Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Attack of the atheists!

"Why don't we trust readers? Why don't we trust filmgoers? Oh, it causes me to shake my head with sorrow that such nitwits could be loose in the world." – Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy.
So the Catholic League is at it again. They’re calling for a sight-unseen boycott of The Golden Compass, which opens this weekend, but not because they object to the movie itself.
Some history: The Golden Compass, which is the U.S. title of a book called Northern Lights, the first in a trilogy uniformly called His Dark Materials, but also referred to by the author as “The Golden Compasses”, referring to the drawing devices and not the mis-identified navigational object used on the cover. Got all that? Granted, The Golden Compass is a better title than either Northern Lights or His Dark Materials (taken from a line in Milton’s Paradise Lost), but it’s actually inaccurate. But never let a little thing like accuracy halt the wheels of capitalism.
Now then, the trilogy, a fantasy about another fantastical world, has as one of its themes the idea that organized religion can easily go astray when the higher-ups get drunk on their own power and that the religion’s followers should question the decisions of its leaders. Pullman, who is himself, if not a full-blown atheist, then a pretty strident agnostic, who doesn’t seem to trust organized religion in any form. Nevertheless, this is a theme in the book and actually isn’t what the book is about. The villains are a religious splinter group called, at least in the film, “The Magisterium”.
Further: the movie has toned down this theme. “The Magisterium” on film, headed by Nicole Kidman’s character, are some sort of ruling evil political party out to destroy a little blonde girl and her friends. The decision to tone down the anti-religious aspects of the books was made very, very early on in the development process because it was believed that it might hurt the film’s chances with an American audience. This decision, made with the agreement of the author keep in mind, was then attacked by some of the book’s more rabid fans, multiple anti-censorship groups and the British-based National Secular Societyof which Pullman is an honorary associate. Okay, so they jettison the “Church can be bad for you” aspects of the book in order to get the “money is good for us” side of things locked in. I can understand this and even applaud the bold-faced admittance: “We’re going to tone down things that might piss some people off to make sure they come and bring their kids.” And, finally, since this was an undercurrent, a theme, and not what the book is actually about, I don’t see much problem with it. Everyone gets annoyed by something. Trying to please everyone is impossible because, let’s face it, everyone is an asshole in his or her own way. And it’s their right to be so as human beings.
(Keep in mind, I’m getting a lot of these facts from the ever-reliable Wikipedia, so my details might not be to the letter here, but I’m at work and that’s all I have access to at the moment. I don’t think I’m too off-base here, though.)
To recap: the book says people should question The Church—be it Roman Catholic, Church of England, Scientology, etc.. But since Roman Catholics believe themselves to be the center of the universe, they’ve already decided to that it’s a personal attack on them. Fine. Just remember that self-crucifixion is impossible because you can never get that last nail in. Fortunately, there are plenty of other irascible Catholics with hammers and nails at the ready to help you out.
To recap further: the movie has downplayed this aspect. They want your money. They don’t care if you like to give it to the Church or any church, just give some to the producers too.
To recap even further: people are already pissed off that this stuff is gone or watered down or “censored” or whatever. So the people on Pullman’s side are mad at him.
And now the Catholic League, and its head, William A. Donohue (good to his mother, likes cheese and lapdances but feels guilty about both), have called for a boycott of the film of The Golden Compass (misnamed and direct-marketed but looking slick and fancy) because…
