He may not look much like the hapless Rocky Horror hero Brad Majors anymore, but that doesn’t mean Barry Bostwick hasn’t aged well. Truly, the silver-haired 69-year-old has the sort of distinguished good looks that keep an actor booked solid—even in fickle Hollywood—well into his seventh decade of living.
And so it is that Bostwick, unlike so many one-note guests at the average celebrity convention (think Adam West, or that guy who played R2D2), is apt to meet admirers and autographs seekers with a special interest in any number of roles throughout his long, diverse career.
Since 2000 alone, Bostwick has enjoyed long-running or recurring parts in popular TV series like Scandal, Cougar Town, Law and Order: SVU, and Spin City, and his movie career is too extensive to recount. He’s also a successful stage actor, a Tony Award winner, and the original Danny Zuko in the Broadway production of Grease—the model for John Travolta’s and every high school and community theater actor’s Zuko iteration in the decades hence.
“I get recognized for other roles all the time,” says Bostwick, a genial fellow with an easy sense of humor. “It keeps me current as to what people are watching that I’ve done. I’ve got Spin City people; I’ve got sci-fi people who know me for Megaforce, this low-budget cult science-fiction movie I made. I have this secondary pile of photographs under my table at conventions, so when someone asks, I can say, ‘I just happen to have a picture of that.’
“The wall behind me is usually this checkerboard of oddball things, different movie posters. I’m never quite sure what to put up.”
Still, it is his role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show—the cult favorite that practically defined what it means to be a cult favorite in cinema—that made him a minor icon, and its enduring mutant appeal has kept Bostwick with one foot in the convention biz, despite a busy ongoing career. “I do a couple of these [conventions] a year,” he says. “One in Calgary that’s a really big one, more than 50,000. This one in Knoxville looks to be more manageable, which I think is more fun for everyone.
“Next year is the 40th anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so we’re getting ourselves in line for a few more of these shows. And I’m always astonished by how the crowds get younger and younger. I have 12-year-olds come up to me, and I’m like, ‘Do you know who I am?’ It’s like there’s this coming-of-ageness about that movie, where people want to share it with their children, or their grandchildren.”
Patient and eminently approachable, Bostwick comes off as a man who appreciates his status as both a workaday actor, taking what comes in the TV trenches; and an icon, the living symbol of an indelible character from a classic film, frozen in time. And as such, he takes some pleasure in hitting the convention circuit. “I like meeting the fans; I’ve never had a negative experience with Rocky Horror people,” he says. “There’s always an interesting goulash of conversation at these events.
“And it’s like a little mini-vacation from real life. You get to go stay in a nice hotel, get treated really well, make some money. And you get to see some interesting places.”
Having taken up pottery-making as an avocation, one of the little extras Bostwick has brought to past convention experiences is that he’s crafted and sold ceramic necklaces and other pottery pieces, inscribed with TRHPS catchphrases like “Asshole,” “Slut”, and “Don’t dream it, be it.”
“At one point, I offered fans signed tighty-whitey underwear. They’d buy it and get me to sign it, ‘Dammit ----, I love you!’ Some of them had it framed. I have a helluva good time at shows.”
It’s a little surprising, perhaps, that Bostwick seems to so relish conventioneering—this is a guy with multiple Tony nominations, after all, a stage actor of some accomplishment smiling at a booth between third-string zombies from The Walking Dead and aging ex-Starfleet commanders.
But Bostwick refuses to put on any Inside-the-Actors-Studio airs about The Theatah. Asked whether he has any misgivings about doing appearances at something as decidedly middle-brow as a celebrity con, he replies, “No, not at all. I make my living now in television, plus a few side movie projects. I’ll maybe do some theater when I have a chance, but I have a family. I have rent to pay, college-age kids. I’m a working actor. I’ll work on my soul in bits and pieces.”
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