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New Book "Fan Phenomena: The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

New Book "Fan Phenomena: The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

What has Larry Viezel, The Royal Mystic Order of Chaos, and articles you can quote in your senior thesis? New book “Fan Phenomena: The Rocky Horror Picture Show”!

“Fan Phenomena: The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (2015, Intellect Books, ed. Marisa Hayes; $16.74 at  is one in a series of books by the University of Chicago Press in the US; Intellect Press in the UK.  It’s book 16 in the series (we’ll forgive them for doing Star Wars, The Hunger Games, and The Big Lebowski first).  According to Intellect Press’s website:

“The series aims to ‘decode’ cult subjects in terms of the appeal and far reaching connections each … have in becoming part of popular culture… each include a fascinating collection of essays which explore a particular area or aspect of the subject’s ‘universe’…”

The book is 9x7”, 146 pages.  Small photos (mostly from the film, or fan-provided performer photos) are sprinkled throughout.  This is an academic press, some articles more so than others (expect to encounter words like “liminal”).  All have footnotes (some leaning heavily on the web).  Half (!) of the Audience Participation album gatefold is credited to Tumblr, which gave me a giggle.  It was gratifying to see a Crazed Imaginations Sue Blane interview cited (via the excerpts at 

The 10 articles range from well-worn topics (coming of age and Rocky Horror) to articles on fashion, the identity of Frank N Furter, “Philosophical Currents Through Film,” and an article on Shock Treatment.  Some are quite readable; some rather dense.  If you’re interested in thoughtful analysis of your favorite film that doesn’t require hitting specialty journals, enjoy.  Academic articles on Rocky are a hobby of mine, and I was pleased to see some topics I haven’t seen addressed in the literature before. 

In addition, six “Fan Appreciations” present 3-5 page mini- Q&As with various Rocky Horror fans (disclaimer: I’m one of them).  The six profiles cover seven fans, mostly US, though Stephanie Freeman, founder of UK Fan Club TimeWarp, is included.  Her Appreciation covers the annual Rocky Horror Picnic, a delightful tradition where costumed fans descend on the Oakley Court hotel (which flies the Transylvanian flag for the occasion!) for a picnic and Rocky Horror screening.  Freeman’s thoughts on how the internet has changed fandom, and brief gloss of the differences between UK and US fans are illuminating.

There are some surprises: Jim Hetzer’s profile focuses on fan fiction and indeed is combined with Bill Brennan due to his numerous fiction crossovers.  Hetzer’s more recent work on Perry Bedden’s Rocky Horror Picture Book is also highlighted.  Larry Viezel’s Appreciation leaves one wanting more– by the time he’s described his collection and plugged a few fan-produced RH videos, it’s over.  Viezel also appears in Shawn Stutler’s Appreciation, which largely covers their documentary “Rocky Horror Saved My Life.”

Here are a few high/ lowlights from the essays – do enjoy the titles:

 “Fashion and Fetish:  The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dark Cabaret Aesthetics and Proto-Punk”: Mines Patricia Quinn’s “Sue Blane invented punk” claim, visiting her costuming of Genet (whose play The Maids famously provided Frank’s corset) and making the usual allusions to David Bowie (whose makeup artist, Pierre Laroche, worked on the film, though the article doesn’t mention this).  Not much new here, though it is handy having it all in one place, and the brief character fashion summaries are interesting.

Doing the Time Warp: Youth Culture, Coming-of-Age and The Rocky Horror Picture Show Through The Years”:  A few clunkers: the authors state that Frank doesn’t successfully seduce Janet, but only Brad, which is simply wrong.  (These are the folks who didn’t recognize the AP album gatefold.)  They do raise some interesting points, for example noting that presumably gay / bisexual creation Rocky Horror expands his sexuality by having a heterosexual experience instead of the other way round, and exploring how Rocky’s meanings are likely different for Millennials than Rocky’s original audiences. 

Shadowing the Boss: Leadership and the Collective Creation of Frank-N-Furter Identity in Rocky Horror Fan Casts”: Quite readable and features unusual insights into both Frank and Riff.  Primary research includes input from fans who play Frank.  It’s refreshing to see casts from Florida, Texas, and Delaware cited as opposed to the usual California /New York.  The author appears to conflate Frank shadowcasters with cast leadership and is politely corrected by one of the interviewees.  This is the first time I’ve seen an academic article address theme nights or non-screen accurate shows.  The author’s thesis is rather murky but the journey is interesting and thought-provoking.

“‘A Strange Journey’: Finding Carnival in The Rocky Horror Picture Show”: Some of the allusions to Frank being Jesus are a bit of a stretch, and as the author stretches the Criminologist’s references to the “last meal” as similar to “The Last Supper,” she misses the fact that Da Vinci’s Last Supper is indeed displayed in the Crim’s book during that entire monologue.  Some good points, though the thesis that Rocky Horror is carnival seems rather pat and the article veers perilously close to being a literature survey. 

Fishnet Economy: the Commerce of Costumes and The Rocky Horror Picture Show”: Starts with a charming description of fans gathering for a rare showing in Baltimore.  I really enjoyed this article (disclaimer: I was interviewed for it).  The language is plain and easy to understand, and it’s primary research instead of stitching together references.  The DIY movement and “costuming with heart” both get shoutouts, but there are an awful lot of dollar signs in this article.  I regret having discussed costs with the author: fabulous costuming doesn’t have to cost a bundle, and when it does it’s often a matter of priorities (beer money or fabric?).

Sanity for Today: Brad and Janet’s Post-Rocky Shock Treatment”: another little-studied subject.  Surprisingly, Shock Treatment’s foreshadowing of modern reality TV is essentially omitted, though the author points out that the film’s filmed musical numbers appear to foreshadow MTV.  Hmm.  The expected Rocky Horror references are spun into the idea of duality and Farley Flavors is called out as a fascist ruling a television-worshipping state.  Interesting. The time spent on Jim Sharman’s underappreciated contributions as director is unusual and time well-spent.

