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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

WHAT IF? SO WHAT? The 1979 Fantasy And Science Fiction Journal, Parts 12 through 14

Continuing entries from the journal I kept for Dr. Calvin Rich's Fantasy And Science Fiction class as a senior at Brockport in the Fall of 1979.

# 12: 10/26/79

Rather than project some alternate reality this time out, I want to discuss a curious phenomenon of pop culture, an odd item of unusual subject and cult interest. To wit, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a film satire of 1950s science fiction movies, sexual attitudes, and pop culture in general, opens with a scene outside a small town (Danton, Ohio) church after a wedding. Best man Brad Majors (All-American) confronts bridesmaid Janet Weiss (Ditto), singing his praise for her and asking her to marry him. She accepts his proposal, and the couple drives off in the direction of mentor and science teacher Dr. Everett Scott to tell him the good news.

HOWEVER, on the way, they get a flat tire, stranding them on a stormy night in the middle of nowhere. Seeking shelter, they flee to a castle they passed on the road.

The castle is the home of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a scientist and "sweet transvestite" from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. Taking a cue from Frankenstein, Frank N. Furter is "Makin' a man/With blond hair and a tan." The creation is intended to be Frank N. Furter's sexual plaything. In addition to creating this creature (Rocky), Frank N. Furter seduces both Janet and Brad, and kills the teenaged motorcyclist whom he had previously lobotomized in order to get a brain for Rocky. Ultimately, Frank N. Furter lures Brad and Janet into his hypnotic circle of dominance with an urgent statement of "Don't dream it; be it."

But Frank N. Furter's hedonistic designs are shattered by his servants, Riff Raff and Magenta, who execute him, Rocky, and the interstellar groupie Columbia. Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott are ordered to flee immediately as Riff and Magenta return to their home planet. As the castle blasts off, the trio of Earthlings are left crawling in the charred debris of its flight, representing "some insects called the human race...lost in time and lost in space and meaning."

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? We'll look into that in the next entry.

# 13: 10/31/79--ALL-HOLLOWS EVE (only fitting)

Delving further into the Rocky Horror phenomenon; whenever this film is shown--and it is shown very often, being a genuine item of cult fascination; a theater in Syracuse has shown it at midnight every Friday and Saturday since April, and has done very well with it--its audience greets it in a singularly peculiar manner. Many come to the theater dressed in the heavily made-up, corset, garter belt, and fishnet stockinged costume of Dr. Frank N. Furter. Instead of merely sitting and watching the movie, the audience insists upon participating: singing along, reciting carefully-rehearsed dialogue and responses to the dialogue, throwing appropriate items at the appropriate time (tossing toasted bread at the screen when Frank N. Furter proposes a toast, squirting water during a rain scene, hurling rolls of toilet paper when Dr. Scott--"Scottie!"--bursts through a brick wall.)

Much of the film's attraction--beyond its absurdities and sexual innuendo--lies in its professed message: "Don't dream it; be it." The hedonistic Dr. Frank N. Furter, seen early in the movie as a villain of monstrous perversion, is conceived instead by film's end as "the hero--that's right, the hero!" Frank N. Furter's sexual practices and prancing at first horrify, but then entrance Brad, Janet, and even Dr. Scott. When he, Rocky, and Columbia are killed, Brad and Janet scream their protests futilely. 

In some ways, The Rocky Horror Picture Show might represent some sort of shamanism in terms of free sexuality. The experience of sex in the movie is presented as a flight, a revelatory act which liberates the participant from the restrictions of everyday moral standards. "Don't dream it; be it." This suggests the fantasy of dreams coming true, and in context represents an analogy between sex and freedom. This, in a sense, creates a shamanistic perspective: sex-as-liberating-vision. In the "floor show," staged by Frank N. Furter--when his "Don't dream it; be it" creed is verbally established--his followers come to him in an enlightened trance of "visionary sexuality," in which they admit their inhibitions, shed them, and pledge themselves to the glorious cause of blatant hedonism.

This may be something of a perversion of the definition of shamanism, but not entirely removed from Leeming's inclusion of the opium trance that became "Kubla Khan" within the scope of the term.

# 14: 11/4/79

What if gender were interchangeable? When making love, a man and woman could, by simultaneous exertion of will at a moment just prior to orgasm, suddenly switch genders, the man becoming woman and the woman becoming man. And then the moment of orgasm, as the couple truly becomes one--a single entity in the throes of ecstasy.

2017 POSTSCRIPT: I'm not sure how many times I'd seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show when I wrote this. I'd first seen it on campus--at a matinee, believe it or not--without the attendant hoopla, and I thought it was hilarious on its own. Seeing it subsequently with the whole Rocky Horror experience--the props, the recited dialogue and rejoinders, the copies of (specifically!) The Cleveland Plain Dealer to hold over one's head as water sprayed all about during the rain scene--enhanced it and made it an event. I'd seen it on Staten Island once with Brenda, and probably a time or two at The Westcott Theater in Syracuse. (The Westcott, incidentally, is now a live music venue instead of a movie theater, and it's right down the street from the studio where we do This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl.) My enthusiasm for Rocky Horror has dimmed a bit over the decades, but I thought it all a hoot at the time.

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