Truly, this is my favorite part.
Honest. I love this. Fucking love this.
… because (wait for it)—even though the movie has jettisoned any “the Church is bad” (true or implied or other) themes and has placed the accent on Daniel Craig’s glare and the killer polar bears in their gladiator gear—even though none of that anti-religion stuff is there, we must boycott the movie because:
Ahem: “[T]he film will still encourage children to read the series, which League president William A. Donohue claims ‘denigrates Christianity’ and promotes ‘atheism for kids’.” Read the Wikipedia Article here.
Don’t go see the movie because your kids might want to read the books. And we all know books are harmful. They contain ideas. Beside that, they promote papercuts and eyestrain.
GOD FORBID (pun intended) that your kids might actually want to think for themselves! How would we sell them X-Boxes if they thought for themselves? Quick—offer free iPhones to anyone who doesn’t go to see the movie citing religious reasons (rather than, say, having anything better to do). Let’s not even ask the question about a faith so fragile, a religion so precariously-balanced, that a single movie or book can bring the entire thing crashing down!
Now what is genuinely entertaining me about all of this is: I had no desire to see The Golden Compass until I read about all the malarkey. I had no desire to read the books. I had no interest in CGI polar bears or non-CGI Daniel Craigs. But now damned if it isn’t at the top of my list of Things To Do.
And it ain’t just me, sportsfans. The internet is all abuzz and agog about The Golden Compass because of the “controversy”. So much so I’m actually wondering if the producers didn’t hire the Catholic League to start squawking just to get the extra publicity. Boycotts make ordinary things taboo. And people love taboo! They love to be outraged! Pious celibates will sit through burlesque shows for hours just to be offended! There are people out there who sit in front of their television sets and count the profanities all in the name of warning others! (“Censors are people who know more than they think you should.”—Ambrose Bierce)
So instead of hurting advanced word for The Golden Compass, the Catholic League has more or less ensured its success. And kids across the world will be reading the books looking for their substitute Harry Potter fix (also the subject of occasional controversy because it encourages kids to… I don’t know, study witchcraft or fight trolls or something).
Because there is one truth that I have learned. It goes for humans, yes, but Americans in particular: Americans love to be told what to think; they hate to be told what to do. Boycotts always cause these two clauses to slam into each other. And the choice of the majority is, generally, to rebel against the latter. I.e.: ‘We were told that this is evil! We hate it! We must go because they told us not to!’ God, I love boycotts! (If only someone would boycott my personal success, instead of instilling the indifference that is currently felt towards it.)
Who said that “Any man on his own is a rational individual, but upon joining a group he becomes a blockhead.” I think it was Mark Twain. Or, possibly, that Leviticus guy.
So who’s with me for The Golden Compass this week? We can tailgate. You bring the beer. The studio can bring the polar bears and the jailbait heroines. The Catholics can bring their outrage. I’ll bring the hibachi and the flammable Bibles.
* * *
Apropos of nothing, I was just reorganizing my Netflix list for the zillionth time. I have over 340 movies in queue right now, with a good mix of good, bad, classic and bound-to-be-terrible. Suddenly one of the sites recommendations popped up. It wasn’t something I was interested in (the 2nd season of Charles in Charge? That’s for me why?) to I clicked “Not Interested”. A second window popped up with “Why the hell not? You’re being choosy now??”
… I made that last part up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jeff's Birthday and the Technicolor Yawn

