Rocky Horror Picture Show: Tim Curry, Fishnets, and A Whole Lot of Boning

Crossdressing, sex, songs, and just a twisted hint of blood and gore: what more could you ask for from a musical?

Newly engaged lovers, Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Surandon) encounter a flat tire, and searching for shelter and a telephone, stumble upon Dr. Frank N. Furter’s… special affair. Hunchbacked butler, Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) answers the door and invites the couple in, for what they don’t realize will soon be a night they won’t soon forget. Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry) is hosting the Annual Transylvanian Convention for his “unconventional conventionalists”, to reveal his newest creation. With just a jump to the left, then a step to the right, Brad and Janet are submerged into the sexually charged, outrageous world of the mad scientist/transvestite alien, with the ever so whimsical “Time Warp”.

Brad and Janet have the pleasure of meeting the “Sweet Transvestite”, himself, Dr. Frank N. Furter, who ignores their request for a phone and suggests the two spend the night instead. Things only become stranger, when Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood), Dr. Frank N. Furter’s chiseled, sex object is unveiled, and Eddie (Meat Loaf), an ex delivery boy and former lover of both the Dr. and Columbia (Nell Campbell), breaks free from the vaults on his motorcycle, performing “Hot Patootie — Bless My Soul”. Brad and Janet, stripped down, are brought to separate rooms.

The film continues on this sex-crazed rampage, as the Dr. individually seduces both Janet and Brad. Janet goes searching for Brad, but stumbles across a monitor showing him… busy… with Frank N. Furter. She finds Rocky Horror, who has been hiding in his birth tank from Riff Raff’s tormenting, and after dressing his wounds and singing the ever so catchy Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me, seduces him. After a whole lot of boning, the crew is left to deal with the tension over dinner, with an unexpected visitor in a wheelchair.

Rocky Horror Picture Show, released in 1975, addresses a taboo subject that’s been illuminated more in recent years: sexual identity and its fluidity. Both Brad and Janet begin the film, assumed to be heterosexual, but give into pleasure, destroying their “innocence”, and coming out as who the heck knows what. Although there has been significant progress with LGBTQ+ rights in the United States in the past decade alone, such as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, allowing gay men and women to serve in the military in 2011, Tammy Baldwin becoming the first openly gay politician in 2012, and federal legalization of gay marriage in 2015, this is a relatively new fight for rights for groups that have existed under discrimination and with surrounding homophobia for far longer. Transgender individuals, in particular, have had very minimal representation in our culture.

Although Dr. Frank N. Furter is not portrayed as a transgender, but rather a transvestite in the original film, Laverne Cox, an openly transgender actress and LGBT advocate, plays Dr. Frank N. Furter is Fox’s Rocky Horror Picture Show. Before her role in Rocky Horror, she played Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate, in everyone’s beloved Netflix series, Orange Is The New Black. Neither production shattered homophobia, but both at least provide a potential reality escape for many, perhaps looking to give themselves over to “absolute pleasure”, whether that be sexual freedom, comfort in individuality, a community of acceptence, etcetera. I, personally was not alive to experience the release in 1975, but can only imagine the possible uncomfort it may have caused in many of its audience members. (Men… doing… THE DO… on screen?!?)

A year or so back, in my prime time of Rocky Horror obsession, a couple of my friends and I drove an hour and a half south of our small, southern Wisconsin city, to see a live production put on by a handful of college kids. This group apparantly performed the show once a month, but this particular show featured gender swapped roles, so Dr. Frank N. Furter was played by a woman, Janet played by a man, Rocky Horror a woman, so on and so forth. Although I have little to no memory of where the production was or who the cast was, I can recall a good deal of the experience.

Upon entering the building that hosted the production, we were shuffled into a dark red-lit room. Two people, dressed up in nontypical outfits, ran up and asked if we had ever been there before. We didn’t know any better, and of course were truthful in our no. They then proceeded to draw V’s on our cheeks in bright red lipstick, which we later learned was to signify our Rocky Horror virginities. We waited around with a large group of strangers for the theater doors to open. We were surrounded by men dressed in fishnets and heels, men in suits, women in bras and crazy makeup, people dressed as characters, and my personal favorite, an older man by himself, dressed as Eddie, complete with a wig and saxophone. Many of those adorned with the red V’s were dressed in typical street clothes, as were my friends and I, but the majority of those dressed up had clean cheeks. It became clear that this was a welcoming community of all sexualities and identies that gathered every month to celebrate the show and each other.

Eventually the doors opened, and the party really started. A few of the cast members came out to play interative games with the audience to rile us up, calling many veterans (those who had been there before) and virgins (those who hadn’t) to the stage, for a “virginal sacrifice”. Although no blood was shed, perhaps a bit of virginal ego was, although in front of such an enthusiastic crowd, but one of my friend’s participated and had a great time on stage. Finally, the audience members were shuffled off stage, and the show began.

The film was played as the backdrop, as the cast performed in front of the screen, while the audience did what they could to particpate. I, a Rocky Horror virgin, was slow to many of the cues, but was glad to call Brad an a**hole and dance to the Time Warp with everyone else. It was clear that this was a community where people felt comfortable showing a new side of themselves, and it is truly beautiful that a film full of f*ckery and chaos can bring that to people just looking to let loose.

I found the costume and makeup designs to be particularly eye-catching. Everything from Tim Curry in heels and fishnets to the floor show face makeup is oddly astonishing and/or alluring. Everything exudes sexuality, from Magenta’s maid outfit, to the floor show corset and heavy makeup. Even more so than costuming and make up, I love the soundtrack. From “Science Fiction — Double Feature” to the reprise (with the exclusion of “Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me”, mainly because two and a half minutes of Janet’s shrill voice is enough for me), I cannot count the number of times I have jammed out incredibly hard to the soundtrack while driving home (or doing homework, laundry, painting, or literally anything else because I love it that much). My personal favorites are “Hot Patootie — Bless My Soul”, “Sweet Transvestite”, and “Rose Tint My World”. Each song is emotionally charged, and just batsh*t crazy enough to work together in some mysterious hodgepodge of a beautiful masterpiece.

Rocky Horror Picture Show has impacted generations, from the iconic red lips, to references in other movies such as Fame, Men In Black, and Perks of Being a Wallflower. If Tim Curry dressed in a corset and heels, can make a man in just seven days, he can do anything. Whether you want admit it or not, you’ll shiver with antici……..pation.

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