“Whatever Happened to Fay Wray?/That delicate satin-draped frame/As it clung to her thigh/How I started to cry/’Cause I wanted to be dressed just the same.” – “Don’t Dream It,” from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
August 16 is a date packed with rock and roll significance. It was on this date in 1962 that Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best as the Beatles’ drummer, and exactly 15 years later, rock and roll’s “King,” Elvis Presley, died from drug-induced cardiac arrest.
Another rock milestone passed over the weekend with the 35th anniversary of the release of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, one of the first and most successful rock operas, which debuted in London on August 14, 1975.
As hard as it is to believe, there was once a time when audiences didn’t dress in drag at midnight to see “transsexual Transylvanians” Frank N. Furter, Riff Raff, Rocky, Magenta, Columbia, and their hapless visitors Brad and Janet. Before ’75, no one “pelvic thrusted” to “The Time Warp,”threw “props” at the screen, or called out responses to the film’s dialogue.
For RHPS-virgins, the film is a strange mélange of rock and roll, B-movie science fiction, dark-comedy, and transvestism. It served as a launching pad for many careers, including those of Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and Meat Loaf. A midnight Rocky Horror showing has become a weekly ritual for thousands of fans around the world, and many have seen the film literally hundreds of times.
Rocky Horror was universally loathed by critics at its debut, and opened to sparse audiences. It was only after a midnight showing on April Fool’s Day the following year in Manhattan that audiences began heckling the screen. By the following Halloween, they began arriving in costume. Since then, the film has never been out of general release, and has reportedly brought in $140 million at the box office (so far), which is not a bad return for a film that cost just over $1 million to produce.
And as for the question posed by the title?
Fay Wray, the heroine of 1933’s classic King Kong, passed away in 2004 at the age of 96, shortly before a scheduled cameo appearance in Peter Jackson’s remake of the film. She is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, near the statue of Johnny Ramone.