Friday, May 14, 2004


Let There Be Lips

Part 6: The Man Who Began It

By spring of 1991 there was a definite sense of changes in the air. Our ever-evolving cast, christened “the Absolute Pleasure Ensemble,” had lost and gained members, some people had changed roles, and there were new regulars in the audience. To John, then, the time seemed right to announce that he was leaving.


This was big news. Though I’ve since had a falling out with the man, I can still say without exaggeration that John had been the star around which we all orbited. He had brought the cast together through the force of his outsized personality.

For a while, I had been looking for a bigger part. Eddie was a good part; I frequently got applause for my entrance, and I gotta say, I OWNED that part. But after that I had to spend the rest of the movie as Dr. Scott, who was second only to the Criminologist as the most boring character in the movie. I wanted more, so I quickly called dibs on playing Brad.

The next question was, who would take over the preshow? Though many of us had quick bits, the Ceremonies still needed a Master. That issue more or less solved itself; in the eyes of most the crowd, the preshow was performed by the Guy In The Brad Costume.

Well, okay. I enjoyed being up on stage. John had established a good template for the preshow. And I was still young and naïve enough to believe that I was good at improv. So the preshow was mine.

I shied away from the question of who would be cast leader, though. I was there to perform, not to have to make decisions. I figured (again, young and naïve) that we were all there to do a good show, and everything else would work itself out.

My first night was a blast. John, in his Brad costume, began the preshow with the standard “Gimme an R!” chant, then thanked everyone for the great times. He then turned and welcomed me as the new Brad. I stepped out in my new Brad costume (complete with the plaid tie and cummerbund—hey, I took this seriously!) and jumped right into the virgin ceremony.

In an effort to put my own stamp on the show, I introduced a new game that was used for years after I left. Yes, the one, the only, the world famous, America’s Favorite Game Show…


As I went down the line of virgins, some would get the classics—dirty nicknames, “Ring Around The Virgins,” and, of course, Tom—but some of the girls would be directed to stand to one side for “something very special.” Once we had at least three contestants, I would announce the name of the game, which would elicit enthusiastic applause from the audience—and, on a good night, a mix of laughter and embarrassment from the virgins.

Each contestant would be asked to, yes, fake an orgasm. Sometimes they would flat-out refuse—those were usually Video Virgins, or girls who were dragged along unwillingly by a friend. But most would have fun with it, and put some effort into it. And once in a while, there’d be a girl who REALLY wanted to win; there are few things more satisfying to a Rocky Horror MC than being jumped on by a screaming virgin.

The main thing I remember from my first night as Brad was the seduction scene. Being sadly lacking in stage props (things like the lab control panel were usually played by a little dude we called Fencepost), the would lie on the floor behind a sheer blanket, and Danetta, as Frank, would kneel next to them and simulate Tim Curry’s movements. Imagine my surprise, then, when Danetta came strutting up to me, kicked my feet open, and knelt between my legs, to John’s anguished cry of, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

The rest of the night was kind of a blur after that.

Dena and Danetta left not long after John. The group dynamic had already been changing before I took over as Brad, and within a few weeks it seemed like a whole different crowd.

My Janet was a thirtysomething real-estate saleswoman named Patty. Though most of us were not even old enough to drink (or even to smoke, in a few cases) Patty’s age was not a factor; she could throw down with the best of us, and many nights we all went to her house after the show.

Mike, a longtime audience member, bore a passing resemblance to Heathers-era Christian Slater, which he cultivated into a lifestyle. Mike played various parts, usually playing Riff Raff when Chris was off at college.

Leah would get shuttled between family members, occasionally ending up with her Mom in California. Our Magenta during those times was Dawn, who I didn’t realize at the time was Chris’ ex-girlfriend. I remained unaware until Chris, who had been away at college, announced he was coming back for the summer, and Dawn (nickname: Moo) went around telling everyone who would listen that, “Chris is coming back! Chris loves me!”

Another acquaintance of Chris, who fit in a bit better, was his high school friend Gannon. Gannon became the new Eddie, and had a slight edge over me in that he could actually play the saxophone.

Gannon as Eddie: A Greaser From the Freezer Like A Bat Out Of Hell

We also got along well with Steve, the new Rocky, though he was a bit intense; visitors to his home would be shown his Rocky Horror collection, and his collection of rare Who albums, and finally a gas mask taken from a dead Iraqi soldier.

Yes, we were a new crowd, with a new attitude from the old Absolute Pleasure Ensemble. That’s why, by the time Halloween approached (and with it the first anniversary of the show’s arrival at Lincoln Plaza) we needed a new name. I can’t remember who came up with the new name, but since I’m the one telling the story, I’m gonna take the damn credit.

Our new name, I decided, would be…The Back Row.

Gyeni as Columbia, Leah as Magenta, Valerie as Frank, Chris as Riff Raff

Copyright 2004 Rich Bowen

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