| The Time Warp Dance To Death |
I squinted across the dimly-lit filling station to see a small, gray-haired woman waving at me from the 'Air and Water' island.
"Well, Hi, Brenda!" I screwed on my gas cap and stepped over to meet her.
"How is it going at the paper?"
"Well enough. I'm doing a series on counter-culture youth here in New Orleans. -- How is..." (How is what? I'd better not ask about her husband. These days you don't dare assume someone is still married from week to week.) "How is..?" (And I couldn't inquire after her kids either. What if they were on drugs?) "How is..?" (Her cat? Maybe the poor critter had caught Parvo and died.)
"How is.. your summer going?
"It's.." She shrugged and looked sad for a moment as though her husband had left her, her kids were on drugs, and her cat had died.
"..awfully hot, I think."
"Yes. It sure is hot." There was an awkward few seconds of silence while I groped for an exit line. "Well, I wish I had time to catch up, but I'm on my way to the theater."
"The theater? At 11:30 P.M.?"
"We start at midnight. I'm in the cast of 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' at the Art House ."
"Since I'm writing about counter-culture people, I had to hang out with some. And the 'Rocky' kids were the only group that would have me."
Brenda looked appalled for a moment, then rearranged her features to convey pleasant surprise "Hey, great, Margo! With all that red hair, you would be perfect to play 'Magenta'."
"No doubt. But a beautiful young girl named Elsie is doing 'Magenta'. I'm just a 'Trannie.'"
"It's years since I've seen the show. What exactly is a 'Trannie'?"
"A Transylvanian. All right, I admit it. I'm in the chorus."
"A chorus girl?" She seemed puzzled but refrained from the second half of the query. "At your age?"
"I'm not exactly a Rockette, Brenda. I'm just supposed to run out on-stage, join in the 'Time-Warp Dance', and fall down. That's my whole part."
"Well..," She emitted an awkward "Heh heh", then "I guess it keeps you out of trouble anyway."
That was her exit line.
As I entered the theater lobby, Luke, the owner of the Art House, was on his usual perch at the cash register. He didn't call out his usual greeting though, as he was busy arguing with some short man.
"I don't want to hear about it! Just go away!"
"You're not doing the right thing, here. You're not!"
Probably some disgruntled customer complaining about the 3D porno flick showing in Theater One. Too dirty or hardly dirty enough. Not the least bit my business. So tactfully, I averted my eyes and breezed past them through the "Employees Only" door, backstage to the dressing room. The other cast members were already there and busy glopping on make-up, fastening garter belts and rolling up fishnet stockings. Teri was adjusting the velcro on "Janet's" violet suit while William shrugged into "Brad's" white dinner jacket.
"Hi, gang. Am I late?"
Amanda, the director, is young enough to be my daughter. The rest of the cast is younger yet, mostly teen-agers.
"No. You're the last one in, but not late."
"I hope we're getting an audience tonight. It looks deserted out front."
The Art House is popular because it has comfortable easy chairs with cushions instead of stark rows of theater seats. But most people who appreciate comfort don't venture out to see musical horror movies at midnight.
"Luke said he sold eighteen tickets to a card club. So we're on!"
Jason, our "Frank", was hooking up his hot pink corselet. "That's good, because my mom and dad are coming too."
Elsie pulled a long, curly, red wig out of her knapsack and flapped it.
"If only my hair could be like Margo's, I wouldn't need this hot wig."
No point in suggesting that she let the real redhead be 'Magenta'. Elsie was so obsessed with the character as to study and absorb her every movement and expression, and even to drive all the way from Baton Rouge to play her.
"Margo has to wear a wig too," Amanda reminded. "We can't have two flaming redheads on-stage." She dug in her trunk. "What's your pleasure tonight? Brunette or blond?" She held one in each hand. "The brunette is from Shakespeare In The Park's 'Antony And Cleopatra'. The blond is a Madonna wig from the last drag show I directed."
I took the Madonna wig. (Which was actually a Marilyn Monroe wig but these young people wouldn't know that.)
"This one. I feel like having more fun tonight."
"Huh?" (Amanda didn't get the reference. Oh, me! ) "An announcement, guys. Luke doesn't want us giving toilet paper out to the audience anymore."
"Why not?" Kristie challenged. "People love throwing it around, unrolling it down the aisles.."
"Luke says he's tired of sweeping it up."
"He has to sweep the place anyway," Nick posed. "What's wrong with a little toilet paper?"
"Luke just has a rag on," Teri wrinkled her nose. "Because he had to get rid of his boyfriend."
"I didn't even know he had a boyfriend." Elsie applied an eyelash curler.
"He did, until he caught Kurt servicing a biker."
"What's wrong with that?" I asked. "Kurt was working in a garage?"
