Rocky Horror Rubes


When I was in high school, the Rocky Horror Picture Show came to my Midwest hometown for a screening or two. Since there was nowhere to go and nothing to do for persons of a certain age, hundreds of teenagers erupted into the theater, ready for anything.

Keep in mind that this was before the Internet had made such cultural phenomena ubiquitous. There was no shared cyber understanding of what Rocky Horror might mean or require. We just knew Rocky Horror was a Thing. We knew you were supposed to bring stuff and do stuff.

So people brought whatever they found lying around.

People dressed up, too–wearing next to nothing, or robes, or goth-wear, or ripped jeans with chains made out of safety pins. A bawdy girl from the Catholic high school was savagely drunk and dressed as a nun. “I’m here, bitches!” She barreled down the aisle as the movie started, laughing maniacally.

It took my breath away. I’d never seen anyone but a nun sport a habit.

The movie began.

Audience members didn’t know what to yell or do or throw, so they yelled and did and threw whatever occurred to them.

Pandemonium ensued.

As toilet paper comets launched across the room, and raw eggs and soda dripped from the screen, I saw the theater manager start pacing and muttering, “What to do? What to do?”

A guy in the front row clutched a ginormous box from Mr. Donut in his lap for no apparent reason. “Do you want a jelly donut?” he offered the distraught young man.

The manager grabbed it, chewing, while continuing to pace and mutter, his agitated shadow head joining Tim Curry and the rest of the cast on screen.

Even today, when I think about Rocky Horror, this is what I see: a donut-wielding twenty-something-year-old, poised to lose his job, a blob of grape goo in the corner of his mouth. There he was–the victim of our ignorance.

At one point, as the Brad and Janet characters were driving through a rainstorm, hundreds of people started throwing water around the theater. Squirt guns, bottles, cups, spit, whatever they had.

A drunken woman in her thirties lurched to her feet in front of me.

“What are you guys? A bunch of amateurs?” she yelled, completely hysterical. “They’re still in the car, fools. THEY CAN’T GET WET YET.”

Saavy woman. She must have been from Minneapolis.