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12/19/2011 Entry: "The Hapless Refuse of the Rocky Horror Picture Show"
If you were a parent who was concerned about what your child would be exposed to if they attended a local theater showing the Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS), you had reason. Your child would be openly exposed to the possibly androgynous or homosexual, cross dressing, tattooed, waste of society. Then they would meet the second person. The RHPS was the collective cesspool of the misfits of society. If this is what you wanted to protect your children from you succeeded.
Now most close-minded individuals will not get past the first paragraph satisfied they have read enough.
Those parents succeeded at being miserable failures. That is right, the parents that tried to stop their kids from attending RHPS were bad parents. Everything I said in the first paragraph is true. There is of course more to those who attended RHPS and the environment that surrounded it. RHPS brought in the misfits of society. I am reminded of the misfit toys in the Rudolph TV special. These were in some ways what no one else wanted. In some cases not even their parents.
So why would the gays, bi's, trans, loners, confused, nerds, and so many others congregate for the occasional asylum of a gathering at the RHPS. It's simple, because no one cared. Not in a callous way that lacked compassion but in the sense that no one was going to judge you. If you wanted to wear platform heels with a corset and a pair of chaps because it was what you were comfortable in, RHPS was a place for you. It was also the place for you if you wore jeans and a t shirt.
For the better part of almost 20 years I attended RHPS at the Carefree theater in West Palm Beach, FL. I started seeing RHPS in other theaters and over the course of time I have managed to see it all over the country and I have performed it at high-end fancy theaters and on the playa at Burningman. I have performed the show for millionaires at private parties and to raise money for charity. I have come away from my time at RHPS a fortunate person whose life was improved in some ways by the time I spent there.
RHPS at the Carefree was the bar that kids were too young to attend. It was a social place with a dynamic to match. In a way that may seem disappointing, not everyone who attended was some social pariah. Many were just people who did not see what all the fuss about being different was about. Others were there because they had never seen anything like it before. People open and honest about who they were. For some it was the only place they could be honest about it.
For many who attended RHPS it wasn't a situation of respite. It was just genuine fun. Screaming obscenities at a movie screen along with everyone else in the audience could be surprisingly liberating. Most just wanted be around other people they shared a common interest in. Possibly a chance to meet someone and form a close relationship. A chance to bond outside of the drudgery of school or some lame attempt by adults to help them socialize. A place were they did not have to condemn someone for being different and a place they could be surprisingly normal. However you don't get to write too many interesting stories about the people who had no drama.
The stories were too numerous about people who showed up because they just did not want to be home with their parents or relatives. Because in some ways they felt they had no place else left to to go. Kids of broken homes caused by divorce, intolerance, fear, or misunderstanding. The evidence of which showed up as stains on their character that they desperately wanted to wash off. Some did this just by hanging with the crowd. Some drank and others did drugs. Sex exploration in ways that would make Caligula blush. The lies told by others at school were the truth and secrets of RHPS. The desire to be accepted for who they were and to not be made to feel flawed or like a failure was in many ways at the core of the people who came to RHPS. Little did they know then that sentiment is shared by so many others who also wanted the same thing but failed to find a sanctuary for themselves.
RHPS, because of the misfits that made up the social structure, also had a surprisingly low tolerance for bullshit. Yes, your life sucks, your parents are assholes. Let me introduce you to a dozen other people who all are in the same situation as you. So whining did not do much for you at RHPS. Everybody had their own issues. Yours didn't make you special.
I knew people who nearly overdosed and a few who did. I knew people who drank too much and were proud of it and still are but don't do it anymore. Some because alcohol is their drug and others because those days are behind them.
So why be exposed to such a group? There is no better group. In some ways this was the unification that others want and speak of. Understanding, acceptance, and a friendly environment at levels that churches would give their left arm for if they thought they could make a buck off of it. I watched people learn to accept who they were and stop being ashamed. Coming out at RHPS wasn't some huge announcement; it was the peace someone finds when they don't have to hide it anymore. You could date out of your religion, caste, or you could date within. You were entitled to be who you wanted.
Here it is many years later and I still hear people speak fondly of their time at RHPS. Some to such a degree that I am saddened and honored by it. People tell me that the time they spent at RHPS was the best time of their life. I still am completely stunned by this and it still catches me off guard. So often I am told this is where many of them formed the friendships they still hold and the relationships they still treasure. For many this is where the burden of who or what they were was lifted.
Every story at RHPS was not a rousing success. RHPS was a small, representative, microcosm of life and society in general. As I mentioned above, we lost some to drugs, some to car accidents, some we didn't lose, they just could not come back. For some the freedom that came with RHPS also ended when they left. Not everyone who came out stayed. Some went back in and stayed, not everyone renounced their religion, not every couple stayed in a relationship. Nor should we place that kind of false dream state on what RHPS was in the past. There are enough good honest memories that painting over the bad ones is a disservice. We made mistakes- some of them we learned from some we did not.
So what was one of the greatest successes of RHPS? Something that when we as little children often scream at our parents. "When I grow up I am not going to be anything like you." That line wasn't misplaced or forgotten by many who were part of RHPS. In fact for many it was the credo they still hold on to very tightly to this day. They want to do better, be better, and raise their children better.
Many of those who attended are now parents. Some of them now have children the same age they were when they started to go to RHPS. Many of them are proud to have attended RHPS with their kids the first time they went. They raised kids that do not hate. Their children have tolerance. They look at Tim Curry in black lingerie and it's not a big deal. They know Brad is an asshole, Janet is a slut and they make those statements free of judgment.
Some parents would stifle their children because they did not want them exposed to anything different. These are the bad parents. The ones who felt that if their kids went to RHPS they were doomed. RHPS on a Saturday night did not doom your child. Your years of being a suck parent did that.
I hear the pleas of parents who did not care if their kids went to RHPS. If you were a parent who did not care simply because they did not care you were a neglectful parent. You still sucked. If you were a parent who was not offended by what was the environment of RHPS and actually cared and wanted to continue to help your child grow, to not be ashamed of who they are straight, gay, bi, atheist, pagan, or whatever and you can hear in the back of your mind "When I grow up I am not going to be anything like you." Then carry this small response , No, you became something better which is all I can hope for.
I am now 44 years old. I now have my first child, a little girl (whose mother, my wife, I met and proposed to at RHPS), who as of my writing this is not yet even three months old. I hope that her mom and I can take her to her first RHPS.