“I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey” – Charles Gray, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
October 2016. Circleville, Ohio.
We parked in a funeral parlor’s lot, upping the spooky factor while just trying to find free parking. We walked through dark and empty streets to the small theater. I was headed to my first stage performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For my friend who came with me to see our mutual friend perform as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, it was her first time encountering Rocky Horror at all. Ever. She told me this as we approached the theater, and I remember freezing on the sidewalk in that moment. I did not know where to begin with warning her, or if I should at all. Either way…it was a night we were both going to remember for a very long time.
Following the iconic red lips performing “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” the movie begins with a young couple, Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) after attending the wedding of two friends from school. After a conversation with the groom and after everyone leaves, Brad asks Janet to marry him. Janet enthusiastically accepts, and the couple decides to visit the teacher who taught the class where they met. The night they make the drive, they encounter heavy rain and an unusual number of motorcycles. When the car gets a flat tire, Brad and Janet set out on foot together to see if the owners of the castle they passed earlier have a phone they could use.
Arriving at the castle’s front gates, they meet Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn), two eccentric servants of the castle’s master. After an iconic musical number (“The Time Warp”) in which we meet Columbia (Nell Campbell) and the master’s uniformed guests, the engaged couple meet Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). Dr. Frank-N-Furter is a self-proclaimed transvestite from the planet Transylvania, and his guests that night are present to witness his latest scientific triumph. Brad and Janet are urged to join in, their insistence that they only want to use a phone going ignored. Frank has been hard at work building his dream man, Rocky (Peter Hinwood), and he succeeds in bringing him to life that night. Following the sudden appearance of Frank’s last project, Eddie (Meat Loaf), Frank’s true colors begin to show. His fun and harmless demeanor reveals itself to be angry, jealous, manipulative, and violent in actuality.
Brad, Janet, and everyone remaining in the castle get pulled into Frank’s games as the night goes on. As their situation becomes more strange and unexpected, Brad and Janet find themselves drifting apart. They experience the world in ways they never had before, and the temptations of their shelter draw them further into Frank’s entrapment.
Rocky Horror has has been a part of Halloween experiences for decades. From shadow casts (acting ensembles who act out the movie while it plays on a screen behind them), to stage interpretations, to endless references in popular culture, Rocky Horror always finds its way to audiences who appreciate it most. Its cult status and interactive elements make every showing unique to its audience and the performers. I would say everyone who loves Rocky Horror has a story behind its entry into their life. My story involves me watching it as a teenager when it was shown on Fuse (the TV channel), not knowing anything about it, and being speechless through its entirety. It was not long until I was hooked, watching it every time it was on TV and counting down the days until I turned 17 so I could buy the DVD (it was a different time). I remember watching it most days after school for a little while. I have always been the weird kid (and always will be), and I had found a story to enjoy over and over that was simply bizarre and proud to be so. Plus, I can never get enough of that soundtrack.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has spoken to the weird kids (like me) for decades, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We may look at it differently now with what we understand about some of the topics explored through the characters. However, it has always been mostly about the doors this story opened for the outcasts. Rocky Horror forever changed the way I thought about stories, characters, and how creating what you want will be meaningful to the right audience. With its dedicated and ever-growing fanbase, The Rocky Horror Picture Show will continue its reign in anti-normalcy for more decades to come.
Until next time,