trying to recall their newly elevated scion Richard O'Brien
may have more luck if they run the name Richard Smith through
the grey matter.
Young Smith spent
just over a decade in New Zealand after his family migrated
from Britain to Tauranga when he was 10. He knocked about Hamilton
for a bit in the early 1960s, working as a barber next door
to the now demolished Embassy Theatre, where he apparently got
a taste for the seriously weird at late-night double features
of sci-fi movies.
At 22 he went back
to Blighty, took the name O'Brien after his grandfather and
worked as a hairdresser, truck driver and stuntman, before hitting
In 1973 he wrote
The Rocky Horror Show (original title: They Came From Denton
High), the wacky musical featuring mincing Transylvanian transvestites
in which he played the butler Riff Raff in fishnet tights and
Although, or perhaps
because, the show was described as "lewd, vulgar and tasteless",
it created its own time warp and has played on stage or screen
almost continuously around the world ever since.
Now, in honour of
Smith/O'Brien's brief sojourn in Victoria St, the man most Hamiltonians
had never heard of until now - or at least not in association
with their city - is to take up permanent residence courtesy
of that bastion of funk and cool, the Hamilton City Council.
It has given the
okay and 25,000 of ratepayers' bucks so a bronze statue of Riff
Raff can forever strut Hamilton's main street - styled by the
renowned artists who brought us hobbit feet, Wellington's Weta
be totally bewildered by their leaders' priorities when the
Perry Foundation is forking out the lion's share of the sculpture
Only three weeks
ago the city's dump - stupidly sited on the banks of the Waikato
River - was revealed as a badly run, long-term, serious polluter.
It is operated by Perry Environmental under contract to the
The Perry Foundation
may be but a distant relative of Perry Environmental, but what
would it and the council rather be associated with - Riff Raff
Some Hamilton folk
- perhaps grasping at the opportunity to idolise something other
than cows or trying to be seen as cool and trans-gender tolerant
- have taken Riff Raff to their bosom. Others believe the city
has taken its first prance towards Sodom.
It wouldn't be Hamilton
unless there was a riotous row. Actually, when it comes to acrimonious
debate over statues the world is your stage.
Tomes have been written
about who decided which statues would go where, depict whom
and in what light. Usually, the vexed process is forgotten once
the monument is in place.
Usually. The island
of Jersey's dearth of statues is attributed to a generally hostile
public reaction to proposals. The case of George II is typical.
His statue, which has presided over the Royal Square in St Helier
since 1751, was Jersey's first piece of public statuary but
has endured more than 250 years of scorn and ridicule, plus
several attempts to replace it.
There was controversy,
too, when Hungary decided to display rather than destroy giant
memorials from its communist era. Now, Budapest's Statue Park
is a popular tourist attraction.
Look past the pyramids
and Egypt has statues commemorating viceroys, prime ministers,
generals, industrialists, nationalists, and Alexander the Great.
Gone but not forgotten,
says cataloguer Samir Raafat, are a war memorial to honour the
Australian and New Zealand soldiers at Port Said, the New Zealand
Memorial of Maadi, and a memorial to Anzac soldiers on the North
Riff Raff will be
in exalted company.
However, I just wonder
whether the newly designated city of Tauranga has thought of
erecting a statue to mark its elevation from district status.
Richard (Smith) O'Brien spent five or so years there too, you