The Richard O'Brien Crusade



The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Sanity for Today

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Please remember to write Richard through the fan clubs. That is the only mail he will accept.


Statue gives city that extra Stature

A 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 O'Brien.

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 Horror.

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 beam!

The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996