''Rocky Horror'' Fan Made Merchandise

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DIY bootleg shirt circa 1977
Frank N Furter is alive and well and living in a nudist colony on an asteroid somewhere south of Transexual Transylvania DIY bootleg shirt & button circa 1978
Early bootleg t-shirt, circa 1979

The Rocky Horror Picture Show had enthusiastic fans dating back to its opening week in the US. Because there was no Officially Licensed Merchandise for ''The Rocky Horror Picture Show'' available in its first three and a half years, and the creative nature of Rocky Horror fans, a sub-culture of Do-It-Yourself and fan-made items popped up at regular showings of the film.

The first known Rocky Horror Fan Made Merchandise was a hand drawn Dr. Frank-N-Furter silk-screened sweat shirt in late 1975 made by two teens who saw the film at the UA Westwood opening weekend; Holly Field and Hilary Laddin.

As the cult grew, so did the desire to show off devotion to the film, and the best way was with a T-Shirt. There had been a genuine promotional shirt made and given out in very limited quantities, but few ended up on the chests of lasting fans. The original was an iron-on image matching the A Different Set of Jaws one-sheet and had the 20th Century Fox copyright. Because of the limitations (and expense) of production at the time, the first DIY t-shirts were illustrated and silk screened. These items were local in nature and initially sold on line before the movie in the same manner that bootleg shirts are sold outside of concerts. By 1978, various fan publications emerged like The Transylvanian, and suddenly variety of un-licensed shirts became nationally available via mail-order.

In the late '70s, t-shirts were not the only items made by creative fans. The most common items sold outside of theaters were home made badges and buttons created from press photos and various clippings. Alba Cordasco and Betty Rice, who were regulars at the Waverly Theater and the 8th Street Playhouse began making home made buttons in 1978 to help defray the expenses they incurred by going to Rocky Horror every weekend and sold the buttons while waiting in line. They eventually took their badges on the road and spread their product to countless theaters across the US, including presenting one to Tim Curry at the Roxy Theatre during his "Read My Lips" tour. Their A&B Creations became the first to license images from the movie and they made the cross-over from bootlegging to legitimate, licensed manufacturers of Rocky Horror merchandise. When the The Official Rocky Horror Picture Show Movie Novel in early 1980, the book became scarce as so many do-it-yourselfers were using it for source material for their renegade badges.

The demand for merchandise led to a variety of street-sold products. Trivia quizzes, fanzines and participation kits made of matches, rice and playing cards were sold by roving salespeople to the growing crowds, often with a flair for theatrics amping up the crowd and increasing their sales. The weekly mantra of "Rocky rice, 25, Rocky matches 10" was chanted along with street-vendor (known to the Tiffany Theater crowd as Stan) as enthusiastically as any callback in the upcoming screening. Other related merchandise began to emerge like posters and records, which were added to the hawked merchandise making the wait outside not unlike a walking swap-meet. By 1979, there were legitimately licensed items popping up, and the easiest way to find them was outside the midnight screening where the vendors brought The Rocky Horror Official Poster Magazine, national fanzines, baseball caps and other early merchandise.

The tradition born in the '70s continued throughout the history of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Although officially licensed merchandise became more common and continues to this day, countless hundreds of variations have emerged over the years. Casts often sell personalized items to help fund their Shadowcast, and of course there is over 40 years of shirts from the List of Conventions. Fan art sold as posters has become part of the culture, most famously by Epyon5. Because technology has evolved to printing shirts, badges, coffee mugs and other items an option for anyone with a computer, there's an endless array of fan made merchandise items available through a long list of DIY services.