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“Rocky Horror” as Riot Control

2 November 2010 Stories and Appreciations 6,245 views One CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

The world seems to have gone gaga for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” all of a sudden. Okay, not all of a sudden. Last weekend was Halloween, the traditional season for RHPS. In Hollywood a bunch of movie stars paid tribute to the movie, now celebrating its 35th anniversary. And let’s not forget the giant ratings booster that was the “Rocky Horror Glee Show.” I freely admit that I liked “Glee’s” watered-down version of this tranny-filled musical, even if it changed the lyric of “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me” from “seat wetting” to “bad fretting.”

Along with many of you, I’ve been caught on a tidal wave of “Rocky Horror” nostalgia. Everyone seems to have a story associated with their “first time,” but I actually have too many to remember. You see, I was in a cast – one of the folks who acted out the movie in front of the movie screen. For three years in college, I proudly played Columbia, “a groupie.”

A lot of those memories are hazy. I recall giving my very nerdy dorm roommate a “Rocky Horror” makeover. It was like one of those scenes in a movie: She went from totally geek to totally chic. She had been hiding some crazy long legs! I created a sexy monster, and I became drunk with power. I put all the boys in dresses, thus starting a lifetime dedicated to helping ladies and lads discover their inner sexy beast. Richard O’Brien, I tip my gold top hat to you, sir.

At some point, I fell ass-over-tap-shoe into the cast. I wanted to be Magenta, but Columbia was open. So I did what any starving college student would do: I had my mother hand sew a sequined tailcoat. (We used an Uncle Sam jacket pattern.) Years later, she let us crazy college kids use her lovely, suburban home as a dressing room for our debut at the Clinton Street Theater in Portland, OR (the longest continuously running theater in the world). It was a beautiful scene: a bunch of kids, in rubber gloves and fishnets, becoming the rulers of the house. And Mom did what any good moother would do for starving college kids: She set out snacks

It should be noted that our cast performed only occasionally. Most significantly, we were tasked with a giant on-campus Halloween show, actually funded by the Office of Student Life. Strangely, we were part of the University of Oregon’s drive to offer alternative activities to the inevitable Halloween riot that struck near campus every year. Rarely do you see the Time Warp as the antithesis of anarchy. We safely and sanely entertained about 1,600 virgins each year.

Ah, memories. It’s been years since I’ve been to a screening, but I might ride the wave and go this year. I know it will be full of “those darn kids.” It’s a haven for spastic teens and awkward young adults with bad hair and ill-fitting homemade costumes. Most folks my age cringe at this prospect. I find it adorable but also, well, important. These kids are teaching themselves the lessons that our culture disdains. It’s a safe place for unconventional conventionists, free from bullying and suffocating expectations. They can wave their freak flags. They can question sexuality. Most importantly, they can just have fun. Salvation, thy name is Dr. Frank N. Furter.

Jessica Obrist

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One Comment »

  1. I saw “Rocky Horror” maybe 30, 40 times at the historic Balboa Theater in Newport Beach, CA. Those were memorable times, but not as memorable as a midnight screening I attended years later, in Las Vegas. It was an unusual screening because it was my parents who insisted upon attending it. Their first time. All those times I went to see that freaky movie, my Dad had no idea that its songbook was deeply based in the rock-and-roll he’d grown up with … but once he found out, he became a lifelong fan. Still, it’s kind of unnerving, seein’ your old man doin’ the Time Warp.

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