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In the soft glow of a parking garage, I deftly maneuver around the passenger seat. Off come the pants and on go the fishnets. I put on my just-purchased garter belt, and Mary shows me how to attach it. ("Oh! I've seen my grandma do this.") With cars all around, I take off my buttoned shirt and forcefully pull on a black skintight girl's top. To complete the ensemble, I add fake pearls and pull a pair of panty hose over my right arm, then put my pants and shirt back on.
Finally, I'm ready for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The RHPS has as much staying power as Ron Jeremy's penis. Debuting in 1975, The RHPShas grossed $135 million to date, making it the highest-grossing movie that has never played in more than 200 theaters simultaneously (thanks, Wikipedia!). So, why the hype? Why the cult classic? Why do thousands of people all over America still care? Well, probably because of Tim Curry cross-dressing. Or young Susan Sarandon in a bra. Or maybe just because it's fun to dress up and yell things at the movie screen.
Houston currently has two RHPS productions going: every second Saturday at Landmark River Oaks (2009 West Gray), and every Saturday night at NASA Premier Dollar Cinema (20833 Gulf Freeway).
As I don't leave the Loop, ever, I head over to Landmark. In the car, I start getting a wee bit nervous. In high school I wore black nail polish and a dog collar, but time marches on, and my hair has migrated from my head to my back. Maybe the freak look, and perhaps the entire RHPS appeal, might have been better left back in high school.
Mary drops me off with a "Call me if you need anything." I meet up with a group of friends, shuck off the pants and the shirt, and walk the half block to the entrance in fishnets and boxers. Old folks coming back from An Inconvenient Truthlook at my crotch with big eyes. Quite frankly, I expect more discretion from patrons when I walk around River Oaks in a garter belt. The nerve!
Feeling dangerously sober for the occasion, we convince the doorman, Ford, to let us in early. After paying effing $11 for a double whiskey and Coke, I meet up with my friends in the main theater as 294 other paying customers are starting to stream in. Out of the eight in our group, only Kelsey has previously gone to The RHPS. She's made us goodie bags with toilet paper, cards, newspaper, confetti and birthday hats. Oh, what could these be for?
As the excitement is increasing, I notice a couple in their early fifties at the end of my row. Gloria and Marty are two virgin Rocky-goers. They came because they had heard so much about it. Gloria offered Marty her lingerie to dress up in, but Marty declined, as he didn't want to stretch it out. Now, that's love.
Kelsey explains the scene to me: Not only does the movie play on the big screen, but a full cast acts it out live. Brad, the main character, comes running out to pump up the crowd before the movie starts.
"Now, for those of you who are new here, we encourage you to yell at the screen during the movie. Let's help you with some of the yell-backs. Now, GIVE ME A 'B,' GIVE ME AN 'R,' GIVE ME AN 'A,' GIVE ME A 'D'. What does that spell?"
The audience's response was automatic: "ASSHOLE!"
"Now GIVE ME A 'J,' GIVE ME AN 'A,' GIVE ME AN 'N,' GIVE ME AN 'E,' GIVE ME A 'T.' What does that spell?"
Oh, this is gonna be fun.
After some stalling, the movie starts playing, and out comes the debonair Brad and the beautiful (if slutty) Janet. They get married and depart for their honeymoon. Oh, no! It starts to rain (cue the audience putting newspaper on their heads), and their car is misbehaving. But, look! There's an old castle, and surely it'll have a phone!
A creepy butler named Riff-Raff opens up the door, and Brad (asshole!) and Janet (slut!) are introduced to the owner of the place, the cross-dressing Frank N. Furter! The politically incorrect audience is yelling "SLUT" at Janet, singing "Here Comes the Cripple" at a man in a wheelchair, and changing the words to the song "I Can Make You a Man" to "I Can Make You a Fag." When Rocky takes off his mummy wrapping, hundreds of rolls of toilet paper are tossed into the air, and during the party my party hat gets clipped on.
All too soon the credits come on, and the crowd disperses.
I head outside to see the main character, Brad, now fully dressed. With his chiseled body and youthful face, I assume that he's in his twenties. He starts telling me about his performances: He's been doing it since 1987. I do some quick calculations. Assuming he was 18 in 1987 and having performed for 19 years, that makes him....still really hot.
"Yeah, it's fun," he tells me. "We've had a solid group for the last two years, and most of us have played all the roles so if we get new kids we can help them out even on stage."
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