Barry Bostwick performed two of the most iconic characters of the 1970s — the original Danny Zuko in “Grease” on Broadway and as preppy Brad Majors in the midnight movie phenomenon, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which have been part of pop culture ever since.
That’s why he enjoys interacting with three generations of fans at Wizard World Comic Con and other conventions across the country. The fifth annual Wizard World Comic Con will be in St. Louis this weekend, bringing together thousands of fans. The popular comic con features stars from movies, TV and music, plus collectibles, comics, cosplay, video game tournaments, celebrity Q&A panels, comic artists and live entertainment.
This year Wizard World, which produces pop culture events nationwide, is expanding its offerings and will present a screening of the 1975 cult classic musical “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at 7 p.m. Saturday, on the main show floor at America’s Center. The local shadow cast group Samurai Electricians will host the event. Tickets are available in advance for $15 at www.wizardworld.com.
Bostwick starred as the hero opposite Susan Sarandon as his girlfriend Janet Weiss. After their car has a flat tire, they trek to the nearest home in search of a phone, arriving at the residence of Dr. Frank N Furter (Tim Curry), an eccentric transvestite scientist. Once inside, they meet wild characters, including butler Riff Raff (show creator Richard O’Brien) and biker Eddie (Meat Loaf).
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“It’s fun to bring it back. You have three generations of fans now — the grandparents who saw the show at midnight screenings, their kids who slipped out of the house to see it when they were in high school, and now their children, who might have seen it on DVD or TV. It’s so accessible now,” Bostwick said.
But he is not about to live only in the past. The Tony and Golden Globe Award winner has created a lengthy body of work in film, TV and on stage during the past five decades. In fact, at 72, he just might be busier than ever.
During a phone interview from Vancouver, British Columbia, Bostwick said he was filming an episode of “A Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” for Bravo.
“Things are going well. I continue to get cast, thank God. I’m in ‘Bigger Fatter Liar,’ which is a sequel, and that’s on video. I filmed a half-hour show on CMT called ‘Still the King,’” he said.
Unfortunately, because of a scheduling conflict, he had to cancel attending Wizard World’s centerpiece “Rocky Horror” extravaganza, but through the magic of technology, he will say something to the crowd.
“It is a celebration, and I wish I could be there. I will be there in spirit. They are Skyping me into the evening screening. There are surprises, and it’s really fun. I hear the Samurai Electricians are good,” he said.
Bostwick said he will be filming a documentary for PBS’ “Great Performances” instead. It’s called ‘Coming to America,’ and is from a symphonic piece about Ellis Island. He was on the cast album as an Irish immigrant, and has been asked to recreate his role.
“Rocky Horror” has been screened regularly since its September 1975 release. Its midnight showings were known for audiences arriving in full costume and playing out the scenes.
“At the time, people were nostalgic for ’50s-’60s B movies, and it was tongue-in-cheek. It was a fun rock ‘n’ roll concert, too. It was a reflection of the glitter rock scene in New York and Los Angeles. It was pre-punk, and came out at the right time. It had political and social overtones of the moment,” Bostwick said.
Saturday’s event will include a display of items from the movie, such as original costumes and their designs, handwritten song lyrics, scripts, contracts and behind-the-scene photos, all from the collection of Larry Viezel, a noted Rocky Horror super-fan, historian and collector.
“Wizard World is excited to bring this all-time cult favorite to our fans in St. Louis,” said John D. Maatta, president and CEO of Wizard World, Inc. “It exemplifies the additional emphasis we are placing on programming and extra activities at our shows to enhance the entertainment value for attendees throughout the weekend.”
Lou Adler, executive producer of the film, described it as a unique opportunity, “It’s a perfect match for both,” he said.
We got to do it as close to the original as possible. We just worked hard, and we had a lot of high energy. It was like doing an off off-Broadway show. We had a lot of people just starting their careers. Everybody is really proud of it.
Barry Bostwick on “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
Bostwick recalled seeing the 1973 stage version first, Richard O’Brien’s “The Rocky Horror Show.”
Cast as Brad, he said the movie shoot was filled with anxiety because 20th Century Fox initially did not have much faith in the film’s commercial viability.
“It was very difficult. It was such a low-budget movie. 20th Century Fox wanted to pull the plug on it. It was over budget by a quarter of a million dollars, which was a lot of money in those days. They did not have a lot of confidence in it,” Bostwick said.
But the cast bonded anyway. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“We got to do it as close to the original as possible. We just worked hard and we had a lot of high energy. It was like doing an off off-Broadway show. We had a lot of people just starting their careers. Everybody is really proud of it,” he said.
He is grateful for the film’s impact on people, citing a new documentary, “Rocky Horror Saved My Life,” which recounts people finding friends and learning it was OK to be different.
“It made a lot of people, who might be considered a little different, happy. It allowed people to be themselves. People who were a bit awkward socially took it to heart, and found a family,” he said. “Rocky Horror really saved a lot of lives. It opened a dialogue and built families, and that’s amazing. That’s very meaningful.”
And yes, he still gets his famous line, “Dammit, Janet!” shouted at him.
“Oh, all the time,” he said.
Bostwick grew up in San Mateo, Calif., and currently lives in a rural area of Malibu with his wife Sherri. They have been married for 23 years and have three children.
At an early age, he enjoyed singing, dancing and acting. “I started out as a musical theater geek, creating oddball characters,” he said.
He earned an master’s in acting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for “The Robber Bridegroom” 1977, his third nomination.
Cast as Danny Zuko in “Grease” in 1971, he nabbed his first Tony nomination as the charismatic high school greaser who falls for the ‘good girl’ in a tale of ’50s teenage romance and friendship.
Bostwick is also known for six seasons as the bumbling mayor in “Spin City,” co-starring with Michael J. Fox, from 1996 to 2002. He has been on numerous TV shows, including four seasons of “Cougar Town” and as the president’s father on “Scandal.”
One of his favorite movies is “Movie Movie,” which was filmed as an old-time double feature, spoofed three genres, and starred George C. Scott. The Writers Guild of America awarded screenwriters Larry Gelbart and Sheldon Keller “Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen” in 1979.
Because of his voice work on the popular animated series “Phineas and Ferb” as Grandpa Clyde Flynn, children recognize his voice while he’s chatting with their parents at Wizard World. Or they might recognize him from “101 Dalmatians 2.” He also reads storybooks to youngsters during the event.
He stressed that Wizard World is suitable for families. Children 10 and under are admitted free.
“It’s all encompassing. It’s set up to involve whole families,” he said.
Celebrities appearing at Wizard World Comic Con St. Louis include James Marsters, who played Spike on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”; Gene Simmons, lead singer of Kiss; Ian Somerhalder, star of “The Vampire Diaries” and first season of “Lost”; Jennifer Carpenter and Christian Camargo of “Dexter”; St. Louisan Sean Gunn of “Guardians of the Galaxy”; Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz of “The Monkees”; Loren Lester and Kevin Conroy of “Batman: The Animated Series”; St. Louis native Evan Peters of “American Horror Story” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”; and Nichelle Nichols of “Star Trek” the original TV series.
Want to go?
- What: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
- When: 7 p.m., Saturday
- Where: Main Show Floor, Wizard World Comic Con, America’s Center, St. Louis
- Tickets: $15 in advance at www.wizardworld.com
At a glance
- What: Wizard World Comic Con
- Where: America’s Center, St. Louis
- Show Hours: 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 7; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 8; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 9
- Details: www.wizardworld.com