Creatures of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ Take Isla Vista Into a Time Warp

Image Courtesy of The Bottom Line Stock

Alexandra Dwight
Photos by Lorenzo Basilio, Staff Photographer

At the drunken hour of midnight on Friday, April 11, Isla Vista Theater was bustling with an eclectic cast of off-beat characters decked out in leather, sequins, powdered faces, thick red lipstick, corsets, glittery pasties, and spandex galore. This oddball bunch is the TooMuchCoffeeCast, who performed “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” live, courtesy of Magic Lantern Films. The crowd, some also dressed up, was a buzzing frenzy, howling obscenities as the notorious pair of cherry-red lips appeared on the big screen, floating against a background of black.  

The cult-classic film tells the story of a straight-edge couple, Brad and Janet, who lose their way on a rainy night and end up wandering into the castle of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a transsexual transvestite from Transylvania. Here, the couple is introduced to Frank N. Furter’s band of outcasts: the hunchbacked servant Riff Raff, his sister Magenta, a groupie named Columbia, and the doctor’s muscled science creation Rocky. The movie is teeming with eroticism—innuendos, affairs, seduction, and burgeoning sexuality–that blurs the line of the typical gay-straight dichotomy.

Adding a fresh level of excitement to the screening was the live performance aspect, as actors lip-synched the musical numbers, shouted profanities at the screen, and pulled audience members up on stage to dance “The Time Warp.” It was not just a passive movie-going experience, but rather, a full-blown interactive adventure.

Upon entrance to the theater, attendees were labeled with a lipstick “V” on their foreheads, marking the “virgins,” or first-timers to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” These “virgins” were picked on the most, as these first-timers were rounded up on stage and divided into groups to participate in risqué activities.

The first group was tasked with stripping down and switching clothes with a partner of the opposite sex, provoking giggles from the crowd as men squeezed into tight crop tops and women held up oversized jeans. Other groups were sent into the audience on a kinky scavenger hunt, searching for condoms, naked pictures, and the biggest hickeys.

As “virgins” were sent back to their seats and the lights began to dim for the performance, the crowd chanted “The Rocky Pledge”—“I pledge allegiance to the lips of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. And to the decadence for which it stands…”—culminating in a rousing “start the fucking movie!” Needless to say, the crowd was lively throughout the entire show, reciting lines, dancing, and bouncing around a giant inflatable penis.

The TooMuchCoffeeCast hails from Ventura, Calif. Advertised as “the worst Rocky cast” on their website, this off-the-wall group has abandoned the potential for a polished show in exchange for what they call “more reckless behavior.” This means that while they may forget to come on stage at first or forget the moves to a dance, they are fully devoted to providing the raunchiest night possible, coaxing even the most introverted soul out of their shell.

However, TooMuchCoffeeCast is more a family than a simple theater group—a sentiment that is reflected in their long-term commitments to the show. While one actor, Joshua Yaeger, said that he was in his 11th year of the “Rocky Horror” production, another, Will Goodman, estimated that he was in his 18th.

Despite this high level of dedication, the group’s motto is quite relaxed. “Have fun, no drama, and don’t be so drunk you fall of the stage,” said Goodman.

Although the audience was largely composed of die-hard “Rocky Horror” fans, it was said multiple times throughout the night, even by Goodman, that “Rocky Horror” is a terrible movie. But it is precisely this quirky, low-budget vibe that seeks to emanate old science fiction flicks that “Rocky Horror” is appreciated. Yet the movie’s cult-classic status extends beyond its aesthetics; it is the community of outcasts represented and fostered by “Rocky Horror” that makes it such a beloved film.

It seems that “Rocky Horror’s” symbolic lips are more than just a meaningless image, but an emblem for the fringe of society— a band of misfits with nowhere to go but the theater on a weekend night. This tradition began in the mid 1970s, as “Rocky Horror” became a regular midnight showing at the Waverly Theater in New York.

According to Goodman, these midnight showings became “a safe place for gay, lesbian, and alternate culture to go at night.” This welcoming sense remains in the practice today; as Goodman said, “We’ll accept anyone, and that’s always been at the core.”

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” live is an exhilarating experience and guaranteed party, recommended to all creatures searching for something wild to do at the mysterious hour of midnight. TooMuchCoffeeCast performs routinely at The Majestic Ventura Theater, and their schedule can be found online. Check Magic Lantern Film’s show times online for more weekend movie night options.