Sal Piro, a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” role-paying superfan and subject of an upcoming biopic, has died. He was 71.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club, which Piro founded in 1977, announced his death in a tweet on Sunday. They did not give a cause.
“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 club’s statement read. “Sal was the defacto face of Rocky Horror fandom for decades. He will be sorely missed.”
Piro served as the club’s president until his death. As an early fan of the 1975 film, Piro joined many other young fans in shouting funny comments during the movie’s midnight screenings in New York City, which became a regular occurrence at the former Waverly Theater — now the IFC Center — in Greenwich Village.
He helped develop a floor show for audience members to play out the cult classic beneath the big screen.
“We all lived for Friday and Saturday nights,” Piro wrote in his 1990 memoir, “Creatures of the Night.”
“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. 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,” he continued.
Piro added in his memoir that he and his friend, musical director Marc Shaiman, would sit next to each other the next 75 times Piro went to see the movie, contributing “ad-lib lines that became part of the whole spectacular ‘happening.’”
Shaiman, who became the musical composer of “Hairspray,” remembered Piro in a lengthy tribute on Instagram.
“We didn’t know what we were giving birth to, we were just having a great time and being creative in the most freeing way,” he wrote. “Writing the perfect lines to go in-between the film’s dialogue, creating props, just having FUN, it was a total joyfest.
“Over the next year or so I went to probably 70 or so showings of the movie, but for Sal, it ended up being his life’s work and passion. He became President of the fan club and spent the next 40-plus years or so being the Guru of Rocky Horror to millions of fans,” Shaiman added.
In 1981, Piro had a small role in the “Rocky Horror” sequel “Shock Treatment.” He also starred as himself in a 1980 episode of the TV Series “Fame.”
Screenwriter Mark Loughlin is currently in the early stages of turning Piro’s memoir into a movie.
It is expected to take place around 1976 and follow Piro and his friend, Dori Hartley, who was the first person to dress up in costume as Frank N Furter.