Tuesday, September 28, 1999

'Rocky Horror' affair celebrates 20th year

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Twenty years ago in downtown Cincinnati, a young man named Tony Wright jumped up in the middle of a movie and started dancing.

        Thus was born The Denton Affair, an ever-changing collection of actors, musicians and fans who regularly dress as characters from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They stand in front of the screen at the Esquire Theatre and act out the movie along with the actors on screen.

        To mark their 20th anniversary, the 26-member troupe will throw a party at The Warehouse nightclub, 1313 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, on Friday;partygoers in Rocky garb will be admitted free. A special performance is planned at the regular showing of Rocky on Saturday.

        In the late '70s and early '80s, the city's skywalks bustled with patrons of shops, bars, restaurants, and the Skywalk Cinema. It was there that The Rocky Horror Picture Show began its long run as a midnight feature — and the granddaddy of interactive entertainment. Its loyal fans followed it to the various incarnations of The Movies on Race Street, then to the Esquire, 320 Ludlow Ave., Clifton.

        The Denton Affair — who take their name from a book read by a character in the movie — have been the most loyal of all. They won over the Esquire management, who were initially reluctant to book a film in which the audience routinely hurled toast, rice and water into the air.

        The group's deal with the theater prohibits them from throwing things, says Jeff Pierce, the 19-year-old trouper who plays the starring role of Dr. Frank N. Furter (played on screen by Tim Curry).

        The troupe even provides security to back up its promise. “It's not worth losing the theater over,” Mr. Pierce says.

        The movie has become such an institution — it regularly draws audiences of 100 or more and Halloween shows usually sell out — that some patrons are bringing their children.

        “It's funny to see people bring their kids,” Mr. Pierce says, “because usually the kids are in costume.”

        During the group's pre-movie performance, when newcomers (regulars call them “virgins”) are initiated, Mr. Pierce says he once found himself facing a 6-year-old.

        “We had a Twinkie-eating contest; I didn't want to do anything that would traumatize a kid for life.”

        An adult virgin, he says, “might get 10 pelvic thrusts.”


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