Sal Piro, a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” cast-paying superfan and the 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 Sunday. They did not give a reason.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Sal Piro, founder and longtime president of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club,” the club said. 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. An early fan of the 1975 film, Piro joined many other young fans in shouting funny comments during the film’s midnight showings in New York City, which became a fixture at the former Waverly Theater—now the IFC Center—in Greenwich Village.
He helped develop a floor show for audiences to play the cult classic under the big screen.
“We all lived for Friday and Saturday nights,” Piro wrote in his 1990 memoir, “Creatures of the Night: The Rocky Horror Picture Show Experience.”
“We met at 8 p.m. to make sure we’d be first in line and get our regular seats. The atmosphere outside the theater was as electric as it was inside. We sang songs, we Time Warped (when we stopped traffic on Sixth Avenue as we danced), we traded questions … We all 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 for the next 75 times Piro went to see the film, contributing “ad-lib lines that became a 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 liberating way,” he wrote. “Writing the perfect lines to go in between the film’s dialogue, creating props, just having FUN, it was a total joy fest.
“Over the next year or so I went to about 70 screenings of the film, 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 years or so being the guru of Rocky Horror for millions of fans,” added Shaiman.
In 1981, Piro had a small role in the “Rocky Horror” sequel “Shock Treatment.” He also appeared as himself in a 1980 episode of the television series “Fame”.
Screenwriter Mark Loughlin is currently in the early stages of turning Piro’s memoir into a film.
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.