appeared in The Independent.
54, is a writer-performer and author of The Rocky Horror Show
which, as a play, film and excuse to dress up in suspenders,
is still going strong after more than 20 years. He found television
success with Channel 4's hit show The Crystal Maze. Disgracefully
Yours was his latest show and he has just finished filming Dark
City with Rufus Sewell and Keifer Sutherland.
I went to a state
school in Cheltenham. I was a very awkward learner and used
to get the strap across my hands. I couldn't tell the time until
I was 11; I couldn't "read" a clock. I assumed I was
a little dense.
About seven years
ago, when my second son was at school, they told me that they
thought he was dyslexic. I asked how they came to that assumption
and they said, "He gets his 'Bs' and 'Ds' muddled up".
I said I did, too. The more they described his dyslexia, the
more I realised that it applied to me. The freedom I felt in
the ensuing weeks was marvellous.
No. My family emigrated
to New Zealand when I was 10 and I went to Tauranga Primary
School in the Bay of Plenty. It didn't seem too bad there because
they were not too interested in the halls of academe and didn't
want smart-arses, just the average kind of boy. Secondary schooling?
At 13 I went to Tauranga College (now Boys' High). I was caned
severely, partly for mucking around and partly, I think, out
of their frustration with a relatively intelligent boy who was
I only had one teacher
I had any feeling for: Leonard James, a gentle old soul and
Gallipoli war veteran. He taught both English and geography;
I think he understood instinctively something about me and he
never bullied me.
I was in The Ghost
Train, the school play. I played the station master.
I was doing so badly
that at 15 it was time for me to leave. I went to a training
farm for a year and for five years was an apprentice barber.
In 1964 I got on
a boat and came to England. I rode horses in movies, worked
backstage in the theatre and went on tour with Hair.
The Rocky Horror
Show was put on Upstairs at the Royal Court in 1973. It won
the Best Musical Award from the Evening Standard - a seated
woman in fake bronze on a piece of marble - and from Plays &
Players - a year's subscription.
The Rocky Horror
Picture Show didn't pick up any. But it is in The Guinness Book
of Records as the film that one person has been to most times
- he's Sal Piro, President of the Rocky Horror Show Fan Club.