Article and Photography by John Morin | Owl Staff

One might think the life of a writer isn’t exciting; and they’d be right, if that life consisted of merely writing instruction manuals for assembling a 3,000-piece toy or commercial jingles for adult diapers (unless, of course, that’s where your passion lies). But a writer must always be open to new experiences and willing to step outside his comfort zone. So, when I was given the chance to write about some activities that take place outside of the mainstream, I jumped at the chance!

We were preparing to leave for the Rocky Horror Picture Show revival, an entertainment staple for Rocky Horror buffs held every Saturday at midnight at a cinema in Newark, Delaware. The movie was released in 1975, and ever since, people have been attending time again the “Late Night, Double Feature Picture Show.”

I told her no, I was sure. Call me uptight, but I’m the kind of person who thinks wearing a skirt would be more awkward than amusing. And besides, I was going to church in the morning.

Stephanie shrugged and then headed downstairs to get ready. While she was digging in the recesses of her room for an appropriate outfit, I met the other people who would be going with us. There was Stephanie’s boyfriend at the time, Neil, her brother Andrew and his girlfriend Lisa, as well as two of her friends, Duncan and Mikey. None of them were wearing skirts.

“So, you’re Steph’s virgin, huh?” Andrew asked, smiling. In this instance, a virgin is someone who has not had the pleasure of attending a Rocky Horror revival show. As such, there is a ritualistic sacrifice in which the virgin will have to do some odd or deviant task before the show begins. Or more likely, they are the opening of the show. My face started to redden as they shared some real horror stories.

“I told her no, I was sure. Call me uptight, but I’m the kind of person who thinks wearing a skirt would be more awkward than amusing. And besides, I was going to church in the morning.”

About that time, Stephanie slinked back up the steps, an amazing feat in such high heels. She also had on fishnet stockings, a plaid mini-skirt even Britney Spears would find short, a white button-down revealing a black and red bra, and fire engine red lips.

When we left the house, lightning flashed, and rain pounded the streets. Along the way we picked up another friend, Juliette, lost Duncan who we were sure was following us, and nearly hydroplaned. But we made it in good time, and already there were people lining up outside. Some were dressed as casually as I was. One guy had on a skirt and a pink corset, an amusing sight when paired with his rather bored expression.

After paying for our tickets, we stood in the lobby as a guy walked around yelling: “Where are the virgins?” The virgins received a “V” in red lipstick on their forehead, marked for certain humiliation. I looked away, whistling to myself.

“Where’s your ‘V’?” Andrew asked. I told him that I’d just prefer to watch. He handed me a white paper bag and said, “Here, take a prop bag. It’ll make it look more like you’ve been here before.”

As promised, the show began with the virgin sacrifices. Two guys had to share a Twizzler and meet in the middle for a kiss. Duncan gave his interpretation of a Steven Erkel orgasm. At the end, everyone in the audience lined up in the aisle, legs spread. When two virgins crawled through, everyone had to smack their butt.

The whole show was about participation. Imagine having your closest friends over and everyone is making obscene and wise-aleck comments while the movie plays. Oh, and there are live performers below the screen loosely reenacting what is going on in the movie. One guy behind us would shout things like “Riff-Raff can’t hold his liquor,” right before that character drops a bottle of alcohol.

We also used the props in the white paper bag: a piece of newspaper to put on our heads during a rainy scene, playing cards when they’re mentioned in a song, and toast for when Frank-N-Furter proposes a “toast.” Real cute. We also moved our arms back and forth in time with the movie characters’ wind shield wipers. Halfway through there was an “underwear run,” during which I discovered one of Stephanie’s friends had fishnet stockings under his pants. What happens at Rocky Horror, stays at Rocky Horror.

The Deadhead

“Shrooms and opiates…shrooms and opiates…”

We had barely stepped out of the car and into the muggy heat when the man walked buy, muttering those words under his breath, trying to make a sell.

The Furthur concert was being held at the Mann Center of Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; a much different venue than the 8X10 Room and other local bars I was used to.

Formed in 2009 by surviving Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, Furthur definitely catered to a different sort of crowd. I couldn’t help but feel I had stepped back in time to the 1960s when the Grateful Dead first began their career. Outside the amphitheater area, the streets were crammed with stalls selling hemp necklaces, bongs, and Grateful Dead memorabilia. And, of course, tie-dye was everywhere!

Concertgoers swarmed down the roads. Men for the most part went shirtless and either had dreadlocks or fairly long hair. Women wore peasant skirts or bikini tops and cut-off shorts. My friend Nadia and I roamed through parked cars baking in the sun and groups of people stretched out on the grass in the shade. Some were hula-hooping, others smoking, and some just sitting around talking or playing music.

I noticed several people were walking around with green balloons, occasionally sucking from them. The contents turned out to be nitrous oxide, and more than once a group of cops would find a contraband nitrous oxide tank and empty it in the street. It would hiss like a snake, its body frosting over.

The crowds gathered as it was about to begin, bottlenecking at the entrance. Heat, sweat and body odor permeated the crowd; that and a fair dose of excitement. The man in front of me brushed his hand over his buzz cut, droplets of sweat spraying into the air.

Once inside, we passed a stall selling drinks; alcoholic and non. The crowd broke free and covered the hillside, laying out blankets and going barefoot. The band took to the stage under a covered pavilion, and Nadia and I watched from the top of the hill. The first set included “High on a Mountain,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” and “Reuben and Cherise.”

Everyone was swaying, dancing, smoking, laughing and talking with fellow audience-goers—strangers—as if they’d known each other for years. When they played “Man Smart (Women Smarter),” two middle-aged women began to dance with Nadia, throwing me a meaningful look whenever they chanted “That’s right/ The women are smarter/ The women are smarter/ That’s right!”

The musicianship and performance was phenomenal, as expected. For the encore we walked to the covered pavilion onto a balcony that overlooked the stage. They covered Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain” and then ended with “One More Saturday Night”—a rousing finish to an already exciting day.

Multicolored lights flashing and sweeping the pavilion seemed to make Bob Weir’s white hair glow wildly. The experience was mainly shaped by the energy of the night—between the band, the music, and the people. There was an excitement and a joy that rippled through the crowd and multiplied whenever someone sang back the chorus to a song or danced their heart out.

Nadia put it best when she described the day as everyone “having a genuinely great time [and] watching everyone else do likewise is a pretty unifying and freeing feeling. Sometimes, I want to experience that for days and days and days. Despite the heat, the music and crowd were enjoyably and wonderfully on. Everyone got way into it, down deep, they felt it. I felt it; did you feel it?”

And you know what? I did.

Postscript Reflection:

In retrospect, however, neither experience was as crazy as I thought it would be. Everyone was very nice, and it was interesting to see life from different perspectives. If anything, it made me reevaluate how I view people who do not share my personal tastes or beliefs. It’s also given me more confidence to try new things—a requisite for intrepid reporters who live on the edge!

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