by Marty Demarest
When we were putting together our 10-year anniversary issue of The Inlander, we came across this transcript of an answering machine message, from somewhere in Spokane in 1994:
"A good rule of thumb is: if it stings, is sticky, slimy or smelly, don't bring it. Squirt guns and squirt bottles holding a quart of water or less are okay, providing they are not pressurized or battery operated. No Super Soakers, Water Weenies, water balloons or reserve water bottles. The following items will be allowed: dry toast, cards, newspaper, party hats, party horns and noisemakers, flashlights, confetti (provided the pieces are a half-inch across), uncooked rice. No Minute Rice, please."
The message was left on the "Information Line" machine that served as the point of contact for screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. At the time, the film was showing weekly in a midnight screening at the Magic Lantern. Each week, dozens of people -- men in drag, women in fright wigs, metalheads in black t-shirts, and other curious mortals -- would assemble, watch the movie, sing, dance and throw things in the theater. It was all part of a tradition that exists in most major cities to this day.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was made in 1975. It stars a young (and very game) Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry in fishnet stockings and Meatloaf -- the rock star, not the entree -- acting like, well, a rock star. The writer of the show, Richard O'Brien, is also featured in the cast, as the emaciated, Igor-like servant to Curry's transvestite mad scientist (who turns out to be from another planet). There's a supporting cast of squeaky- and throaty-sounding actresses who vamp around, and a bookish doctor who serves as a narrator of the film.
The story that he tells concerns a group of aliens who have invaded earth and are hell-bent on sexual liberation. It seems that Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Curry) is making a man. A beautiful, buff, idiotic man. His reasons for this are better imagined than described, and we'd probably know nothing about them if it weren't for the breakdown of Brad and Janet's car. Brad (Barry Bostwick, in a supremely nebbish role) and Janet (Sarandon, all wide-eyes and innocently nubile) need roadside help on their honeymoon, and Furter and the gang are happy to have some helpless souls (and bodies) to prey upon.
The movie, if you haven't figured it out already, is a total mess. It's also one of the most delightful celebrations of every kitschy clich & eacute; and bad movie moment that you've ever seen. It's a horror-sci-fi-eroto-musical-spectacular that captures the party spirit of the 1970s with a gleeful abandon that puts other films to shame.
It's also a film that has served as a barometer of the counterculture of America for almost 30 years now. At midnight screenings around the world, you can find otherwise calm, ordinary individuals revealing their inner alien/transvestite/theater/screen/scream-queen/king. They know the lines of the movie by heart, and they yell back at the actors onscreen. When one character proposes "a toast," dozens of pieces of singed bread are hurled at the screen. Performers dressed as the characters perform a live version of the movie and lead the irreverence. In short, it's the type of event that encourages liberation of the spirit for a few hours. It also gives people the chance to scream like dorky kids in a movie theater -- without anybody complaining.
Unfortunately, with the closing of the Magic Lantern, Spokane lost its regular Rocky habit outside of a few special screenings. But this weekend, the Revelers Drama Club from Spokane Falls Community College will be bringing Frank and the gang back in style. Two screenings each on Friday and Saturday night (Dec. 5-6 at SFCC's Spartan Theater, with midnight screenings each night as well as a saner, less Rocky, 7:30 pm showings) will feature the usual shenanigans, along with -- get this -- actors who have rehearsed the show. Some of them are drama students at SFCC, one is a faculty member and several are from the old cast that presented the show at the Magic Lantern.
The Hollywood system has made movies like Rocky Horror almost obsolete. Yet despite its strange originality -- or perhaps because of it -- the film continues to be relevant to audiences looking for a good time. It's the sort of experience that you should have if you claim to enjoy movies. This is the sort of thing that studios wish audiences didn't love, and yet theaters screen it weekly. A $5 donation, which will benefit the Revelers' trip to the regionals of the American College Theater Festival, gets you in the door. If you forget, or are just too lazy, to bring your own newspaper, rice and toast, you can buy an "audience participation packet" that includes all necessary items. And then, you can sit back, follow the lead of the people in the audience who will know how to behave, and do the "Time Warp," partying like it's Spokane when we had a dedicated arthouse with a sense of adventure. Just don't forget your fishnet stockings.
Publication date: 12/04/03