The Rocky Horror Picture Show is quite an interesting phenomenon. It began life as a stage musical called The Rocky Horror Show in 1973. Within two years, a film adaptation was made and released by 20th Century Fox (featuring Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, and Susan Sarandon). A flop in its initial release, the film began to develop a cult following when it was re-released as a midnight movie the following year at the Waverly Theater (now the IFC Center) in New York City. Audiences began to participate, yelling back at the screen, filling in dialogue gaps with humor, and bringing various props for different parts of the film. Audience members started to dress up as different characters from the film and shadow casts popped up in different cities to perform along with the film. It is then no surprise that this film currently holds the record for the longest-running release in film history (37 years and still going).
Without going any further on Rocky Horror, I’d like to look back on my experiences with this film. I had first heard of the film when I was in high school. A classmate of mine, who was a big Rocky Horror fan, had raved about going to see The Rocky Horror Show in Manhattan during its Broadway revival around 11 years ago (he had gone during the period that Luke Perry had played Brad). I was intrigued by the stories I had heard, but I was never able to go check it out. When I think of my life during high school, I’m filled with regret over all the experiences I never had and keep imagining all of the things I would’ve liked to have done differently, such as being much more sociable and not being constantly pressured to get good grades (I was completely burned out by the time graduation arrived, and my graduation photo unfortunately proved it). But I digress…
The closest I ever came to seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show during that time was on TV. I once caught it briefly on VH1 (I saw part of the sequence where Frank chases Janet). Until a few years ago, the biggest exposure I had to the film was through its soundtrack. Just to be clear, I didn’t own the soundtrack (until three-and-a-half years ago). That may seem odd considering the fact that I own so many soundtracks (most of them are film scores, but I actually do own a few film musical soundtracks as well as song soundtracks). The high school classmate I previously mentioned had the soundtrack, and despite seeing him with it several times, I strangely never asked to borrow or even listen to it. The only song I was familiar with at the time was “Time Warp,” and that was mainly because it was featured on an episode of The Drew Carey Show. During college, I had seen some ads that linked me to the Clearview Cinemas website for Rocky Horror, but I never had the time to check it out.
A few years ago, that all changed for me. I started to work at the Clearview Chelsea theater in Manhattan around the time of the release of The Dark Knight (after a rough unemployment period that saw a couple of temporary jobs). When I found out that this was the theater that played The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday and Saturday night at midnight, I vowed that I would finally watch it. Less than two months later, I was finally sitting in the audience, anxiously awaiting the film.
Having heard some stories about the pre-show, I sat in the very middle of the theater so that I wouldn’t be picked to do anything humiliating. Rocky virgins get picked to participate in a contest called “Let’s Have An Orgasm.” For those unfamiliar with the term, a Rocky virgin is someone who’s never seen Rocky Horror on the big screen ever (TV and/or home video doesn’t count; it’s just masturbation, as the pre-show host will lovingly refer to it). “Let’s Have An Orgasm” is a contest where, one by one, participants have to fake an orgasm in front of the audience. Usually, the fake orgasms are very terrible, but once in a while there will be a decent one (always from a woman, of course) and very rarely will there be a fake orgasm that’s bonerific (yes, the phrase from Family Guy). The less said about the male fake orgasms, the better (hint: they’re dreadful). Anyway, I survived my first screening, having enjoyed the film and the performance of the shadow cast. My one regret was not having seen the film prior to the screening because I missed a few dialogue bits due to the audience participation.
(To be concluded in:
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Personal Retrospective Part Two)