The pleasures of Rocky Horror audience participation are many, and Walter Beck has enjoyed them, from being in the audience to playing as part of the screenings’ shadow cast.
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Dedicated to Transylvanian Lip Treatment
“…at the late night double feature picture show.”
Released in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show remains one of the iconic works of queer cinema, a raunchy celebration of sexuality, rock ‘n’ roll, and freak power. And even thirty-eight years after its original release, theaters across the country continue to play it to packed houses of eager weirdos reveling in the audience participation, the call-back lines, the shadow casts, and the whole Midnight Spectacle.
Like a lot of my favorite obsessions, I can blame this one on my older brother. He was a regular at the theater in Speedway, although never a cast member. When I was ten years old, he lent me his VHS copy of the film. I was blown away, I had never seen anything like this. It was like watching a twisted version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Soon after watching the tape, I scraped together some money and bought the soundtrack, becoming probably the only fifth grader in Avon who knew how to do the Time Warp.
It was eight years later when I finally lost my Rocky Virginity, at the Hollywood Bar and Filmworks in Indianapolis. My buddy Chuck had found it and had been to a show. He told me it was just what we had envisioned: a wild, bawdy, decadent celebration. So on a hot June evening, I got in the car with Chuck and we headed into the night.
Chuck had the honor of marking me as a virgin, putting that big red “V” on my forehead with his tube of lipstick. Walking into the lobby, it was like seeing the gates of paradise – people walking around in bondage gear, corsets, raunchy black t-shirts, fishnets, spanking each other, laughing, and poking fun at the normal looking people coming out of the last regular movie of the night.
We took our seats, right at the front to catch all the action, and soon they called for all the virgins to come up. It was time for the Virgin Sacrifice. I walked up there with a goofy grin on my face, not quite sure what to expect. That night it was an underwear contest, so I had to drop my trousers and see if I got any applause. Well the crowd wasn’t a big fan of the solid color boxers, so I got a round of light-hearted “boos” and sat back down – although this would establish a fairly regular tradition of me dropping my pants at Rocky shows.
I lit a cigarette (you could smoke at the Hollywood) and enjoyed the show. I was mesmerized. It was indeed everything I thought it would be. The shadow cast was great, the call-back lines were hilarious and of course, it felt great doing the Time Warp with a packed theater of like-minded freaks.
The film ended and Chuck and I went back home, knowing we would both coming to the next one.
The next day, I went back to work for another week of camp at Ransburg. The guys asked me what did over the weekend and I told them all about the insanity of the Midnight show at Hollywood. They asked when the next one was and we started putting together a staff contingent to take to Indianapolis.
Breaking a major taboo with the Boy Scouts of America, the Ransburg Contingent arrived on a late June evening. Most of them were virgins, including my boss at the time, Matt “Trank” Trangenstein. It was perfect: my boss was there, several regular staffers were there, even our two international staff members went along for the ride.
The lights went down and the virgins were called up, that night it was “virgins, show us your assets!” So I sat in the front, puffing on a cigar, rolling with laughter as my boss had to bare his ass to a packed theater.
The staff contingent had a blast, heading back to camp smiling like they had had one of the greatest movie experiences of their lives.
Of course, the next day I got a bit of an ass-chewing from management when word got around about what I had pulled off. But fuck it, it was worth it.
Chuck and I were hooked, becoming regular Rocky Sluts at the Hollywood, and usually bring at least a virgin or two along. When I started college in the fall in Vincennes, I arranged my monthly visits home to coincide with Rocky showings – and yes, bringing along my college buddies to lose their virginity at the hands of the Hollywood cast.
In the summer of 2006, I brought along another staff contingent from Ransburg. The stories had spread about the blast everyone had last year and more people wanted the experience. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my boss, Snipes, to come along for the ride, but everyone who came along still had a great time. And yes, most of the staff contingent were virgins.
