Denton Delinquents embrace ‘Rocky Horror’ home at Kiggins

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter

Published:

 

If You Go

• What: Halloween 2016 with The Denton Delinquents and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Featuring a costume contest, more fun and games.

• When: Doors at 10 p.m. Oct. 29.

• Where: Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St., Vancouver.

• Admission: $10

 On the web: DentonDelinquents.com

ALL THINGS ROCKY ON THE WEB

There is no final, definitive version of “Rocky Horror” audience catcalls. Rocky participation is a living, evolving phenom. Seasoned fans recommend just showing up and learning your part with practice. But if you must memorize your lines ahead of time, start your search for scripts — and all other things Rocky — at Rockypedia.org.

FRANK WARPS AGAIN! (on the small screen)

• The Hollywood buzz this Halloween season is all about a TV movie remake of “Rocky Horror” subtitled “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.” It’s a tribute to the original that uses the same script. The truly transgender Laverne Cox — who plays Sophia on “Orange is the New Black” — stars as “sweet transvestite” Frank N. Furter. Tim Curry, the original Frank, plays the neckless narrator. It screens on the FOX network on Thursday.

The virgins were rounded up and paraded on stage where they seemed anything but humiliated.

The emcee coached them to scream, as a group, “the most profane thing you know,” but then the gory details got lost in the hubbub. Balloons were blown up and an army of ghouls in lace, sequins, corsets and garters chased the virgins and their balloons all over the theater — popping as they went. (In this context, “virgins” only means “people who haven’t seen the movie — yet.”)

The emcee got almost serious when describing the film as “sex positive and inclusive.” Then he went back to slinging outrageously offensive jokes, and wound up the pre-show with the declaration: “I will never apologize for my beautiful idiocy!”

Welcome, Earthlings, to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the cheerfully bizarre, costumed community that embraces it. This may be the oddest cult-classic tale in the history of cinema, and a new chapter is added monthly at the Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver, where a “shadow cast” called The Denton Delinquents performs the whole movie onstage while the movie itself plays out on the big screen behind them.

Thanks to the non-competition clauses that moviemakers wear like Teflon, you’re not supposed to be able to show “Rocky Horror” within 30 miles of any other theater that shows it — and the Clinton Street Theater in southeast Portland, which has been screening the movie weekly since 1978, is just 12 miles away. The Denton Delinquents, who formed a decade ago and tried to settle in at Clinton Street but found they were second in line, went hunting in 2012 and discovered a new dream home: Vancouver’s Kiggins.

“I remember being in awe of just how beautiful the theater itself was,” said Delinquents director Anna Kotaniemi, of Astoria, Ore.

After a frustrating delay, 20th Century Fox gave the Denton Delinquents a 90-day trial period at the Kiggins, and in May 2013 the group started demonstrating that a monthly Rocky party there would be an ongoing financial success. (They weren’t especially aware of Vancouver’s unhip reputation, Kotaniemi said, so they obliviously went ahead and helped make it hipper. More beautiful idiocy.)

“Getting the phone call from Dan (Wyatt, the Kiggins’ owner) saying that we finally got the rights, and that he would play Rocky at The Kiggins forever if we wanted, easily was one of the best days of my life,” Kotaniemi said. Even though Wyatt wound up too shy to don nothing but golden Speedo-sized shorts for that part, she said. He’s forgiven.

“After all the hard work and years of struggling,” Kotaniemi said, “we finally found ourselves in a place where we feel at home and supported, and we couldn’t be more thankful.”

‘What’s white and sells hamburgers?’

What does a does a ridiculous science fiction story about mad scientists and monsters have to do with racy underwear and cosmically out-of-control libidos? We could go serious here — theorizing some theme involving humanity’s overlapping, unquenchable desires and ambitions — but let’s not.

“It’s a goofy movie full of bad jokes without any meaning,” said Delinquent Krystle Calderwood, of Vancouver.

