1978 News Report on the Rocky Horror Craze Captures a Teenage Michael Stipe in Drag

The impact of The Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show in the ‘70s came from a per­fect cock­tail of sev­er­al time-spe­cif­ic ingre­di­ents: A lib­er­at­ed, post-’60s gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple embold­ened by glam and the sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion find­ing their voice; the pro­lif­er­a­tion of cin­e­mas that found that mid­night screen­ings were good for busi­ness; and the need to see a film again and again in a pre-VHS Amer­i­ca.

In the above clip from a St. Louis, MO night­ly news segment–commenters place it at around 1978–TV reporter Michael Brown inter­views the crowd out­side a screen­ing at the Var­si­ty The­ater, wait­ing to see the film “that some peo­ple obvi­ous­ly think has been here too long” (accord­ing to the news­cast­er) and, instead of find­ing deviants, dis­cov­ers some of the first cos-play­ers in his­to­ry.

One of which–and why the clip was post­ed in the first place–is a teenage Michael Stipe, years before mov­ing to Geor­gia and start­ing R.E.M., in full Frank N. Furter drag, who says this is “nor­mal” dress.

The idea to sell a film (that was orig­i­nal­ly a flop) as a “mid­night movie” start­ed with a loy­al fol­low­ing at the Waver­ly The­ater in New York City, and can­ny stu­dio mar­keters. Accord­ing to a 1999 arti­cle by Patri­cia Cor­ri­g­an,

“Rocky Hor­ror” came to St. Louis in March of 1976, show­ing at the now-defunct Var­si­ty The­atre in Uni­ver­si­ty City. The movie ran every night, as the main fea­ture, for three weeks. Pete Pic­cione, who owned the Var­si­ty, brought the film back as a mid­night movie on occa­sion­al week­ends for the rest of the year and on through 1977. By May of 1978, “Rocky Hor­ror” was play­ing every week­end as the mid­night show.

In fact, Pic­cione is in the seg­ment, being asked how he’d feel if his son or daugh­ter attend­ed this film, and well, we won’t ruin the reply. You’ll just have to watch.

Not only is this a great his­tor­i­cal vignette, but a reminder that the sight of peo­ple in cos­tume gath­er­ing to cel­e­brate a pop cul­ture event was once remark­able; now it’s called Comi­con.

It’s also worth won­der­ing: apart from the open­ing night, will we ever again see peo­ple gath­er­ing in pub­lic to watch a film 30, 40, 50 times? And did those news­cast­ers ever get bet­ter fash­ion sense?

via A.V. Club/Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Rare Inter­view: Tim Cur­ry Dis­cuss­es The Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show, Dur­ing the Week of Its Release (1975)


Michael Stipe Rec­om­mends 10 Books for Any­one Marooned on a Desert Island

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.