It was great when it all began … I was a regular Frankie fan.
For those over or under a certain age who don’t grasp that reference, I don’t mean Frankie Avalon, Frankie Valli, Frankie Grande or even Frankie Jonas (aka “The Bonus Jonas”). I’m referring to none other than mad scientist and alien transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter.
That’s right, my unconventional conventionalists, I am a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fan, and have been since that landmark summer day in July 1982, when my big brother Fred took me to my first midnight showing of the musical comedy horror-turned-cult-film phenomenon that would touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, touch me in a way no movie had before.
Actually, I became a convert while still a “virgin” — in “RHPS” parlance, that’s someone who’s never experienced the movie in a theater with an audience and live cast. Months before my baptism into celluloid bacchanalia, I’d worn scratches and crackles into the vinyl of the soundtrack album Big Brother had brought home from college, memorizing the songs forward and backward. I even knew many of the audience particpation lines (many, if most, of which cannot be repeated here) in advance.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen “RHPS” since then — in theaters, as well as on VHS and DVD (fun, but it pales in comparison to the real thing). Curious about a ballpark estimate, I leafed through my high school senior memory book a few days ago and found enough movie ticket stubs from that year alone to fill two pages!
So it was with delight that I discovered that the Victoria Theatre in Dayton was showing “RHPS,” on Aug. 13, as I hadn’t been to a screening since my senior year in college – roughly half a lifetime ago.
I recruited a few friends — some virgins, others veterans — and prepared to give myself over to absolute pleasure. Well, as much absolute pleasure as can be had at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday.
A cavalcade of questions flashed through my excited brain: Will there be a long line, as there always was in my younger days? What will the crowd be like? What new lines would the audience yell? Had the movie held up over time? Had I?
Mostly, I wondered: Had I changed too much to still enjoy the “RHPS” experience?
Arriving via Uber about half an hour before the box office opened turned out to be a good idea, as the line behind me eventually wound around the block. Moviegoers of all flavors — hipsters, elaborately costumed “RHPS” diehards, everyday Joes and Jills, and even a few tweens — queued up and shivered with antici … (SAY IT!) … pation of what lay ahead.
There were indeed a few new lines shouted at the appropriate moments by exuberant fans, causing ripples of laughter through the audience. But mostly, the lines were familiar classics, and despite originating in the late 70s, still hilarious and not a bit hackneyed.
From the sensual strains of “Sweet Transvestite” to the rollicking romp that is “Time Warp” (yes, I took that jump to the left and then a step to the ri-i-i-i-ight) to the plangent poignancy of “I’m Going Home,” the songs are still as fresh as if Richard “Riff-Raff” O’Brien had written them yesterday.
Even the cheesy special effects, shoestring budget costumes ($1,600 was alloted for this purpose) and a radio broadcast of Richard Nixon’s resignation speech haven’t stopped “RHPS” from holding up astonishingly well in 41 years.
As for me, I’ve held up pretty well, too, although I was grateful for the earlier than usual showtime. Because while I haven’t changed too much to still enjoy the “RHPS” experience, I HAVE changed too much to enjoy a midnight movie without experiencing a nap first.
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341.