Creature of the Night

Bless me, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, for I have not sinned: it has been 15 years since my last audience-participation screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I used to be huge into RHPS -- way back in the uncharted backwaters of time, when I was in college, I was part of an unofficial players' group in my dorm. My R.A. was, too, and some assorted people who lived in Brewster-Boland Hall, plus (of course) a couple of drama and film majors. Almost every Friday night, we would gather in someone's room, get some pizza and sodas and sometimes beer, cook up some toast and popcorn, and watch our favorite movie. Sometimes we would spend all night watching it over and over again, doing the Time Warp until 6:00 in the morning.

And it goes without saying that it was awesome.

I was a Rocky Virgin until my senior year in high school. I'd heard of it, and I had friends that were part of the cult that made the film a classic, but for whatever reason I never actually saw it in a theater until sometime during my senior year. Even to this day, I can't explain what took me so long to get hip to what the really cool kids were doing. Fear no doubt played a big part. I'd heard stories (we've all heard stories) about what happened at the Movies at Midnight, about the hazing rituals for first-timers, about the weirdness and chaos and awesome insanity that happens once the theater doors shut and the room goes dark and those lips appear on-screen.

It didn't help that there was always, for me, an unfortunate connection between Rocky and some degree of lameness; RHPS was advertised back then on the dork-ass "classic rock" station alongside one of the other fixtures of the Movies at Midnight, The Wall, a movie that I have not seen, never want to see, and that I will always and forever associate with potheads, dropouts, outcasts suffering a self-imposed exile from the "now."

(Blah blah blah some of my best friends yadda yadda gabba gabba hey. And it probably goes without saying that I have long since reconsidered my position on many of the other bands that they still play on that station, but you'll never get me to change my mind about Rush, no way, no how.)

(Of course, now Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nirvana and The Pixies are considered "classic rock" by people who are literally decades younger than I am. Circle of life and all that.)

Anyway ... I can't remember who I was with the first time I saw Rocky, but I'm pretty sure I went with friends who were in the band, and who had already been seeing the show live for years. I do know that, not knowing what to expect, I dressed as "normally" as I could muster at the time. Ah, the era of grunge and teenage rebellion. They warned me, but I didn't listen. I stood out like a sore thumb, obviously, in my tattered jeans and flannel, while everyone else was in their lingerie, giant wigs, stilettos, 8-inch high patent leather platform go-go boots, glitter, sequins.

I never felt like more of a nerd in my entire life. And if I remember correctly, my rite of passage as a Virgin was to eat a piece of candy out of someone's crotch. (Don't worry, Mom, they were clothed.)

Me, in the "clean" version
of my Magenta costume -
Halloween 1993
After that, though ... hoo-boy. It's weird to say that learning how to do the Time Warp was a seminal moment in my character development, but it was. It really was. I never really looked at the world the same way again. And I mean that in the absolute best possible way.

Imagine being me in the twelfth grade: a giant brain trapped in the body of Tinkerbell, with no boyfriends but plenty of interest, not really fitting in anywhere socially, a budding writer with very little angst, friendly but not exactly popular, sarcastic and cranky, wanting to rebel but not really knowing why, all of this a defense against the world, because no matter what I did, I couldn't quite figure out my place in it.

And then I went to the movies one Friday at midnight, and there was all this stuff happening. People were yelling at the screen and throwing toast and dancing in the aisles and they were all dressed like freaks and lunatics and it was amazing because everybody was having, like, the best time ever. It was Halloween and a play and performance art and rock music and a drag show and a summer camp sing-along and all of the best stuff about being proto-emo and melodramatic and a little bit unhinged, all at the same time.

It was basically nirvana, for me. Almost a drug. I couldn't get enough. Every time I came home from college for the weekend, I would call my friends and tell them: "Rocky. Saturday. Be there." And by and large, they would.

In 1994 I started dating my husband and stopped going to see RHPS regularly, because he wasn't as into it as I was, and eventually I got too busy at college to keep my standing Friday appointment, until gradually it turned into 1995 and my audience-participation days ended. Sometimes I really miss them -- I still have occasional moments when nothing but doing the Time Warp in my cubicle can get me through the rest of the day -- so I am super-stoked about the upcoming Rocky Horror-themed episode of Glee (airing 10/26). I've been teaching Shae how to do the Time Warp, because there is no time like the present, right?

When I watch that episode, I know I'm going to have a moment or twelve where I am crying from laughter and also from the floods of memories I fully expect, from the time when I was a "Creature of the Night" myself. But I know I'll be doing the Time Warp until Christmas, and you better believe that if I see those lips on my television screen at any time from now until the day I die, I will stand up and scream, "SING IT, BITCH!"

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