The first time I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show was sometime in early 1977, in Palo Alto, California. See, at that time I was this green, sort of innocent 19-year-old kid from Kentucky. I’d only been living in the Bay Area for some two years, and there were still a lot of things I didn’t know much about. Hell, there were a lot of things about me that I didn’t know much about. I’d only been out of the Commonwealth a few times, and my worldview was admittedly quite limited.
So, some of my friends decided it was time my horizons should be expanded just a bit, and maybe knock a little of the hick off me. They said I’d like this Rocky Horror movie. One even said it’d be good for me and I’d no longer be a virgin, but that comment went sailing right by me, as did many things at the time.
We arrived at the theatre early in the evening – a smallish, art-house type theatre, bought the tickets, and settled into our seats. I don’t know what I was expecting. I was probably hoping the picture would be interesting or funny or scary, and not make me wish I’d spent the evening staring at the wall instead. The lights dimmed, the movie started, and the first thing I saw was a big pair of lips on the screen. Then I heard the song "Science Fiction Double Feature" for the first time. Now, mind you, this was in the far-off days before the whole RH subculture existed. There was no throwing of toast or toilet paper, responses from the audience, or oddly dressed people cavorting on the stage.
I began to get interested in the film, trying to figure out what the hell was going on in it. Perhaps, I thought, this movie is like Fellini’s Satyricon; one of those movies where you shouldn’t try to figure out the plot, you just unhinge your mind and enjoy the experience. So far so good, it sort of reminds me of those old 50s space melodramas. Maybe it’s a musical, people keep breaking into song at the oddest moments.
Then the movie gets to the scene in the laboratory where something’s coming down an elevator. The elevator door swings open ... and out of it comes what appears to be a guy dressed like I’ve never seen a guy dress. "How’d ya do I ... see you’ve met my ... faithful handy-mannnn." Dr. Frank-N-Furter in all his gender-bending glory.
Well. We didn’t have anything like that back where I came from. No sirree, bob. The friends said later my eyes bugged out, my jaw dropped, and that I spent most of the rest of the movie with a look on my face that was somewhere between shock and fascination . Rocky Horror seems to have that effect on some first-timers, especially ones that grew up in the South and hadn’t even had sex yet.
Maybe it’s a bit much to say it was a life-changing experience, but the movie did make quite an impression on me. I went back to that theatre 22 more times. I bought the soundtrack, the posters, the lobby cards, anything Rocky Horror-related I could find. I even went to a party dressed as Frank-N-Furter in full regalia (and that’s a photo that will forever remain buried!).
But I do remember thinking, shortly after Frank began strutting about on the screen, oooo ... where do I find a guy like that?
Well, I was young at the time ...