One of my most enduring memories from childhood is being simultaneously thrilled and scared senseless by the sight of Tim Curry stumbling out of a freezer, having stabbed Meat Loaf to death, and dropping his pick-axe on the blood-stained ice, while Little Nell screams from the soul and pulls her hair in the background.
I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I must have been young. Mother – if you are reading – I’m not questioning your parenting skillz BUT you probably do have a lot to answer for! Just sayin’.
Rocky Horror was my main obsession for many years. I was in the fan club. I had posters, t-shirts, rare cast recordings. The works. I even had pen pals. Although this age of internet forums is perfect for a greedy, stalkerish, instant gratification kind of bish like me, I sometimes forget how exciting it was awaiting the arrival of the latest newsletter by snail mail or taking hours decorating a lovingly hand-written epistle with glitter and lipstick kisses and anticipating the reply.
I had two older pen chums whose lives seemed impossibly glamorous to me. One was a young lady who used to send me mix tapes loaded with obscure songs by the cast of the film. We spoke endlessly about our mutual love for Curry in women’s underwear. You should know that my love for Tim meant I wasn’t even afraid of this! The other was a gay guy who would regale me with tales of fabulous debauchery. At least that’s how I remember it. We would write pages and pages about our Rocky Horror related antics and send each other pictures of ourselves dressed in our sluttish finery.
My ‘real life’ friends shared my passion as well. One of the reasons I bonded with one of my bestest and oldest friends was because we were sat together in an art class one day and she noticed the doodles on my portfolio included lyrics from Rocky Horror and also by David Bowie. I think our first real conversation began when she turned to me and asked bluntly ‘So you like boys who wear make-up too?’. It was love at first dirty sight.
We’d go to the stage show at every opportunity. Back in those days we had to make our own costumes and everything! Look how fresh faced we were:
Ahh…it seems like only yesterday. But it wasn’t. It was about 15 years ago! THIS was yesterday:
I’m not sure why I hadn’t been to see the stage show for so long, but slipping into your fishnets and sequins to heckle some scantily clad actors is like riding a bike or doing the Time Warp – you never forget how. And now I am born again I will never stray far from the path of this joyous filth. I mean, is there anything finer than a perfectly toned man wearing tiny pants and covered in body glitter who can back flip and sing at the same time?
That was a rhetorical question btw. The answer is NO! Duh.
It’s been interesting to follow how the show has evolved over the years, and how each new production keeps the story fresh. The sex has gotten dirtier. Way dirtier. As another gorgeous friend (and the organiser of last night’s outing) noted, the current tour has dispensed with condoms – a staple of the bedroom scenes for years – and includes practices which may have been quite an education for some of the audience members by the looks of it. It’s testament to either the actors or the wardrobe department that there are no visible side effects from all that dry humping. Either they are all consummate pros or that underwear is sturdier than it looks. But I digress…
I’m always amazed at the diversity of the audiences. For all the die-hard fans who turn out in stockings and feather boas, there are always newbies and those who look slightly out of place (terrified?) to me. I often wonder what is going through their heads as they hear a room full of people screaming ‘SLUT!’ and ‘ASSHOLE!’ at Michael Aspel for the first time.
When you think about it, the story makes very little sense. Neither do the lyrics. But I guess that’s not what it’s about. I think it’s been popular for so long because of Richard O’Brien’s excellent tunes and because it gives people an outlet. While we are at the Frankenstein Place we can laugh at kidnap, cross-dressing, molestation, incest, murder, jealousy, cannibalism, the Nazis and genetic experimentation. Anything goes. It’s all very cathartic!
Although transgressions are punished and relatively normal behaviour is reinstated at the end of the story, it is the anarchy and decadence – embodied by Frank – which is prevalent for the most part. Although he stands for everything we are told is wrong – violence, pride, promiscuity – it is Frank we root for. He is literally playing God in his house, constructing his own depraved little universe where there is none of the order or restraint imposed on the rest of us. And everyone adores him, even those he has mistreated. So much so that they are prepared to die for him. Riff Raff’s claims that his master must be destroyed because of his extreme lifestyle are undermined when he reveals he doesn’t feel anyone ‘liked’ him. Jealousy appears to be the overriding motive.
Whatever their reasons for loving this lush, dirty little musical, it certainly seems to bond people which can only be a good thing. And anything which gets accountants, lawyers and school teachers wearing corsets and feathers, and more boys in glitter and heels is doing the world an invaluable service as far as I’m concerned.
I was obviously deeply affected by watching this cult classic at such a tender age. More so than I realised. Although I had neglected my own alter-ego for too many years…
…it seems she never really left me:
That is my everyday hair! But not my everyday clothes (although they WOULD be if I had my way).
And she and I STILL enjoy boys in make-up.
My mother has confirmed I was TWO YEARS OLD when I first saw it! TWO!!! This explains a LOT!