Richard, Donna, Francesca, and I saw a midnight screening of *The Rocky Horror Picture Show* on 1/20/18. Can you believe I had never seen it? Not on the screen, not on VHS, or DVD, or streaming, or onstage. Donna was shocked (shocked, I tell you) when she heard this a couple years ago, and made me promise that i would arrange a date for the four of us to see it. We finally got around to it.
How do I describe it? It was a fascinating cultural experience. I should give a very brief overview: *The Rocky Horror Picture Show* is a movie musical from 1975, a parody of horror films and B movies from the 30s and beyond. Four members of the cast went on to have fairly major careers: Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Meat Loaf, and biggest of all, Susan Sarandon. The movie wasn't a success in its initial release but developed a cult following as a result of midnight screenings at the Waverly Theater here in New York, down by the West 4 subway station. Fans of the movie would dress as their favorite characters, eventually standing in front of the screen and lip-synching the performances of those characters for the entire film. Audience members developed a highly ritualized commentary - - like members of the audience would shout out a question and the person on screen would answer it.
This played as a midnight movie at the Majestic Theater in Madison the whole time I lived there, and when I floated the idea to someone or other that I wanted to see it, it never took off. I believe it's been playing more or less continuously in New York City since it opened in 1975 and it was something on my list of things to do when I moved here. I was very happy to finally cross this off my list.
The four of us met for a bite before at a diner down the street.
We showed up at the theater (the Cinepolis Chelsea, where it plays every Friday and Saturday at midnight) at about 11:30 and were kept waiting in the hallway outside theater 3 until about 11:55. Donna was tickled and fascinated that the "cast" (the people who would be shadowing the actors onscreen) were putting on their costumes and getting their acts together in full view of the audience.
We got in the theater. Richard knows that I like sitting in the back, and headed in that direction, but Donna wisely moved us to the second row, closer to the action. A pre-show host got us out of our seats and up to the area in front of the screen and we all danced to three songs that I assumed were from the movie. That was a blast, and gave me a much-needed energy boost (I usually have my nightie on by 9:30 PM). We sat back down and another pre-show host asked if there were any virgins in the audience, meaning people who had never been to a *RHPS* screening. I raised my hand, of course!
There were seven virgins. We went down the line and were asked to give our best faked orgasm. Richard, Donna, and Francesca all agreed that mine was the best of the seven, but the last guy won the contest because his was the funniest. I guess I had misunderstood the parameters of the contest - - I thought they were looking for the BEST faked orgasm, not the funniest. But I'm moving on, I'm not one to hold onto these things.
The movie started. The live, lip-synching performers were all wonderful and clearly having a great time. My favorite was Jon, who played Austin Powers in the pre-show curtain raiser (don't ask) and played Riff Raff the Handyman in the movie. He was a scream. He was one of only two men in the cast (the other guy was the pre-show host, who played the Meat Loaf role) - - Frank N Furter, Brad, and Rocky Horror were all played by women. That added to the loose gender continuum of the show.
Good news first? The movie itself is fascinating and bizarre. Tim Curry is an absolute diva, fully formed, fully fabulous, a real performance for the ages. The atmosphere in the theater was boisterous and hilarious. Richard made the point the next day that 1975 was very early for a movie with such overt gay content, and EXTREMELY early for a movie with trans content, and there are all kinds of trans actions in this movie. So that makes it important historically.
Now for the down side. I know this isn't really the point of a *Rocky Horror* screening, but with the performance going on in front of the screen, and the performance of the audience shouting at the screen, I had a hard time paying attention to the MOVIE. That was a little frustrating for me. And the whole ritualized experience seemed like it was more for them (the performers and hardcore audience members) than it was for me. Sort of an inside joke.
I had a great time. I might see it again (I'm told my friend Jere was a die-hard *Rocky Horror* groupie back in the day), but it won't be for a while.