'Meeting Richard O'Brien' - From 10th The Tranny Guide


It was a sleepy Sunday morning when I received a phone call :-

"Richard O'Brian here - You may not know me - I am best known for writing The Rocky Horror Show".

If you have read my 'Rocky Start' article you will understand why I turned to jelly.

Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show, has provided the opportunity for thousands to put aside inhibitions and dress up without fear of, (too much), reprisal.

Richard wanted to discuss a charity fundraising project with me. We met in London at The Groucho Club after watching him perform in a preview of the very excellent Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The London Palladium:

VickyLee - I was thrilled to get your call and I am looking forward to helping with your charity projects. How did you know about me ?

Richard O'B - I keep track of the TV scene and have bought various editions of The Tranny Guide over the years - Vicky you're famous.

Vicky Lee - You talk on the phone to me with the phrase "We TVs" how much do you relate to the tranny experience that I describe in my 'Tranny Journey'?

Richard O'B - As a child growing up in the 1940's, I sometimes found myself wanting to be the fairy princess. I quickly realised that it was not something you said out loud with brothers in earshot. To wear a frock very often leads people to jump to the conclusion that one is homosexual, or bisexual. Both of these terms are repugnant to me as they are limiting and tend to ghettoize people. I'm (as I see it anyway) a member of the wonderful tranny human race.

Vicky Lee - Is that where the iconic themes for Rocky Horror came from.

Richard O'B - A strong centre to Rocky comes from my own sense of being who and what I am. By default much of it is lovingly and gratefully pinched from many populist areas. For instance "don't dream it - be it". Was an advertising slogan for Frederick's of Hollywood under which were the most delightful drawings of angular (trannies?) women in very sexy underwear.

Vicky Lee - I saw the stage show in the Kings Road - would I have seen you in it?

Richard O'B - Yes it was first performed in The Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Sq, and then moved into an old cinema on The Kings Rd where you must have seen it in '73. At that time I was playing Riff Raff, (I wanted to play Eddie but I was talked into playing Riff Raff), along side Little Nell, Pat Quinn and Tim Curry. In fact the cast that went on to do the movie. It was so outrageous at that time to see Tim Curry perform that statement, "I'm just a sweet transvestite". I like to think it was ground breaking. Richard refers to himself as a TV and loves to "frock up"

Vicky Lee - If you wanted to be the Pink Fairy why didn't you play Frankenfurter?

Richard O'B - Oh I have, since, (but in my own choice of lingerie). I am well known for frocking up. I get invites that say 'Black Tie' written over with "Not you Richard". To prove the point actress (Little Voice) Jane Horrocks visited our table and said to Richard "Did you go to Liza Minelli's wedding Richard", Richard explained that he was otherwise engaged, "Oh what a shame I imagined you there in your best frock", said Jane.

Vicky Lee - So is it a fancy dress kind of experience for you?

Richard O'B - No more than wearing a suit is. It helps me to be or more rightly "feel" as though I am more whole, more complete. I like the elegance and glamour. I like feminine fabrics. I hate those geezers that wear false eyelashes 3 foot long glitter and eyelashes. Its another form of misogynism

Vicky Lee - You have a strong top to toe image, have you designed and maintained that? As we might understand for example, Madonna creates ever changing personas.

Richard O'B - No I am just me, Now 60 but still with the body of a 59 year old. Long before 'Rocky' I would be asked for autographs just because I looked and dressed "different". However it was scary when I first did 'Crystal Maze' as this was the first time I could see "me" in public being me. Previous public performances were in costume, and behind make-up. Crystal Maze was me in the raw.

Vicky Lee - You broke new ground on that show with a style of contest presentation that pre-empted that now used by the likes of 'Anne Robinson', (Weakest Link). I think you did in it a much more fluid natural way almost as someone from another world.

Richard O'B - Yes but at the time we had no idea what we were doing. My little asides to the camera, which at times were a little acid, were originally just out takes while the game was being played. To be honest they were edited in when the games appeared a bit long-winded. I asked my eldest son to watch the first Crystal Maze with me and we both fell about laughing at my first asides. It was then that I realised it might work and could relax a little.

Vicky Lee - I believe that you are a patron of the Wallness Charity. What is this charity all about?

Richard O'B - The Wallness Children's Charities current project is to raise money for a children's Bone Marrow Transplant Unit within Manchester Childrens Hospital. A Marrow Transplant is often the last hope for children for whom chemotherapy has not been successful. Unfortunatly even with a suitable donar the technological equipment is in short supply and very expensive

Vicky Lee - How did you get involved with the Wallness Charity and why did you choose to support that charity amongst others?

Richard O'B - I first contributed, for a charity auction, a water colour painting I'd bought some years before and then got asked to do more and more. There is no better cause than to raise money for equipment to save a child's life, suffering from such an unfair illness as Cancer. Great Ormond Street has a lot of support and publicity as London's glamorous Peter Pan hospital. The Manchester children's hospital tends to be the Cinderella, but it is just as important and serves a vast area throughout the north of England and Ireland.

Wallness Charity, Sorrel Bank House, 25 Bolton Road, Pendelton, Salford M6 7HL Tel 0161 737 1203 / 2929 fax 0161 737 1034 attention of Charmaine Owen administrator / fundraiser.

Vicky Lee - After meeting Richard I would like to report that he is as warm and nice a person as he is eccentric, (and we like eccentric).

The official Rocky Horror web site includes exclusive video clips I recommend a visit to this excellent site

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is available on video picture disc CD and tape. But best of all it is available on DVD with hours of extras and commentaries.

Cult movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show plays in movie houses world wide & The stage show plays around the theatres world wide catch it when you can.