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Rocky Horror Fan Leaves Theater, Fifteen Years Later
© Edgar Harris

Dallas - During the late Seventies and early Eighties, the wealthy Dallas suburb of Highland Park was home to the Highland Park Village Theater, which until 1986 had hosted the longest continuous run of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the United States. That was the year that the owners shuttered the theater, where it remained empty until the early Nineties, when the AMC Theaters chain restored and reopened it. What most patrons of the new and improved Village didn't know was that one of the longtime Rocky Horror participants had fought a one-man war to return the famed cult film to the screens without once leaving the theater.

Jon Douglas East, 35, surrendered yesterday to police, acknowledging that his subtle campaign of terror to force a return of Rocky Horror to the Village was perhaps a bit too subtle. East had remained in the Village since the last midnight showing in 1986, leaving the air ducts and restroom stalls in the theater only to get food and make harassing phone calls to local authorities.

"He was all set up in there," said Highland Park Deputy Jim Highcastle. "East started out with a backpack full of beef jerky, a couple of paperback books, a rock hammer, and a pack of matches, and he built himself a nice little nest in the air ducts. He figured that he'd be protesting for a week or so, and had no idea that the original owners were planning to sell it out. He was just lucky that the Village was declared a landmark, or he would have been blown up with it fifteen years ago."

For the first few years, East had it rough, drinking from leaking fire sprinklers and feeding on rats and the occasional escaped Highland Park poodle ("which in Highland Park is pretty much the same thing," said Highcastle) and sleeping in ventilation ducts to evade the occasional security guard checking on the property. Then in 1991, when the AMC chain bought the theater with intent to restore it, East realized that the show might start again, but only if employees and management of the new theater never saw him.

AMC Village manager David Golgotha was very familiar with East's attempts to resurrect the audience participation crowds of his youth. "We'd come in and find 'BRING BACK ROCKY HORROR' spelled out in rat bones in the lobby, and someone TPed the main screen something fierce back about two years ago, but we didn't know he was living there. We'd find ropes braided out of human hair hanging from the ceiling fans, but we just figured that a patron had dropped them. I mean, this is Highland Park. The place is full of rich perverts."

Aside from sneaking views of films from the ventilation ducts ("Jurassic Park was one of the worst pieces of garbage I've ever seen," East said in a prepared statement), East was completely isolated from the rest of the world. His new food supply was candy and popcorn rustled from the storage rooms after management closed for the night, but he had no source of news other than conversations of theatergoers, and had no idea that so much time had elapsed. Finally, after having to listen to the screams from the main theater's showing of Hannibal for "way too long", East surrendered to authorities, who were as shocked by his appearance as he was by seeing the neighborhood by daylight for the first time in nearly two decades.

At one point, East had considered violence to get his message across. "Most people don't know that the flavoring for 'golden flavored popcorn' can be mixed with restroom air freshener to make a very effective substitute for napalm," said Highcastle. "He had a stockpile for years, and we're just glad he didn't see the need to use it."

"I'm sorry that I didn't come out and say hello to anyone for all of this time," East said at a press conference before his arraignment on charges of trespassing and squatting. "After all of this, I'm going to go home, take a shower, and get on with my life. I understand that Rocky Horror is now on cable all of the time, so I'll just go over to the Northwood Hills Four and get involved with the audience participation crowd for Dawn of the Dead out there." When informed that the theater had stopped running Dawn of the Dead in 1986 before going out of business in 1989, East broke down and wept.

Rocky Horror creator Richard O'Brien, when contacted about the incident, simply sighed and said "Bloody shame, it is. I could have used him to restore my castle out here in England. It's always a shame when people refuse to let loose of the past. He could have just spent his life watching the movie on VH1 like everyone else."

Edgar Harris is the former Sports Editor for "Science Fiction Age". An archive of his previous material is available at http://www.hpoo.com/harris.

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