SF Sketchfest: The Rocky Horror Picture Show is still as good as it’s been for 45 years

Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Little Nell, Rocky Horror Picture Show

Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn, and Nell Campbell at Castro Theatre in San Francisco on Jan. 12, 2020. Onome Uyovbievbo/Staff.

SAN FRANCISCO — The night began with Barry Bostwick’s backside.

OK, that’s not completely true. The night at the Castro Theatre began with Trixxie Carr singing “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” the opening song to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” followed by San Francisco legend Peaches Christ, as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, singing “Sweet Transvestite” surrounded by dancers reenacting the corresponding scene from the movie.

If that seems weird we’ll get to why it’s not in a bit.

“John Waters and ‘Rocky Horror’ saved my life,” Peaches explained during her introduction. “‘Rocky Horror’ was my ‘It Gets Better’ video.”

The rousing, raucous standing ovation as the cast members were introduced for their pre-show discussion at SF Sketchfest’s tribute suggests she’s not alone. First came Patricia Quinn, who played Magenta, a domestic. Then came Nell Campbell—credited as Little Nell in the movie—who played Columbia, a groupie.

Then we got to Barry Bostwick.

Barry Bostwick, Rocky Horror Picture Show

Barry Bostwick at Castro Theatre in San Francisco on Jan. 12, 2020.

If you’ve never been to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror, a running joke is that Bostwick’s character Brad Majors (a hero) is an asshole. It’s shouted pretty frequently if the traditional rituals are followed. So for the movie’s 45th anniversary he decided to embrace it.

Bostwick came out in a silk robe and a dark brown wig. After leaning into his asshole reputation a bit he flipped up the back of the robe to show his briefs, which had “Asshole” written on them. There were also arrows pointing to, as you might expect, the thing.

“Let’s get one thing clear,” Bostwick said. “I’m really embarrassed right now.”

Once he dropped the act, as Peaches pointed out late in the conversation, it almost took on the character of Magenta and Columbia needling Brad. Quinn and Campbell cracked jokes at Bostwick’s expense, attempting to start rumors about his trysts with Tim Curry and Meat Loaf, as he got jokingly defensive and occasionally genuinely flustered.

All three were hilarious, and listing to all the great lines would turn into a transcript quickly. Bostwick, for example, revealed that the Transylvanians in the movie were stoned the whole time, which isn’t actually all that surprising if you think about it. He said that during the wedding scene as the car drives away, when there are kids running around, one of them shouted, “Hit the kid!” at the car.

The car did not hit the kid.

In response to a question about Susan Sarandon getting sick on set, Quinn sighed and rolled her eyes. She explained, “Susan did catch pneumonia and it’s the only thing we’ve heard about ever since.”

“It’s the only thing she ever talks about,” said Quinn, exasperated. With disdain she added, “It didn’t seem to hold her back.”

Quinn, whose mouth is the famous ones from the movie’s intro, also explained that her grandkids are in San Francisco. They went to breakfast, and whose lips are painted on the wall? Grandma’s.

Peaches Christ, Barry Bostwick, Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, Rocky Horror Picture Show

Peaches Christ, Barry Bostwick, Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn at Castro Theatre in San Francisco on Jan. 12, 2020.

They ended the segment with a performance of “Time Warp,” in which Quinn and Campbell sang their parts live. It was a transcendent experience. Several audience members cried, impressively without actually interrupting the dance.

Then came the movie.

For the uninitiated, a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is an elaborate, interactive experience. You don’t just watch the movie. For one thing there are rituals to perform: At certain points it’s traditional to throw toilet paper or toast, and there are shouted responses to certain lines.

Many performances, this one included, also have a shadow cast. These are actors performing the scene live in sync with the movie behind them. They lip sync to the songs and mimic the actors’ movements. Done well it’s amazing, and in this case it was done extremely well.

If this sounds like fun, it is. It’s a lot of fun. A movie doesn’t survive for four and a half decades unless it’s a great time. But you didn’t miss out; you may have missed this show, which means you missed the discussion with the cast, but there’s definitely a midnight show of Rocky Horror near you and it may have a shadow cast.

You should go see it.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData. Follow photographer Onome Uyovbievbo at Twitter.com/noitsonome and Instagram.com/ono.photography.

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