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Celebrating a City's Genius

Waikato Times

Celebrating a city's genius
27 February 2004

A Hamilton barber left the city in 1964 to follow his dreams. A decade later Richard O'Brien's experiences of growing up in the Waikato became the basis of a musical, The Rocky Horror Show, writes the Waikato Times in an editorial.

He spawned a monster and the tale of Frank'n'Furter, a sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania, went on to become a world-wide cult classic.

After its launch in 1973 the show spent a year on the West End and is now, a quarter of a century later, still being produced by professional and amateur groups around the world.
It is the most produced musical in Europe and audiences still dress in drag for late night screenings of the film version that followed. Proof of Rocky Horror's universal appeal was the camp appearance of former Prime Minister Rob Muldoon in a New Zealand tour of the show.
But Hamilton has never recognised O'Brien's success, or its part in creating a worldwide phenomenom. Perhaps most of its citizens never realised that one of their own had created such a huge musical hit.

The proposal for a statue of Rocky's creator, playing one of his key characters, in an appropriate spot in central Hamilton is long overdue. The plan has also generated considerable support from many, especially those in the arts, who see the plan as an opportunity for the city to celebrate success outside agricultural-based industries.

Hamilton is a city that is not well-endowed with public art and over the past year there has been a campaign, supported by the Waikato Times, to address this failing. Public art can celebrate a city's history and tell the story of its people. Richard O'Brien is very much a part of that story.
A statue of Rocky's creator will demonstrate to the rest of the country that the city may not be New Zealand's largest but can still harbour artistic talent that is the best in the world. Hamilton is not the cow town others think it is.

Of course the proposal hasn't pleased everybody. Some are opposed because of the gender-bending theme of the show while others turn up their nose because the subject matter doesn't fit with their narrow, elitist views of the arts.

But The Rocky Horror Show does have a huge following despite its lack of sophistication. And the city can't ignore the possibility of a potential tourist market that up until now has been untapped.

The Rocky Horror Show has hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of committed fans worldwide and many would be interested in visiting Hamilton if there was some recognition of one of its most successful sons. The power of The Lord of the Rings has shown how tourists can be attracted across the globe by theatrical and cinematic exposure. The scope is now there for Hamilton to develop its own attraction.

With a jump to the left, and a skip to the right, Richard O'Brien and Rocky Horror could just be the tourist pull for which Hamilton has been looking for years.

The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996