This utterly campy blend of sci-fi and sex began in the bored brain of an out-of-work British actor named Richard O’Brien, who occupied himself one winter in the early 1970s writing a stage musical that combined old-school rock ‘n’ roll and laughable old horror and Steve Reeves muscle-man movies. The musical was an unlikely hit in London that moved to the U.S., and in 1975 a movie came out, starring Tim Curry as not Frankenstein but Frank N. Furter, the singing, dancing, lecherous mad scientist in bustier and fishnet stockings, who doesn’t just create life in his laboratory — he creates his own ultimate object of lust, a blond bodybuilder named Rocky.

Spoiler alert: Shakespearean tragedy ensues as Frank’s own flaws destroy him in the end. But first, an awesome dance party and a great sax solo!

“People feel their planets align and things click into place because of it,” Calderwood said.

If so, there must be something more profound about it than its makers intended. Most of the world shrugged off the movie when it was new — reviews were puzzled, audiences were thin — but for more than 40 years now, people who don’t fit in anywhere else have found their tribe by donning silly, sexy costumes and flocking at midnight to Frank N. Furter’s castle.

‘In between’

“Rocky has given me a home and a small group of people who give me a reason to get up in the morning,” Kotaniemi said by email. “There is nowhere in the world I feel more comfortable than at a Rocky Horror late night showing, and this is coming from a person who has suffered from crippling anxiety and inevitable depression since I was a child.”

“It’s a place where my weirdness is not only acceptable and comfortable, but encouraged and nurtured,” said a Delinquent named Elizabeth, a Vancouver professional who declined to share her last name.

What sort of weirdness are we talking about, exactly? Whatever you please and more, according to the Delinquents. Given the sexy subject matter and songs such as “Sweet Transvestite,” it’s easy to assume a seriously strong strain of LGBTQ culture here. And that’s not wrong, Kotaniemi said. Years after creating “Rocky Horror,” O’Brien said in an interview that he identifies as transgender or perhaps “in between” genders.

But when its 40th anniversary was celebrated last year, some critics noted that what started out a midnight beacon for gay, gender-bending and other marginalized folks has become much more mainstream. For proof, look no further than a loving remake that screens on broadcast television this Thursday night on FOX.

(Interesting to note that the original “Rocky Horror,” which contains tons of innuendo but virtually nothing graphic, still carries an R rating; compare that to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which the Motion Picture Association of America itself described as containing “strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity.” That’s rated R, too.)

“We’ve had numerous people from all sorts of gender identities and sexual preferences,” director Kotaniemi said, “but it’s never really felt like something we were even half interested in talking about. It’s just a given that no matter how you identify in Rocky, you are accepted here. Period.”

‘Where’s your neck?’

They call themselves the Denton Delinquents because of a billboard in the opening scene that starts things out in “Denton, home of happiness.” It’s one of the movie’s many elbows in your ribs that the billboard overlooks a cemetery.

And that’s your cue to shout: “Why the (bleep) is there a billboard in the middle of a cemetery?”

During the rainstorm scene, hold your newspaper over your head and scream: “Buy an umbrella you cheap (bleep)!”

And when the high-collared, wide-jawed, apparently neckless narrator suggests that reality is a figment of your imagination, you must shoot back: “Like your (bleeping) neck!”

All that catcalling creates quite a hullaballoo. Fans also used to throw rice during the wedding scene and toast during the champagne toast, but theaters mostly ban those difficult-to-clean-up items now. Candles and open flames are forbidden too, of course, so it’s helpful that today’s fans can wave glowing cellphones around during the song “There’s a Light.”

‘Don’t dream it, be it’

The ranks of Delinquents grows and shrinks, Kotaniemi said. Right now there are 12; more are always welcome. The cast members trade roles, and usually rehearse at the Kiggins earlier on the day of their performance. At least a couple are aspiring actors who see this as preparation for what comes later.

“Live my ultimate favorite movie and be part of an ongoing cast? It combined two of my favorite things,” Calderwood said: acting onstage and the film itself, with all its whacky encouragement to be your strangest self and follow your bizarro bliss.

Even if that bliss is cross dressing, making a monster, ogling his muscles and doing the Time Warp again.