A jump to the left


Without kids for the weekend, Carina and I weren’t entirely sure what to do with ourselves! We had a pleasant, quiet weeked, with no kids underfoot and no bickering. It was blissful.

Saturday night we walked up to Studio 35 for the midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Carina had long ago insisted on renting the movie, to know what it was about before ever going to see it in the theater. And she insisted that I not ruin the film at that time by making any of the call-outs that one makes during the show in the theater. So last night was Carina’s first time seeing the film with a full audience.

I, on the other hand, have seen the movie more than 250 times (likely more than 300, but I long ago stopped keeping track); including one year where I attended both the Friday and Saturday show every week for the entire summer. I realized, while talking about it with Carina, that it’s been over a decade since I last saw it in the theater.

I had the good fortune to see it at the old Graceland movie theater, a site with the unique honor of having the longest continuous showing of Rocky Horror anywhere in the country: it had played every weekend for fifteen years. The cast that acted out the movie at the front of the theater were top-notch, and the whole affair was about having a good time. If memory serves, the fellow who played Brad was the president of the Rocky Horror Fan Club (or perhaps it was just the Columbus chapter…). I memorized all the callback lines, as well as the movie itself, and always had a good time, screaming myself hoarse and coming home with rice in the strangest places.

The Graceland theater closed, or stopped playing Rocky, for a brief period and the show migrated to the Continent. I went a couple times, and was thrilled one night when the regular Rocky didn’t show up, and the cast members asked in anyone wanted to stand in. I didn’t think twice about volunteering; and had a great time playing the creation. Shortly after this, the show went back to Graceland with the regular troupe, and things carried on as they had for another couple of years. Ultimately, the theater closed, and the honor for longest continuous showing of the film passed to somewhere else.

The Studio 35 crew were a little edgier than what I was used to, and it seemed as though it was primarily for their own benefit as opposed to any particular enjoyment for the crowd. A fellow announced the list of rules for the show, and he was dismissive and arrogant about the whole thing, saying in essense that if you didn’t like their style you should leave, now. Another example: at the old Graceland theater virgins (those who had never seen the movie before) were brought up to the front, given a cherry and a maxi-pad, and required to “pop their cherry” in front of everyone. It was silly, and in bad taste, but everyone laughed. At Studio 35, they collected all the virgins at the front of the theater (and my there were a lot), then sorted them by minors versus adults. The minors were required to spank themselves then released. The adults were required to strip down to their underwear and then perform the steps for the Time Warp. It was humiliating, and frankly not very entertaining. Several of the people in their skivvies looked extremely uncomfortable and unhappy. I didn’t out Carina as a virgin, thankfully.

There was no rice thrown in the theater, about which I felt rather conflicted. Picking rice out of your scalp the following morning was as much a part of Rocky Horror as was watching the movie itself! But, truth be told, I was glad not to have to shake myself down after leaving the theater. I guess I’m getting old. ;)

I forgot a lot of the lines I would normally shout; and my timing was off for many of the lines that I did remember. Nonetheless, I had fun, and screamed myself hoarse. Carina was a bit overwhelmed, unsure of whether she should pay attention to the movie, or to the crowd screaming. The crowd’s lines were often mumbled and indistinct, as though executed by people going through the motions without really caring whether anyone understood them – the regulars knew the lines, so what did it matter if the virgins understood? This, too, was a departure from my days of youth (though I may be romanticizing the memory; it’s hard to tell): the crowd worked pretty hard to be understood when they called out their lines, so that everyone could enjoy it.

As one might expect, there were some changes in the kinds of callbacks in the intervening years. I chuckled at some of the news ones I heard, and laughed pretty hard at one in particular, which I can’t remember now! The majority of the lines I knew were still in use, though I was able to shout out a few items that clearly hadn’t been heard before (or at least not in a long time). The folks immediately around me laughed pretty hard at a few of them, but alas, most of them lost in the general din of the theater.

What’s your favorite callback?

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