Last Wednesday this went from being something that I had been planning to go to, if I had the money and someone wanted to go with me, to a really exciting event because -- in case you didn't hear me shouting and jumping up and down-- I won tickets through Indie 103.1, the greatest radio station in the world. (This is Divine Providence. I have never even called a radio station trying to win anything, and I win on the first phone call.)
When I first started going to ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, everyone just dressed up however they wanted, and that changed from week to week. The theatre that hosted the movie used to run a slide show of the audience participants, and I remember one of the pictures was just a line of Franks in green hospital gowns, holding up their pink gloved hands. I was in the slide show briefly, with several other “bra and slip” Janet’s and a few Columbias and Magentas. One of them was the Rustoleum sniffer—surely dead now—that introduced me to the joys of RHPS in drag. (I’d been once before, with my mother for my birthday, and I’d also bought the soundtrack with my birthday money, so I knew most of the songs. Thus, I was saved the embarrassment of the cruel tortures given to “virgins.”)
This was 1980, and the conservative Mid-West. Back then it was normal to get arrested after the movie for indecent exposure. I think that like me, most of the attendees were used to getting arrested for something. The audience was a bastion of budding drag queens, burnouts, freaks, and a lot of girls like me. I attended ROCKY in much the same way I attended school. I mostly showed up to be counted, do the “Time Warp”, then I’d leave and get loaded and try to hook-up, coming back in time for the Floor Show—the Floor Show and the Time Warp being the only two times that the whole audience would pour out of their seats and dance, with the Floor Show being the lesser of two.
That never stopped anyone-- however they were costumed—from dancing like a Transylvanian during “Hot Patootie” while several Eddies, Franks, and shrieking Columbias ran around the aisles. And most regular attendees would act out certain gestures: Brad’s stockinged, twitching leg, Riff Raff’s “Time Warp” dip, Magenta and Riff Raff clasping arms. (No one shouted “Incest is Best” at the Bowl. I didn’t think that one would ever die! But maybe like me, they kept remembering their old responses too late-- seconds after the scene had passed.)
The last time that I went to see RHPS was at the Tenth anniversary, a week or so before I moved out here to Los Angeles. I hadn’t been for awhile, maybe a year or so, and hadn’t been attending religiously every Friday and Saturday for over two years. I remember being horrified that the new crowd had become very regimented, and instead of twenty Franks and Magentas and so forth, there was only one of each, and they were very bossy. The responses had a very rehearsed sound, and in a couple of places I was the only one who shouted certain responses, that only a year before, had still been standard repertoire. The new crowd also acted out the movie, blocking out the lower part of the screen. I was thoroughly annoyed.
This is now S.O.P. for ROCKY. And this was the format of last night’s celebration at the Bowl. The free Indie seats weren’t too far away from the stage. And we were near a group of rowdy Aussie teenagers. (I daresay that the movie is still bigger in Australia than anywhere else.) The only difference between them and the audience of my youth was that almost none of them were dressed up. In fact, there weren’t many people that were dressed up. I thought that the whole audience would be dressed up in some manner!
I had been very worried about my costume. I could hardly go in a bra and slip, and this event brought to my attention how sadly lacking my wardrobe is in glitter, bustiers, and fishnet stockings. I pulled together a Transylvanian-esque outfit: black velvet pants, a black jacket that I normally wear to job interviews, a white shirt with some Mardi Gras beads both for a tie and also in solidarity with Katrina victims. (I really think someone should take this idea and run with it: to sell Mardi Gras beads as a fundraiser for Katrina and also that there is something we can all wear to show our sympathy.)
I put my hair in pigtails and tied party streamers to them. I don’t have any spats, but I pulled white socks out of short boots and I looked okay. I have a little purse made out purple muppet fur that belongs at a rave. I couldn’t get to the optometrist to get contacts, so even though I have lots of funny glasses I could wear, none are prescription and I wanted to actually see the movie. The finishing touch was a tiara and a name tag that said “Princess BJ of Transexual Transylvania.” I think it’s safe to assume that I will be the only Princess among all of those queens. (And yet some old nellie gets pissy and calls me “Duchess” every time I run into him. Probably jealous that he didn’t think of it.)