Over the weekend, I had another opportunity to face my mortality.

The week previous saw several very pleasant Thanksgiving meals with my family and Amy’s and an unpaid day off from work where I was able to clean out my email and start work on the special Splatter Movie DVD teaser for Sirens of Cinema subscribers. Also worked on proofing some of the pages for the new issue due out in December. All in all, a good day.

Saturday we attempted to help Amy’s sister Liz move into their new place but situations prevented that—nothing on our end, oddly, but everyone else’s, including the woman who was moving out of the new place. But the climax of the day was the surprise party for your friend and mine, Jeff Waltrowski. This party, a landmark celebration to mark Jeff’s 30th year on Earth, has been in preparation for almost two months, thanks to his girlfriend, Brittney, and Amy and Tara assisting. In a whirlwind of stress and Machiavellian co-ordination, the plan was to tell Jeff that we were meeting for dinner at a bar in Oakland, while, in reality, maneuvering him to pick Brittney up at her house in Mt. Lebanon, where all of his friends would be crouching in the dark, waiting to yell surprise and, hopefully, induce in Jeff a comedy-rich heart attack.

My job, which was thrust upon me by circumstance, was derailing any other plans Jeff may have made for Saturday, mostly involving preparations for his upcoming movie, Conscience. An elaborate green-screen SF extravaganza, Jeff had planned, for Saturday, a test shoot with his partner Steve Tolin (Strange Girls), his DP Jeff Garton, and their lead actor, Jason McCune. I spent a couple of days convincing him to move the shoot either earlier in the day or making sure he’d cut it early enough in the day to keep the schedule on board. Then he decided it might be better to move the shoot to the following day. So I spent the next couple of days convincing him that he was going to be far too hung over to shoot anything, for we would be doing shots well into the wee hours of the morning. That much, of course, I had planned to bring to fruition.

Meanwhile, during all of this, Amy, Brittney and Tara concentrated on contacting all of Jeff’s friends and getting them directions to Brittney’s house. Some of these guests including out-of-town folks, including his longtime friend, Carly, who lived in Florida and was proving to be increasingly difficult to get ahold of. Jeff, for his part, was making things even more difficult by inviting these same friends to the Oakland bar—including people he just ran into on the street. At this point, I became convinced that Jeff knew what was happening and was just trying to make life miserable for the girls.

Amy and I got over to Brittney’s about 6:00 – Jeff was due over at 7:00. Tara, Dave (who did the make-up and photography for the Feast of Flesh cover, respectively) and artist Jacob Ross were already there, putting up the decorations for the party. A running gag amongst the Hero Headquarters/Happy Cloud clan is that Jeff attempts to win every argument by saying “Oh yeah? I have more Picards than you!” referring to his vast Star Trek action figure collection. It’s as good an argument-ender as any, really. Following this Jeff-logic, Tara printed up 30 images of Patrick Stewart with numerous Jean-Luc Picard paraphrases to commemorate this memorial event. I suggested everyone has to salute one of the posters and do a shot with Patrick Stewart. When everyone whole-heartedly agreed with this suggestion, I believe I was being humored.

The night progressed dangerously. I mixed myself a rum and coke, determined to take things slowly. Tara mixed duplicate drinks for Amy and Brittney, not taking into account that everyone has my tolerance for RUM! and coke. Rather than let the drinks go to waste, I took them.

Fifteen minutes later, they were ingested because, quite frankly, I’m an idiot.

And I didn’t get any smarter as the night progressed.

At any rate, we were all aware that anything could have gone wrong during the last few months. That no one had come right up to Jeff and said “What time is your surprise party?” was, in point of fact, a miracle. We had all the cars hidden in the dead end street around the corner, the house was dark, we were ready for the GOH’s arrival. As the rum began to hit me, hard, I made the suggestion that as soon as Jeff got there, we hurried him into the darkness, told him to be quiet and made him wait with us, crouching in the dark, for another half hour, just to see what he’d do.

It was a neck-and-neck race, as he was pulling into the driveway just as Ron and Stacy (also A Feast of Flesh) were finding a place to park. Jeff beat them to the door and didn’t see them. Brittney let him in, turned on the lights—we shouted “Surprise!”

And Jeff just gave us a look like, “Well, why wouldn’t you all be here?”

So, thus, the anti-climax had arrived right with him. I knew he’d been suspicious, but I didn’t think he’d figured it out. I’d underestimated Jeff again. (Just as we had when he was studying long division in high school.)

More guests began to trickle in as the evening wore on. Stacy walked in with the announcement, “See? I came to your party!”—referring to Jeff’s blowing her off for her Halloween party the month before (the lame excuse about “check points” between her house and his, when really, all he wanted to do was stay home and do other things… like Brittney). Aaron and Nikki showed a little later, and then his lead actor, Jason McCune, showed about 9:00. By this time, my head was swimming, even though I’d stopped drinking and was limiting myself to straight coke. Except that suddenly, there was a “Chow Yun-Fat” in my hand. A “Chow Yun-Fat” is the name he gave the Tequila and Ginger-Ale concoction Chow drinks in Hard Boiled. If you like Tequila, it’s a great drink. If you don’t, it tastes exactly the way it sounds. We were all doing them to toast Jeff.

