ONE NIGHT CIRCA 1978 TWO YOUNG MEN stopped by a Greenwich Village theater to catch The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The campy rock musical, released in 1975, was already a cult phenomenon—a kind of cinematic costume party where moviegoers dressed as their favorite characters. In the lobby patrons milled around in mascara and fishnet tights, just like Dr. Frank N. Furter, the cross-dressing mad scientist played by Tim Curry. There was a dead ringer for prim Janet Weiss, played by Susan Sarandon—and a look-alike for Eddie the biker, as portrayed by rock star Meat Loaf. The theater had everything, it seemed, except tickets.
"Sorry," said the manager, "Sold out."
"But I'm Meat Loaf!" protested one of the would-be buyers. "And this is Tim Curry!"
"Sure," said the clerk. "They all say that."
Today, Meat Loaf, 44, grins at the memory, and at the fact that he and Curry (who both did get in that night) would still have to fight for seats. Even after 20 years crowds flock to the midnight spectacles on Fridays and Saturdays in hundreds of theaters around the country. The longest running film in movie history, Rocky was shot for under $1 million by 20th Century-Fox and has since raked in $150 million. "A major portion of the world got to know me through Rocky Horror," Meat Loaf says. "It was a great experience"—not just because it was his first screen role, but because it gives him an excuse, he says, to hug Sarandon whenever he sees her.
Though you won't catch cast members tossing rice during the wedding scene, they're still drawn by the film's madcap appeal. Curry has seen it five times, and Meat Loaf three. And, Meat Loaf adds, "Elvis went to a midnight show. That makes it worth it forever."