It's Saturday night at the Golden Ring Mall's Theater No. 3 -- and it's wild in there.
A man dressed in bra, garter belt, black fish-net stockings and heels sashays brazenly up and down the aisle. Moviegoers shout catcalls and four-letter words at the characters on the screen, tossing handfuls of rice, rolls of toilet paper and decks of playing cards.
Last Saturday, it was time for a toast -- or perhaps a cascade of toasts -- to celebrate the 15th anniversary of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," the transvestite fantasy film that has been wowing crowds at hundreds of movie houses nationally.
Not only is "Rocky" reaching adolescence, the camp classic is soon to become a household experience. On Nov. 8, you can rent a copy of the movie on videocassette for the first time in this country.
Buying a copy will also be possible, but for a limited time only. Video stores are taking orders for the $89.95 cassette until Nov. 8 -- then the video will not be for sale again for at least two years, according to distributors of the CBS/Fox video.
But, hey, who wants to watch "Rocky" at home, anyway? What's elevated this film to cult status has been the tradition of audience participation -- such as the antics organized at Golden Ring by "Midnight Express," a group of 11 men and women in thrift-shop costumes, who mimic the movie's action as they stand in front of the screen.
What they do "transcends the behavior we allow in any other theater," says Ken Demski, manager of United Artists' Movies at Golden RingMall, where "Rocky Horror" has been screened at midnight Friday and Saturday nights for six years.
"Where we would police any other movie and say no talking, no throwing, here we encourage all that during this particular showing."
Despite his permissiveness, Mr. Demski drew the line once when a movie patron came in with a 50-pound sack of rice over his shoulder for use during a wedding scene. As it is, a cleanup crew works four hours or more to tidy up after a typical "Rocky" showing.
Fans come back again and again to participate in the ritual. Midnight Express actor James "Skip" Chipps, who mimics the lead role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, has seen the movie 250 times. Glenn "Rocky" Garczynski logs in at 400 viewings. Randy "Eddy" Brown counts 702 times.
"I've always been a bit of a nut," says Mr. Brown, 31, a dispatcher for a delivery service.
Perhaps the most impressive fandom number belongs to 2-year-old Chris, who has sat through 189 performances with his parents, Brian and Bobby Joe Pendleton. Chris saw his first "Rocky" at just 3 days old.
What's the appeal?
Could it be the story line? The movie recounts the adventures of Janet and Brad, a young naive couple, whose car breaks down outside the castle of sex-crazed mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). Brad and Janet (Susan Sarandon) grow up quickly in this depraved setting, learning to let their true natures shine through.
The songs? "Touch-a touch-a touch-a touch me. I want to be dirty," goes one. The dances, such as the pelvic-thrusting "Time Warp?"
More likely, the draw is the camaraderie developed by "Rocky" fans.
"You meet people who are going to be your friends for a long time," explains Mr. Chipps. "We see each other week after week. We have parties together."
Mary Jones, Mr. Chipps' aunt and the mother of cast member Mauricia Jones, serves as unofficial den mother for Midnight Express. Last Saturday it was well after 3 a.m. when they stopped by her house for refreshments and to watch a videotape they'd obtained of -- what else? -- "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Acknowledging she has been criticized for allowing her children to watch the cult film, she says, "Sure, there's a lot of vulgar language and some carrying on that people don't approve of, but there are a lot worse things out on the street. At least I know where my kids are on Friday and Saturday night. They're having good fun and nobody gets into trouble."
Rocky Horror quiz
Here is a super-trivial quiz on "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Good luck and remember, as "The Time Warp" warns: "Time is fleeting. Madness takes its toll." Answers on 3F.
1.The movie began filming Oct. 30, 1974, the 81st birthday of a famous man whose name is used in the title of one of the show's songs. Name the song.
2.The movie made its official premiere on Sept. 26, 1975, in the United Artists Theatre in L.A.'s Westwood. But "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" achieved most of its fame as a midnight movie. On what night and in which year and in which theater and city did the film make its late-night debut?
3.Executive producer Lou Adler came up with two famous advertising slogans for the movie. What were they?
4.A close-up shot of a pair of highly glossed, luscious lips opens the movie and is used on the movie poster. Whose lips are they?
5.A petite redhead named Little Nell played Columbia, Frank's discarded attempt at heterosexuality. What was her real name and from what Charles Dickens work does her stage name come?
6.In the movie, when Brad and Janet are in their car, the radio carries President Nixon's resignation speech. But why is it impossible for the action to have occurred when Nixon resigned?
7.What appliance slogan does the audience yell as Frank prepares to carve up the roasted Eddie?
8.Using the exact spelling and punctuation used in the movie, what are the contents of Eddie's message, scribbled in blood, to Dr. Scott?