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October 31, 2011

Rocky night at Rocky Horror

It was 4:21 a.m. There was confetti in my hair, permanent marker that refused to come off my hand, and my eyes were done with contacts for the next week. I had seen people in outrageous costumes, learned new dance moves, and gotten packed into a tiny space with lots of strangers. And now I could say that I had survived The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

When I first told people I was making the hour-each-way trek to the Music Box Theatre for this particular viewing experience, I was met with mixed messages from friends and family:

“You’re going to love it.”

“You’re going to hate it.”

“You are about to be scarred for life.”

Thankfully, I was able to find two friends willing to take the risk and join me on my Halloweekend quest: Maria, a Rocky Horror veteran, and Demi, a Rocky Horror virgin, like myself. Before even nearing the theater, we inadvertently started an argument on the #55 bus and almost got lost on the way to the Red Line. And then we had to walk through costume bar night in the Wrigley Field area. Our journey put those of Greek heroes to shame.

After finally making our way into the vintage theater, passing by unfortunate people who hadn’t purchased tickets ahead of time, Maria treated us all to Rocky Horror “Virgin Kits.” After all, watching the movie is only a fractional part of the fun. Of course, the Music Box allows neither toast nor water pistols, which I had previously thought of as integral parts of the Rocky Horror viewing experience. We would have to make do with party hats and sponges.

Once the Music Box staff had (thoroughly) made sure we weren’t carrying in forbidden items, I had to mentally prepare myself for the “Virgin Initiation” Maria had warned me about, during which all the Rocky Horror newbies stand up, climb on stage, and are forced to do awkward tasks in front of everyone. But it never came. Sure, they had us stand up and flip off the person next to us, but I knew the people next to me. That was pretty anticlimactic after hearing about faking an orgasm on stage.

Before I could feel too gypped, though, members of the Midnight Madness staff had a tandem boxer race up and down the aisles. Then there were costume contests in “non-Rocky Horror,” “sexy non-Rocky Horror,” and finally “Rocky Horror” categories, most of which were not mutually exclusive. It was easy to figure out who regularly attended Rocky Horror night by who was shouting the Eight Cardinal Rules of Rocky Horror at the Music Box along with the actual staff members. As I tried to understand what was going on by piecing together microphone-scrambled words, I realized we were all standing up and raising our hands. I may or may not have sworn an oath involving six-inch heels, sexual gratification, and the Transylvanian national anthem, but I’m pretty sure it’s non-binding either way since I had to make up the words for most of it.

And finally the movie began. It quickly became apparent that I should have purchased an annotated script along with the Virgin Kit, but after a while it was easy to remember who was an “asshole” and who was a “slut.” In a pinch, it also seemed acceptable to just yell random things at the screen. Some Midnight Madness staffers stayed along the aisles to harangue the movie (and sometimes the audience), while others participated in a live-action edition of the events on screen. I still don’t know the plot, and I’m not sure I really need to, but I found myself loving the witty commentary from people around me as I tried to fend off flying Virgin Kit items (mostly from Demi).

The Rocky Horror spirit of excitement carried over to the trip home: We sent pictures of a pink boa in a bush to a (male) housemate, packed ourselves onto a Red Line train that was way too full, heard drunken renditions of most classic party ballads, and froze as we waited for the bus back to the dorm.

Everything people told me about Rocky Horror was true in some way. I loved seeing people get so into this movie and wave around glow sticks during a poignant scene. I hated being one of the few people in the back who actually wanted to dance. I also may have been scarred for life by some of the costumes and/or movie scenes. At the end of the night, though, I got to realize once again just how crazy-amazing Chicago is. And I have every intention of doing the “Time Warp” again someday.

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