Transvestites, rock and murder

There are movie theatres in America that have this tradition-every midnight of every Halloween (or, for some places, every Saturday before a Sunday Halloween), a throng of people cross-dress in vamp-glam armed with an array of rice, newspapers, water guns and several other props flood in.

Lights go off, a movie goes on and the party goes down.

Welcome to the world of unordinary fandom involved with ceremoniously watching “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Ever since its release as a feature film in 1975, fans of the film have gathered in movie theatres across the world to celebrate and re-enact scenes from it-simultaneously, of course-by going, well…all out…for the infamous rock opera starring Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon. “Rocky,” though, has quite the thick history that dates even before the film was a twinkle in a jet-black stiletto heel.

As the brainchild of out-of-work actor Richard O’Brien, “Rocky Horror” found its first home at London’s Royal Court. Skeptical of the appeal for a transvestite-horror musical dramedy, the theatre first aired the experimental play in its 60-seat Upper Theatre in June of 1973.

The play opened without an empty seat in the house and quickly garnered colossal critical acclaim.

Rapidly packing larger theatres, “Rocky” found its permanent home at the 500-seat King’s Road Theatre later that year. Continuing its run of sold-out shows and rave reviews, the production was named London’s Best Musical of 1973. After being dragged to the play by friends, American music producer extraordinaire Lou Adler was instantly converted to the show’s decadent doctrines. He secured its U.S. play rights within 36 hours and the “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” opened in Los Angeles in early 1974. In the wake of global acclaim, the play went into production as a major motion picture that same year.

In anticipation of the film’s 1975 release, the play opened on Broadway, this time to an unexpectedly lackluster response. Running only six weeks, this bleak showing was only a precursor of what was to come. As “Rocky” hit the sliver screen, the crowds didn’t. While still receiving bounteous critical praise, America simply didn’t get it.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s” gender-bending absurdity fell to our nation’s brooding-sexual prudishness and by the start of 1976, “Rocky” had been dropped from American pop culture’s fickle grasp. Thankfully, the underground reached out its grateful hands and caught “Rocky” on the way down to avant-garde obscurity.

Snaring the souls of all those who dared to step outside of their comfort zones, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” began packing independent theatres and underground cinemas around the world. Not only did these brave spirits accept “Rocky’s” counter-cultural concepts, they embraced them. Screenings of the film became full-on masquerade extravaganzas that rebelled against social norms and embodied the film’s demonic debauchery, with props, cues, costumes and sing-a-longs. And where better to rebel against social norms than within the ber-conservative snow globe of Salt Lake City, Utah?

Our valley’s breath of fresh cinematic air, the Tower Theatre, has kept the “Picture Show’s” ghost alive by screening the cult-classic yearly on All Hallow’s Eve (that’s Halloween for laymen). This month’s exposition of gruesome excess falls on Friday the 29th and Saturday the 30th and should prove a fitting, entertaining way to fall into the actual holiday celebration on Sunday, Oct. 31st.

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