Almost 40 years ago, a crazy little film had it’s debut showing in Los Angeles. It didn’t bring in the audiences that were predicted, was pulled and shelved, and was ultimately considered a failure.
A year later, it was re-introduced at a little theater known for “midnight” showings of unique, foreign, and independent films. It did well enough that first night and became a weekly regular showing, with regular viewers who, upon memorizing the scenes and the lines, began to jeer, taunt, and tease the characters on the screen. One night showing, prior to Halloween, a few daring souls dressed the parts of some of the characters. Not long after, people began singing along with the record played before the movie (meant to get the audience hyped up for the film). This developed into a floor-show that would continue to be enjoyed before each showing. Pretty soon, people were attending not just to enjoy the film, but to enjoy entertaining and being entertained by each other: costume, dialogue, zany behavior.
Audience members started getting more involved. Shouting at the screen (and each other) wasn’t enough. They started acting out scenes, bringing props. The phenomenon began to spread from theater to theater. It took little more than 3 years for The Rocky Horror Picture Show to become a cult classic with a zealous following…which has been passed from generation to generation. The film has also hit Broadway and is still being produced in smaller theatres across the country.
I got to see it last night, at a tiny college theatre in my small, rather conservative town. I was not only impressed with the cast, music, and acting, I was impressed by the audience. Ranging in age from the mid-teens to late 80’s or so, the group was a mish-mash of well-dressed to hardly dressed. It was great. The Time Warp dance, costume prizes (first place was a pink dildo going to a young man in a wedding dress and fishnets), and audience interjections throughout the play.
And, it was sexy. Though I will admit that I have never been pulled in by others’ fascination with this film, I am intrigued with the concepts it brings up. Sexual enlightenment. Freedom from gender barriers. Liberation. In 1975, after the sexual revolution, at the height of the women’s movement, this film was just one more investigation of what could be. Even though the ideas might be “alien”.
My only sadness is that in the end, the “aliens” go back to their planet of Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. Frank and his beautiful creation, Rocky Horror, die. And the regular people are left to go back to their regular little lives.
Hey wait…I go through this every time I go to a swinger’s party. All those beautiful costumes, the blurring of sexual boundaries, sex, sex, and more sex…and then back to the day-to-day grind.
Now I just have to find my own Rocky Horror to do with as I may – yum!
So, yah…it looks like a lot of people wish our puritanical ways were a thing of the past. All those straight men in bustiers, all those girls in fishnets and corsets…get to come out of the wood work, commune, and have a great time.
Last night’s production boasted a sexy lead female (who serves pizza at a local restaurant), a darling Rocky Horror (a kid I used to know when he was younger and less…well, less everything), the son of a very religious man (how does he deal with his son frolicking around on stage in a Speedo and platform, lace-up boots?), and a plethora of others whom I see working at local establishments. What fun to see their alter egos shine for just a bit.
After all, it’s what I do here…put on my stage make-up, warm-up my stage voice, and become something I don’t get to be in my everyday life.
My favorite scene: a back-lit white screen, undulating shadows, Frank having his way with Janet…then Brad, and everyone loving it.
Yep, that’s my next fantasy to fulfill…breaking down those gender walls.
So, here’s to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. May it enjoy another 40 years of fame.
Visit the official Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Site for more information.