I will refer you to my earlier blog where I explain why I don’t mix when I drink. If I stick with rum, I’m the happiest guy on Earth and even if I overshoot my Irish Buzz, I can usually get back to that point with some patience and revelry. Introducing other drinks into my system, particularly vodka, makes me depressed. Introducing beer or hops-based drinks after rum makes me very tired and head-achy. I had no experience with Tequila on top of rum, so it wasn’t until I had downed the horrible thing that I realized that this was the equivalent of Red Kryptonite. What the hell would it do?

Oddly enough, all it did was make me drunker. And I was aware of this, so I returned to water and coke and worked to stave off getting sick. And a few minutes later, I had forgotten that not getting sick was the ultimate goal. In fact, things started to get completely hazy. In fact, I’d magically forgotten why the hell I was even there! Apparently, as things were pieced together for me the next day, I’d had several in-depth conversations with multiple members of the party. The topics: “Is Ron gay and it’s okay if he is”, “Why Painmaker, our next project, will be the pinnacle of human-based art”, “Why Brittney should not be allowed to wear that many colors in one shirt at the same time”, “Why Tara should be placed in an empty room devoid of breakables”, and, of course, “Why Jeff is the luckiest guy on the planet with so many people who love him and why I am a piece of shit in comparison”.

None of these conversations, however, live in my memory.

However, by my count, I had only three rum-and-cokes and one “Chow Yun-Fat”. I was aware I’d bypassed the Irish Buzz and was officially hammered. So, of course, reasoning was not something I was capable of.

Tara, however, gave me one more piece of vital information the next day, as I attempted to do everyday things like walk and speak and function like a carbon-based life form.

Apparently, another round was mixed for people. What I was given was not a rum and coke. I won’t mention names at this point, but I know who mixed this, and when. Why is another matter. It was, in point of fact—and I actually do have a dim recollection of this now—a mixture of rum, coke, Tequilla, peppermint Schnapps, vodka and—the motherfucker—maple syrup.

Why the person did this is a mystery. In his defense, “Let’s fuck with the drunkest guy in the room” is a royally fun game, and I enjoy a good gag even when I’m the butt of it. Apparently, again, Tara tried to stop him from doing this, but it was too late. I had downed it in a single swallow and…

That’s all I remember. Around 4am I found myself out at our car, dressed more or less in pajamas—no coat, but shoes, at least—getting our home pillows out of the trunk and finding my way, successfully, back to Brittney’s guest room. Which, at that point, I swear I’d never laid eyes on before. I was, however, still very drunk. So I downed another full glass of water and figured I’d be run down, but no worse for wear in the morning.

And I wasn’t. Until I sat up. The wave of sickness that washed over me announced that I did, indeed, have alcohol poisoning. Hangover cures like grease and sugar would likely take care of it for the most part, but I was in for a terrible day.

At this point, I didn’t remember the McCune concoction. I remember him handing me something towards the end of the night, with a supercilious grin on his face, but I didn’t remember the aftermath. This wasn’t a black out; images were coming back, but not conversations. I could see myself talking to people, but not what I was saying. So a day of making apology phone calls was obviously on the itinerary.

Leaving Brittney’s was a challenge. I felt slightly better in the cold air but every step was an effort. There’s an awesome greasy spoon in Bloomfield, so we headed there for breakfast. I was sick immediately upon exiting the car, then again in the rest room of the restaurant. Which left me embarrassed but, at least, hungry enough to eat.

Twenty minutes into our hour-long trek home, the sickness hit me like a hammer. We were driving with the windows open so that I could cool off my face and stave off being ill.

It didn’t work.

Remember the “Mr. Creosote” sketch in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life?

It was a lot like that.

The last time I’d ever thrown up in a moving car, I was six years old. Sun poisoning from an ill-fated trip to Lake Erie.

I’ve experienced ptomaine poisoning, bad reactions to medication, multiple bouts of stomach flu and Montezuma’s Revenge, not to mention acute alcohol poisoning in my earlier, stupider days. But I’d always managed to get the car door open in time. This bout came without warning. And we were still half an hour away from home without a gas station or rest stop along the way.

Uncomfortable, sick and humiliated, I spent the next hour helping Amy clean up the passenger side of the car. And, of course, I’d left the keys in the ignition all night, so we woke up to a dead battery this morning.

