At 11 a.m. on the dot, I dialed the number for Barry Bostwick, the actor who is perhaps best known for his roles as Brad Majors in “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and Mayor Randall Winston in television’s “Spin City.”
My punctuality is the first thing he mentioned.
“My clock just turned 11,” he laughed.
I told him that being on time is my thing, explaining how I despise being late and I reeeeeally dislike it when others are late. Ironically, I told him, I am engaged to a man who is never on time.
After a huge roar of laughter, Bostwick, who has been married twice, said that that will eventually drive me crazy. But he quickly changed his tune.
“You will compromise somewhere in the middle … and this will be the thing you joke about 25 years from now,” he assured me.
I called Bostwick not for relationship advice, but to discuss his upcoming visit to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, when he, a shadow cast (a group of actors on stage acting out the movie in time with the film) and an audience sure to be clad in corsets, lab coats and gold top hats will join forces for some pre-Halloween fun during a showing of RHPS followed by a Q&A with Bostwick.
I had wondered if Bostwick had heard of “The Rocky Horror Show” (the “Picture” came later) before being cast in RHPS, because if he hadn’t, that must have been one hell of a pitch from his agent. In my head it would have gone like this: “A young, innocent couple comes across a transvestite mad scientist/alien who creates a blond, spandex-wearing stud muffin, kills a biker, seduces the couple, serves mystery meat for dinner and, in a rather Shakespearean-like denouement, ends up dead. Oh ... and it’s a musical!”
But Bostwick had heard of it, even admitting to being a “big fan” of the campy British musical before he and Susan Sarandon watched a stage version of it in L.A.
“Tim Curry (Dr. Frank-N-Furter on stage and the movie) was a light force … you wanted to work with him, he just made it so much fun,” Bostwick said. “When they offered it (the film) to Susan and me, we didn’t have to audition. They were looking for an innocent, young American couple. She had that innocence still. You could believe her.
“I was cast because, basically, I am Brad Majors,” he laughed. “I’ve always played a version of Brad — even as Danny Zuko (in the original Broadway musical version of ‘Grease’). I played him as a nerdy guy who was the head of his gang but very sweet — a big poser. I love playing these oddball leaders. Whether George Washington (in a television miniseries) — he had some Brad in him or else we would not have won the war. That stick-to-it-ness to protect. Brad was there to protect. And he was confused. I’m sure George Washington was confused at times, too.”
Though he has had numerous stage and screen roles during his Tony- and Golden Globe-winning career, Bostwick is certain that it will be his role as Brad in RHPS that he will be remembered for.
“Unless another part comes along that overshadows, I will be remembered for Brad Majors,” he stated appreciatively. “I will be proud of it, my wife will be embarrassed and my kids will just live with it.”
Bostwick marvels that this movie is still around and is just as popular 45 years later. Though on the surface the movie is all sex, drugs and rock and roll, Bostwick considered it a “social movement,” complete with a message that may or may not have been intended.
“It makes you question your life, your sexuality, your friends, who’s in control … and teaches you how to be tolerant of the differences between us all — all those things that have come out of it,” he said. “When I say to an audience that it’s ultimately about sex, drugs and rock and roll, they go crazy — because that’s why they’re there. If anything else leaks through into their subconscious, it’s a bonus.”
Join the cult
At its core, RHPS is about the loss of innocence, which is why Bostwick believes that it resonates so much with audiences still because everyone has had experience with that. But it’s the full-blown immersiveness that occurs during a screening of RHPS that is, in Bostwick’s opinion, “the ultimate reason” for its decades-long cult following.
“People become the film — they ARE the film. It was stolen from us by the audiences around the world who decided they wouldn’t let us have it anymore,” he said. “They don’t look at the film as a piece of film. It’s something that prompts them to be something other than they are. And it prompts a party. It’s like having a rock and roll band playing the background while you’re making out with your girlfriend in the corner. We’re the tone in a great, tuneful environment that is being created by those in the audience. It’s become an experience rather than a movie.
“And it’s a finely crafted film. Yes, it’s a reflection of the time it was made (1975) and of what was going on culturally around the world. It’s definitely something of its time, yet it’s timeless.”
Fast-forward 45 years and Bostwick claims he could not be prouder of being part of RHPS — or of the RHPS live tour. Just don’t call it a “tour.” It’s more of “one-offs,” according to Bostwick, or “where should it land next?”
He and the film recently made a stop in Tampa. Atlantic City, he affirms, will have something that Tampa did not — a shadow cast.
“I love the theatricality of (the shadow cast), their energy, their weirdness, their wonderful-ness, the half-dressed women — that’s what I look forward to,” he laughed again. “There will be all the props and lighting and sound effects. It’s phenomenal. Atlantic City will get the best of the best in terms of the experience. It’s just a big party and we set up the parameters and the only thing we don’t do is sell grass and liquor. They have to do that on their own.”