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    Not the real coffin clock from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”

    I remember going to a movie theater in South Jersey soon after I moved to Philadelphia in the 1980s to see the cult film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with some friends. I had heard of the film but was not familiar with its storyline.

    We settled into our seats, the lights were lowered, and then the theater erupted into pandemonium. People started throwing stuff toward the screen (some of which landed on us), and acting and singing along with the movie. My friends and I were astounded at such craziness, and we left before the movie had hardly gotten started.

    Recently, I came face to face again with what was said to be a vestige of that movie. An auction house was purportedly selling the coffin clock from the film. At least that’s what a label on the lid of the coffin announced:

    "Rocky Horror Picture Show" coffin clock

    An up-close view of the purported “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” coffin clock at the recent local auction.

    “This is the original coffin used in the cult film ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.'”

    The auction house, though, hedged on its origins: “Possibly the Original Coffin/Clock Face Used in the Cult Film ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show'”

    Photos of the real coffin clock on the web looked nothing like the brown painted box on display at the auction house. A photo on the auction-house website showed a promo sheet that apparently accompanied the box. The sheet advertised a New York company called the Hollywood Memorabilia Collector that bought, sold and traded movie collectibles. A website for the company was no longer operable.

    Rocky Horror – based on a stage play – is a beloved movie that has drawn fans to midnight shows for the past four decades. It didn’t start out that way. When it premiered in 1975 with Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, it didn’t catch on across the country, but about a year later it became a phenomenon with fans who turned out in costumes, tossed props and sang along with the film.

    "Rocky Horror Picture Show" coffin clock

    The full exterior and interior of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” coffin clock at the local auction.

    The movie is still going strong around the world, and Fox is showing a two-hour TV specialRocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” next month.

    The coffin clock appeared in the “Time Warp” scene when Riff Raff opened it while singing “It’s astounding. Time is fleeting… .” That box was fancier – mahogany with an inlaid hourglass, skull and bones, laurels and a clock dial encircling the opening on the lid. Inside was a skeleton whose origin appears to be more myth than fact.

    The box at auction looked like a prop made for a local theater production, and was more folk art.

    The century-old Rocky Horror clock was owned by a London company that supplied props for the James Bond movies and others for decades. It had been purchased by the shop’s then-owner Ken Paul from a music hall escapologist (someone who escapes from restraints or traps), according to his daughter Christine who took over the business after he died.

    "Rocky Horror Picture Show" coffin clock

    “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” coffin clock that was sold at Sotheby’s London in 2002. Photo from timewarp.org.uk.

    “There’s a fascinating story about that,” Christine Paul said back in 2002 when the contents of the shop were put up for auction. “The skeleton is rumoured to be the remains of the young Italian lover and the secretary of the Countess of Rosslyn. After his death she couldn’t bear to be separated from him, so she immortalised him in the clock and took him everywhere with her.”

    The coffin clock was sold by Sotheby’s London office for 35,000 British pounds (around $618,000 in U.S. dollars back then) to an Italian collector. If someone paid that much money for it, I doubt that it would end up at a mom-and-pop auction in New Jersey.

    I wasn’t around when the coffin clock sold at auction, but I’m sure that someone bought it.

    "Rocky Horror Picture Show" coffin clock

    A label on the lid of the purported “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” coffin clock at the local auction.

     

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