It was great when it all began…
The story of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, does not begin with the film debut in 1975, instead it begins within the mind of Richard O’Brien, a Londoner with a passion for rock ’n’ roll and the arts. O’ Brien, the brainchild behind Rocky Horror was an English performer, who, in 1972 decided to create a rock musical originally entitled “They Came From Denton High”, the first show he had ever written. “Denton High” eventually became “Rocky Horroar Show” then “The Rocky Horror Show”. A stage production of Rocky Horror premiered in June 1973 at the Royal Court’s experimental Theatre Upstairs, a 63-seat venue in London.
The original stage version, which featured Tim Curry (Dr. Frank-N-Furter), Richard O’Brien himself (Riff Raff), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), and Little Nell (Columbia), proved to be such a hit that it was relocated to a converted movie house that seated 270 people, and then to the 500-seat King’s Road Theatre. In 1973, The London Evening Standard dubbed Rocky Horror as “best musical”.
Many English stars raved about the new musical, among them was actress Britt Ekland, who saw the performance and enjoyed it so much that she convinced American film and music producer Lou Adler to accompany her to a performance. Adler decided to bring over part of the London cast, including Curry and O’Brien, and premiered Rocky Horror in America at the Roxy on March 21 1974, where it sold out for nine straight months.
The success of the American stage production led to 20th Century-Fox executive, Gordon Stulbert, to invest one million dollars into making a film version.
The film debuted on September 26, 1975 in L.A. and seven other American cities. Audience crowd grew to capacity in Los Angeles, but was dismal elsewhere. The film grossed less than $400,000 in its first three weeks and was withdrawn prior to its planned New York Halloween opening.
In hopes of salvaging whatever they could, Lou Addler and Tim Deegan, a publicist working closely with Rocky Horror, decided to open Rocky Horror as a midnight movie. Rocky Horror premiered at The Waverly in New York at midnight on April Fool’s Day 1976 and there it would remain for a record-setting 95 weeks. By mid-1978, Rocky Horror was playing at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays at over fifty locations around the nation. The Rocky Horror Picture show became the first motion picture to become a twice-weekly national institution. It generated fan clubs, paraphernalia, collectables, bumper stickers, record albums, videos, pins, magazines, conventions, and look-alike contests. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was born.
ver 280 fans descended on The Admiral Twin Theater in West Seattle for the April midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Vicarious Theater Company, have been performing at The Admiral Twin Theater for over 10 years. A former Terrace student, Holly Irons, agreed to be my liaison with the rest of the Vicarious Theater Company cast members. I arrived at the Theater on April 2 around 10:30 p.m. to get a sneak preview of the goings on of pre-show preparations. While there, I was pleasantly surprised by the welcome I received from the other cast members. They were warm and obliging and seemed excited to participate. Around 11:30 p.m., the audience started shuffling in, the energy coming from them was almost tangible, it was so strong. Finally after all the anticipation, it was midnight, time for the show to begin.
Before the film began, some of the regulars began to shout to the screen “lips!” I was confused, until bright red lip-sticked lips appeared on the dark screen. They came from the center, small, and then grew huge. They began singing the opening number “Science Fiction, Double Feature.”
This was definitely not like anything I had ever seen before. I spent the next two hours laughing hysterically, delighting in the music and characters, and being amazed at how the audience regulars were calling out comments to the movie as if scripted- as if these things were all supposed to be said and the movie wouldn’t even be the movie without the audience’s participation. That was what was so amazing: I was part of the show. The people in the rows behind me were wearing costumes just like the characters. Those members were introducing me to a part of the script that the screenwriters never wrote. It was like a strange portal to another world had opened, just for people like me. Freaks. Oddballs. Outsiders. The theater was an oasis. That is what Rocky Horror is all about, acceptance and challenging the norm. The storyline, in a nutshell, is as follows: two white middle “American” suburbanite newlyweds head off for their honeymoon and wind up more or less trapped inside a castle on a hill, occupied by various characters who engage in questionable activities, some of which we get a taste of, and some of which are only alluded to in song. This is a place of transgressions and of being taught new values and how to embrace them.
After the show was over, the cast began their post-show gathering and from there it was off to bed for sweet dreams of sweet transvestites from Transylvania.
Come celebrate Rocky Horror in all its glory. The Admiral Theater allows all the props that should come with the experience, such as rice, unbuttered toast, squirt guns, toilet paper, party hats, cards, newspapers and flashlights. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is performed the first Saturday of every month, always at midnight, and directions to the theater can be found on thezenroom.com. Bring $6, the cost of admission.