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Rocky Horror Picture Show in Oklahoma City Tower Theater

The Coen Brother’s 1998 movie, The Big Lebowski, is the biggest cult movie since The Rocky Horror Picture Show. According to The L.A. Times, a documentary, The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans, explores the cinematic subculture of the film.

Tower Theater in Oklahoma City was finally restored.

Tower Theater in Oklahoma City was finally restored.

Lebowski Fest

Eddi Chung, a 38-year-old Gen Xer, is the filmmaker. He traces the movie’s cult beginnings to Kentucky, where two “creative Generation X types” decided in 2002 to have a Lebowski Fest at a bowling alley. The owners of the bowling alley were Southern Baptists, and put a stop to the party. The cult grew from there, and eventually 4,000 “achievers” (self-described by decided lack of ambition) were attending the annual celebration.

My brush with a cinematic subculture came in 1986. Oddly enough, my memories of it have been hiding for a very long time.

During my sophomore year of college, I hung out with some very nice boys who were intent on doing some very crazy things on a regular basis. I was often along for the ride. We didn’t know it then, but we were Gen Xers coming of age in a city where there was little to do beyond the $1 movie and hunting down interesting landmarks like the Bruce Goff house in Belle Isle, and the structures the late Julius Shulman, renowned architectural photographer, had immortalized. We were, in a phrase, supremely bored.

Stealing Handicap Signs, Painting of Jesus

If it wasn’t super illegal, like a felony, and didn’t involve breaking one of the 10 commandments, we were usually game. We loitered in hotels around town; crashed OU sorority parties; borrowed street signs and nabbed religious art from the university library and hung it up in different places on campus. We amused ourselves often with these ridiculous antics.

Crack Houses and The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Then there was that night in 1986, when the boys told me about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a 1975 British comedy musical, which played at midnight at the Tower Theater in Oklahoma City. The film had gained popularity as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film in theaters across the United States. I told them I wanted to see it so they drove me down NW 23rd Street to the theater.

This was the 80s and we passed what I’m sure was a crack house or two along the way. I guess one of the boys sensed I was getting a little uneasy and asked me if I really wanted to see it. He explained to me that once inside the theater, I was going to be heckled. The movie had a cult following and Oklahoma City’s cult members were going to point at me and call me a virgin, which was what they called everyone who was seeing the movie for the first time.

So, being the good Nazarene girl that I was, I changed my mind, and the boys drove me all the way back to campus. I felt like such a spoil sport but they were pretty good about it; relieved, even.

Memories Hiding

I have no idea where the memories of my brush with this film have been hiding for the last 20+ years. Two months ago, I decided to shoot pictures of the old Tower Theater, which I keep hearing is going to be renovated. I live near the building, and pass it all the time. All the weirder that while looking through the viewfinder of my camera, trying to frame the perfect shot, I remembered that night and my decision to skip The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Were you part of its cult following? What about The Big Lebowski?

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. jen

    @ANONYMOUS – Thanks for sharing all that. Those were crazy days of youth in OKC. It’s a totally different city now, huh? I’m so glad the Tower sign has been preserved, and I’m hopeful that great things are to come.

  2. Anonymous

    OMG, thank you for this post. Really brought back a lot of memories.:)

    I played Janet in the Will Rogers Theatre cast of Rocky Horror every Saturday night from 1981 until the final screening at the Will in 1983.

    The film moved for a brief time to the Will’s sister theatre, the May on May Ave, then more permanently at the Tower Theatre from 1983-85.

    After that, we ended up at the AMC on Memorial in the late 80s. As I recall, a theatre in Norman screened it for some time after that.

    The Tower Theatre in the late 80s was a pretty decrepit old gal — not nearly as sweet as the Will Rogers or the May — but it was a good place for the Rocky Horror crowd. Management didn’t care if we threw rice, squirted water pistols, threw toilet paper, smoked cigarettes (and other combustible enhancements) in the balcony, and generally made a freaking mess of the joint, because it was already a mess!

    The best part in those days was that the midnight movie at the Tower followed the usual nightly feature…which in those days was porno flicks. Me and a lot of my high school age friends always tried to sneak in a little early, if ya know what I mean.;)

  3. Anonymous

    Went to see RHPS at the Tower in 1981. The “live” acting under the screen was quite good and pretty much in synch with the movie. I still watch the movie every year on cable but never the same as being at the Tower to watch the “live” show.

