Time-Warping Through Adulthood On Charm
By Jason Webber
It’s 10 minutes to midnight on May 7 at the reputedly haunted Sorg Opera House in Middletown, and I am beaming from ear to ear. For I have now officially earned my stripes as a corrupter of youth. There they are — my friends Zeke and Allie — scurrying across the same stage once dominated by the opera stars and vaudevillians of yesteryear. But chances are, you never saw those performers holding dildos between their legs as my young friends are doing.
It’s just another night of absolute pleasure at The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But this is not just another night for Zeke, Allie or me. It’s their first time seeing the world’s most beloved cult film. I feel like the coolest guy in the world being the one introducing them to the gospel of Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
Everyone at least knows the Cliff Notes of the Rocky Horror phenomenon — an army of misfits and free spirits created a deliriously loyal fanbase to the low budget 1975 screen musical chronicling the misadventures of Brad (Asshole!) and Janet (Slut!) and their fateful night in the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania.” For decades, somewhere in America, every Saturday at the witching hour, theaters have been overrun by lingerie-clad weirdos who enjoy shouting obscenities at the screen, throwing rice and toast with gay (and straight) abandon and doing the Time Warp in the aisles. This isn’t the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Brad.
It’s not an overstatement: Rocky Horror saved my life as a teen. Being raised by fundamentalist Baptist parents who considered entertainments like Dungeons & Dragons, MTV and heavy metal to be tools of Satan was — in the words of Rocky Horror’s Criminologist — “Nooo picnic.” But I’d read about Rocky Horror over the years in magazines and books and in 1990, when they released the film on video for the first time, I eagerly rented the tape. Thirty minutes into the film, my 15-year-old self watched Tim Curry strut out of an elevator, turn to face the camera and defiantly throw off his cape to reveal kinky undergarments, the likes of which I had never seen in the hamper.
I didn’t know what this was, but I knew I liked it. A lot. This film had it all: great music, high camp, that guy who played Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever and many scenes of people performing acts on one another that could only be described as “sinful.”
And so began my lifelong love affair with “Rocky Horror.” Over the years, I’ve seen the film about two-dozen times in theaters and at home about 150 (yes, fellow fans, I know that doesn’t count. Shut up). I’ve dressed as Frank-N-Furter several times, always making my girlfriends jealous at my ability to walk in fuck-me pumps better than them. I regularly attend screenings when the wonderfully talented thespians of the Dayton Rocky Horror cast screens the film on the first Saturday of every month. Rocky Horror remains a dear part of my life, even as I — and the film — get older. We’re both now 35 years old and are certainly showing signs of aging. The film now plays in less than half of the theaters that formerly booked it; I’m now using Billy Jealousy eye cream. Newer cult films like The Room and Repo! The Genetic Opera are appealing more to younger midnight movie audiences; I’m now in bed by 1 a.m. on a Friday night.
Yet here I am, out past my bedtime, dressed up as the character of Eddie, introducing my two 20-something friends to a scene they’ve only heard about. I can’t get over what a kick it is to see my buddy Zeke and his gal pal Allie smile and applaud at this admittedly freaky circus. They’re visibly overwhelmed and slightly confused, but obviously having a great time.
Then it hits me — I’ve just passed something on to a younger generation … even if it is something as dubious as Rocky Horror. I’m suddenly awash in a strange existential reverie, remembering my days of watching Rocky Horror when I was the same age as Zeke and Allie; hell, back then these two were barely teens. All I can do is look at these two young people and smile at the fun they’re having.
Life moves so damn fast and before you know it, you’re old. Riff Raff summed up the human experience pretty well: “It’s astounding, time is fleeting.” But as my life careens by, I find I can stay forever young by doing the Time Warp — again — and by giving my younger friends a night out … they are going to remember … for a very … long … time.
Reach DCP freelance writer Jason Webber at JasonWebber@daytoncitypaper.com.