around me like the protective arms of an angel from sweet Transexual, Transylvania, from the moon-drenched shores of my beloved planet, and all the laughing, cackling, brutish cries of "faggot" were like clouds of gnats—present, unavoidable, but lost in time and lost in space…and meaning.

This is my place. This is my voice. Only that a man can stand up.

The weeks rolled on. I learned, I experimented, I added lines and added retorts to the asinine Reaganauts and their puerile ilk. I never summoned the courage or had the budget to dress up, but I suspect I'd have made a good one of whatever I felt like being, and I suspect no one really ever knew I was there, but I knew. My drives home became euphoric, elevated, even though my Datsun was making a terrible noise that I suspected would soon be expensive. I drowned it out singing "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me" at the top of my lungs with my mousse-crusted mullet scratching at the headliner.

It was the heart of the eighties, our president was the strutting, wisecracking, lovable asshole who would ruin America, and everyone was falling down dead with AIDS while a country that had lost its soul laughed like filthy, ugly hyenas, but there was a light, over at the Frankenstein place—a light, burning in the fireplace, a light in the darkness of everybody's life.

Especially mine.
posted by sonascope at 3:04 PM on February 4, 2014 [34 favorites]


sonascope, I don't even have words.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:20 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

sonascope, that was amazing. Thanks for sharing.
posted by crossoverman at 5:34 PM on February 4, 2014

Wow, sonascope, that's an amazing story. I'm really enjoying reading everyone's memories, and I'm saving the new/old Tim Curry interview for later when I can sit down and savor it, because god I love that man. I was very, very confused by my feelings for Frank N. Furter.

I saw it before it became a thing. It had shown before midnight in a couple cities, and so they were trying it out here, showing it some different theatres around town. A friend who worked in the music biz said, "Let's go see this, I hear it's fucking insane." It was. I had never had so much fun, and of course, part of that was seeing a midnight movie when I was only a sophomore in high school.

Then it started becoming a thing, and I went every weekend. Every weekend, both nights. It was the first and only time in my life I was cool. Other students started asking me if I could take them (as long as they drove! I wasn't allowed to get my driver's license by my parents till I was 18). Everyone wanted to be my Rocky Horror friend. They were amazed that my parents let me go without even asking questions -- everyone else's parents asked a LOT of questions.

And I'm really glad they didn't, because I never could have explained how crazy in love with Tim Curry I was. I've had a lifetime since of falling hopelessly in lust with men dressed in women's clothes and makeup, and I totally blame him. He was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen. I spent every penny I had getting a copy of his role as Shakespeare on the BBC, converting the PAL tape to NTSC. I just loved his voice, and have had a voice kink ever since.

I only saw it once after high school was over, in the late '80s. It wasn't as bad as sonascope's experience, but god, it was so different. There was a weird underlying hostility that I couldn't identify. It didn't feel like we were a bunch of goofy people enacting a movie and interacting with a movie. Maybe I should try to go back and see if I can re-experience it the way sonascope did and reclaim those memories.

It made me a fangirl for life, and I will be forever grateful to Mr. Curry and friends for opening my mind up to the beautiful, crazy differences of people in this world. And that you could have something to live for every weekend to get you through the worst years of your life.
posted by emcat8 at 9:47 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Damn, sonascope. Even at the height of the Reagan era, it wasn't supposed to be like that. Even here in suburban Atlanta, at the theater I and the various band and drama geeks from my high school went to in '87-'88, it wasn't like that.

We did the show more or less as it was supposed to be done, though we left out most of the thrown props because none of us wanted to stay to clean it up after. Our Frank was a dude named Tommy that I sat next to in English class. The one time a couple of drunk rednecks wandered in from the showing of The Wall in the next screen over and tried to pull some homophobic shenanigans, Tommy laughed them out of the theater.

I'm sorry you had to go through that, but I'm pleased you were able to claim it as your own nonetheless. Rocky really is supposed to be a safe place.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:22 PM on February 4, 2014

The first time I saw RHPS was an afternoon matinee with a bunch of friends in Grade 10, a million years ago in 1979. We were just a bunch of people watching a film. A weird, strange film. With songs.

Then I got taken to the midnight show, loaded down with all the props, seated in row G for groupies. Then I understood what it was all about. And I loved it. Probably saw it 25 times, always in a theatre, always a midnight showing.

I have resisted watching it on TV because, without the audience, it turns back into a weird strange film, with songs.

Oh, and avoid Shock Treatment at all costs!
posted by drinkmaildave at 7:24 PM on February 5, 2014

Oh, and avoid Shock Treatment at all costs!

Shock Treatment is actually not a horrible film. The opening number and Little Black Dress are great; the whole "life is a TV show" premise has turned out to be remarkably prescient for our modern age. It has some pacing issues, and seems disjointed on the first couple of viewings, but it gets better when you've seen it more than a couple of times. Plus, Barry Humphries!

It's not nearly as good as RHPS, but I would not say avoid it.
posted by hippybear at 7:33 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and avoid Shock Treatment at all costs

You monster.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:24 PM on February 5, 2014

Wow, Sonascope. What a beautiful telling of a bittersweet/ joyous memory... and era..

posted by Philby at 12:37 AM on February 6, 2014

If you're ever on the cleanup crew after a showing, and you're offered the choice of leaf blower or shovel, take the leaf blower.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:23 PM on February 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

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