I’d called Tara in the morning to yell at her, but it was more good natured than angry. Really, it was no one’s fault but my own. Until she told me about the Mystery Concoction.

Again, “Fuck with the Drunk Guy” is a fun game. I’ve played it. I’ve been the object of it. But usually, the other parties were drunk too. I doubt harm was meant by it and there’s no way he could have known about my Red Kryptonite drinking condition.

I love partying with my friends. I like the safe, affectionate atmosphere. I enjoy getting together and drink and watch bad movies. And while I really, really enjoy getting drunk with my best friends, I’m also not a complete idiot. I don’t intentionally drink to the point where I’m falling down. And since October’s Wasteland, I intentionally avoid mixing my alcohol. Had I been conscious of what was in that glass, I never would have thrown it back. I don’t have anything to prove and don’t give a shit about that “ah you coward, drink that!” mentality. I don’t embarrass easily. And I’m not a fifteen-year-old-kid experimenting with alcohol consumption.

As sick as I was yesterday, unable to do anything more than lie on the couch and lick my proverbial wounds, I was more angry than anything else. Angry at myself, primarily, for being stupid enough to drink a foreign substance handed to me by a guy I didn’t know. Again.

I’m not “swearing off alcohol”. And I can’t very well swear off stupidity. I am, however, pledging allegiance to moderation because I refuse to ever feel that way again through my own idiocy. This isn’t one of those “I will never do that again” empty and hollow morning-after pledges. This is one of those “You will not do that to yourself again” situations. And while it’s real tempting to blame the unknown integer in the party equation, I didn’t have to knock that last drink back. I’m going to work pretty fucking hard to make sure that I never allow myself to get that bad ever again.

(… But the baseball game went well.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Writer's Strike

This was going to be a very different blog entry, but I really wanted to weigh in on what's going on in Hollywoodland right now.

Last week, I was browsing a message board for indie filmmakers and came across a rallying cry that all indie screenwriters should take advantage of the WGA strike and start sending in our scripts to the studios, now that the "window has been opened by the striking writers". I found this rallying cry shouted by other indies on several other boards, including a couple of forums here on Myspace.

That this sort of opportunism exists on this level didn't surprise me, nor did the level of idiocy of this cry. First, and more obvious, the studios aren't looking for new scripts from non-Union writers. They don't care about writers because the non-writers think that it's easy. That writers are "schmucks with Underwoods", according to Jack Warner, from days gone by. Second, and less obvious, what would happen if one of us indies DID hit the lottery and get a script accepted for TV or film? If it didn't immediately go into turnaround the minute the strike ended, what would the outcome be for the writer? In order to continue to write in Hollywood, a writer, upon selling two scripts, is REQUIRED to join the Writer's Guild of America. Therefore, this scab who jumped the picket line for his own gain, now has to rely on the very people he screwed over by selling his non-Union script. Way to win friends in a friendless land, eh?

But third, and most aggrivating, it's opportunism at its absolute worst. We're all hungry writers. We're all reaching for that brass ring. But the very people who are on strike are Just Like Us. Their own brass rings are continuously wrenched from their grasp.

"But it's all about money!"

"But big screenwriters already make tons of money!"

"I just wanna write!"

The first two outcries are dead wrong and exactly what the Producers and Suits want you to believe.

The third: what the fuck is stopping you? It's a global world, writer, everyone with an internet connection considers himself a writer, when, in reality, the majority of these screed-scribblers IS a "schmuck with an Underwood", or, really, a laptop. You want to write? Learn how, write well, don't stop and keep submitting.

But if you really want to know what this strike is all about, why there won't be new shows after December and why the Studios are convinced that the schmucks with Underwoods won't be missed because reality TV is so popular: READ THIS. Do it now. It's worth the read. Don't whine that it's wrong. You have the fucking time. Ignore YouTube for a few seconds, ignore adding new friends, and READ THIS.

It's only a little about money. Mostly, it's about who did what? Who created those shows and movies? Was it the studio, or was it a schmuck with a laptop who had the idea in the first place.

