Gay History 101: August 19, 2015

San Francisco's Strand Theatre, 1979. Linda Woods, Marni Scofi dio, Denise Erickson and Jim Curry. (Photo: Wiki User Amadscientist.)

Last week it was the 40th anniversary of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The film opened in the United Kingdom on 14 August 1975 and in the U.S. on 26 Sept., premiering at the UA Westwood in Los Angeles.

It is a British-American musical comedy horror film directed by Jim Sharman and it is based on the 1973 musical stage production. The film stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick. Although the movie is both a parody and tribute to many of the science fiction and horror B movies from the 1930s up to the 1970s, costume designer Sue Blane conducted no research for her designs. Blane stated that costumes from the film have directly impacted the development of punk music fashion trends such as ripped fishnets and dyed hair.

Although largely critically panned on release, it soon became known as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theater in New York City in 1976. Audience members returned to the cinemas frequently and talked back to the screen and began dressing as the characters, spawning similar performance groups across the U.S.

It has the longest-running theatrical release in film history. Roger Ebert noted that when first released, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was "ignored by pretty much everyone, including the future fanatics who would eventually count the hundreds of times they'd seen it."

He considered it more a "long-running social phenomenon" than a movie, rating it 2.5 out of 4 stars. Newsweek called the movie "tasteless, plotless and pointless."

The public originally hated the movie and called it immoral. The film starts with the screen fading to black and over-sized, disembodied female lips appear, overdubbed with a male voice establishing the androgynous theme to be repeated as the film unfolds.

The story centers on a young engaged couple whose car breaks down in the rain near a castle where they seek a telephone to call for help. The castle is occupied by strangers in elaborate costumes celebrating an annual convention.

They discover the head of the house is Frank N. Furter, an apparent mad alien transvestite scientist who creates a living muscle man in his laboratory. The couple is seduced separately by the mad scientist and eventually released by the servants who take control.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is referred to as a “Camp” movie. When it first came out, gay men would refer to movies or shows as being “campy” as an alternative way of saying it had homosexual undertones.

It was one of the first movies to have a transvestite as the lead character. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 78 percent. A number of contemporary critics find it compelling and enjoyable because of its offbeat and bizarre qualities; the BBC summarized: "for those willing to experiment with something a little bit different, a little bit outré, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ has a lot to offer."

Annual Rocky Horror conventions are held in varying locations lasting days. Tucson, Arizona has been host a number of times, including 1999 with “El Fishnet Fiesta,” and “Queens of the Desert” held in 2006. To the fans, Rocky Horror is ritualistic and comparable to a religious event, with a compulsive, repeated cycle of going home and coming back to see the film each weekend. The audience call backs are similar to responses in church during a mass. The film has a global following and remains popular well into the 21st century.

2015: For Pride Month, Swedish Absolut Vodka's creative marketing department came out with a slightly different limited edition of its iconic bottle wrapped in the six colors of the rainbow flag. This year the caption in italics reads: “We are proud to believe in equality. We believe that the world needs to change. Change, so that each and every individual can be proud and decide for themselves who they belong with, live with and love. Since 1979 Absolut has been supporting the rights of proud people around the world. We will never stop."

A.D.1: The Art of Love, by the Roman poet Publius Ovid is the first publication giving advice on cruising. His favorite cruising spots were the market, the temple and the racetrack.


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