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Rocky Horror Celebrates 35 Years Of Midnight Screenings

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010, at 09:51AM
Barry Bostwick

Barry Bostwick

There will be a light over at the Million Dollar Theater when an international fan base assembles for a celluloid jam: the 35th Anniversary Screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Overseeing the madness is the man who made a bespectacled Brad Majors an icon for . . .well.

“There is something about being called names for an hour-and-a-half,” jokes Barry Bostwick, who played Brad Majors in the 1975 rock musical motion picture.

Still, Bostwick is looking forward to being the guest of honor for the Saturday night screening at the Million Dollar Theater, the centerpiece event for the 35th Anniversary Convention of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The three-day convention is hosted by Sins O’ The Flesh, the Los Angeles caretakers of the Rocky cult, and The Los Angeles Conservancy, who helped arrange the film to be screened at the historic movie palace.

Bostwick will hold court for a 4pm tribute to him, followed by a Q & A, then oversee a 10pm pre-show contest. At 11pm the film will roll and the orchestrated madness begins, with Brad Majors literally mocked as soon as the credits roll.

For those in the darkness, the “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a pop cultural phenomenon that has audience members bring props and shout at the screen as a unified chorus. Seasoned audience members who have mastered characters perform in costume, taking cues from the film.

As for Bostwick, he took on two completely different characters during a pivotal point in musical history. While “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was first finding its balance on high-heeled stage legs during its original 1973 run in London’s West End, Bostwick was originating the role of Danny Zuko in “Grease” on Broadway.

“Yes, rock and roll was being used to explore the past to get to the future,” said Bostwick by phone. “Grease delved into the 50’s. Rocky Horror was an homage to 50’s science fiction films.”

“Still, I do think Rocky Horror is very much in the present,” Bostwick added. “Some want to credit Rocky Horror for the punk look.” Rocky Horror’s visual and musical style goes beyond 1970s rock glam. With the fashion mix of leather corsets, spiked heels, and sinister sexuality, it could also be considered a predecessor to a number of styles. A stage revival of “Rocky Horror Show” would not look out of place if costumed in goth or steam-punk sub-cultures.

As for the low-tech special effects, they were equally an homage to B-movies as much as a requirement due the film’s low budget. “That laser beam EFX. Yes, we spared no expense,’ says Bostwick.

Yet, budget is what may have saved Rocky Horror from a fate that afflicted other early rock musicals, such as “The Wiz” or “Grease,” that were adapted to accommodate star power.

“Mick Jagger was one of the stars being consider for the role of Frank-N-Furter,” recalls Bostwick. “It would have been shame to not have Tim’s [Curry] performance on film.” In 1973, Curry updated the role of the fishnet-wearing Dr. Frank-N-Furter in London, adding high heels to the costume. Then when rock producer Lou Adler saw the production in London, he moved it to his Roxy Theater on the Sunset Strip in 1974. There, Curry reprised his role and rock star Meat Loaf joined the cast as Eddie, while Adler sought financing to make Rocky Horror a movie. In 1975, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was released, and in 1976 the film was redistributed for the midnight movie circuit. In 1977, fans at the Waverly Theater in New York’s Greenwich Village began the audience participation.

“I love the film. Now it is like a cherished antique, passed down to another generation,” says Bostwick. He wryly adds how parents may reminisce with grown children about the days they went out on dates to a film with Susan Saradon singing “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.” He suggests the sentiment as: “Look there, that’s where you were conceived in 1977, in the back of the Waverly.”

Bostwick doesn’t shy away from the Rocky Horror legacy. In a 2005 episode of CBS’ “Cold Case” titled “Creatures of the Night,” he played a serial killer linked to the 1977 murder of a young doorman working at a theater playing the cult classic. “It was a brilliant weave of storyline with the soundtrack,” says Boswick. “It went beyond stunt casting.”

During Comic-Con earlier this year, it was revealed that “Glee” will have their own tribute to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Bostwick and rocker Meat Loaf will appear on the episode. “I can’t say much,” says Bostwick about the characters he and Meat Loaf will play managers of a TV station. Still, he hinted that the two managers will not approve of the “morals” coming from the music of Rocky Horror.

The ability to play irony with humor also runs through Bostwick’s career, including his stint on “Spin City” as New York City Mayor Randall Winston. Countering his own physical timing and delivery with his deputy mayor, played by Micheal J. Fox, he played incompetency in civic leadership as a disguise for political savvy.

Bostwick’s prolific career continues. In the last two years, he’s had roles in “Miss Nobody,” “Bedrooms,” and “The Selling,” as well as TV shows “‘Til Death” and “Cougar Town.” This past Spring, he was seen in “Hannah Montana: The Movie” with Miley Cyrus. In 2010, Bostwick will appear in “Some Guy Who Kills People” and in “Moby Dick” as Captain Ahab.

As for Rocky Horror performers, he admires the fans who act out the film in theaters around the country. “I think they have to be accurate. Don’t try out your own twist, or take attention away from the film, or add your signature,” says Bostwick with the earnest of Brad Majors. “It’s not easy to do with your back to the screen relying on sound cues.”

“I do these appearances for the love of the film . . . it’s all about the fans, “ say Bostwick laughing. “Or its about me being abused.”

35th Anniversary Rocky Horror Picture Show Screening is part of SinsCon / September 23 to 25 / Screening at the Million Dollar Theater, September 25 10pm.


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