And if you're a writer, one of those indies who was ready to storm the gates when the guards were screaming for their rights, figure out how this strike affects you, and what will happen to you if your gamble pays off and now you're stuck with the new buddies who were fighting for what you just "won". And what will happen to you now if they lose.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Return to Rocky Horror

The Fangoria Radio stint was fun. Too short, though. I had at least an hour of brilliance I could have expounded. Debbie and Mike Gingold must have plugged everything we were ever involved in and I had a nice moment with Dee Snider when we realized we both hate Kubrick’s version of The Shining. Since I’ve actually gotten death threats (true!) over my opinion of this “classic”, I felt moderately vindicated.

Saturday, on a whim, we went to see Rocky Horror, playing up at the Oaks Theater. This would be our first RHPS screening in at least three years—if you count an aborted attempt to check it out with Ryli Morgan and Mark Baranowski at a showing in North Carolina. As most people know, Amy and I met at Rocky Horror—a frightening fifteen years ago. I started going on a strict weekly basis when I was still in high school, way back in 1990, when it was shown at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, just outside of Pittsburgh. By ’91, I had joined the cast—then known as “The Unnamable Dread”, under the direction of Terry Thome—and began playing primary roles by the end of that year. Including the immortal Frank N. Further.

By 1992, my friends Justin Wingenfeld and Bill Hahner had joined the cast, and we brought aboard the rest of the members who would eventually take over the troupe and rename it “The Junior Chamber of Commerce Players” (most casts name themselves after a line in the movie—which isn’t hard when you’ve memorized the entire movie, movements included, as well as the full script of ever-evolving audience call-backs). Also like most casts, the J.C.C.P. was comprised of a bunch of very frustrated creative types who were desperate to avoid having any real semblance of a life. We were mostly social misfits who were drawn to the misfitery of the movie and the family atmosphere of the regulars. At RHPS, everyone is welcome, gay, straight, bi, undisclosed or undecided. It’s all-inclusive. At least for a while, before the cliques inevitably form.

We were also under the delusion that we were stars somehow, and that the audience was there to see us. This delusion is perfectly understandable, by the way. We worked hard, we were creative, we utilized off-the-wall costumes that deviated from—but still fit in oddly enough—the strict RHPS guidelines set forth by the movie. We had Muppets—particularly a Muppet that Bill Hahner built of Charles Gray’s Criminologist Narrator character, dubbed “Chuckie” that actually went on to international fame thanks to Sal Piro’s Creatures of the Night book series. We used bizarre props. We dressed one of our Rockys in a Chewbacca costume and Riff shaved him with a giant razor halfway through. We used a mannequin as Janet for one catastrophic show. And with all of this, we were playing to roughly the first three rows.

es, we’d get recognized on the street and people applauded wildly when we took our bows, which all led to our delusions of grandeur. Because, and this was proven a number of times, that the audience would show whether we performed—mimicking the movie—or not. And gradually, as we got older and more involved with our education and our oncoming “real life”, we started to realize that we were outgrowing what was really a safety net. We got to perform every week, so we were still actors, right? And would make props, so we were still effects artists and designers. And organizing who played what each week, that was producing. And we’d film the performances, so we were still photographers and filmmakers! And every week, we’d post fliers all over town so that people would come to the show, and make money for the theater owners, and then we’d stay to help clean up and since they were letting us in for free to do all of this work, it was only fair, right?

Amy was a regular, starting on a big Halloween show, where we sold out the theater. She sat in the front row with her friends and started coming on a regular basis after that. We became friends and got together at my 21st birthday party, where I was introduced to medicinal marijuana. Two weeks before, at another party, she’d made me my first drink and, thereby, corrupted me forever. By the end of our first year together, the Hollywood had closed, Rocky moved across town to a theater that was ill-equipped for our blocking and despised the late night clean up. The crowds didn’t follow us. By this time, there was so much in-fighting among the cast that we’d basically given up altogether. I’d already been performing on and off for over five years so I was happy to get the hell away from it.

