Alex Blaze

Queer music Friday - Richard O'Brien

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 15, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

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After posting about Glee's de-transed version of the Rocky Horror Show yesterday, I thought I'd look up Richard O'Brien, who played Riff Raff and wrote the musical, and see if he identified as L, G, B, T, or Q. I knew O'Brien was married to a woman and thought he was either bisexual or a straight guy who just liked queer culture, but I didn't know this:

riff-raff-rocky-horror.jpgHe said: "All my life, I've been fighting never belonging, never being male or female, and it got to the stage where I couldn't deal with it any longer. To feel you don't belong... to feel insane... to feel perverted and disgusting... you go f***ing nuts.

"If society allowed you to grow up feeling it was normal to be what you are, there wouldn't be a problem. I don't think the term 'transvestite' or 'transsexual' would exist: you'd just be another human being."

"I'd been fighting, going to therapy, treating what I was as though it were some kind of illness to be cured. But actually, no, I was basically transgender, and just unhappy."

O'Brien, who uses transgender to describe feeling "in between" being a man or a woman, added: "There is a continuum between male and female. Some are hard-wired one way or another, I'm in between. Or a third sex, I could see myself as quite easily."

He sang the opening to Rocky Horror Picture Show, "Science Fiction/Double Feature." Here's his acoustic version:

And the alt-country version of "Time Warp":

Here's "Bitchin' in the Kitchen," from Shock Treatment, the sequel to Rocky Horror. I didn't even know there was a sequel.

This is an interview from a couple years ago, and O'Brien sounds like he's answered all these questions before.


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beergoggles | October 15, 2010 7:59 PM

Thanks for posting. I was always a fan.

Yes, I think the word "transsexual" would exist Richard. But he's always fun.

He only came out relatively recently.

Here's "Bitchin' in the Kitchen," from Shock Treatment, the sequel to Rocky Horror. I didn't even know there was a sequel.

This is perhaps the loosest application of the term "sequel" in filmmaking history. Catch a viewing of Shock Treatment if you want, but it is impossible to set your expectations too low. I watched it once (a friend had it on VHS) and it is difficult to sit through, not a particularly good way to invest two hours of your life on this earth. It is a weird plot totally separate from RHPS, something about Denton having a 24-hour TV show something like a Jerry Lewis telethon.

I'm not doing the effort justice, I know -- but God forbid that I'd have to sit through it again just to get this comment right.

But God bless Richard O'Brien ... see, it does get better!

Look it up on Wikipedia if you want a better description of Shock Treatment than mine --- hey, I just saved one hour and fifty minutes of my life! I can re-organize my sock drawer and my spice rack!

ShipofFools | October 16, 2010 8:38 AM

Oh hooray, this brings back fond memories of the 80s *irony*-

"He said: "All my life, I've been fighting never belonging, never being male or female, and it got to the stage where I couldn't deal with it any longer. To feel you don't belong... to feel insane... to feel perverted and disgusting... you go f***ing nuts.


"I'd been fighting, going to therapy, treating what I was as though it were some kind of illness to be cured. But actually, no, I was basically transgender, and just unhappy.""

It might be that s_he had it particularly difficult because s_he seems to be attracted to women- lesbian mtf in the 70s and 80s in GB? Absolute no-go.

dharmapupil | October 16, 2010 3:38 PM

The 70s were a joyous time for me, and Richard O'Brien was an essential part of that Joy!
I am so sorry he didn't share in that.

(BTW I don't think I;ve ever seen it mentioned how he used the classical Greek form, right down to the Chorus which foreshadows the entire plot in Time Warp)

That acoustic video of Time Warp is absolute genius...whatever sexual orientation Richard is, he's a true legend!