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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Will Moscow Do the Time Warp?

Everyone's youth is punctuated by moments of perfect joy -- scenes that can be relived but never recaptured.


For Rocky Russell, it happened in summer 1978.


"We were in Denver, Colorado in an old-style movie theater on East Colfax Street. That wasn't a good part of town," said Russell, 37, who works for an oil concern in Moscow.


"I was wearing thigh-high leather boots, panty hose, skin-tight red silk shorts and my girlfriend's yellow halter top. I had my hair all curled. I was playing college football at the time, so I was real pumped up," he recalled. "I looked great."


Russell, and millions like him, have spent some of the most meaningful nights of their lives at "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." A flop when it was released in 1975, Rocky Horror spontaneously combusted into a audience-participation ritual, where moviegoers dance in the aisles, shout out every line and cross-dress flamboyantly.


The film, which is screened only at midnight, quickly evolved into a Friday-night institution throughout the English-speaking world. Through 19 years and $150 million in ticket sales, Rocky Horror has developed a circle of fans with unmatched loyalty and nonexistent inhibitions.


The Hermitage Club brought Rocky Horror to its Russian screen debut Wednesday night, for a sizable but mainly uncomprehending crowd. The veterans -- who came with toast, umbrellas and (in the case of one man) a full set of lingerie -- were faced with the formidable task of trying to explain.


"It's a cult thing. You can't describe cult things," said Chris Cassetta, 33, who teaches golf at the Moscow Country Club. For two years in the late '70s, Cassetta bought season tickets to the movie and went with friends every Friday night, he said. "In Miami at the time, that was just what you did."


Sadly, the mystique does not always come across, he added. "I've rented it on video and tried to show it to friends, but they just didn't get it."


Still, many fans felt that Rocky Horror could take off in Russia. "If it can catch on in South Africa, it can catch on here," said South African executive Hugo Coetzee, 22. Coetzee threw rice amiably during the wedding scene but did not go so far as to wear women's underwear. "I do have some respect for myself," he pointed out.


Rocky Horror unfolds in the castle of the pansexual Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), on a night that can only be described as dark and stormy. When their car breaks down, Brad and Janet (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) turn to the good doctor for help. Anyone who's ever seen a B-movie could predict that they get more than a tune-up.


Rocky Horror began as a play in London -- low-budget, low-class, but popular with an avant-garde crowd. Producer Lou Adler transplanted the play, disastrously, to Broadway.


Adler's 1975 film did not do much better. Although it cost 20th Century Fox less than $1 million to make, Adler settled for obscure theaters and third-string showtimes. Gradually, through no fault of its own, Rocky Horror started taking on the proportions of a cult film. To date, it has grossed more than $150 million.


Whether it will develop a Russian following remains to be seen. Rocky Horror has always drawn a self-selecting audience, said Jeremy Holt, 23, an American student who brought his Russian girlfriend as an exercise in cultural assimilation.


"I told her she wouldn't like it," he said. "It's always been popular with -- I hate to use the word, but -- an artsy crowd." The two slipped out halfway through.