statue of Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O'Brien will be
erected in Hamilton shortly. Mark Servian came up with the idea.
If you visited Pat
Osborne's hairdresser's shop in the front of Hamilton's Embassy
Theatre any time in the early 1960s you would have had an even
chance of having your hair trimmed by a young bodgie named Richard
On the weekend, the
slightly built teen would venture into the Embassy proper for
the Late Night Double Feature Picture Show. Watching such movies
as The Day the Earth Stood Still and It Came From Outer Space,
he absorbed American pulp culture before it had really overwhelmed
New Zealand and still had a certain "otherness".
Hamilton was too
small and too far away from the real action to hold the strange
boy for long.
In 1964, after five
years of tooling around the south end of Victoria St, 22-year-old
Richard headed off to London in search of the bright lights.
He struggled through
the rest of the swinging '60s as an actor and musician on the
West End, hanging out with famous freaks such as Mick Jagger,
but only ever surviving from week to week.
In 1972 he decided
it was time to turn his hand to writing. Pop music at the time
was all about "dropping acid and seeing fairies" so,
already feeling his age, he wanted to bring it back to the raw
excitement of rock 'n'roll that he had experienced as a teen
in faraway Hamilton.
He started with the
sort of trash sci-fi plot he'd seen at the Embassy, and opened
the tale in a small straight town like "Te Aroha or Morrinsville".
He had two lost innocents stumble on a band of aliens, though
not of the little green men variety. The mad scientist character
was a sweet transvestite, an extreme take on his memories of
the sexually charged performances of Johnny Devlin.
He called his unintended
masterpiece The Rocky Horror Show.
The rest, as they
say, is history.
Rocky Horror has
a unique place in the pantheon of popular culture.
It is simultaneously
camp and corny - pleasure is to be embraced and men suit
fishnets, but the butler opens the door and the nice couple
are still together at the end.
Yet for all the midnight
shows, the audience participation and the fan clubs, the one
thing Rocky Horror has lacked till now is a pilgrimage site.
Graceland, Jim Morrison's
grave, Abbey Road and Hobbiton are all there for the respective
fans to visit - but where do Rocky Trannies go?
I enter the tale
at this point. I am not a Trannie. Back in the mid-1980s I was
in the midst of the formation of the Wellington chapter of Clan
McGillicuddy through the collision of a posse of Rocky Horror
fans with a bunch of war-gamers.
But while I enjoy
the show a lot, I've channelled my obsessiveness into Jacobitism
and Autonomous Astronautics.
However, as a proud
Hamiltonian I have long been frustrated by Hamilphobia, the
extra layer of cultural cringe that allows our city to be unjustifiably
frowned upon by the rest of the country.
I have thought for
years that I wanted to do something that in one fell swoop would
allow sophisticated people to confidently say "I'm from
Hamilton, got a problem with that?"
In mid-2000 an episode
of the TV series Coming Home featured Richard O'Brien visiting
his old haunts in Hamilton. That confirmed and detailed the
local urban legend that the Embassy was the birthplace of Rocky
A couple of months
later, while at a particularly bizarre party in London, the
idea that I should get a statue of Richard O'Brien put in the
Embassy site entered my mind with a peculiar sense of certainty.
And so it has come
to pass. With much an-ti-ci-pation, Hamilton is ready to give
itself over to absolute pleasure.
Prepare the transit