J. Alan Pfaff
I remember life as a wee lad, growing up in a Toledo suburb during the 1980's. Reaganomics was rampant, Transformers were the toys of choice, The Dukes of Hazard was on every Friday night, and personal computers were just starting to work their ways into the hands of geeks everywhere.
I was one such geek. My first computer was a TRS-80 Model I, but I soon upgraded to a Commodore 64C, which is what I used all the way through high school. What with various upgrades and special modifications I had made, my computer ran better and faster than an IBM-compatible 286 with EGA graphics. I even ran a BBS off of it for a few years.
I knew something about the RHPS, but it's difficult to remember exactly what I thought of it. I knew that it was some sort of cult thing, and that people went to it over and over. I think that I thought that it was some sort of "serial" or some continuing story or something. I remember wondering how they came up with new stories all the time, and what would happen if you feel behind in seeing them. Okay, so I was slightly off, but not too much so.
I remember seeing the RHS video game on the shelves when I was shopping for some new games to buy. At that time, I still wasn't sure what RHPS was, but I was intrigued enough to read the box for a while. Not enough to buy it, though. This was back in junior high.
Fast forward to junior year of high school. By this time I had finally figured out what the RHPS was, but the problem was that we didn't have a regular show in Toledo. Fortunately, this was at the time of the 15th Anniversary, and so with the hype, a local theatre finally decided to show it. As a celebration for my 17th birthday, a bunch of us were planning on seeing it. For some reason or another we couldn't, so we ended up watching a copy of the Japanese subtitle video in my grandparents' living room. One of my friends had seen it before, so he was our resident "expert", telling us when to throw rice, when to scream out lines, etc. I was very confused by the movie, but I remember coming up with all sorts of theories about it as it went along. For instance, I knew something was up when that butler guy said "you're wet", and when the transvestite said "well, how 'bout that?". I was also upset when that couple and that guy in the wheelchair got turned to stone, but luckily they all came back for a final number. Then that butler guy killed the transvestite! Who was the good guy supposed to be, anyway?
Those were among my thoughts after viewing it for the first time, and I saw it once more on video (this time following along a bit better) before finally seeing it at the theatre. I was able to talk my way out of being sacrificed (something which I'll always regret; I've tried to get sacrificed since then, but no matter where I go, someone seems to recognize me and they make me sit down). Several people I knew were actually in the cast, and I was recruited to join them that night. At the time, I thought it would be fun to play Brad, but I was going to try for the part of Riff, since it seemed easier. There was no way I thought I would have been able to be Frank, especially with me being as closeted as I was.
For my first show I was Dr. Scott. When I showed up in the suit and tie, people there thought I looked remarkably like Brad. The cast was, at the time, very displeased with their current Brad - who was also the cast manager - and so I was but a mere pawn in their cast politics. I was quickly trained to be Brad - and was all set to perform the following week - when it was revealed that the theatre manager has neglected to pay his bills and that the theatre had shut down. No more Rocky for me in Toledo.
The seeds had been planted, though. For about the next year, I spent most of my weekends traveling to nearby cities that had RHPS (the closest was an hour away), and becoming quite obsessed with the movie. I had even written my own audience participation script that I distributed to friends and on local BBSes. Additionally, I rewrote the 1000 Question Purity Test (which I had gotten a copy of through RHPS), adding 500 questions along the way.
Then, finally, Rocky came back to Toledo. A nearby theatre was showing it for about a month, and when I went to see it, I saw several people who were dressed in costume and singing along. After talking with them, I decided to revive the Toledo cast, with me being Brad, of course. Most of the original cast was gone, so we started basically from scratch. We called ourselves "The Erotic Nightmare Revue", and we even had T-shirts made up ("Hard Rocky Cafe - Transsexual, Transylvania"). No theatre in Toledo had the show on a regular basis, so we had to find out what theatre would have it next, and pretty much be prepared to perform on a moment's notice. I was fortunate enough to have a cast full of hard-working people who were willing to put time and effort into costumes and rehearsals. I was lucky, though I didn't realize it at the time.
