I was 16, spending the night at my friend Mike’s house, when we snuck out and saw my first midnight movie. Which also happened to be the GREATEST of all midnight movies; The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I had heard a little about this movie. I knew it was a rock-n-roll Frankenstein musical with transvestites. (transvestite used to be an actual word, look it up). My friend Mike, and his friend Steve, who drove us – he was the only one of us with a car – had no clue what it was about. They just knew there was something forbidden about it.
The crowd in line for tickets outside the Camp Bowie theater was a complete mess. Were they drunk? Stoned? Maybe both, I couldn’t tell. But they were loud… laughing and singing and smoking ……. they scared the living shit out of me. Most of them were totally overly-costumed – ripped fishnets, pearls, blue eye shadow… and that was just the boys.
“Those are some ugly-ass chicks”, was all Steve could say.
We waited in Steve’s car for the crowd to go inside, downed a couple wine coolers, then sauntered up to the window to get our tickets.
“Are you boys virgins?” from the man behind the glass.
“Hell No!” Steve, of course.
“Ooooookay then. You have fun”
Luckily for us, the theater wasn’t too full and we were able to get a row to ourselves close to the back.
But before the movie started, there were a few announcements from a rotund chick in sequined gold shorty-shorts and matching top hat; “No smoking”, “No throwing prunes” – followed by laughs, “No spitting.” the theater erupted with the response,
And finally, “Are there any virgins here tonight?”
“HELL NO!” from Steve again.
The entire theater turned and looked at us. Pretty sure they could tell that we were.
“Looks like we have some cherries to pop tonight.”
The three of us had no idea what we were in for.
The room went dark, big red lips appeared on the screen, the entire crowd started singing Science Fiction Double Feature…… and I was enthralled. Steve kept yelling, “Shut the hell up!” and I wondered why had we brought him? Oh yeah, he had the car. I was then pelted with rice – “Stop throwing shit!” from Steve, of course – as a group of costumed actors shadowed all the big screen action on the little three foot stage/ledge in front. When the audience started shooting water guns straight into the air, everyone – sans the three of us – held newspapers over their heads to stay dry. By the time they started dancing The Time Warp in the isles, I knew I was hooked…..I had found my people.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn’t just a movie.
It’s an experience.
Most movies are the sit quietly and watch kind, but not this one. Audience partici…..pation is what it’s all about. Sing along, yell at the screen, even dance in the isles – anything goes.
It isn’t too difficult to see why the small-town, sixteen-year-old me, who still didn’t know just how he fit into the world, would relate to a glam-rock movie with a clear message of;
“Just be who you are”
I’ve seen this movie dozens of times since that night, and it never fails to enchant me. Occasionally, I’d stumble upon it on late night TV, and watch it by myself… singing every song out loud. But the absolute best way to watch it is on the big screen, with a seasoned crowd… and a few virgins who don’t know what they’re in for.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the longest running theatrical release in the United States. It has never been pulled by 20th Century Fox from its original 1975 release, and it continues to play in movie theaters today. Based on the British stage play The Rocky Horror Show written by Richard O’Brian. Released in 1975 to some pretty terrible reviews, the film began to develop a cult following when it was limited to midnight showings in New York and California near college campuses. Audience members naturally began talking back to the screen and singing along with the soundtrack. Some theaters encouraged movie-goers to wear costumes by granting free admission and it didn’t take long for props to be included; noise-makers, toast, squirt guns, prunes, etc….
I found the original trailer on the Youtubes.
Why the sudden revived interest in R.H.P.S.?
So glad you asked.
This weekend is my birthday – a pretty significant one. And what better way to celebrate a half century of life than to revisit one of my favorite teenage memories?
The Texas Theater (where they captured Lee Harvey Oswald) and Cinewilde (Oak Cliff’s only LGBTQ film series) have graciously agreed to show The Rocky Horror Picture Show (this fFriday, November 16th @ 9:30pm) ……. just for my birthday.
Please, join me if you dare, I’d love to share this gem with y’all….
Especially if you’re a virgin.