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Off Limits

It's not offered at any of your finer acting schools, and it certainly won't be found in the theater section of the New York Times, but performing along with the Rocky Horror Picture Show -- a tradition carried out at movie houses nationwide by cultish followers of the 1975 flick -- is a true art form. At least it is to someone at the Esquire Theater, at Sixth Avenue and Downing Street, where the movie and its accompanying drama have been on display every Saturday at midnight for the last eleven years.

But maybe not for much longer. In mid-March, while Bev Gerrish was in Pennsylvania attending the annual Rocky Horror convention, she and her troupe of twenty performers, Denver's Dynamic Tension, were fired by the Esquire after a five-year run and replaced by a new cast. The move was "an effort to improve attendance and to enhance our marketing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show," says David Kimball, the Denver city manager for the Landmark Theatres chain, which owns the Esquire. He cited declining attendance, a decrease in repeat business, a lack of respect for the theater's property, a high rate of turnover in the cast and "inconsistency in the quality of the performance."

Quality of performance? Since when was a volunteer cast of nuts who dress up in costume, yell out lines and throw rice, toilet paper, hot dogs and toast ever critiqued -- let alone fired -- because of the quality of their performance, Gerrish asks. She believes the real story is twofold, having to do with the ambitions of a rival troupe called Elusive Ingredient, headed by former members of Gerrish's cast, and the movie's waning popularity.

"They told me last June that if they couldn't double their money, they would cancel it and start showing other midnight shows, and that this is a very old movie that is still clanking along, that it has an audience but not the one it had ten years ago," she says. "I thought, okay, that's business."

But Gerrish also believes that some of her former cast members simply don't like her and lied about her to get her fired (a charge they deny). "This is the same old cast; it's just new leadership," says Anthony Gasich, who goes by the stage name of T.J. Hooker. Gasich, who moved to Denver from Los Angeles about five months ago, has performed in both casts and says a lot of people were afraid to challenge Bev, so they simply went around her. "It maybe wasn't the best way to go about it, but it was the only way it could have been done."

The scandal has inspired broken loyalties, hurt feelings, legal threats and a massive, nationwide argument on the Internet's largest Rocky Horror message board, alt.cult-movies.rocky-horror, between people who support Gerrish (the majority) and those who back up Elusive Ingredient. "It was three or four days of the most amazing frenzy you have ever seen," says Gerrish, who bought a computer just so she could get in on the chat.

Kimball admits that the situation is a sensitive one, and he has monitored the chatroom, even posting a couple of messages himself, but he says the real reason for the transition is -- like most things -- the bottom line. "The numbers have got to pick up, that's the thing," he says, adding that attendance had dropped to about 35 people per showing, much lower than the 100-person mark the theater is shooting for. "There has always been the possibility of cancellation, but we really wanted to save it. We wanted to try one more thing before we threw our hands up. So we just decided to try something a little different."

Kimball says the new group has promised to get the word out about the show in every way it can, including buying advertising and distributing fliers. Although he warns that the show could still be canceled at any time, the new cast is "really aggressive and trying to make this an event again." In fact, Elusive Ingredient, which debuted on Saturday, arrived in hearse limousines -- in the tradition of a Hollywood premiere -- and handed out bags full of props for the audience to throw.

But Gerrish and some of her cast members plan to find a new theater (which may be problematic since the movie is often licensed to only one theater in a city), and they're circulating their own flier, which reads in part: "On March 20, 2000, [we] received a letter stating that a new cast was being brought in for reasons that are vague and unjust. The theater never gave us the respect to work with us if there was a problem, let alone tell us of a problem. This new cast has no experience. We feel that this new cast undermined us and the theater helped them. At one time this new cast called themselves our friends. Please join us in boycotting Colorado's Elusive Ingredient and the Esquire."


Hopping mad

After taking in the

Rocky Horror Picture Show

on Saturday, many people will complete the weekend's entertainment by eating gobs of marshmallow bunnies, chocolate bunnies and even chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies. But Easter isn't so sugarcoated for some of our long-eared friends.

No, the Easter Bunny, or, more accurately, cute little baby rabbits purchased at pet stores and given as gifts on Easter, aren't so lucky. "Many of last year's 'Easter bunnies' are now in animal shelters, a testimony to many failures to successfully bring a rabbit into the family," reads a message from the Colorado chapter of the House Rabbit Society. "If left unspayed or unneutered they are likely to chew, spray or exhibit other generally unappreciated behaviors. Many end up neglected or abandoned. The result? Humane organizations see a huge increase in the number of abandoned rabbits" through the summer.

Instead, the society recommends that families adopt some of last year's bunnies -- now fully grown rabbits who have been neutered, socialized and litter-trained.

The society offers a poem in tribute to these bunnies, which includes these lines:

I remember Easter Sunday/It was colorful and fun/The new life that I'd begun/In my new cage.

Once a cute and cuddly bunny/Like a little ball of cotton/Now I'm grown up and forgotten/In my cage.

I don't know what went wrong/At the home I did inhabit/I just grew to be a rabbit/In my cage.

But they've brought me to the pound/I was once loved and enjoyed/Now I wait to be destroyed/In my cage.


Capitalist punishment

Psst, wanna buy a Web site? The domain name of www.columbinehighschool.com is for sale again after having been off the market briefly. For a mere $7,000, anyone can own this hot property in cyberspace by logging on to the site and contacting a Trotwood, Ohio, man named

Simon Kapenda

. Although he couldn't be reached for comment, Kapenda owns several Internet-related ventures and several other domain names, including www.columbinehighschool.net and

www.columbinehighschool.org

, according to a directory of domain names. All three were purchased after the massacre and at one time were bundled under the bargain rate of $15,000 for the lot.

If you have a tip, call Jonathan Shikes at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail jonathan.shikes@westword.com.


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