Antici…pation


Inside Birmingham’s oldest Halloween tradition, The Rocky Horror Masquerade Ball, which began in 1993.

By Keri Lane

I had just quit my job at a local television station with hopes of working for myself, and had always thought that the idea of having a party around the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show would be super fun idea. I decided to make this the first event I produced.

To find a home for the fledgling event, I contacted the then director of the Alabama Theatre, Cecil Whitmire, but was promptly told that it might not be the best fit. So the first ever Rocky Horror Masquerade Ball landed at the historic and haunted Sloss Furnaces shed.  You have to remember that back in 1993 there weren’t video projectors, inflatable screens and the like. So I ended up bringing in a professional huge 35mm film projector, screen and sound system, booked the film to be shipped here, then booked the band, The Velcro Pygmies, to play after the movie.

All was set, and I promptly began promoting the event. Before I knew it, people began approaching me wanting to be involved – so the first-ever cast evolved.

Back then there were no ticket outlets like Ticketmaster. Tickets were sold at local record stores and such. I had my tickets for sale at Charlemagne Records. When I went to collect the tickets the day of the show, I noticed this gorgeous poster posted at the store, promoting the show. It was so odd because I had not made it. I have treasured that poster for years since I didn’t have a lot of photos or even a ticket stub from the show.  It was so cool that this guy made that poster. It made me realize how many people loved the movie and appreciated the event.

 

The cast and participants are sometimes scantily clad in costumes from the movie, but also we were asking patrons to come in costumes…  Well the day of the event, it was 28 degrees with light snow in the air. And worst yet, being at Sloss Furnaces meant the show was going to be outside. It was sooo cold we had to take the movie screen fabric inside for three hours before it would stretch enough to snap onto the frame.

I remember sitting on the stage at the theatre with the great feeling of doom and dread.  I had invested everything into a show that surely no one would come out for in freezing weather. But, amazingly,  at 6 p.m. there was a huge line of people in costume, with their prop bags and all ready to have fun. In fact 1,800 Rocky fans came out. The energy was amazing, and after the movie The Velcro Pygmies came out dressed like KISS.

This was the birth of what soon became annual tradition around Halloween for Birmingham. We remained at Sloss one more year, and then I was out of the country in fall of 1995 so I didn’t do the show. When I returned I helped on a local event called Spook-a-delic, but people continued to ask for RHMB to come back.

 

In 1997, The Alabama Theatre allowed us to have the event at the theatre, which was the perfect location, but the following day, I promptly received a call from Cecil Whitmire, my dear friend, and director of the theatre,  letting me know we would not be back. We were not sure where to take the event because Fright Furnace was at Sloss, and I couldn’t think of a big enough venue…  So, in 1998, we were the first event at just opened  B&A Warehouse, and remained there until really there was no room for everyone. Thankfully, some years had past and the rice memories had settled, and Cecil invited us back to The Alabama where we have been ever since.

This year will be the 25th Rocky Horror Masquerade Ball. The cast has changed over the years, the mayhem and fun have not as The Picture Show and the event has stood the test of time.

The doors open at 6 p.m. with two different costume contests judged by a guest panel of judges. Patrons register to participate in either the general category or the Rocky Horror look-a-like contest while DJ Stevo spins the ghoulish groove in the theatre. At 8:30 contestants parade across the stage at the theatre to an energetic and appreciative audience.  Some of the costumes must take weeks to prepare as they can really be outstanding. After the costume contests, The cast Antici….pation (name taken from part of the film) brings on the movie.

It really is a true tradition and one of the most fun events to attend in our city.  In an effort to respect the beautiful Alabama Theatre some props are not allowed, but most are. Props allowed at the show are:

  • Toilet paper •Rice •Toast •Cards •Small Squirt Guns (bbls less than 5”) •Newspaper •Noisemakers •Party Hats •Rubber Gloves •Bells

But don’t worry; if you aren’t up for pulling together your own prop bag, the cast sells them in the lobby before the show (while they last).  Arriving early is a must to grab a great seat and be in the middle of the fun!  Tickets are still super affordable with a portion going to the Alabama Theatre’s restoration fund. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster for $23 in advance and $25 the day of the show. It sells out some years, so plan ahead!

 

 

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