AUDIO: Science Fiction, Double Feature - My Years at the Rocky Horror Picture Show
Back in the 1990s, I was Brad Majors -- affectionately known as the "A$$hole" of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
For years I would attend screenings at The Ken Cinema in San Diego. I loved that place and the people who populated it. But I eventually moved on, The Ken stopped showing Rocky, and that was that... until 2002.
Mike Reed, one of the original cast members (and a guy I met while working at Jack in the Box as a teenager), organized a reunion. I was asked to perform Brad again that night, and I wanted to write something about my past experiences at Rocky. I wanted people to know why Rocky meant so much to me and others growing up. So, a friend connected me with Beth Accomando, a reporter for KPBS, the local NPR affiliate. She helped me create this radio feature.
Below is the recording, and under that is the transcription.
SCIENCE FICTION, DOUBLE FEATURE
By Richard Andreoli
Let’s do the time warp again!
Let’s do the time warp again!
It’s just a jump to the left...
Ah yes, “The Time Warp!” — the group-dance song that was played at school proms and roller rinks across the country was one of the anthems in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Released in 1975 and based on the stage musical, this B-movie parody follows the adventures of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, a young, ordinary, healthy couple played by Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon. One night they leave their hometown of Denton, Ohio, and run into some trouble.
JANET: (panicked) "What was that bang?!"
BRAD: "We must have a blow out!... Didn’t we pass a castle back down the road a few miles? Maybe they have a telephone I could use."
JANET: "I’m coming with you.... Besides, darling, the owner of that phone may be a beautiful woman and you might never come back again."
Well, the owner of that phone isn’t a beautiful woman, but rather a sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania, played by Tim Curry. All it took was a campy plot and a score of rocking songs, and suddenly midnight movie screenings started popping up across the country. Die-hard fans dressed in character, sang along, and danced in the aisles.
But "Rocky Horror" was more than just some performance art piece, because the audience was as important to the evening’s entertainment as the film itself. And, yes, I’d been a part of that magic. I’d held up my lighter during the song “There’s A Light” and shot my water pistol when it was raining on-screen. I even performed the Barry Bostwick role during screenings — and I say “performed” because none of the live cast ever actually acted during the film. We simply mimicked our characters’ on-screen actions. And I did all this at The Ken Cinema’s weekly screenings of Rocky Horror in San Diego, where some motivated individual in our group had decided to reunite us after 10 years.
I explained all this to my current circle of friends — all of whom have seen the movie — and they acknowledged that, yes, it would be a hoot to watch a group of 30- to 40-somethings jiggling around in their underwear and mimicking the motions of...
"Janet?... Dr. Scott!... Janet!... Brad!... Rocky! Ugh!"
...and this would spawn hours of small talk for future dinner parties. But they couldn’t fathom why on God’s green earth I was so excited about spending a weekend with the lost, disenfranchised youth of San Diego that I grew up with. Well, these friends might have seen Rocky Horror, but I soon realized that they definitely didn’t get it.
I’m not exactly sure why this is, but those of us at Rocky struggled with more than just the usual coming-of-age dilemmas that plagued everyone else.
It was the early ‘80s, and some of us were exploring sexual freedoms we never thought possible in our highly academic lives — admittedly, many of us were nerds. Others in my group were discovering personal philosophies for the first time, entertaining feminist theories, or investigating alternative religions like Wicca, and discovering how that impacted their spirituality. These radical journeys made many of us feel like the class freaks that everyone had condemned us to be, and nothing in our lives seemed to hold any stability. Nothing, that is, except for Rocky Horror.
Because when you were “in” at Rocky, whether it be as a “cast member” or simply as a bemused observer in the audience, you were suddenly more important than you could ever hope to be in the normal world. You knew what to yell and when to yell it at the screen. You knew the songs, the dances, the choreography, and you belonged in a world that the “normal” kids thought was different, alternative, even cutting edge in some cases. Suddenly you were on the inside looking out, rather than on the outside looking in. And it was this sense of belonging, of importance, of a ritualized normalcy amidst the everyday insanity that gave each of us the strength to face those internal struggles. That’s such a valuable gift — something that people who never “got” Rocky never got to experience.
You know, now that I’m older I can freely admit that in many ways I was lost during those years, but at least I always knew how to find my way home: Fridays and Saturdays, midnight, Rocky Horror at The Ken theater.
NOTES: The reunion show sold out. There were spotlights in the streets, and locals news media covered the event. A version of this essay later appeared in Mondo Homo.