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Houston-bound Bostwick reflects on ‘Challenger’ role

October 4, 2018

Returning to Houston this month for a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” film screening party, actor Barry Bostwick recently reflected on fond memories of working in the Clear Lake area in a starring role in the “Challenger” TV movie about the 1986 NASA space shuttle disaster.

Memories of NASA, ‘Challenger’ role

In a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles, Bostwick said he treasures the experience of filming “Challenger” in 1989 as NASA commemorated 30 years in business. NASA celebrated its 60th birthday on Oct. 1.

The three-hour movie debuted Feb. 25, 1990 on ABC-TV. It depicted how as Commander Francis R. Scobee and six other astronauts were killed on Jan. 28, 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff at Cape Canaveral, Fla. and plunged into the ocean.

“It was a life-changing event for me,” said Bostwick, who portrayed Scobee. “Everybody at the (Johnson Space Center) was so supportive and behind the project that we were able to work with some of the original crew that got Challenger up and some of the last people to see the astronauts before takeoff.

“To get really close to history like that was amazing,” Bostwick said.

Kristin Bond of League City met Bostwick moments before she filmed her “big scene” in the “Challenger” movie as Caroline McAuliffe, the daughter of teacher Christa McAuliffe, who perished in the disaster.

“I was only 8,” said Bond, now 38 and the mother of three children.

The daughter of Tracy Bond of League City and the late Charles Bond mainly remembers that her cat gave birth to a black kitten on the night she got the phone call that she was cast in the TV movie.

Caught off-guard by ‘Horror Show’ success

Kristin Bond is a former student at Purple Box Theater, which is producing “The Rocky Horror Show” Oct. 19-28 in Friendswood. Some actors in that show are planning to attend a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” film screening party Oct. 20 at the Wortham Center, which will feature Bostwick, who danced “The Time Warp” as Brad in the 1975 cult classic.

Bostwick will answer questions and judge a “Rocky Horror” costume contest at the event, hosted by the Society for the Performing Arts. Actors in the Friendswood plan to compete in the contest and ask Bostwick about his turn in the “Brad” role.

Bostwick didn’t know he was making cinema history when he filmed “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“People always ask, ‘Did you know it would be such a hit?’” he said. “The answer is simple: ‘No, how could we?’”

In Los Angeles, Bostwick had seen the musical on which the movie is based, but he had no inkling that it would play in Peoria, not when its main character was a mad transvestite scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

Bostwick was already a Tony Award nominee as the original Danny Zuko in “Grease” on Broadway. A year after filming the “Rocky Horror,” he won a Tony as the title character in “The Robber Bridegroom” on Broadway.

The film’s popularity led to productions in community theaters. Purple Box’s founding artistic director and owner, Cathy Holbrook, said, “Everyone always asks us to do” the risqué ‘Rocky Horror’ musical, which is a parody of science-fiction and B horror movies.

Bay Area performer Chase Harris is playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

The 2010 graduate of Friendswood High School thinks he could win the costume contest that Bostwick is judging at the Houston screening by wearing his costume from the Purple Box Theater production.

“It’s fabulous and just distasteful enough to win, for sure,” Harris said.

Brandee Sibley of Seabrook, who plays Janet in the musical, said she would enter the contest in her “classic Janet” outfit.

“White bra and panties with a half-slip, ripped slightly up the side, of course,” she said. “And I couldn’t leave out the big hair!”

In the question-and-answer session, Sibley said, she would ask Bostwick if he would play the part of Brad differently today, what he thinks makes “Rocky Horror” so loved by its fans and what was his favorite part of filming the movie.

Alec White of Deer Park, who plays Brad in the Purple Box show, said he would ask Bostwick, “What is the craziest thing that happened behind the scenes while filming?”

For more about the Oct. 20 event and SPA, call 713-227-4772 or visit www.spahouston.org.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net

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