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  • Lou Duro

THE OTHER 'ROCKY': HOLLYWOOD'S REAL CHAMP


There's something about The Rocky Horror Picture Show that draws people to see it again and again, as I did last night – for the umpteenth time. Could it be the glorious site of a young and sexy Susan Sarandon running around in bra and panties? Or perhaps the wonderful performance by distinguished British actor Charles Gray, known to American audiences as the arch-villain Blofeld in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever; maybe it's the first-ever film appearance of singing star Meat Loaf playing biker Eddie, singing Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul"; then, of course, you have multi-talented British actor/singer Tim Curry, as Dr. Frank N Furter, in the performance of a lifetime. Sure, it could be any of the above, but for my money it's the creative genius of relatively unknown Richard O'Brien who wrote the story, music and lyrics, and made the whole damn thing work. (Although, Susan Sarandon running around in bra and panties is pretty good, too.).

For all of you deprived people who have not shared the experience, let me introduce you. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy horror film by 20th Century Fox produced as a low budget “throwaway” – meaning: use it as a vehicle to give some contract players (and one “marquee name” – Sarandon as Janet Weiss, a role and film she doesn’t like to admit to, and not even listed in her credits on the IMDb site) something to do, “but don’t spend any money!” (picture a fat studio executive spit-shouting with a cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth) The film was budgeted at a mere $1,200,000, chump-change for a movie, even in the 1970s. As an example of what studio heads know about their “product,” The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which has been in theatres steadily since 1975, went on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest financial successes and the most viewed film of all time. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so far, has sold nearly $500 million worth of tickets. Box Office Mojo puts it in 76th place among all films, just ahead of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky,’ and that movie won the Best Picture Oscar!


And this from a film with a scene featuring six actors reading the following:


Dr. Everett V. Scott : Janet!

Janet Weiss : Dr. Scott

Brad Majors : Janet!

Janet Weiss : Brad!

Dr. Frank-N-Furter : Rocky!

[Rocky grunts]

Dr. Everett V. Scott: Janet!

Janet Weiss : Dr. Scott!

Brad Majors : Janet!

Janet Weiss : Brad!

Dr. Frank-N-Furter : Rocky!

[Rocky grunts]


Sound weird? Read on.


The screenplay, as well as the original story, was written by British bit-part actor Richard O'Brien, who is also a member (Riff Raff) of the cast. The film is based on the 1973 musical stage production The Rocky Horror Show, with music, book, and lyrics by Mr. O'Brien. The production is a parody tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies. The story centers on a young engaged couple whose car breaks down in the rain near a castle where they seek

a telephone to call for help. The castle is occupied by strangers in elaborate costumes celebrating an annual convention. They discover the head of the house is Dr. Frank N. Furter, (Curry) an apparently mad scientist who actually is an alien transvestite who creates a living muscle man (Rocky) in his laboratory. The couple is seduced separately by the mad scientist and eventually released by the servants who take control. But not before they do The Time Warp Again, a dance in the film that took on a life of its own in bars and clubs throughout the country.


Okay . . . got it? If you think that script is a bit loony, what happened next is totally insane.


Critically bashed when released, and drawing an audience large enough to fill a subway car, it was finally booked into the Waverly Theatre in Greenwich Village. Like most things connected with “the village,” something strange happened. Many of the local residents took a liking to it and started having fun in the theatre. Rocky soon became known as a midnight attraction when audiences began participating with the film, and returned to the cinema frequently and talked back to the screen and began dressing as the characters, spawning similar performance groups across the United States. In a scene where the protagonists are caught in the rain, members of the audience started shooting water guns each other. Soon, people started coming to performances dressed in costumes, talking back to the celluloid characters, and jumping up in front of the screen acting out scenes with the characters behinds them. The Waverly theater gang was soon organized by a local named Sal Piro, who handed out awards, similar to AA – but instead of celebrating "years sober," these awards were for the number of times a person watched the movie –100, 200, 300 and more. Yes, that's right. Although there's no official record, it is widely accepted that some fanatical fans watched the film more than 1,000 times.

At the time, I sometimes strayed from my marketing company to produce fun events. When I was invited to the Waverly to see what was happening, I immediately knew I had to get involved. I met Sal Piro and his gang of freaks and together we planned the world’s largest Rocky Horror Halloween Party to be held at the world famous Roseland Ballroom on W. 59th Street, a venue for about three thousand people. I was soon on the phone with London, England, talking to the one and only Richard O’Brien and within minutes we struck a deal. Richard, together with co-stars Patricia Quinn, who plays Magenta, and Nell Campbell, as Columbia, were soon on a plane heading for the lights of Broadway. The party, with many guests wearing “Rocky” costumes which allowed them admittance at a lower price, was a huge success.


The Rocky Horror Picture Show is still being shown in movie houses across the world (as well as Waverly Place) almost 45 years after its original release, making it the longest-running theatrical release in film history. Today, the film still has a large international cult following and has been considered by many as one of the greatest musical films of all time.

So, let’s all do The Time Warp Again.

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