Anyone who lived in Berkeley during the Eighties and Nineties will remember the Saturday night queue outside UC Theater, which formed around 11 p.m. and usually snaked up the block by 11:45. Rowdier than the average midnight movie crowd, it always included one or two "sweet transvestites" in fetish wear, a few prissily dressed Susan Sarandon lookalikes, and some bewildered interlopers with lipstick Vs drawn on their foreheads ("V" stood for "Virgin"). All would arrive in full regalia for the Saturday night screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with a live cast onstage, toast throwing, occasional orgasm simulations (usually from some poor, easily manipulated virgin in the audience) and — yes — a chance for everyone to jump out of his seat and dance "The Time Warp." (Anyone who didn't know the moves risked banishment — or a scarlet V.) The show ran every week for more than two decades until the UC Theater shuttered in 2001.
A somewhat more nefarious Rocky Horror enjoyed Saturday night screenings at the Bal Theatre in San Leandro, but those also fizzled out in 2001 after cops raided the place and found minors drinking alcohol. Of course, the East Bay could never stay Rocky Horror-bereft for too long. Within months of UC Theater's demise, the cast of Barely Legal Productions moved its operation to Oakland's Parkway Speakeasy, where it remained until that theater shut down in 2009, due to economic woes. Undeterred, the company scouted for a new East Bay home. On October 10, Barely Legal launched its latest iteration, now running twice a month at Grand Lake Theater (3200 Grand Ave., Oakland). With their new home in order, the producers hope to revive the old brand, cultivate a fanbase, and ensnare more virgins.
This Halloween marks a veritable Renaissance for Rocky Horror in the East Bay, with Brad, Janet, and Dr. Frank-N-Furter appearing on silver screens everywhere. The cast of Barely Legal will descend on Grand Lake Theater for two nights (Friday, Oct. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 31, 11:59 p.m., $10) to stage a special Halloween Rocky Horror, complete with costume contests. Masquers Playhouse (105 Park Place, Pt. Richmond) invites the audience to participate in its own Halloween presentation of the stage musical Rocky Horror (the show that inspired the 1975 film), also held at midnight on Saturday, Oct. 31 ($20, Masquers.org). Even 924 Gilman (924Gilman.org) couldn't resist featuring the camp classic at its Thursday night movie screening (Oct. 29), though Gilman's Rocky Horror Picture Show will take place long before witching hour, at 7:30 p.m. (Not to mention it's free.) Hopefully, such market saturation will get some of the young folks to come check out Rocky Horror for the first time. It is, after all, an old cult film with remarkable staying power. Audiences grow up and theaters shut down, but certain traditions never lose their cachet.