By 1978 The Rocky Horror Picture Show was booming on the midnight movie circuit around the country. The single-screen theater at Metairie's Sena Mall, now the site of a Martin Wine Cellar on Veterans Highway, was the local spot for popular midnight screenings of the film. (The Gentilly Orleans theater hosted Rocky before it burned down in 1978.)
Deborah Lipps, who moved to Jacksonville Beach, Fla. after losing her home following Hurricane Katrina, first saw Rocky in 1978 and soon after started playing Janet in the Sena Mall's shadow cast. Immediately the cast's Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Larry von Ritzmann, caught her eye.
"Larry was performing Frank-N-Furter and I said, 'I'm going to marry that man.'"
A year later, she did. They would go on to have three kids, all of them "raised in Rocky."
They were married 15 years before von Ritzmann died in 1995. When their son was born, the blonde baby bore a resemblance to the character of Rocky, so Lipps fashioned him some gold lame bottoms and booties and held him up at a screening, to audience cheers.
Lipps says the screenings, held at midnight every weekend, could draw up to 500 people a night. Tickets were $3.50. At one screening, a man called "Cowboy" who would help out with security, rode his motorcycle through the theater when the biker character, Eddie, did the same on screen.
Lipps also says the cast developed "groupies," and it was common to be approached in Lakeside Mall for autographs.
"It was magic. If you went to the show, you were accepted by everyone — no judgment," she says. "If you were a teen growing up awkward, it was a great place to be because you had 500 friends every weekend." — LAUREN LABORDE