Science fiction double feature

Jessica Friesen and Rob Vanatta

Photo By Larry Dalton

For 26 years, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has brought people together to dance the Time Warp in the aisles of theaters nationwide. Like a fine (albeit kinky) wine, the RHPS scene seems to get better with age. After five years of performances at Birdcage Cinemas in Citrus Heights, Sacramento’s own RHPS cast, Under Sedation, is more popular than ever. The message board on their Web site,, garnered over 300 posts in its first week. Monthly theme nights, performances at Faces, wrestling contests and a weekly on-line pre-show are only some of the features that account for their success. Cast members Jessica Friesen and Rob Vanatta explain the staying power of the Transylvanian sensation.

Who are your regular characters?

Rob: We’re the ones who play everything. I play Riff Raff a lot. He’s my guy. The part I always end up doing is the MC guy. I greet everyone as they come in and get everyone to participate. That’s what I really enjoy doing.

Jessica: My main role is Magenta, though I do Columbia and I also MC. I play a Transylvanian quite a bit. That’s when there’s a line of us and we do little dances in the background. We try to keep things spunky.

How many original cast members do you have?

Jessica: We have four cast members from Absent Friends [the Sacramento cast before Under Sedation].

Do you phase out members like Menudo?

Rob: Not by choice! A lot of people do it for a long time and they get burned out. It’s like, “Every Saturday night! I’ve gotta go find a life.” They’ll be gone for six months, but they always come back!

Jessica: Guilty! I’ve done that twice.

How did you lose your Rocky virginity?

Rob: I was scared to go, because I heard they did horrible things to you the first time you went. … The whole “losing your Rocky virginity thing” was not that bad, though. They put whipped cream in everybody’s mouth, and a cherry. Then a cast member “pops your cherry” by taking the cherry out of your mouth.

Jessica: I lost my virginity to Absent Friends. I escaped de-virginization for two weeks. The third week, a friend of mine on the cast ratted me out. I was dubbed “The Favorite Virgin” for the night. They had this thing called the Reaminator, which was a dildo on a power drill. We had to stroke it to the song, “Stroke.” I did my piece and, as I was turning to leave … [a cast member] poked it up my rear end! I jumped five feet in the air!

What does Under Sedation do to its virgins?

Jessica: There’s something called “make a wish.” Two people hoist a person up and spread their legs, and someone comes running down the aisle—usually whoever plays Frank-n-Furter—and pretends to have sex with them. It’s good if you have someone who’s into it, because then they play along. For the ones who aren’t so eager …

Rob: Or legal!

Jessica: … we put them through the Virgin Oath. They raise their right hand, put their left hand over their crotch and say, “I’m a virgin, proud and true. Pop my cherry ’til it’s blue. If I should come before the end, only to Frankie will I bend.” They have to yell it. We’re very strict on that.

Where do you get your lingerie?

Jessica: The best deal for fishnets is definitely Wishing Well. You can’t beat two-dollar pantyhose.

How many times have you seen the movie?

Jessica: Oh goodness! Over 500.

Rob: I’m going to be a little more conservative and say 200, 250.

Do you know all the lines?

Rob: I know the lines of the movie, the lines they yell back, everything. It’s challenging to keep it fresh. We have theme nights once a month. The last one was Mardi Gras. We wore masks and beads and acted like drunken sorority chicks. On January 20, we’re doing “Transylvanian Survivor.”

Jessica: On February 3, it’s my birthday. I have an addiction to karaoke and I’ve dragged Rob: in, too. We’re doing a karaoke show. We’re turning off the sound and we’re going to be singing and saying all the lines ourselves.

Do the audience’s lines change?

Jessica: All the time. Especially recently. For example, in [the song] “Toucha Toucha Toucha Touch Me” you yell, “What about Gore?” and the line in the song is, “Couldn’t win.”

Rob: My favorite one that I came up with recently is when Brad and Janet first come to the castle and Riff greets them. He says, “Hello” and you yell, “Describe Whitney Houston!” right before Brad says, “Hi!”

Jessica: Another is when Riff opens the door, everyone yells, “Whasssuuuppp?”

What do you think is the appeal of the RHPS?

Jessica: It allows you to escape into this fantasy world. For a night, be somebody else.

Rob: Like they say in the movie, “Don’t dream it. Be it!” Nobody has any preconceived notions. Everybody who goes to Rocky is a freak, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Jessica: We’re all different, and it’s the best place to come together and be one group.

Rob: Everybody Time Warps!