This month's fan profile is going to be a little different from usual. It's a bit on the sad side, actually. But the fan profiles are about the fans, and not all fans live happily ever after, and not all fans enjoy the good luck to be healthy and happy and performing in a cast every week or month. Sometimes life throws people, throws a Rocky Horror fan, a curve ball that is hard to bounce back from, and the following is about one such person.
This month's fan profile is on a guy named Kenny Hefner. No one reading with will recognize his name, really. Not unless you met Kenny and knew him well. Why? Because Kenny is one of the "back round" Rocky Horror people, one of those persons that loves the show, has been around for years and years, attended conventions and visited other casts often, but is still rather invisible to the memory nonetheless.
Kenny, you see, was always something of a fringe person, even in the Rocky Horror scene. For one thing, he started getting into the Rocky Horror scene at an older age then most: he was somewhere between 25 and 30, and that was back in 1980. At that time, most Rocky Horror kids were, well, kids. And Kenny was an adult. Thus, he didn't share in most of the "let's get high and get drunk" scene, didn't do well with the younger girls (there were no older girls back then) and Kenny had a few other strikes against him... he was prematurely balding, had a slight speech impediment, and is mildly autistic. Kenny's social skills were never the best, and when he got excited he tended to slur his words to the point where he sometimes could not be understood. He also got frustrated with his condition at times, which sometimes alienated him from other Rocky Horror folks. I don't mean that he was shunned or treated poorly or cruelly by any means. He was, after all, still "one of us ." But at parties or conventions, it would be hard for three or four 16 year old kids who were stoned to really have the patience to try to understand what an older and possibly "retarded" (they assumed until autism was explained to them) guy was saying.
Kenny was always with the group, but always on the edge of the circle. A fringe Rocky Horror person if ever there was one, even though he was always there through thick and thin.
On the good side, Kenny was also a savant (mentally gifted). Kenny's area of expertise / genius was music. Somehow, some way, what Kenny lost in social developmental skills, he gained in musical knowledge: it seems the man could name any song ever written, and know the record label, the date it came out, who did the singing, guitar, drums, etc... name a song and there was almost NOTHING Kenny could not tell you about it as far as general knowledge went.
Don't believe me? Heh, I don't blame you, but it's true. And we tried, we would think of the most obscure, or current, bands and singers and he knew it all. Want to know what year the first album was made by Echo & the Bunnymen? Ask Kenny. What label was the last one to carry the Four Tops? Ask Kenny. Want to know anything about R&B, Old Timey, Punk Rock, Ska, classical? Ask Kenny. His trivial knowledge of such things was nothing less than awesome.
But Kenny, like most of the "back round" people in Rocky Horror (and every cast or group seems to have one or two of these people at one time or another), was also a true believer. He was a part of the backbone of the cast, he loved the scene (and I mean he LOVED the RH scene, truly, in his heart) and he was always there. ALWAYS.
Need someone to do lights? Kenny had no problem volunteering need someone to help carry the props from the car into the theater. Kenny was one of the first people to get off his butt and say "yeah, I'll help." Need someone to do a sight gag, hold open a door, help out with painting a prop? Kenny, Kenny, Kenny. He was under-appreciated, sometimes taken for granted by his friends because he was always there, and like most background people, he was one of the people that could truly be counted on when the chips were really down.
Kenny played Dr. Scott on occasion, and had a good time doing it. He was a light tech, a prop guy, and did his fair share of traveling. He attended the 10th Anniversary in NYC, the '98 RHPS / Shock Treatment convention, and the Allentown convention. He performed at the 8th Street Playhouse on occasion in preshow numbers, saw a few showings of RHPS at the Waverly when it first came out, and was a member of many RHPS casts over the years in his home state of NJ (in casts in Westfield, Edison, Elizabeth, Somerville, Linden, New Brunswick, Key Port, Gutenberg and Jersey City). Kenny also did his share of visiting others casts in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and in his home state.
Invisible, yet always there. An old old timer, but most people would never recognize his name or really remember him. Someone who paid his dues through his hard work, but was seldom thought of as a main part of the cast... Kenny has been around, yet hardly noticed.
And due to what happened to Kenny recently, I wanted to take a minute to mention him, to put his name down here in electronic print for all time, because I wanted him to get his fair bit of the spotlight, even after all this time... and even after now that it probably won't matter to him.
Kenny's autism and mental health problems grew worse as he got older. The last RHPS at a theater he attended was one of the last showings of the Allentown cast, and it was in Allentown that he and his aging mother lived. His Mom did his best to care for Kenny, but it was evident that he could no longer remain in "normal" society as a functioning member. He could no longer take care of himself or others...
Kenny is now living in a facility not far from the Allentown Theater in Allentown, NJ. He is now in his late 40s / early 50s ( no one I spoke to about him recently seems to know his true age) and it looks as if his Rocky Horror days are over... and Kenny deserves a mention, something just for him, in view of his dedication to the show, the casts that he has helped, and the fact that he represents a LOT of the people in the Rocky Horror scene: not a really sexy Frank-N-Furter or a pretty Magenta or a cute Columbia or even a "delightful Bill Brennan" as Sal Piro has called me often enough. But he was just as important as any of the above, probably did more hard work (it's easy to be a Frank every week, not so easy to be the schlub that does his share of the work out of the spotlight) than most, and deserves his due.
So, this profile is dedicated to Kenny Hefner of New Jersey: a true fan, a true supporter of the scene, a true "Rocky Horror" person.