Megan Tabor has been involved in showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show for over 25 years. Since moving to Las Vegas in the 1980s, she's performed with various casts at venues as diverse as the defunct Café Copioh, gay nightclub Flex, an anonymous storefront on east Sahara and the current home of her Rocky Horror troupe Divine Decadence, the Tropicana Cinemas. Since settling into the discount theater at Tropicana and Pecos, Divine Decadence's biweekly performances have grown to draw between 75 and 130 people, and their cast has over 55 members.
The weeks that Divine Decadence doesn't perform at the Tropicana, another Rocky Horror cast, Frankie's Favorite Obsession, led by former Divine Decadence cast members Katie Greene and Steve VanMeter, takes over. As is often the case with artistic people who perform for free, the two groups split on less than amicable terms when Greene and VanMeter were ousted from the Divine Decadence cast around four years ago. Since then, the casts haven't exactly been friendly. The larger Divine Decadence cast is the more well-known and successful group, and Tabor is quick to deride FFO for their celebrations of Greene and VanMeter's egos, and their extensive cast rules. "It's like the Nazi Horror Picture Show," she says.
All of this would be little more than behind-the-scenes gossip if it weren't for an e-mail that was sent out to a number of Divine Decadence sponsors, as well as the County Commission and the police department, on September 19. In it, a concerned Rocky Horror patron named Gary Shelton complains that he saw incidents of "underage drinking, drug use, and lude [sic] behavior between adults and obvious children" at a Divine Decadence performance, and goes on to say that he is "very worried about the very real threat of abduction, child porn, or even rape."
Tabor found out about the e-mail from Divine Decadence sponsor Crown Electric Tattoo Company, and promptly set about investigating what she saw as the most likely source of the complaint: Steve VanMeter. "Over the past years, he's written e-mails that use the same terms and use the same sort of language, the same buzzwords," Tabor says. "On the Rocky Horror news groups, he's always using the word 'pedophile' about my husband." Her husband Joe is co-director of the Divine Decadence company, and the target of the e-mail's harshest accusations.
According to Tabor, she and her cohorts discovered an IP address attached to Gary Shelton e-mail that matched VanMeter's, and confronted Shelton over instant message. He denied being associated with any former cast members, and refused to speak with them further. Although Shelton declined to be interviewed either in person or over the phone, he told the Weekly via e-mail that he is a 41-year-old casino worker who attended Rocky Horror performances in New York in the '80s and '90s. "I am not a prude, nor am I a pedophile," he says. "I do not want the show to go away, I just want to get rid of the smut that is going on."
To that end, Shelton is pleased that the Tropicana Cinemas immediately implemented a policy of only admitting those 18 and over to Rocky Horror performances as soon as Shelton's complaint was brought to their attention. Tabor is resigned to the policy for now, although she's disappointed it had to come about. "We do feel sad for the 16- and 17-year-olds that were our regulars," she says, and notes that at the first Saturday show after the policy was implemented, before which there was no time to amend advertising, the theater turned away between 35 and 45 people who were now too young to get into the show.
As for VanMeter, who did not respond to requests for comment, he and Tabor have mended fences, at least for now. After the initial confusion following Shelton's complaint, the two casts sat down together and buried the hatchet, according to Tabor. She's decided not to act on her suspicions of sabotage, although she still thinks VanMeter was involved in some way. "I do believe it," she says, "but I'm letting it go."
Things appear to have died down, and the origin of the complaint may remain shrouded in mystery. A pair of investigators from the Clark County Business License Department, alerted by Shelton's complaint, came down to the September 23 show but didn't find anything amiss. Tabor found them friendly and easy to talk to, and they told her exactly what could and could not be done in the show. Total nudity (which has never occurred) was out, but if someone happened to unexpectedly flash a breast during a costume contest, that was out of the cast's control and couldn't be considered their fault.
Tropicana Cinemas General Manager Chris Slayter stands by both Rocky Horror casts, and has no plans to cancel the shows. "There's never been any truth to any of the things that were said," he says. "We think [Rocky Horror] is an important part of this city and this theater and plan to support it for a long time to come." With the theater behind her, Tabor doesn't seem too concerned, either. "Of course it's all sexual," she laughs, "but it's nothing indecent."