Richard O'Brien tells Vicki Anderson about the night he should have died, chatting to Mick Jagger, and putting on fishnets again to help rebuild the Issac Theatre Royal.
Richard O'Brien was born in Gloucestershire during the war. A home birth, his entrance into the world was extremely premature. The man born Richard Smith was so weak that the doctor told his mother that he would be surprised if he lasted the night.
Now 71, the Tauranga "retiree" could easily describe his life as astounding.
"I should have died the night I was born. Since then I've smoked, I haven't looked after myself at all," he chuckles. "I once worked on a builder's yard unloading asbestos pipes. I went home every day covered in the stuff; I looked like the abominable snowman. But I'm still here."
The cult-figure known as "The Tran in Black" returns to Christchurch next week for a one-off Frock 'n' Roll fundraising show.
The Rocky Horror Show writer is helping to raise funds for the rebuild of the Isaac Theatre Royal.
In 2010, O'Brien performed for the first time onstage in New Zealand, playing The Narrator in the show's 40th anniversary celebrations. The final show on that tour was at the Isaac Theatre Royal.
It was O'Brien's last performance anywhere in the world in the show he penned in the early 1970s.
"I love old theatres, old buildings. I adore the past, especially Victorian gothic revival design and craftmanship," he says.
"The theatre holds a little key to our past. Nature pulled it down and we have to bring the old lady back to life again."
After the September 4, 2010, quake, O'Brien auctioned off the Jean-Paul Gaultier denim tail jacket he had worn throughout the New Zealand tour and a Fender Stratocaster guitar, raising $5000 for The Red Cross Mayoral Fund.
The Isaac Theatre Royal escaped damage from the first quake but was badly damaged in the devastating February 2011 earthquakes. Despite being well on the way to its reopening in mid-2014, funds are required to complete the recovery works on time.
O'Brien also made "a significant" personal donation to the theatre's rebuild in 2012.
Now he's returning to perform, joined by his band who are donating their time, including Christchurch drummer Sebastian Warren.
He shares his favourite drummer joke: "What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend? Homeless."
For the show, O'Brien will, of course, don fishnet stockings to sing The Time Warp, again, but he will also entertain with stories of his life, or, as he calls, it "have a bit of a natter".
"I'll sing songs and natter, tell my life story, when you get to my age everyone will say 'How the f... did he do it?"
O'Brien's nattering material is fascinating.
In 1965 he worked as a dustman by day and attended drama school at night. A drama school friend was dating Mick Jagger and he relays conversations had with Jagger in her front room.
"They hadn't smoked dope at that point."
We natter about politicians' penchant for lying - "they make moral judgments while swinging their dicks around" - and O'Brien admits he has a sharp disdain for "businessmen thieves" who are handed knighthoods.
He then recalls experiences at London's infamous Pinewood Studios.
When he got to London in 1965, he caught the green No 22 bus and walked the last "two miles" to the studio gates for the first time.
Through the hallways, stars like Lawrence Olivier and Charlton Heston casually strolled. "I looked through the gates and I said to myself 'One day I'm going to drive through in a Rolls Royce'," O'Brien says.
Decades later he returned to the studios to have lunch with Tim Burton.
"He offered me a part in a Batman movie but I didn't see any value in it, so I declined.
"As I was leaving someone asked me for my autograph. I was surprised.
"I told them the story of my first visit to the studio and my promise at the gates.
"That day I had driven through those gates in a Rolls Royce."
O'Brien spent his teens and early 20s in Tauranga and Hamilton before moving to Britain in 1964. He was finally granted New Zealand citizenship in December 2011.
He credits his Kiwi upbringing in a "classless society" as a "special card".
"I was a naive boy, unsophisticated, I left school at 15 like we all did then. Living in a classless society in New Zealand gave me a card in England and I've used it again and again. People played games, all trying to be 'Don't you know who I am?' Snobs talked to me, working- class people talked to me, but in that Kiwi way I talked to everyone and just noticed if people were nice or not."
It's fitting for The Tran to appear at Halloween.
"Rocky has locked itself into those celebrations, it coincided with the start of Halloween celebrations in Great Britain. Shops like it because they can sell a few more Hallmark cards."
One day he hopes to again tread the boards of the Isaac Theatre Royal in his favourite fishnets.
"That theatre has resounded to laughter for over 100 years. We have to honour those memories. Without memory we don't exist."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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