The Rocky Horror Picture Show Was My Gateway Drug – Of Sorts

rocky horror picture show

I was a little like Janet and Brad in 1985, alternative music was for other kids: The city kids, the kids in Chicago, not for suburban kids like me.  Chicago kids went to clubs and live shows, what did we do? We went to parties and crossed our fingers the cops wouldn’t show up. Maybe we drank, maybe we smoked cigarettes, but we definitely listened to Top 40 while we did it. INXS and Duran Duran were about as alternative as we got.

Little did I know my life would soon change forever: I went to a theater camp every summer of my life and there had met some of my closest friends, one of them was a guy from Evanston. At that time, Evanston was a big deal – Evanston was Chicago’s wealthier, prettier, safer little sister. But it was almost the city. Since some of us were driving and some were on the cusp, we got to hang out with these friends that were, for all intents and purposes, city kids. As it happens, they were as good as city kids when it came to music.

the 400 theater

There was this old theater on the border of Chicago and Evanston, called The 400. It played The Rocky Horror Picture Show every night at midnight. The cool kids, the almost city kids, had been. More than once. Me and my friends, had never been.

For me, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a gateway drug. So were my friends from Evanston. When I discovered the Rocky Horror Picture Show I was just a suburban girl messing around with alternative music. After Rocky Horror, I was ready to dive in. To be different. To heck with all those suburban kids. Let’s go hang out at Medusa’s and listen to some real music.

Let’s face it, they weren’t actually playing that stuff on pop radio in the early 80’s. The only way I was going to hear it was by being ushered into that cultural phenomena by those more urban than I.

Admittedly I was on the verge then. On the verge of being musically curious and then diverse and then just plain old blenderized.

Rocky Horror paved the way for The Cure, Ministry, Dead or Alive and Shriekback. I mean let’s face it, they all kind of looked a like.

The amazing thing about this movie is that it was a true cult film. Tim Curry was absolutely mesmerizing in his first movie role ever. His brilliant acting and perfect voice set the tone for a film that would take a little understanding before making it big.

It tanked in the box office when it opened in the UK in 1974, and even had its original debut in New York cancelled. Then, they were further downgraded by being scheduled on a very small-scale to do double features on college campuses with some cult classics of the 50’s and 60’s – this also tanked. Eventually someone got the genius idea to screen the movie on Midnight of April Fools Day in 1976. Apparently that was the magic potion. By that Halloween people were showing up at Rocky Horror in costume and talking back to the movie screen. Within the next two years it was playing at Midnight Movies in over 50 locations, with fan clubs and newsletters sent out to their cult following. By 1979 it was playing in 230 theaters.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is considered the longest running release in movie history, it is still playing the original version from 1974.

Other notable facts:

This movie was Tim Curry’s first film. Ever. He played in the original London cast, and was the director’s first choice for the film.
This movie was Barry Bostwick’s first film. Ever. (He was Brad) (he is widely known for his role on Spin City)
This was Meatloaf’s first film. Ever.
This was not Susan Sarandon’s first film, but it was definitely some of her best work.

And a shout out to those two Evanston boys that made it all possible for me, believe it or not, they are both in the music biz today. They were the first ever human beatbox I got to hang with and they turned me on to De La Soul. What more could a girl want?

Twisted MixTape 42 – 80’s New Wave

mixtape jenkehl 200

This week’s theme is to make a mixtape of your favorite dance music or dance club mixes. It was requested by our very good friend of mixtape – Kir from The Kir Corner. She lost her brother suddenly at the end of they year, he loved music so much. And especially mixing up the dance music as a DJ.

What better way to honor his life than to boogie on down with him in mind?

There are three distinctive times in my life dance or club music were prominent.

In the mid-late 80’s first at under age clubs; our’s was called McGreevy’s or lovingly McSleezy’s. It was strictly under 18, with a bar, so that was cool. Because, you know, you could walk up to the bar and order a coke.  Then when I passed the 18 benchmark I was old enough to play with the big folks and spend the end of the 80’s hanging out at Medusa’s – the hottest alternative dance club in Chicago.

Random 80’s memory alert: Do you remember creepers? They were like wearing Doc Martins, but more like a shoe with an even bigger sole and wider rounded toes?

