Sal Piro, ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ Cult Pioneer, Dies at 71

Piro’s book “Creatures of the Night” is in the early stages of a film adaptation

Sal Piro, who stoked audience participation routines for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and extended its popularity as a cult classic, died at his home in New York City on Jan 21. He was 71.

The Rocky Horror fanclub Twitter account posted a statement announcing Piro’s death Sunday.

“With profound sorrow we pass on the news that Sal Piro, founder and long time president of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club, has passed away,” the statement reads. “Sal was the defacto face of Rocky Horror fandom for decades. He will be sorely missed.”

The Tim Curry- and Susan Sarandon-starring “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” released in 1975 to terrible reviews. But young fans flocked to the midnight movie screenings at New York City’s Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village. Piro shouted funny responses to the film’s dialgogue, which grew into a floor show of audience members acting the movie out beneath the screen.

In his 1990 memoir “Creatures of the Night,” Piro described the cultivation of the tradition that grew out of his own vocal engagement with the film. 

“We all lived for Friday and Saturday nights,” Piro wrote. “We met at 8 p.m. to make sure that we would be first in line and so get our regular seats. The atmosphere outside the theater was as electric as it was inside,” he wrote. “We sang songs, we Time Warped (Once we stopped traffic on Sixth Avenue while we were dancing), we traded questions … All of us shared this devotion to the film as we gathered outside in eager anticipation of midnight.”

“Creatures of the Night” is in early stages of development for screen adaptation under producers Adam Schroeder (“Clueless,” “First Wives Club”), Lou Adler (the original “Rocky Horror Picture Show”) and Jill Mazursky (“David Crosby,” “Remember My Name”). Mark Loughlin is writing the screenplay, based on Piro’s book, and the film is expected to be set around 1976 and to center around Piro and his friend Dori Hartley.