Richard O'Brien, now over 60 years of age, is still the same ageless, sprightly, elfin charmer with the devious glint in his eye who leapt about the fantasy landscapes of the legendary TV game show The Crystal Maze over a decade ago. The writer of the original Rocky Horror Picture Show (in which he lurked memorably as 'Riff Raff' the manservant) sat in state at Oxford's Randolph Hotel prior to hosting a screening of the original Rocky film (audience participation encouraged), held at the Odeon in aid of the Wallness Children's Charity of which Richard is patron.
When asked 'why Wallness?' Richard's answer was simple, and moving. When
hosting Crystal Maze, he was bombarded with letters from nurses and children
on hospital wards expressing their admiration for the cool bald dude -
a public figure and role model who, like them, lacked productive follicles.
Richard visited the wards of the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital
(the Great Ormond Street of the North) to meet some of these brave kids
for himself, and in doing so found a cause for life. Wallness currently
raises funds for a children's bone marrow transplant unit - the last hope
for those for whom chemotherapy has not been successful - to be installed
at the Royal Manchester.
When Richard isn't in the UK hosting Rocky fund- and awareness-raisers for Wallness, he's in the land in which he spent his youth - New Zealand - raising cash for cancer hospitals there. He recently sold his Rolls in Auckland, where Rocky - celebrating its 30th anniversary this year - still plays regularly in theatres, and it is to New Zealand that he intends to retire in a few years' time. In the mean time, since finishing his run as the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the West End, he has Transfandango Balls to organise (an annual night of Transensational frock 'n' roll in Manchester's Palace Hotel - again, a Wallness fundraiser), fetish balls to host (a 'bit too weird' in California last year!) and a musical project to work on (a new adaptation of Ivor Novello's 'The Dancing Years').
A man of many talents - from theatrical horse-riding (spot him in 1960s Bond spoof Casino Royale) to composing, writing and arranging - Richard is clearly still revelling mischieviously in his rare 'Celebrity License To Play', won 30 years ago as he became author of Rocky, the ultimate musical fairytale for grown-ups. And what's more, he's doing it for a jolly good cause.
Su Jordan, 28.03.03
For more information on Wallness Children's Charity (Reg. Charity 518086), contact:
Wallness Children's Charity
Sorrel Bank House, 25 Bolton Road, Pendelton, Salford M6 7HL
Tel 0161 737 1203 / 2929