My friend who is going with me isn’t in costume, something that he laments on the drive there. We are both old and thick and somehow “real life” has absorbed so much of our income and time that we don’t have costumes. How did that happen? How was it that when we were young and had nothing we could go further on a dime than we do now on ten dollars? This is not just inflation.
But nothing can dampen my enthusiasm. I am practically jumping up and down. When I go to the ticket counter I practically shout at the ticket attendant.
“I won tickets!”
“You did? That’s great!” I hear this tone from people a lot. The amused, talking-to-a-kid tone. “Do you have your ID?” He prompts gently. ("Don't get the crazy girl too excited.)
While he’s getting the tickets I tell him I’m Princess BJ and I use my best Transylvanian accent. I hear the girl at the next booth laugh in surprise. His response is still amused, but there is a more adult undertone, and I get an inquisitive, raised eyebrow. “Are you now?" He grins. "Have fun," he adds, winking at me.
My friend is walking up the hill next to me, the floating girl. Neither of us has any money. We pause wistfully at the t-shirts.
“Let’s get buttons!” I can’t stop shouting everything I say.
We each get a $1 button to mark the occasion. I never wear t-shirts anyhow.
A girl asks me if she can take my picture because my outfit looks "so cute." I announce my royalty in my accent, and she takes the picture quickly, giving me the other look I am used to, and thanking me in the other tone, the "oh-my-god-you-are-such-a-freak" tone. The dark side of the ticket attendent's response. I laugh. I am stuck being me every morning when I wake up, and usually for the whole day after. I will be Princess BJ for these few hours, no matter how many people think I am freak!
We are sitting next to a group of teenage girls who are just awed that I have seen the movie over 200 times. I explain that it ran on both Fridays and Saturdays, and that this was twenty five years ago, over a period of four years. I start to explain what "attendance" actually meant, but I realise Mother is sitting behind them, and may not appreciate my waxing rhapsodic about Methaquulone, marijuana, and making out in the ladies room.
The mom has brought everything. I don’t remember ever throwing toilet paper, and I’ve forgotten gloves and a water pistol. I have everything else. The mom generously shares with me everything but a water pistol, which they don’t have enough of either. I take a photograph of all of them together to reciprocate. On the other side are the other two winners, one is a virgin. Embarrassingly, later, during the part when the MC's are looking for virgins, they start out with “if you’ve seen the movie 100 times in a theatre” and then go to 50 and then ten. My friend and I stand there waiting for “more than 200” and realize we look like virgins—too late. Several people are pointing and laughing at us.
When people who are dressed up are invited to come on the stage and compete for a prize, I go anyhow, even though I am not going to win any prizes. I am standing behind a bra and slip Janet with a perfect body, and I can’t even console myself that she has implants. As I get older I wish I had the droop proof warranty, myself. I settle on admiring her and reminiscing. She makes it into the contest, and even though Jane Weidlan looks at me like I am a cockroach, I walk across the stage, smiling and waving and still incredibly excited.
I miss the slide show, and the Meat Loaf video, and the two Tim Curry videos that I still have on vinyl somewhere. But the movie is not worn a bit for all the years that have passed. Tim Curry is still the sexiest man in drag. No man or woman that has ever lived can surpass his comfort and ease in a pair of spike heels. (I see him almost every year at the Burns Night Supper I attend, and I always gush my affection. He always returns it with patient tolerance, but you can almost hear him thinking “God these Rocky fans are as bad as Trekkies!”)
It is still the greatest movie ever made and when it’s over I am fifteen again.
“I pledge allegiance, to the Lips…”
Maybe I will get that outfit tweaked and head down for midnight showing one of these weekends…After all, as far as I know, I am Transsexual Transylvania's only Princess...