Mercy Killing – Rocky Horror, The Loss of Innocence and the Death of Nostalgia”: This article briefly touches on the death of Brad and Janet’s innocence, conflating it with the decline of monogamy and rise of homosexuality, then takes a sharp turn into glam rock (Frank) killing the traditional rock and roll (Eddie).  The article delves into the historical setting of the film, starting with Nixon, continuing through the mid-1970s UK economic crisis and name-checking Vietnam.  Janet sheltering from the rain under her “Plain Dealer” and Brad and Janet being literally overtaken by the Transylvanians are both cleverly presented as metaphor.  The buzz-killing ending and Crim’s mysterious final speech are presented as a final takeaway “don’t take yourself too seriously,” which is an interesting counterpoint to “Don’t dream it, be it.” Readable, informative, and a nice finale to the collection.

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Mini-review: Wild and Untamed Thing: Richard O'Brien - the Lost Interview

  • Wild and Untamed Thing - Phil South, 2014.This is actually an unedited transcript of an interview Phil South did of Richard O'Brien in 1985. It's available in book form (published on demand through Lulu - check out that faux-retro cover!; Amazon has a Kindle version) and includes a thoughtful preface, an afterword (what happened to Richard?), a good mini-biography of Richard, and an interesting appendix that includes some information on the auction of Michael White's affairs that netted fan Larry Viezel the treatment for "Rocky Horror Shows His Heels" (which you can get Richard's blow-by-blow description of in the interview). A treat for Richard fans; 106 pages. I read it in one sitting. Rather a nice little book trailer with some nice images and Richard's voice from the tape here: 
  • Like Rocky Horror-related books?  Visit at 
  • .b2ap3_thumbnail_PhilSouthWildandUn.jpg


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Writing and Circulating a Press Release to Get Media Attention

Writing and Circulating a Press Release to Get Media Attention

When I first started doing media outreach for Rocky, it meant finding a reason a show was a special event (as opposed to "that thing we do every week" - not newsworthy), calling the local newspapers and maybe writing a press release.

In college the special event was usually a once-a-year college show in October; I'd call the local papers and usually get an interview (maybe even a photographer) from the campus paper, for whom the hook was "local college students do [insert activity here]".  We were in college; we had funny costumes; and we had a couple of talking points about the history of Rocky, how much fun it was, and that people should come see the show.  If we were really on the ball, we'd contact the local community calendar, brand ourselves as an "amateur theatrical group" (true, if perhaps not quite what they were thinking) and plug our college show there.  This was supplemented with getting paper flyers approved for campus posting (as a college-based amateur theatrical group) and also leaving them in the usual likely locations - bars and other college hangouts.

Once I was out in the world, the college papers were no longer interested.  However, the same basic formula applied.  A cast I was with was doing a charity event, so I looked up the local papers, called them, and found out where to email a press release.  Which was easier now as I could find examples on-line instead of having to look up how to write a press release in a book.  I'm still using the press release I wrote for that event as my basic template.

It was a relief to realize recently that press releases still work; the local papers appear to be mostly on-line now, but a recent special event (another charity event) got play on-line, anyway, and netted us the #1 or #2 spot for Google search "Rocky Horror" + charity.

Whether or not our target audience reads the papers is another matter entirely.  But I'm not writing about how to set up your Twitter/Facebook/webpage; I'm hoping you have that (and flyering) covered.  So here's how this works.  I'm not including how to contact local radio or TV stations - I've never tried it, though I probably should (maybe next year).

1) Write your press release.  I'm not going to go into detail about that; you can Google how to write one (though if you'd like a sample of one that worked for me, I'd be happy to share).

2) Find some places to send it.  We used to get a local free community weekly; I'd have submitted the release there, but they got bought by the Chicago Tribune (not local).  A quick search led me to .  This lists all the newspapers in Illinois (and the other 50 states), with phone, Twitter, Facebook and webpage information.  From there it was fairly easy to find out where to submit items (look at the bottom of the webpage, generally) and who to call (with questions about where to send a press release, and to ask about submitting photos). is also helpful; they're not in all the states yet, but they're in about half of them.  Patch features local news and lets you (after creating an account) upload local news.  That #2 result on Google is due to an article I posted on Patch.

3) If you can submit articles (aka provide the newspaper with free content), do so.  Distill down the who/what/when/where from your press release and upload a photo.  Hit up Patch or other local sites as well.

4) Contact the papers and talk with a real human being if you can.  (If you can talk with the Local News or Features editor, do so.  If not, ask who that person would be and get the name/contact info for them.)  If you send your press release to a person instead of a generic email address, your chances of getting picked up are better.  

5) Consider providing photos.  A story with photos will get more traction.  

It's still not easy to get a photographer.  If you can, or if they offer and you can make it happen, go for it - they probably have a better camera than you do.  But it's pretty easy to take at least passable photos these days, and sending digital photos is easy.  Shoot in high resolution and keep photos at least 300 dpi.  These guidelines are from my old print days - the newspapers just said "so long as they're big, and appropriate for a family paper."  This is easier the second year - most of our photos were from the previous year's event.

As far as timing, the local papers tend to work on a weekly schedule.  They weren't really interested in us until about 2-3 weeks before the event.

We got great Google placement from Patch (which we then were able to plug on Facebook and Twitter); an interview with a local paper, printed with a photo we provided (that we're not sure anybody read on paper, but it showed up on their on-line version); and placement on a "Fitness events" calendar (since our event was a charity walk), printed with a big photo from the photo shoot that we put together 3 weeks before our event.

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