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  6. le @ thirdontheright

    hello jen .. better late than never … I adore rocky horror – it so makes me laugh, sing and smile. And I do so like the stuff from the Coen boys too.

    And guess what I had a bunch of rowdy lads who I rode around with in cars knocking over wheelie bins and the like and I was the only chick they took too … how odd yet not odd that we share that experience too – biggest hugs and the best le xoxo

  7. jenX

    @WEK – I’m betting you didn’t like the Sound of Music either, huh? =) The Big Lebowski is on my list of priority films to see!

    @DADDY FOREVER – Glad I’m not the only one! I agree – renting it seems like I’m missing something. That may be a good thing. Ha!

    @B2Design – I know! It’s a dreadful confession. Big Lebowski loser, too. That comment is such a great Gen X story in and of itself. It’s post-worthy, and is the kind of comment that gives reason to the comment box. I loved it!!!! I’m sure those boys, knowing me like they did, were wise to take me back to school. =/

  8. B2design

    How can you claim to be from Gen X if you’ve never seen Rocky Horror?!?!?!


    I was at the AMC Theatre on Memorial one night (planning to watch Pink Floyd – The Wall for the umpteenth time), when I came out of the bathroom and a girl in a completely sheer negligee walked across the lobby and into The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    I turned to my friend and said, “You can watch whatever you want… I’m going over there.”

    He was right behind me.


    43 visits later (including a live performance at the Brady Theater in Tulsa) and I’ve got to say… It’s magical. You need to see it. With an audience!

  9. Wek

    You gotta see Lebowski. Freakin’ hilarious, and there’s a lot to it as well.

    “Do you see what happens Larry!!??? Do you see what happens when you….” (this will make sense after watching The Big L)

    RHPS never did it for me. I just can’t stand musicals. Especially Grease.

  10. Daddy Forever

    I have not seen either movies. I could rent them, but that’s not the same as going to a “live” showing.

  11. CGHill

    I’m pretty sure I saw Rocky Horror in Norman.

  12. jenX

    @MELESSA – Great story! I remember telling the boys I’d lie, but they weren’t going to let me. That is so funny that they have to play the movie at 10 now. Gen Xers, not to mention Boomers, are gettin’ old.

    @CGHILL – Was it at Tower? Is my memory serving me correctly??? Jim’s comments made me wonder if I had it confused, but I’m certain we drove down 23rd that night. I think anyway!

    @YOGI – You were brave to live in Edgemere, 1986. I’m impressed. I thought I was an urban pioneer.

    @JIM – what a terrific story. That is so funny. Was there a difference between hell and the Dean’s office?

  13. jenX

    @JAYSON – What are you, Gen Y or something? LOL! JUST KIDDING!!! I have a special affinity for Gen Y. My neices and nephews are Gen Y.

  14. Yogi♪♪♪

    So there is one other person besides me who has not seen the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I’ve heard about the subculture and all the things the crowd shouts out at different times in the movie.

    1986 was the year I moved to Oklahoma City from Dallas. You are right there was not too much to do. The city was a like a ghost town because of the energy industry collapse so housing was cheap, real cheap.

  15. Jim Smith

    This brings back memories. I remember going to see RHPS at Will Rogers theatre on Western with my SNU (then BNC) buds. The first time they dragged me to it and I left fairly certain that I was going to hell or at the very least to the Dean of Students office. Funny thing though…the next week I went back for more and loved it. I wasn’t a regular, but I did see it a few times. Don’t ask me about the other midnight movies they showed at the Will Rogers.

  16. CGHill

    I did attend Rocky Horror once, though I opted for the anonymity of the chorus rather than go for an actual character.

    If this seems out of character for me, the mind-rays have been working correctly. 🙂

  17. Melessa

    I haven’t seen The Big Lebowski, but I have to admit the Rocky Horror Picture Show was big fun and I regret to this day not getting auctioned off as a “virgin.” (I lied at my first show.) My friends and I weren’t regulars, but we sure enjoyed it when we went.

    Sooner Theatre shows it most Halloweens, but at 10 instead of Midnight since none of us are as young as we used to be. My friends and I went this year and it was still just as fun. A pleasant surprise for me, as I thought it might not be.

  18. Jason

    Well, I haven’t seen it either.

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