On Aug. 14, 1975, a film adaptation of a little-known British musical opened to tepid audiences and lukewarm reviews. The film featured no big name stars (yet), a low budget and a ridiculous plot. A movie about a “sweet transvestite” from the planet of Transsexual, Transylvania? Nobody would pay to see that freakshow!
I have many fond memories of going to the Avalon and the Tivoli theaters in St. Louis to midnight showings of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” where audience participation was not only allowed, but encouraged. Part of the fun was an unruly audience making it impossible to hear any of the dialogue.
“You’re lucky, he’s lucky, I’m lucky…we’re all lucky!!!”
My very first encounter with the show was at the Avalon Cinema. I went with a friend of mine, neither of us knowing what to expect. As we sat in the theater and people began to mill in, my friend went to the restroom. He returned a short time later with a mortified look on his face.
“There was a guy in there with full makeup and fishnet stockings,” he said. “He had a whip in his hand, and just sat on the sink and stared at me as every once in a while he cracked that whip.”
I still think of that and laugh whenever I hear someone’s story of their first experience seeing the film in theaters.
“That’s a rather tender subject…another slice, anyone?”
For years, Rocky Horror was something that the “underground” held sacred, dear, and somewhat secret…and we liked it that way.
In 1990, the film was released on VHS for the first time. In the first blow to its cult status, anyone could rent or buy the movie and watch it….without the benefits of a theater setting or a screaming audience. I sat watching the tape that first time with friends, thinking “this kinda sucks.”
In 1993, cable began broadcasting the movie, and more of us shook our heads sadly as a cleaned-up, sanitized version of the film began popping up at all hours of the night (and day!!! 11 in the morning!! Rocky Horror!! Really???).
Earlier this year, the show Glee (shudder) announced they were going to have a “Rocky Horror episode,” and another nail in Dr. Frank N. Furter’s coffin was hammered in. When a toothpaste commercial like “Glee” pays homage, there is no “underground cult status” left, as far as I’m concerned.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the film, it is being released on Blu-Ray Oct. 19. While I am sure many “Glee” fans will run out and buy it, I personally will be cheering on the middle-aged group of doctors, mothers, and car mechanics who sneak away from their kids (and some grandkids) for a night and have a “Rocky Horror/Pink Flamingos/Reefer Madness” party where they can do the Time Warp as it was always meant to be danced…by weirdos in drag.
An even better idea: The Tivoli still has midnight showings for the loyal fans; you can check out the coolest theater in the Midwest while watching one of the coolest cult movies ever. Show dates are Oct. 22, 23, 29, and 30, and Nov. 5 and 6. Time? Midnight, of course!
For a great in-depth history of the musical and movie, check out the book “Rocky Horror: From Concept to Cult” by David Evans and my friend Scott Michaels. It’s out of print, but you can find copies on Ebay and Amazon.
“And crawling…on the planet’s face…some insects…called the human race…lost in time….and lost in space….and meaning.”
2 thoughts on “"I see you shiver with antici……….pation."”
This is one of the best movies of all time for the simple reason that EVERYONE seems to get very INVOLVED in the film. People dress the parts and act the parts while the film is playing. It is an event much more so than a movie, one might attend.The after movie events are always wild and a great deal of fun. I was one of the lucky ones I think and saw it early on. It was then, and is now, still an underground film. A friend took me to see this or I would likely never have had the experience. This was sometime in the 70’s though those years are a bit vague and I have no specific date.
What I find remarkable is that I now have a daughter who just turned 18 who is out on the alternative edge in some of her activities and she has discovered Rocky, all on her own, without any influence from me. She has made a point of telling me about it as if it is something new and was very surprised that I had already experienced it on several occasions.
This film is as exciting and required now as it was in those days so long ago. It is a journey into the unknown and the taboo and allows one to step outside of the box of social norms, if even only for the duration of the film.
Step outside of your own box and go see Rocky. It could be a life changing event.
I didn’t think all that much of the movie until I stumbled onto a student event at SIUE where they did the audience participation. It wasn’t the Tivoli, but it was a blast! I’ve loved it ever since.
It may be out there for anyone to see – but I still think there is a core group that really enjoys it as it was meant to be enjoyed. It’s still a little weird for mainstream audiences… I’d attribute the whole “Glee” episode idea to the idea that it’s cool to be into underground culture these days. In any event, I am kind of excited to see what they do with it. I think it could either be fun, or a huge disaster.
…I definitely need to catch one of those Tivoli showtimes and turn my boyfriend into a believer.
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