Now that my eyes had been opened, I searched for Tim Curry in other places than that one VHS tape. I learned that I had known him before, in IT and Home Alone 2. He is often so well-hidden in his work and, more, he was always turning up in places I didn’t expect. He did voice-overs for video games and cartoon characters. He read out audio books. He had done a lot, and I perused the body of his work so much that I had most of it memorized; when I would go out to the stores with my mother, I would look for titles in which I knew he’d had a hand.
I even bought the Miss Piggy cookbook for the recipe he had in it: lemon chicken with thyme. Mom and I made it once, together. It was delicious.
Meanwhile, Mom had explained to me that Rocky Horror had a huge following, that people dressed up and shouted out clever or crude things between the lines of the actors. She told me about people throwing rice, hot dogs, and confetti. She promised to take me.
I wanted to dress as Frank N. Furter, of course, but I was still young so Mom bought me a green lab coat and had my grandmother sew a red triangle onto it. I wore this, and Frank make-up, over regular clothing on the first day I ever saw Rocky Horror performed live.
We were up in the balcony, and I was initially disappointed when I saw lithe men in fishnets and dark lipstick crawling around on the level below, as a sort of pre-show. Then didn’t one such creature appear on our level, and proceed to risk his life crawling along the rail to get to N and me, to flirt with us?
Oh, I was home.
I listened hungrily to the call-backs I heard that day, and bought myself the audience participation album for Rocky Horror – which really is just two discs of audio: the film, and the official fan club (led by Sal Piro) shouting back to it.
As I trained for what I thought of as my true calling, I started taking theatre classes. This was the silver lining to also having to take dance classes – ballet, tap, and jazz – as part of my rehabilitation from my surgeries. My aspiration to be the Gumby Cat had been naïve; I hated dance classes, as all they really did was shame me. I slowed the class down, as we all had a recital looming ahead, and I constantly felt sorry and stupid.
These feelings I recorded in a journal I kept on the family computer, and all the entries began as letters to – yes – Mr. Curry. I never had any intention of printing and sending them, but it was easy to imagine his sympathizing with me in my struggles somehow and, if I could imagine his sympathy, I was more inclined to feel some for myself – instead of calling myself awful names in my head for being such a failure.
I did send him real letters, too. I was caught between hoping he would answer and knowing he certainly wouldn’t. I wrote and sent the letters with practical skepticism, but then a few weeks would pass and the mailbox would seem friendly. I checked it with unchecked hope until, after more weeks, I was crushed and cried.
I can’t explain what it is I wanted from him. Or maybe I can try. I didn’t want him the way I wanted Frank, for I understood he was older and, of course, a real person that I couldn’t possibly love like I loved his characters. But for what Frank had taught me to hold fast, for me to truly believe that I was worthy of what I wanted, I needed Mr. Curry to acknowledge me the way that I acknowledged him. I wanted him to know that I existed, to have some effect upon his life. It didn’t have to be big. I just wanted him to think of me for a moment, and send a little note back to say he had.
He didn’t. I didn’t hold it against him. I had a sneaking suspicion that all that mail went to a mailbox nobody checked, or else straight into the garbage. The Internet told me that, sometimes, fans got answers back from him when they wrote him where he was working – at the theatre during a performance he was in, for example. He wasn’t a callous man; I just couldn’t reach him.
I wrote to him in my journal about other boys, as they came up. I saw Rocky Horror on Broadway and adored one of the Transylvanians. I remember his name but am weirdly embarrassed to share it (Limits are strange, aren’t they? Because you’ve never heard of him the way you have Tim Curry I absolutely refuse to own up to it. Maybe because the gentleman in question might Google himself now and again.). Then there was this cast that would do Rocky Horror as a live stage show around Halloween. And the man who played Riff Raff was beautiful. We’ll call him H.
H had long, wavy, rusty-red hair that he wore to his waist and he prowled the theatre before each show in purple lipstick, lanky and tall. He never said a word to me or N, but he teased and touched. I was fifteen when we met. He was almost on the other side of the legal limit, and that would become a problem. By and by, since we came to every show – and sometimes our visits were free, so valuable was my expert knowledge of call-backs to the director – H got to know us. He talked to us after the shows. He gave us hugs goodbye. He said kind things.
On the last night I would ever see him (or so I thought–as it turns out the world is small and life is long, but that’s another story), several years into our running into each other this way, I gave him a letter saying that I loved him. I begged him not to read it in front of me, and he put it lovingly in his shoe. He didn’t contact me at all after that–which was the most responsible thing he could have done, I admit. Not it didn’t hurt. It took me years to understand it.
Over the next few months, I listened to a lot of sad 70’s music and pined. “I Think I Love You,” and “Knock Three Times” most of all, because I had given the note and H hadn’t knocked. He hadn’t even clanged the pipe for ‘no.’ I was heartbroken. I wrote to Mr. Curry about it – but only in my journal.
Then, I started to take notice of a ballet dancer in my classes who couldn’t often be bothered to show up for rehearsals. Everyone hated him for this, but there was no outlet for their annoyance because when he did show up he outshone them all. He was pompous and graceful and cheeky as all get-out. Of course I liked him.
One day he snuck up on me singing “The Time Warp” to myself in the hallway off our auditorium. He sang the next lyric in my ear, winked at me over his shoulder when I jumped, and hurried off on his way.
Next time I saw him, I sang the next line in his ear. He smiled radiantly at me. Next time he saw me, he repeated the trick. I thought of chasing after him, trying to have a real conversation. But then something peculiar happened in my head. I thought: he doesn’t want me. He’s just teasing.
And I just stood there and watched him go. Why bother?
I do think he was gay, but that was not what was on my mind then. I liked these men who were drawn to Rocky, because of their own effeminate leanings perhaps, but since Rocky was always involved… It was just theatre. It all came back to theatre. It wasn’t real. It just wasn’t real.
That was when it occurred to me that I would be better off as a boy. I said that would come in this post, but I think we’d better stop here. We’ll go there next time.