The first time I ever saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show in a theatre, I was fifteen years old. I had watched it on television on Halloween with my family (Thanks, gay uncles!) and just HAD to see it live. I was hooked. My bad-influence friend (We all have one, right?) and I put on shoplifted negligees, fishnet stockings, strappy high heels, and heavy makeup, and teetered over to the theatre with her stepfather, who agreed to walk us there to assure the staff that we had parental permission to see the film.
Not that we needed it. As soon as we hopped into line, the guy playing Eddie sauntered over to us, looked down, and said, “Hey. You girls virgins?” “Nope,” we staunchly replied, not wanting to have to participate in the virgin contests that we’d heard about. We wanted to seem cool. Yeah, sure, we’ve done this before. No bigs. Her stepfather almost had a heart attack, which sent us into fits of giggles as we tried to explain to him that Eddie had meant Rocky Horror virgins, not actual virgins.
As soon as we walked into the magnificent and ornate theatre where the movie was being shown, I felt my heart leap into my chest. Home, my head said, over and over, and my heart repeated it. Home. I’m home. So many people were walking around the theatre, hugging each other, making tasteless jokes and sexual innuendos, laughing hysterically. Some people were dressed like the characters, some dressed up in leather and lace, and some folks were just there in jeans and sneakers. Everyone seemed to fit in – no matter who they were or what they looked like, everyone fit, like a quilt. I knew it right away: these people were my people. The first time you find home is electrifying: you can feel all your nerves light up, connecting you to the people and the space around you, and you’re floating and so grounded all at once.
At fifteen, I don’t think I understood every audience participation line and joke that was made that night, but I got most of them, and the next time I went back, I yelled as many as I could remember. I found audience participation scripts; I joined fan clubs and discussion groups, ecstatic that there were other people who loved dark and bawdy humor as much as I did. I started going as often as my parents would let me, eventually going almost every weekend. I participated in born-again virgin contests (Great concept, no?) and costume contests and amateur night. I got to know some of the cast members, who treated me like a little sister.
The guy who played Frank-N-Furter is forever burned into my brain as the first adult I ever felt pure, unadulterated lust for. He was all swagger. There was sizzle in his smile, and he prowled when he walked. He owned that role and looked So. Fucking. Hot. in that leather jacket and corset I almost couldn’t contain myself. I ogled him week after week, fantasized about him at night, probably wrote in my diary about how badly I wanted him.
It came as quite a shock when years later at an anniversary show – years after I’d last seen him – he walked up behind me, tapped me with a riding crop, and drawled, “Well – look who’s all grown up.” I think I faintly squeaked, “You remember me?!” Yes, he assured me – he did. As an adult looking back now, I think it’s likely he got teased by other cast members for having a teenage fangirl. I thought my staring was happening on the sly – we always do – and it never is.
I joined a cast in university, then another, before dropping it once I became old enough to go to pubs on Saturday nights. Rocky Horror and the people I met there helped shape who I am more than I can ever know, I imagine. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the end of the film – the song “I’m Going Home” – and how touching and earnest a song it is in the middle this weird, sexual sci-fi and horror parody. I am going home soon – and for me, part of going home is going back to that theatre and that movie and being thankful that I had a space as a young person where I could embrace and relish being exactly who I was.
As there’s quite an overlap between sex geeks and RHPS fans (and Pagans and Trekkies and Ren Faire people and kinky people…), I know some of you have Rocky Horror memories, too; what was your first experience with it?