Thursday, October 22, 2015

let's talk about The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Halloween is my all-time favorite day of the year. I love it more than Christmas, and I would trade in every single birthday for more Halloween.

Luckily for me, the rest of the country seems to love Halloween as much as I do. You can find Halloweeny events to attend all throughout October – just this October, I’m planning on two ghost tours, two zombie walks, one fantastic costume, and a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

And that’s what we’re here to talk about.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (the film, not the Broadway musical) turned 40 this year, so what better time to talk about this staple of my young life?

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. (For the unfamiliar, that is a direct quote from Rocky Horror. See how smoothly I worked that in?)

I first stumbled across Rocky Horror when I was 13 or 14. My family had just moved into our new house, and I was watching TV late one Saturday night. Flipping through the channels, I landed on VHI, smack-dab in the middle of the Time Warp. I was mesmerized. I had never seen anything like it before in my life, and I was absolutely smitten. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to watch the movie on a continuous loop for the rest of my life.

This was before the days of recording on your TV (unless you set up a timer on your VCR) and before the days of Netflix. I had no credit card (and little to no money), so I couldn't buy it on Amazon. I had no way to see Rocky Horror except to obsessively stalk the VHI schedule.

Catching snippets on TV here and there had to suffice until one day at Menards. (Yes. Menards.) I was in Watertown for Black Friday with my friend Meagan and her mom, and Menards was the last stop on our itinerary before heading home. As we headed to the checkout, I saw a VHS copy of Rocky Horror perched in one of the five-dollar racks. It had to be mine.

A perpetual worrier and rule follower, I was pretty nervous about actually trying to buy said VHS. Rocky Horror is rated R, and I was no more than 15 at the time of my illicit purchase. Meagan and I made a hasty plan: I would try to buy the movie and look as mature as I possibly could. If the cashier asked to see my ID, I would say that I forgot it at home. (Which was actually totally true.) I would then hope that the cashier would just forgo the age check and let me buy the movie. If not, I would ask Meagan's mom to please buy it for me.

Turns out that my worrying was for absolutely nothing. I bought my five-dollar R-rated movie, zero questions asked.

I got home at about 11 that morning (as it was Black Friday, we had been in Watertown long before dawn) and settled into my room to watch Rocky Horror. It would be the first time that I would ever watch it beginning to end, and I was jittery with excitement.

And? I had the house to myself. My dad was working in the yard, and my mom, brother, and sister had themselves headed to Watertown. Just in case, though, I wasn't going to watch my new movie on one of the community TVs. (I wasn't sure how my parents would feel if they stumbled across their 15-year-old daughter watching a movie that consists primarily of people running around in lingerie.) I had a combo TV/VCR in my room that I had purchased from my parents with my hard-earned ice cream shop money, and I had a comfy chair plopped right in front if it. I could not believe I could finally watch Rocky Horror in its uninterrupted glory.

Until I was interrupted.

I was barely into "Dammit, Janet" when my dad knocked on my door. Since I was home from Watertown and simply lazing about, surely I had time to help him pick rocks. The trials and tribulations of being a farm kid, I tell you.

I don't remember if I got to finish watching Rocky Horror that day, but I must tell you that I have watched it countless times since. My friend Allison and I learned the Time Warp (which is fabulously easy), and I bought the soundtrack at Sam Goody.

But it wasn't until college that I uncovered a previously unknown aspect of Rocky Horror: the midnight showing. I was a sophomore when I saw posters go up for an on-campus screening of Rocky Horror at midnight. I arrived well before midnight, excited an unaware of what I was in for. This was the first time I had ever experienced Rocky Horror audience participation, which is nothing short of magical. There was even a kit that you could buy.

Inside the kit: 

  • actual toast to throw when a toast is proposed.
  • Scott brand toilet paper to thrown when Dr Scott appears.
  • a newspaper to put over your head during Brad and Janet’s scene in the rain
  • rice to throw during the wedding scene

Aside from all the stuff you throw, there is an entire movie scripts’ worth of lines that you’re supposed to yell out at various points during the movie. Seriously: for every line in the movie, there is something to yell back. It’s amazing. And, of course, everyone must stand up and do the Time Warp.

At this very first midnight showing at UMM, there were even students who dressed up as Rocky and Dr Furter and acted out “The Sword of Damocles” and “I Can Make You a Man.” This was one of many moments in my UMM career where I just knew unequivocally that I had picked the right college.

