Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rocky Horror G(l)eek

I’m such a Rocky Horror geek.  I both loved and disliked the recent Glee episode.  (More on that later.)

During the 80s and early 90s, I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show roughly 50 times.  (Only twice in the last decade, though, and probably only a half dozen times after mid-1990, when I moved to California.  I guess I decided drinking and getting laid was a better use of my post-midnight time.)  I’ve been in several theater casts and even in an actual stage production.  Here are some memories…

Seattle / In College (1987–1988)
  • My second time seeing it was at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle, on what turned out to be their 10th anniversary showing, during my junior year of college (1987, I guess).  Lots of people in costume, and the “opening act” was the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Rhapsody Rabbit”.  While we were waiting in line to get in, some Jesus Freaks were across the street with signs and a megaphone, telling us we were going to Hell for seeing the movie.  (Really.  For seeing a movie.)
  • Our crew made a few more trips from Tacoma to the Neptune over the next year or so.  One time, one of the kids we approached to come with us said “You don’t want to see that movie!  That’s where they rip up the chairs in the theater and throw them at each other!”  (Makes Sue Sylvester’s interpretation of throwing toast seem benign, huh?)  Another time, my father came with us (drove us up); a youth pastor, he knew of the movie but had never seen it and afterward, he said he was glad he had seen it (in that “I didn’t really enjoy it, but now at least I know what it is” sense).
  • The Neptune cast used to “sacrifice” (Rocky Horror) virgins before the show.  One time, we took a college friend up name Carol.  Carol Carroll, actually.  They had fun with that.  (“Ask her her name!  Ask her her last name!”  “No, what’s your last name?  No, your last name!”)
  • My first theater cast part was at the Neptune, where they put me in a wedding dress and I played Betty Monroe.  My Ralph was wearing a Nixon mask.
Eugene and Portland / In Grad School (1988–1990)
  • During grad school in Eugene, the local art theater started doing Rocky Horror, and after several of us showed up in costume, they asked us to create a theater cast.  We did that every Friday and Saturday for about a year.
  • At one point, they even played it as a Saturday afternoon matinee.  (Lasted about 3 weeks, I think.)  There’s something truly wrong about exiting a showing of Rocky Horror into bright sunlight.
  • Actors Cabaret of Eugene put on a live version of The Rocky Horror Show (note that the stage show name differs from the movie), and I was cast as one of the Tranyslvanian chorus.  (I had nothing prepared for my audition piece, so I sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.)  To this day, I struggle to sing the melody (rather than the harmony) for “The Time Warp”, and I still recall bits of the show choreography.  The show only ran for three performances, but it was lots of fun.
  • A few times, several of us drove to Portland for their showing (must have been after the Eugene theater stopped showing it), and once we drove to somewhere near Seattle and provided a cast for a theater there.  Ah, the long drives in my old Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.  The Portland theater had a live band at the time which would play before the show; a cover of “Tainted Love” was their best/most memorable piece.
  • At some point, a few of us from the Eugene cast were interviewed for a master’s thesis someone was doing on Rocky Horror and similar mass participation movie viewings (of which there were very few at the time).  I think I’ve got a copy of the thesis somewhere (God knows where).
  • Over the years, I’ve played several roles in theater casts: Betty Monroe, Columbia, Dr. Frank N. Furter, Riff Raff, Magenta, Dr. Scott, Brad Majors, and Rocky.  I still have most of my costume bits (except the wheelchair), including the gold lame booties for Rocky and the laboriously hand-sequinned blue tap shoes for Columbia.  (Mmm, need pics!)
California and Seattle / The Last 20 Years (1990–2010)
  • After moving to California, I went to showings in Palo Alto a few times.  In about November 1990 (I think), they had a costume contest.  At the time, I had let my hair grow long, aiming for a ponytail but my hair has so much body that it was more of a puffball.  For Halloween that year, I had done a French Maid drag costume (you can see where this is going), and I re-used that as Magenta.  With my own hair teased out big, and with a beard.  I won the costume contest and got a copy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show Book.
  • One of the women in the square dance club was a big Barbie collector, and for Halloween that year, she dressed up as Janet from the Floor Show sequence, and brought a Barbie dressed to match.
  • Since moving to Seattle in 2000, I’ve only seen Rocky Horror twice: I took my then-boyfriend Aaron to see it at a theater in West Seattle, and later then-boyfriend Rusty to the Cuff Complex for their annual showing.  In both cases, the guys were a bit scared of me for how well I knew the film and how much I threw myself into the songs, dances, and antics.

Which brings us back to the Glee episode.

While I was pleased that they did a Rocky Horror episode (and I’m glad that they didn’t echo back to the piece of Fame involving the movie), I still found this to be one of the weaker episodes thus far.

The Good
  • I was tickled from the very start by the realization that Quinn in the show would play Magenta, the role played in the movie by… Patricia Quinn.  (In-joke or coincidence?)  Fox has stated that the lips in the intro are Santana’s (which means they are still Magenta’s lips, since Santana did some of the Magenta stuff, especially during "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me"), but the voice sounds like Quinn to me; if they were mirroring the movie, then it should be one person’s lips and another’s voice, so it could be Quinn mashed-up with Santana (although technically, it should be Kurt’s voice over Santana’s lips).  (The comments thread in that article say that a producer tweet and that the soundtrack album indicates that it was indeed Santana’s voice as well as her lips.)
  • The actress playing Mercedes was superb as Dr. Frank N. Furter (as she always is, of course!).
  • The lyric changes in the songs to make them teen-appropriate (or really “TV appropriate”, I guess) caused me to snicker at times. (Although I give them props for changing “transsexual” to “sensational”; that one worked fairly well.)  Ultimately, the word switches didn’t really bother me, since they were addressed in the story as part of rewrites to make the show acceptable for a high school musical.
  • “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?” has now been added to my country DJ set (East Coast Swing, 162 bpm).  I also have “Physical” from Season One in there, as a West Coast Swing.
  • I completely missed that the TV network guys were Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf.
The Bad
  • Since when are Mr. Schuester and the Glee Club responsible for the school musical?  That came out of left field and wasn’t fleshed out very much.
  • The episode didn’t serve to really move any of the subplots forward.  At best, it nodded to Sam and Quinn’s relationship and Sue’s TV career.
  • The episode didn’t have as strong a “structure of a musical” structure.  “Will uses the show to get close to Emma” as the emotional crux didn’t really carry the right weight.  “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me“ as an Eleven O’Clock Number?
  • The whole thing about casting Carl as Eddie and Will as Rocky seemed totally left field (it’s a high school musical!) and gave a really major “Eeewww” factor to things.)
  • There has apparently been some outcry reaction to Kurt’s use of “tranny” in the episode.  I noticed it at the time but was more intrigued by the issue the character raised — it’s hard enough being out and gay without everyone thinking you want to be a drag queen or get a sex change as well — than I was at the potential perjorative.  But I’m not trans, either.
The Future
  • Seeing a leather-clad motorcycle riding dentist made me wonder about whether there’s a Little Shop of Horrors episode in the works for next year.  (Similarly, Kurt’s references to the Sing-a-Long Sound of Music — an event which stems directly from the Rocky Horror phenomenon, as does the “Rocky Horror Lion King” from furry circles — needs a payoff at some point.  These kids are 16 going on 17, after all.)

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