Before Friday night, the closest I’d come to the spectacle that is “Rocky Horror Picture Show” was a Halloween special of “Glee” that centered on PG-13 covers of the movie’s hit songs, and that one scene in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” where Emma Watson dances on stage in black lingerie to the horror and delight of a young, naïve Logan Lerman.
Neither one of those experiences could prepare me for the real thing, and that became quite clear when I started doing some preparatory research. After the fourth fan forum page, I started to get nervous. Was I expected to dress up? Should I buy props? Will people know that I’m a “Rocky Horror” virgin? After much debate and Googling, I settled on an all black ensemble, mostly because corsets are expensive, and it was cold outside (and if I didn’t blend into the crowd I could at least blend into a dark corner).
The time finally came, and I arrived at the State Theater to find it more crowded than I’ve ever seen it before. I guess this brings out a different crowd than Tuesday night screenings of indie dramedies. Some people are wearing jeans and I let out an audible sigh of relief, but there’s also a good percentage of the crowd in full drag. Chest hair and lingerie seems to be the uniform of choice. I don’t make it up the stairs before a woman in cat ears and fishnets has marked my forehead with a red lipstick V, for virgin (so much for blending in). Thankfully, there seem to be some other V’s walking around and none of the veterans are bothered by the fact that none of us seem to know what’s going on. I am handed a red balloon with my Sour Patch Kids and make my way to the theater.
Before the movie begins, an usher dressed like a French maid asks for three virgin volunteers. I heard a rumor that they make you fake an orgasm, so I don’t raise my hand. Luckily for these three, they are only asked to blow up a condom balloon. Then all us V’s are asked to blow up our red balloons and metaphorically pop our cherries.
Finally, the lights dim, and the crowd goes wild. Actually the crowd has been going wild this whole time, but the volume increases exponentially when a pair of lips appears on the screen. Once the movie begins, it doesn’t take long for the group leaders to assert themselves: two men, one on either side of the theater who yell louder and more frequently than anyone else. If they’re the lead actors, the rest of the theater is the chorus. Everyone (including me, thanks to the Internet) knows to yell “slut” at Janet and “asshole” at Brad — the “Rocky Horror” basics. But, these two men have a whole script of jokes timed perfectly to the movie.
The ringleader in my half of the theater is an older guy, possibly the oldest one in the theater. He’s dressed as Eddie, a secondary character who gets icepicked to death and then served for dinner, and he’s hilarious. Two minutes don’t go by without this guy throwing out a great one-liner. This is clearly his own script. He name-drops local celebrities and jokes about the Michigan State game (to mixed reactions; perhaps that wound is still too fresh).
As much as everyone here loves to yell, they also love to throw things. Rice, water and toast are all airborne during the movie. And, it seems there is a prop for everything. Even the “light over at the Frankenstein place” appears in the audience in the form of approximately one hundred tiny flashlights waving back and forth.
“Rocky Horror” is like a big inside joke that you’re supposed to catch on to. There’s a performance aspect to the whole thing, as if the veterans are putting on a show for the virgins. It doesn’t really matter that I don’t have a flashlight or a costume. Because, as I’m singing along (some of the lyrics are much dirtier than the “Glee” covers) and stumbling through the call-and-responses, it feels good to be, at least temporarily, part of this weird and wild community. It’s nice that these veteran fans can love something without taking it too seriously.
Don’t watch “Rocky Horror” on your laptop or even on your friend’s TV— throw on a corset and some red lipstick, and go lose your virginity.