In my mid 20’s we (me, my sister, and our friend Chris, a boy, who could seriously dance) started going to a club in Chicago (that for the life of me I can’t remember the name of) which only played disco music. Now THAT rocked! They had the colored floor ala Saturday Night Fever, the disco ball, even the freaks dressing up like it was still the 70’s. However I really covered the 70’s pretty thoroughly over at Raised on the Radio for this post. So if you’re craving 70’s disco head over there.

And then there was the late 90’s (my late 20’s) my sister and I were both unmarried with really good jobs and basically had more money than we knew what to do with. OK not really. But we had enough to take two cruises a year and that was AWESOME! We got so into it, bought the ball gowns for the formal dinners and everything. We loved it so much that I got married on a cruise ship! Wait…where was I going? Oh right! Disco on the cruise ship! I was so not listening to pop music in the 90’s certainly not club music. But thanks to those cruises there will be some songs I will never forget, even if I try to scrub my brain from the inside out and stick hot pokers into my ears.

Enough time has not passed to make me revisit songs like Mambo #5 and I’m Blue (Da Ba Dee) but, amazingly, enough has passed that I actually find I enjoy listening to the songs from my first foray into clubbing.

Stomping With My Creepers and Bringing The House Down

This is me, sitting in the hall in high school. I saved that jacket that I bought at the most famous thrift shop in Chicago, Flashy Trash. I paid 8 bucks. Someday I bet Isaiah will love to have it! Ha.
This is me, sitting in the hall in high school. Some things to note: there is a green vine drawn from the corner of my eye, down my face. I have multiple piercings in my left ear and that FU look, it was permanant. I saved that jacket – I bought at the most famous thrift shop in Chicago, Flashy Trash. Paid 8 bucks, Isaiah will thank me someday. Ha.


And now….if everyone could please follow me to the dark side? Here you will see a 18yo Jen, well, you won’t recognize her. But she will be doing a dance that could only be described as the stomp. Basically hundreds of kids stomping their feet in time to the beat in their giant creepers or Doc Martin’s on the second floor of an old brownstone in Chicago to a new trend that would be known in the future as 80’s New Wave Music. It’s a wonder the floor never caved in.

Ministry with Everyday is Halloween – By the way, this song was our anthem. “Why are you dressed like it’s halloween?”


The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary


Siouxsie & The Banshees with Cities in Dust


The Cure – Close To Me


Sorry I just got so darn nostalgic I couldn’t leave this one out.
The Cure – Love Cats


New Order – Blue Monday

That's me on the left, it's a year later and I'm attempting to grow out a green mohawk. That explains the odd color and shape of my hair, although I think I was pretty stylin then.  And Yes - I'm hiding a cigarette behind my back. And doing a bad job of it.
That’s me on the left, it’s a year later and I’m attempting to grow out a green mohawk. That explains the odd color and shape of my hair, although I think I was pretty stylin then. And Yes – I’m hiding a cigarette behind my back. And doing a bad job of it.


You guys have been so awesome! I appreciate you coming to play so much, now share your MixTape with all of us. The best part of this party is we get to hear so much music that may be new, may be forgotten or may be just what you wanted to hear right now.

These are the rules. Five songs (do your best to stick to it, I really do listen to every mix and I don’t want you to wait). Stick to the theme (as best you can). Try and check out at least two of the other players or more! (everyone wants to share their tunes with you).

Create a mix, not a “hey look at all the cool songs I know” we’re not snobs, if you were our best bud and you were gonna make us a tape, what would it be? And share this party so more people will play next week!

Do me a favor, if you’re a veteran, try to visit at least one person you’ve never visited before.


And now, The List of all Lists

January 28 – One of your friends is feeling down and needs to feel better. Make a mix to make him/her feel better. This can be songs you know your friend will love or songs meant to cheer someone up. You decide.
February 4 – A mix to Get Motivated. Whether it’s to workout, write or just get out of bed. Mix it up!
February 11 – Love to Love you baby. (Or friend or kid or dog or cat, whatever)
February 18 – We’re back to your choice, play us what you want, we’ll listen!
February 25 – Guilty Pleasures-the songs and or groups that you hate to admit that you love… (Thank you Sarah from The Sadder but Wiser Girl)
March 4 – If My Life Had A Soundtrack…


If you’re still here, thanks! I would love it if you checked out my site, Raised on the Radio we got hacked a few weeks ago and are eeeekkkking our way back up the search engine ranks, any click-thru or better yet share will help us get back to our rightful place!