"No. He was working in the men's room, out there."
"That was really stupid of Kurt," Jason offered. "Now, he'll have to hustle to find himself another sugar daddy with a built-in hot tub."
In skirting around a rack of sequined cummerbunds, I happened to jostle Teri's end of the make-up table.
"Watch it, Margo!" she cried. "You almost knocked it over!"
"What?" I glanced down at a silver-framed photo of a creepy-looking guy in a frock coat. "Who is this?"
"Oh, that movie actor who played 'Riff Raff'."
"Mr. O'Brien isn't just an actor, Margo." She sounded appalled at my ignorance. "He wrote the Rocky Horror Show, the book, lyrics and music."
"Really? He must be pretty smart then."
"Smart? He's a god."
"I see." Stepping back as far as the wall and looking from a distance didn't make the picture any prettier. "Well, if I were a god, I think I would arrange not to be so skinny."
Teri straightened out the photo in its frame and centered a red candle in front of it. "This is my shrine."
Kristie beckoned to me from the other end of the make-up table. She was already outfitted as "Columbia" with gold-sequined jacket and yellow eye shadow. She patted the empty chair beside her and I gratefully carried my bag over and sat down. She winked and whispered, "Teri's weird."
"I'm afraid so," I whispered back and got out my Ben Nye make-up base.
"Her with her stupid photo of Richard O'Brien."
"It is silly." I began smearing "Light Ivory" over my cheeks.
"Wait till you see my shrine."
With that, she unzipped what I had assumed was a wig box but instead it held a little doll-size statue of Tim Curry dressed as "Dr. Frank 'N Furter", complete with platform heels and feather boa. She pressed a little switch and tiny footlights illuminated the doll. "Everyone knows it's all about 'Frank'."
Elsie began to make Jason up as the outrageous doctor. She sat herself on his lap and applied blue eye shadow with smooth strokes. Only someone both sexy and petite could carry that off. Jason didn't seem to find it an encroachment.
Elsie was rumored to bestow her favors (as I put it) on any male who was playing "Frank". It seemed she was hopelessly attracted to the flamboyant, bisexual, transvestite in the garter belt.
Last winter, Nick had the role and must have been the favored one, as I heard he and Elsie always arrived and departed on the same motor cycle. But when Jason came in from the Albuquerque cast with his own complete wardrobe and letter-perfect in the part, he was made the "star" and Nick was diverted to "Riff-Raff". Maybe it's just a coincidence, but now he and Elsie arrive on separate motor cycles.
I looked up and up and up to see this gorgeous, though sexually-ambiguous, nineteen year old Viking with waist-length blond hair.
(His name actually is "Lancelot". Didn't his parents know he would grow up to be strange?)
At six-foot-seven, Lance is best able to swing "Columbia" around during the "Hot Patootie" number, so he usually plays "Eddie". But he knows every word and gesture of every character in the cast so at various times has played all of them. I'm told he does a particularly winsome "Janet".
"Margo?" He smiled and his teeth were perfect. "Would you like to see my guiche?"
"Oh, sure. I didn't know you cooked."
He started to unbuckle his belt. Then Amanda stepped in and slapped his hand.
"He doesn't cook, Margo. The 'guiche' is the skin behind a man's scrotum."
"Lance just had his pierced and he's been proudly showing the new ring to everyone."
"My lord in Heaven! Didn't that hurt?"
Nick glanced over. "Lance hates his genitalia, you know. He's always doing piercings and stuff to them."
"You hate your organs?"
"Of course. I always wanted to be a little girl."
(So here was this big gorgeous male body thrown away on someone who didn't want a big gorgeous male body.)
He asked again. "So, do you want to see it?"
"I certainly do not, Lance. I thought you were offering to show me a quiche."
"Stop scaring Margo," Amanda chided. "You know she doesn't like genital piercings."
"She won't even look at my nipple rings," Teri acted put out.
"Another thing, Lance," Amanda continued. "Luke doesn't want you running up and down the aisles, propositioning the audience, anymore."
"But that's the best part!"
"Luke is trying to spoil all our fun," Kristie wailed.
"Some audience people freak out when you sit in their laps," Elsie said.
"I only approach the girls with eyebrow studs," Nick advised. "Then I know they're cool."
"Hey, guys." Amanda waved at us in the mirror. "I would like one more last-minute rehearsal of the Time-Warp dance." She didn't add "Just for slow, clumsy Margo." but everyone knew that was the case. We all trooped out onto the bare stage in the empty theater and Amanda put on the CD of the score while the other cast members obligingly got in line with me.
"It's easy. Just follow the directions in the song. 'Jump to the left..'"
Obediently, we jumped, but not all in the same direction.
"No, Margo. The other left."