October 12, 1995 in City

‘Rocky’ Moments Are Anything But A Horror

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

It’s astounding.

Spokane’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fanatics are so possessed by this campy, 20-year-old movie, they actually show up weekend after weekend to dress up and mimic the action on the screen.

But get this: They PAY to run around in their underwear, holler good-humored vulgarities and dance the incomparable Time Warp.

The 20 cast members cough up five bucks a month. The dues cover costume repairs and other expenses incurred by the city’s longest-running production.

These midnight Friday and Saturday weirdfests have been going on at the Magic Lantern since January 1977. The only interruptions came during the theater’s ownership changes.

“It’s a great release,” says Jason Laws, 30, a former Rocky actor who now directs his players from the wings. “You can come and do things you can’t do in any other theater.

“You can mess the place up, within reason. You can dance. You can run around….”

For the record, Rocky Horror is a sexually ambiguous horror musical that looks like it was filmed for about $29.95.

It tells the story of two straight-laced love birds, Brad and Janet, who take a very wrong turn one dark and stormy night. They end up in a castle ruled by an evil, singing Transylvanian transvestite.

Why this developed such an intense cult following is anyone’s guess. But within years of its 1975 release, moviehouses across the land were featuring regular Rocky nights. Audience members began showing up dressed as their favorite character to shout nasty rejoinders and participate in the bedlam.

“I just like knowing I’m good at something,” says Bud Howell, 25, who has been playing the part of the nerdy Brad since November 1992.

Rather than rely on random walk-ins, Spokane’s Rocky faithful formed their own guild.

The result is a true otherworldly experience. As you sit in the gloom of the theater until nearly 3 a.m., Howell and others act out the film with spirited polish.

After so many performances, these hams are nearly as good as the on-screen cast. They have every gesture, every facial expression, every movement down cold.

Viewers join in at key moments: tossing rice during a wedding; firing squirt guns during a rainstorm; throwing dry toast during a, well, toast.

Audience participation has evolved over the years. Some of the lines even take note of local politics.

Movie: Camera pans on a row of unabashed freaks.

Audience (yells): “Look it’s the Spokane City Council and there’s former mayor Sherry Barn-yard!”

Yes, there’s always something odd going on here. For example, I was invited to Rocky Horror the other night to judge a pre-movie tattoo and body art contest.

The things I must do to elevate our readers.

One winner, Ed Johnson, is a young man who has 10 parts of his anatomy pierced with either metal hoops or studs.

Unfortunately, I can vouch for only nine of Ed’s piercings. I took his word on the 10th.

This time of year is the Christmas rush for our Rocky Horror troupe. Everything is building to the Oct. 28, Halloween extravaganza.

The place will be packed with costumed viewers, so get your $4 tickets early.

No one knows the show’s ebb and flow better than Pat Kavanaugh, 46, who has been warming up Rocky audiences as Doc Midnight since 1983.

It’s the doctor’s job to tell bawdy jokes and make fools of first-timers the regulars call “virgins.” And even after a dozen years worth of weekends, he still manages to treat the experience with a fresh energy.

“There’s water. There’s confetti. There’s burned toast.” says Kavanaugh with a laugh. “This is one of the happiest corners of town.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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