It was the last time I took a group of staff buddies to a show at the Hollywood Bar and Filmworks.
Later that year, the Hollywood closed, leaving Indy Rocky buffs homeless. It would be a couple years before we had another regular theater.
During the summer of 2007, the guys at Ransburg were clamoring for another Rocky show. I told them we didn’t have a theater to go to. After thinking a bit, Dave, one of the handicraft counselors, finally said, “Why don’t we do it here?” Well, why not? The kids went home Saturday night, we could pull it off. We decided to do it at the Inlow, the big building down by boat docks. It was perfect; it had a big room with a big screen TV that was used mainly for Scoutmaster training.
So on a Saturday night in July, we did it. We got a big group of staffers down there at Midnight and hosted probably the only showing of Rocky Horror to ever happen at Ransburg. We did it to a tee, had people come in costume, had a virgin ritual, call back lines, even a shadow cast. It was probably the ballsiest thing I ever orchestrated as an employee of Ransburg Scout Reservation, but it was beautiful.
When I walked back to my cabin, I noticed my boss Ben Thomas was up and he decided to let me have it, going on and on about how the black skirt I was wearing was “completely against National policy” and blah, blah, blah. I was a bit stunned at his lack of a sense of humor – but that was just him, not a lot of laughter in that guy.
The next theater we had was Georgetown Cinemas on the west side of Indianapolis. It didn’t last long; it wasn’t our kind of crowd. The cast was falling apart, there was too much in-fighting and argument. I stopped going, Rocky had quit being fun.
The resurrection happened in 2010, when the Indianapolis Rocky crowd found its new home at the Irving Theater. I went to one of the first shows there, dressed in nothing but my boxers, suspenders and boots, with my pride flag tied around me cape-style.
It was like Hollywood all over again, the cast was great, the audience was rowdy, and the whole experience was fun. Quickly I became a regular again, connecting with some old friends from the Hollywood days. Of course Jamie “Lord Douche” Clemons was still playing Brad as he had back at the Hollywood, and there were a couple others from those days.
At the Irving is where I became a regular cast member, part of Transylvanian Lip Treatment. It started off with me being the opening act before the pre-show, performing some of my hardcore political poetry. And thus Madison “Sedusa” Martin, the head of the cast, dubbed me “The Fudge-Packing Bard”. I was also filling in bit parts when somebody didn’t show up or they needed a bathroom break.
In August 2012, I took my acting on the road. My boyfriend Nathan and I were headed up north to his old theater in Hobart. He had the role of Frank-N-Furter and I was playing the creation, Rocky Horror. I was a bit nervous since their cast, Help Me Mommy, was more screen-accurate than the Indy cast. But Nate worked me through the steps and we got the requisite pair of gold lamé hot pants.
It took a couple of pints of cider at the bar next to the theater to calm my nerves, but overall I did fine. The only real mishap I was nearly tripping over a cable during a scene where I had to run.
Back in Indianapolis, I became part of the regular performing cast, taking on the role of the Criminologist to the delight of the audience, bringing my own sense of bizarre humor to the character and regularly being groped on stage by the rest of the cast.
This summer has certainly continued the insanity, with me marching the Indianapolis Pride Parade as part of Transylvanian Lip Treatment, getting many hoots, hollers, and flat strange looks from the crowd. And as tends to happen with me, photos were taken that proved to be controversial later on.
And at our most recent show, I was asked to step into the role of Janet Weiss, putting on the skirt and make-up to play everyone’s favorite slut. It was definitely a wild experience and everybody agreed I was the prettiest girl with balls that night.
The last eight years in the Midnight Madness have been a wild ride. It’s been a welcome reprieve from the drudgery of everyday life, a place where I can be as outrageous as I wanna be and fit right in. My old man keeps asking me when I’m gonna outgrow Rocky Horror, but as long as there are high heels and corsets calling at the midnight hour, I’ll be one of the faithful.
“Don’t dream it, be it.”