Friday, March 5, 2010

What's white and sells hamburgers?

Confessions of a Rocky Horror Virgin

So, I'm talking to Buck Dharma outside Rocky's nightclub in Charlotte, N.C., around 1993 ...

(This isn't the oddest story involving members of Blue Oyster Cult I could share with you. It's not even a story about BOC, so be patient.)

Rocky's used to be a nightclub on Independence Boulevard, an establishment that changed hands and names so often that I've lost track of its spiraling personality disorder. I think Public Enemy was on the bill the week before BOC played the club, which should give you an example of how effed up this place was. It changed names so often that it might not even have been called Rocky's when this story (kinda) begins.

I think it was the second or third time I saw Blue Oyster Cult, and afterward I worked up the nerve to flag down the band members afterward for some autographs and a quick chat. Next door was a theater (which was closed at that point) called the Silver Screen Cafe, which had been the best place in town for midnight movies. Frozen on its roadside sign were the last movies it had played before going out of business. One of them was Heavy Metal, for which BOC contributed a song.

I believe the Silver Screen Cafe was also the place to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I've been a Rocky Horror fan forever, but would you believe I've never had the chance to see it in an actual theater? Ever? The opportunity has literally never presented itself.

It's not that I've never been in the same town as a Rocky Horror screening. But there were always social barriers between me and the movie ... which is understandable when you're an underage military brat. Asking an adult to take me to something like Rocky Horror would have been like asking them to sit with me on a float at a Gay Pride Parade. It doesn't especially matter that I'm not gay, but since I didn't share the Universal Sense of Disgust(tm) that all right-thinking Americans were supposed to share, then I might as well have been. It was the 1980s, after all.

You can see how this situation actually made me more curious about the movie, and how its content so easily won me over.

I had spent most of my childhood wondering what was so appealing about that strange, perverse movie. I'd first seen ads for it in newspapers in the late 1970s in Virginia, then read an article about it in Starburst magazine after Shock Treatment was released. When my family moved to Charleston, S.C., the first thing we did after arriving was see The Terminator ... which was playing across the street from a theater showing Rocky Horror. I've got a memory for certain details that is a category 4 Rainman.

One birthday in Charleston, though, I found myself at a mall with a pocket full of cash. Some vendors were selling movie posters in the walkway and I picked up the original one-sheets for Back to the Future and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

And, at a record store, I bought The Rocky Horror Picture Show Audience Participation Album. I had NO idea what I was getting myself in for.

I grew up in the military, so I had heard profanity. I'd also heard a few Richard Pryor albums, as well as Eddie Murphy's first (and only?) two comedy albums. So, at age 14, there weren't a lot of words I'd hadn't heard.

But there was a feeling of chaos on the Rocky Horror album that was a little terrifying to me. In a good way. By this point I enjoyed a good audience response to a film because that sense of energy is contagious. It's the reason we watch movies together.

The Rocky Horror recording sounded like outright anarchy, though. Only it wasn't. While everyone was screaming their lungs out, they seemed to be doing so in chorus with each other. And it was hilarious.

For parental security reasons I had to listen to this album with headphones on. I was also left wondering about some of the gags that obviously involved something on-screen which, of course, I couldn't see on a record. But I was intrigued and have loved the movie ever since ... even if I didn't see it until the inevitable home video release around 1990.

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