The friends I made during that time are still, for the most part, some of the closest friends I’ve ever made and people with whom I will continue to work as long as they’ll work with me. There are some folks I met there, of course, who I hope I’ll never see again, but they’re by far in the minority.

But since the late ‘90s, we really haven’t been back. Rocky Horror was not part of our lives, aside from listening to the sound track on long trips. I still remember most of the call-backs and almost all of the dialogue/lyrics word-for-word, making me wonder what all of that replaced in my brain that I actually needed.

Every now and then I’d hear that a theater was playing RHPS and we’d toy with the idea of going, but nothing ever solidified. Then we met Jordan Palez, who did some P.A. work for us on Splatter Movie. He’s involved with the latest incarnation of the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players. Our friends Tara and Dave were planning on going to the next RHPS showing, so we figured, what the hell. We’d make a fun, nostalgia-filled night out of it.

So this past Saturday night, Amy and I found ourselves standing in line to see Rocky Horror. I remembered the last time I’d stood in line to see the movie: seventeen years ago. I felt very old. So much older than most of the kids in line around us.

The new J.C.C.P. cast members bounced around us, asking if there were virgins among our crowd. Tara was wearing a Columbia costume and we were talking about our JCCP days when they popped up. Then Jordan came by screaming that we were virgins, and I realized that when I was part of the show, he was most likely in grade school, if not kindergarten. My mood was not improving.

Fortunately, the tickets were cheap and there was a kick-ass bar called Steve’s Inn right across the street. Several cheap-as-hell drinks later, my mood was back up. There was two of everything, but at least I wasn’t annoyed.

We ran into an old regular, Ed, and his new girlfriend. And I saw other old regulars in the crowd as we searched the crowded theater for seats. It was very surreal. I was drifting down the aisle like the signature shot in a Spike Lee film.

It seemed like forever before the movie started. The cast had to do the virgin roundup, then the “fake-an-orgasm” virgin sacrifice, then a costume contest, then the Tim Curry videos of I Do the Rock and Paradise Garage (which Amy and I tried to drunkenly dance to, but only the cast was dancing and we felt very, very out of place). Then a “bonus” video of Curry singing from The Worst Witch—one of Amy’s favorites, but something I find to be the aural equivalent of a prostate exam. Then the movie… which was, strangely, a digital projection from a DVD.

And suddenly, I’m having a “back in my day” experience. I was astonished that the Oaks hadn’t arranged to get a print of the movie from Fox. The print rental was never that expensive, compared to other movies, but maybe it’s gone up since I left the game. Since they don’t perform every weekend, I understood why the pre-show was so long and elaborate. Our own, even on a weekly basis, seemed interminable as well.

But midway through, I’m the Grinch, feeling affected by the noise, noise, noise, even when I was contributing to it. When I was a hardcore Rocky fan, I got bored immediately after “Sweet Transvestite”, as did the rest of the audience, who usually took the creation scene to go downstairs to smoke (which was another shock—you couldn’t smoke anywhere in the theater, down or up. Not that I smoke, but wading through a thick haze of nicotine exhalation used to be part of the whole experience). So I was bored immediately again, and immediately after, I started to sober up, which is a whole new horrifying experience.

Ed and some of the older audience folks tried to keep the nostalgia going. There were numerous “Mike Watt” callbacks (“What diabolical plan had seized Frank’s crazed imagination?” – “Oral sex with Mike Watt!” “Any sex with Mike Watt!”) courtesy of Ol’ Ed, but I was stuck in Robert Frost territory, constantly reminded that you can’t go home again.

I love the movie. I love the soundtrack. I loved performing it once and still got a kick out of watching these kids experiencing the whole thing while it was still fresh to them. RHPS is that thing that resonates the deepest with the post-high school, mid-college crowd when everything seems fresh and new. Seeing the whole thing with older eyes—yet I was not, by far, the oldest person in the room—I just couldn’t recapture the spirit of the moment. What I did achieve was screaming myself hoarse and sinking deeper into a curmudgeonly fit of “when we did the show…” Glory days.

The cast was great. The show will always be fun. I will always have rice in my pockets. But it’s not my world any more.