Hazing first-time viewers is a universal part of screenings of the “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” though venues address the issue with varying levels of severity.
The spanking of “virgins” isn’t unknown. Neither is pelting them with balled-up newspaper or marking their foreheads with a lipsticked “V.”
“I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to handle the virgin situation,” said Jay Ervin, a Rocky Horror fanboy helping organize a screening this weekend at the Blackbird Bar & Grill. “A lot of places do it differently.”
The screening at the Blackbird might not be a terrible way to lose your “Rocky Horror” virginity. Ervin said he’s not planning anything destructive to dignity or otherwise traumatizing.
The idea is to let yourself go among other, understanding freaks.
“We’re not going to make fun of anybody. The idea is to have one big fun party,” said Ervin, who plans to attend as Riff Raff, a ghastly, disheveled, taut-chested butler. “It’s a fun movie.”
The Blackbird Bar & Grill will screen the cult classic film Friday night. Doors open at 10 p.m. with a social hour and music from the movie. Of course, the show will get going closer to midnight.
Blackbird will provide scripts containing participation notes, as well as some of the essential Rocky Horror paraphernalia — squirt guns, uncooked rice, toilet paper. But if you hope to show people you’ve experienced this before, bring your own witty retorts to hurl at the screen. This isn’t a movie for quiet contemplation.
The popularity of the “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is tethered to these late-night viewings, which in 30 years have become something of a global phenomenon and a common reference point in gay popular culture.
Proudly vulgar and over-the-top, the British musical horror story starring Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon is among the first popular films to revel in its overtly gay overtones. It follows a repressed young couple’s liberating encounters with a transvestite space traveler and his freewheeling, free-loving party guests.
The film wasn’t initially a success when it was released in 1975. But it quickly built a following, first by playing as a lighter B-side in late-night, sci-fi double features. The film “Fame,” released in 1980, alluded to it as a growing cultural phenomenon.
Most major population centers now have some kind of meetup for “Rocky Horror” fans, Ervin said. Screenings have been held in the Roseburg area in the past few years by the theater program at Umpqua Community College.
The midnight screenings have remained popular since the late 1970s. Halloween is an especially popular time to hold them due to the film’s classic horror movie tropes and myriad costume possibilities.
Aside from virgin hazing, other aspects of these screenings are universal. Food is thrown, at the screen or around the room. Comments are yelled, in response to lines of dialogue or just because.
Most venues add local touches. Some organize dancing to the larger, show-stopping numbers. Some showings are more theatrical performances than movie screenings, with actors on stage in front of the screen — a “shadow cast” — following along with the action on screen.
Lately, the Blackbird has also been looking to provide alternative forms of entertainment, Ervin explained. Bands, he said, are a little predictable and their returns diminish over weeks of performances. The venue recently hosted a stand-up comedian and is looking to hold more theme parties.
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.