(Here's another "wow, I picked the best college ever" moment brought to you by Rocky Horror: in one of my speech classes, I even did my "how-to" speech on the proper method for Rocky Horror audience participation. And totally got an A.)

I don’t remember if I went to the midnight showing when I was a junior. By that time, I lived off campus, and it was awfully hard to scare up people to go with you to a midnight movie on Halloween with house parties were in full swing. However, I know for certain that I went my senior year – James and I had a symphonic winds concert on Halloween, which was cruel. Even more so because Halloween was on a Friday that year. We ran straight from the concert to put on our Halloween costumes (he was a Mexican wrestler, and I had my grandma’s traditional Norwegian outfit) and skedaddled to the Halloween party at my house. After that, it was Rocky Horror: the last Rocky Horror of my college career.
This is a picture we took right after the showing. We were/are weird.

Skip ahead a few years. It was Halloween 2010: James lived in Ellsworth, and I lived in Minneapolis. Halloween was on a Sunday that year, and James drove up to spend the weekend with me. We did the best Halloween stuff: we went to see the Minnesota Orchestra perform the score to Psycho while the movie played in the background, and we went to see a midnight showing of Rocky Horror at the Uptown Theatre.

Now, we had not thought ahead to purchase advance tickets for Rocky Horror. The thought struck us shortly after the orchestra concert that we might want to make our way there and lock down our tickets. And we did - and found ourselves at the end of an incredibly long snaking line full of people in fishnets. Two thoughts struck me: 1.) why didn't I have fishnets?! and 2.) dear God, I hope we get seats. The line inched along, and we stood outside in the freezing cold (as it was a cold October). The longer we waited, the more I worried that we'd be turned away at the ticket counter. We finally entered the building, and James and I snagged one of the last remaining pairs of tickets. Whew.

We took our seats, and it was pure pandemonium. There were scores of actors in full Rocky Horror regalia lining the stage: once the movie began, these same actors would proceed to act out THE ENTIRE MOVIE. IN REAL TIME. The theatre was jammed to the gills, and the movie started an hour and a half late. But once it began, people really lost their shit. You could barely hear the movie over the audience shouting out their responsive lines, and the complete and total elation in the air was palpable. We didn't get out of that theatre until after 3 am, but I was so energized that I could have done it all over again. It was one of the most spectacular things I've ever been a part of - and I didn't even wear fishnets.

By Halloween weekend 2011, I had moved to Sioux Falls to be closer to James - who still lived in Ellsworth. (The drive to see each other had been whittled down from four hours to one, but it still sucked.) James came to Sioux Falls for Halloween weekend, and we decided to go to the midnight showing of Rocky Horror at the West Mall 7: the cheap theatre. I knew it wouldn't be like Minneapolis, but I had high hopes for my Sioux Falls Rocky Horror experience. I even got some fishnet-y tights and put on my pearls and heels this time.

This was the best I could do for a Rocky Horror ensemble, as I am simply not brave enough to wear what Tim Curry wore.

Indeed, I was sorely disappointed. The theatre contained a mere handful of people, only one of whom had dressed for the occasion. No one knew the audience participation lines, and you can bet your bottom dollar that no one brought toast to throw. The one saving grace: my fellow Rocky Horror-goers did stand up and do the Time Warp. To have not done so would have been a crime.

(Not surprisingly, this was the last time we saw a midnight showing of Rocky Horror advertised at the West Mall 7. Or anywhere else in Sioux Falls.)

Don't get me wrong: my love of Rocky Horror is not limited to film. In October 2013, my mom and I went to see SDSU's production - and it was AMAZING. That theatre department has some incredibly talented singers, and the actor who played Dr Furter absolute stole my heart. And? The entire audience totally stood up and did the Time Warp.

If you have never seen Rocky Horror, you may be wondering what all this talk of the Time Warp is.

Well, it's just a jump to the left.
 I don't know what it is about the Time Warp that makes us love it so much, but we just do. We did the Time Warp at our wedding, and we did the Time Warp quite recently at a good friend's wedding. It's the Time Warp: you can't hear it and NOT do it.

That's my storied relationship with Rocky Horror. We've come a long way together - from that VHS tape to an upcoming midnight showing in Minneapolis. (!!!) Rocky Horror has taught me myriad life lessons: don't wander into strange castles, don't be too uptight, don't be afraid to be yourself. But most importantly...

Don't dream it. Be it.

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