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The Surprising Inspiration For Spalding's Makeup In AHS: Coven

Consider "American Horror Story: Coven" and its enchanting center for matriculation, Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. It is a proud and historic institution, with centuries of stories echoing unheard through its hallowed halls. It is, in theory, a haven for the misunderstood; a sanctuary for those that the world would call monsters. No boys allowed.

One notable exception to that rule is Spalding, the proficient self-detonguer and largely silent butler to the school's inhabitants, played by Denis O'Hare. O'Hare is an immensely busy character actor with more than 40 credited appearances on his IMDb page in the last decade alone, and he's no stranger to creepy glow-ups — he played Liz Taylor in "AHS: Hotel" and Stanley in "Freak Show," so his looks have pretty well run the gamut, aesthetically speaking.

But even by O'Hare's chameleonic standards, Spalding was rocking a distinctive visual vibe. His long, stringy hair, ratty nails, liver spotted countenance, and yellow-gradient teeth all contrast strikingly against his immaculately pressed and cleaned tuxedo. Obviously, a lot of thought went into his look, and according to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the inspiration was astounding — enough so that learning about it might just allow madness to take its toll.

American Rocky Horror Story

”We looked at a lot of sources for this," O'Hare said of Spalding's look. "The first thing that comes to mind is ['Rocky Horror's'] Riff Raff (...) We just kept exploring with the costume designer Lou [Eyrich] and we ended up with a very elegant, distinguished-looking freak."

In case you never socialized with the theater kids in high school, Riff Raff is the name of Frank-N-Furter's manservant from the cult classic stage musical "The Rocky Horror Show" and its big screen adaptation, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Originally portrayed by series creator Richard O'Brien, he's an alien from the planet Transylvania who enjoys a close relationship with his sister and eventually wrests control of an interplanetary castle by means of a small-scale coup. It's a peculiar piece of theater.

What's important is that Riff Raff, as portrayed by O'Brien, looks like a greasy albino cheekbone brought to life through sorcery. Imagine if Fritz from the classic Universal "Frankenstein" movie showed up at your favorite bar and refused to leave you alone. Picture what would happen if Adrien Brody took a tiny sip from the wrong cup in the grail room from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and suddenly aged 20 years all at once. That's what Riff Raff looks like. And that's what they were going for with Spalding in "American Horror Story: Coven."