Ross Reeder remembers the first time he saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
He wouldn’t exactly say he was impressed.
Reeder and his wife were newlyweds at the time, and she had mentioned that they ought to see a movie called “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” So they rented the video and watched it at home.
“When we got done watching it, we both said, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,’” Reeder recalls. “It wasn’t until later, when I saw it in the theater with prop bags and costumes, that I said, ‘Oh. That’s what it’s all about.’”
These days, Reeder is a big fan of the cult classic. So much so, that this director of sales and marketing for the Ogden Eccles Conference Center has been volunteering his time at Peery’s Egyptian Theater next door as emcee of the annual screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
This year’s shows take place Oct. 25-26 in the theater at 2415 Washington Blvd., in Ogden.
Reeder says the annual event started with one night, and has since expanded to two. Both nights have sold out the last two years.
“So that’s the key,” Reeder said. “Get your tickets early.”
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tells the story of a newly engaged couple (played by Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) whose car breaks down in a rainstorm, forcing them to take refuge at the bizarre residence of the mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Suffice to say, weirdness ensues.
Although critically panned when it was released in 1975, the musical horror comedy soon began building a following among midnight-movie audiences, who would talk back to the screen, dress as the characters in the film, and use various props to augment scenes.
Today, the film is a staple of Halloween celebrations around the country, including in Ogden where it’s become an annual tradition. The Egyptian first began showing the film in 2007. It was originally dinner and a movie, with the menu including “Frankenfurters,” according to Reeder.
These days, it’s just the screening.
The $16 admission ticket includes a prop bag with all the necessary items to interact with the film. Outside props are not allowed.
“We want to have some control of what people are doing,” Reeder said in explaining the banning of outside props. “At one show (somewhere), somebody threw a pound of frozen hamburger at the screen and ripped a hole in it. We can’t have that.”
Reeder says employees at the theater have spent quite a bit of time creating the 1,600 prop bags for the two nights. Each bag includes a newspaper, a flashlight, a squirt gun, a noisemaker, a rubber glove, one-eighth of a cup of rice, a party hat, toilet paper, and a slice of toast — lovingly toasted by the chefs at the conference center, Reeder points out.
Participants are invited to wear costumes to the show.
“By all means, dress up,” Reeder said. “That’s part of the fun. I think I’ve seen more men in drag at one of these shows than in my entire life — guys in fishnet stockings and high heels.”
As emcee, Reeder dresses as Eddie, a biker character who runs afoul of the lead character in the movie. Each year, Reeder rides out onto the stage on a motorcycle, courtesy of Golden Spike Harley-Davidson.
“Revving an engine with 800 screaming fans in a theater is pretty cool,” he admits.
Reeder says it’s his job to “whip up the crowd” each night, as well as offer a short tutorial on what the audience is about to experience.
“I’ve had people who are new to the show complain, ‘Everybody was talking during the movie.’ But that’s what they’re supposed to do,” Reeder said. “I also explain that if they lose their keys or drop their cellphones, just let them go, because you’re never going to find them. There’s so much stuff all over the floors, we literally rake the theater with snow shovels and yard rakes at the end of the show.”
At one point during the evening, audience members throw rolls of toilet paper around the theater. Reeder says in the old days they used to provide full rolls of paper in the prop bags. But that ended up being a lot of wasted toilet paper.
“We’d rake the toilet paper to the aisles, and it would almost be chest high,” Reeder said.
Eventually, Reeder says they wised up. Now, when custodial services replaces rolls of toilet paper in the restrooms throughout the year, they save the nearly-spent rolls for this specific weekend.
“You still get the same effect, without the waste,” Reeder said.
Reeder calls the evening “a barrel of fun.” His favorite part as emcee is when one of the “veterans” in the audience brings a “virgin” — someone who’s never experienced “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” before.
“It’s the fun of seeing that virgin in the third row when I’m whipping the crowd up and explaining what’s going on,” Reeder said. “You can see that wide-eyed ‘Oh-my-gosh-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into’ look.”
The only difficult part for Reeder is when people bring their younger children. The film is rated R, but Reeder says that’s not the worst part.
“It’s not so much the content of the show, but it’s what everybody screams during the show,” he said. “It can be a little salty.”
A costume contest will also be held during the evening.
Reeder acknowledges that “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” isn’t for everyone, but for the adventurous who’ve never seen it, he encourages they give it a go.
“I would say if someone has on their bucket list to try something new and unique? Try this,” he said.