BY SARAH TEREZ-ROSENBLUM
At 14, my best friend and I begged to attend “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the cult classic starring nubile Susan Sarandon and gender-bending Tim Curry. No, we were told, absolutely not. “Rocky” fans take drugs, carry knives, have orgies. Doubtful but duly shaken, we didn’t ask again.
Later, at 19, free of parental restrictions and dating a cast member, I made the first of many pilgrimages to the Oriental Theatre’s midnight show. The atmosphere, charged and expectant, was nowhere near as depraved as my parents warned. Instead, the theater seemed a sanctuary for young nonconformists, its occupants, although gussied up in fetishware were low key, even dorky.
Let’s face it, the fire-eating kids in capes might attract more attention, but the football players are the ones to fear. But like some kind of Time Warp, from the Baby Boomers to Generation Y-Did-You-Unfriend-Me-On-Facebook, grown folk continuously caution against “Rocky,” and youngins can never stay away.
For me the excitement always peaked about half an hour into the meandering movie; the rest a spiraling struggle against slumber. Still, when I heard about Skokie Theatre’s plans to screen “Rocky” Aug. 28 at 10:30 p.m., the young outcast in me perked up her ears. Wondering about the film’s enduring appeal, I asked a former member of Sensual Daydreams, the Milwaukee cast, to what she attributes its resilience.
Now a PhD candidate, the cast member preferred to remain anonymous, unnecessary if you ask me. If Amy Bishop killed her brother and The University of Alabama still hired her, it’s hard to imagine two years spent wearing lingerie and yelling obscenities at a movie screen hampering an academic career. But grudging acquiescence is one of my better qualities, so I’ll call the cast member Public Indecency.
According to Public Indecency, the show’s popularity is consequence of its convivial ethos. “Midnight showings of Rocky Horror accept everyone, and that kind of acceptance is really liberating for people in their late teens and early twenties.”
At $20 a pop, the Skokie screening, a one time event to benefit the Skokie Theatre, may attract less disenfranchised youth, however, few true fanatics can resist even an expensive showing. Says Public Indecency, “I was only in the cast for two years, but there are people who have been doing it for more than 15. The cast and the hardcore fans become a tight-knit group, and I think that fuels people to keep going.”
Asked how her years of communal near-nudity fit with her pending doctorate, Public Indecency says “in real life I have no interest in garter belts, fake eyelashes, wigs, and space suits, but for those hours every week at Rocky, it was the coolest thing ever. It also fed my OCD tendencies. [I had to] to make my Magenta costume as maniacally accurate to the movie as possible. FYI: Magenta does NOT wear a French maid's costume. Seriously, people, it's a black shirtdress and a little apron with 12 pleats on one side, and nine on the other.”
Hear that, hiring committees? OCD and in touch with America’s alienated youth. Sounds like professor material to me. Just don’t deny her tenure or you might find yourself hit with a Medusa Transducer, fishnet-clad and swimming in a Transylvanian’s pool. Yeah, I’m a dork.
Itching to break out that boa? Purchase tickets for the Skokie screening here.
Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.