After about a year of managing the Toledo cast, I graduated from high school and went down to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I found out that The Erotic Nightmare Revue all but completely fell apart after I left, which was flattering and good for my ego, but still depressing none the less. One of my primary goals for college was to either join a Rocky cast, or start a new one if none existed. I had learned a lot from my previous experience, and so this time I knew what I was doing. I was able to recruit about ten people for my first show. Since nobody else wanted to do it, I was stuck playing Frank. We called ourselves "Hand-Held Appliances". When I called the university Program Board about performing for their annual Halloween RHPS, they said thanks, but they already had a cast that came up from Cincinnati to perform. No matter, we did it ourselves. We had a few shows where we projected the video with a projector and didn't charge admission. We were a hit. The following year, I went to the Program Board again, after having done a few shows on my own, and they reluctantly allowed us to do it. We were a hit again. The year after that, the Program Board came to me and asked if we would perform for their show. And, during my fourth year at college, the Program Board asked me what we needed for our show. At this most recent show, we had a cast of 18 people (8 of which doubled as crew), two spotlights (with color gels), a 16x32 foot stage, a full preshow, and an audience of over 600 people. I've not made the same mistake with this cast, though, and so I was able to successfully pass it on to somebody else (as I'll be leaving Miami soon). It didn't hurt that I found someone who is obsessed with the show as I am, either.
However, with the closest regular RHPS near Oxford being an hour drive away - and me being without a car - the few shows a year that Hand-Held Appliances did wasn't enough. At around the time I came to college, I was introduced to the Internet (where, much to my surprise, I found a copy of the Purity Test that I had written). Shortly after I was cruisin' the newsgroups on a regular basis, alt.cult-movies.rocky-horror was invented. After being an active reader of that group for a while, I noticed that nobody had bothered to start a Frequently Asked Questions document, and so I found the way to fill my Rocky void.
I never dreamed the FAQ would become what it has. When I first started writing it in the summer of 1993, there were only a handful of people on a.c-m.r-h, and I was just writing it so I could have something to do. It was relatively short (especially compared to what it is now), and wasn't terribly impressive. In fact, when I sent a copy off to the Fan Club, I got a nice letter back saying, basically, "Yeah, that's cute, we don't have time for that." (A few years later, the Fan Club asked me for a copy.)
As the newsgroup grew, so did the FAQ, and it's now well over 20,000 words (four times its original size). Additionally, there's now the FAQ web site (http://entropy.muc.muohio.edu/~p7a77/rhpsfaq.html), and the FTP site (ftp://ftp.muc.muohio.edu/~p7a77). I even made some alt.cult-movies.rocky-horror T-shirts in time for the 20th Anniversary Celebration in Los Angeles ("Don't Dream It - Download It").
And so I found a way to combine my two greatest hobbies - RHPS and computers. Since I first saw the RHPS in 1990, I've performed as almost every character (except for Janet and Columbia) - with my four "main" characters being Frank, Riff, Brad, and Magenta - in about a dozen different cities, as well as have been cast manager of two successful casts. The FAQ, though, is my biggest claim to fame, and I thank everyone who has helped me out through the years. It wouldn't have become the monster that it is today if it wasn't for everyone emailing me information and suggestions. I would also have a lot more time on my hands to worry about things like graduation, rent, food, and insurance, but that's a different matter.
As to what I'm up to nowadays... I just finished a stint as the regular Frank in Dayton, Ohio (I had to give it up because of budget and time constraints). I'm constantly updating the FAQ, and have recently made a major upgrade of the web page. In May, I will be graduating from Miami University with a Bachelor's in Environmental Design (i.e., Architecture). After that, I plan on traveling the country in my recently-acquired school bus, visiting RHPS shows and Denny's everywhere I go. Beyond that is too far ahead to think about.
So, to everyone (and to those of you who were at the 20th in LA - I told you so): Hoopla!
J. Alan Pfaff / 109 McKee / Miami U. / Oxford, OH 45056 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The RHPS FAQ web pages:
"We believe Jason to be the AntiChrist and the downfall of modern society."
"We're not certain what motivated Jason to this position."