Sometimes all you have to do is hear a character’s name, and you know it’s love. Imperator Furiosa. Chev Chelios. Snake Plissken. Dr. Emilio Lizardo. And the subject of today’s typically whacked-out COOTD missive: BEEF.
Oh, you don’t know Beef?
This pure and beautiful soul, played by Gerrit Graham, is from Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, a 1974 reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera that’s best known for its transcendent weirdness. I mean, look at the gif above. That is the first time you see Beef. It is his character introduction—at a press conference, in a coffin, revealed to the world's adoring eyes by a trio of men who serve as fashion's missing link between the Bee Gees and Mötley Crüe.
The granny hair! The cheek tat! The rhinestone choker! The body glitter! Would Golden Girls’ Blanche Devereaux have worn this outfit? We can’t say definitively that she wouldn’t have.
You might assume that, after being given possibly the best character introduction in the entire Western canon, nothing that Beef does in the rest of the movie can really live up to what’s come before. But! You! Don’t! Know! Beef! Not to ruin the mystique or anything, but I’m going to lay out some backstory for you here: The evil record producer Swan (Paul Williams) has stolen from songwriter Winslow (William Finley) a cantata about Faust. Just go with it. Winslow, who eventually ends up disfigured and rocking a rather mad cape game, wants his songs to be sung only by husky-voiced chanteuse Phoenix (Jessica Harper). Instead, the treacherous Swan hires glam rocker Beef, a proto-Dr. Frank-n-Furter who likes to prance around onstage in midriff-baring shirts and bulge-revealing leggings.
Given that, you’d expect Beef to be an asshole, right? A sellout whose integrity is for hire, who cares more about glitz and glamour than musical artistry? But Beef is a sweet and noble soul who, OK, is maybe a bit dumb, but if he likes to toss a bunch of glitter in his hair and shake his ass while flirting with hot young men, who are you to judge him? Who are any of us?
And Beef isn’t dumb when it counts, i.e. when a lunatic in an owl mask shoves a plunger in his face and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t take a hike. Beef has the rational response, which is to do just that, except Swan’s assistant drugs him so he’ll stay and Beef is killed anyway. But oh, what a death.
The world did not deserve Beef.