In the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they've learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to 'Rocky Horror Show's creator and star Richard O'Brien.
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Richard wrote the musical 'The Rocky Horror Show' which has been in almost continuous production on stage since the 1970s. He also appeared in the film as Riff Raff, and later presented TV show 'The Crystal Maze'.
Richard is a familiar face from TV adventure show 'The Crystal Maze'
This week finds him once again starring in 'Rocky Horror', playing the role of The Narrator. There's a special gala performance tomorrow evening, 17 September, when Stephen Fry, Mel Giedroyc, Emma Bunton and Anthony Head will all be joining him in the role. This performance will be broadcast live to cinemas across the UK and Europe.
To mark this special occasion, Richard speaks to us about the lessons he's learned along the way in his long career. He's now based in New Zealand with his third wife, and he reveals the best bit of advice he ever got...
What do you do to switch off from the world?
The best way to switch off is by doing the cryptic crossword - in England it would be the crossword in The Telegraph and in New Zealand then it would be the crossword in The New Zealand Herald.
How do you deal with negativity?
I deal with negativity by walking away. I really can walk away from it. Others may talk negativity to heart and feel bad, but I think that it's not worth dealing with. If I'm faced with negativity, I simply walk away from it and ignore it.
Richard as he appeared in the film of his own creation, 'The Rocky Horror Show'
When and where are you happiest?
That's easy. I'm happiest when I'm at home. With my lovely wife. With the gates closed.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Shane Kenny, the original set designer for the very first production of 'Oliver!' who was designing and directing an adaptation of 'Gulliver's Travels' at the Mermaid Theatre in 1969, took a shine to me for some reason. He used to take me up to the West End and take me to clubs, which I loved. I was an unknown actor and there was thirty people in the cast, so it amazed me that he chose to spend time with me but I thought it was lovely.
He turned around to me one day and said that all you have to do in life is realise your dreams. He said that a lot of people might try to stop you, but the only person who can really stop you is yourself. He was a good ten years older than me, I felt he was a grown up, and I'd never heard a grown up say something generous like that before. Everyone else always gave well meant advice but they just said get a job and settle down. Yet, here was someone saying do what you want and enjoy life. That was the best advice I heard.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
I don't think lessons are hard to learn if it means you have learned something new by the end of the lesson.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
I would tell myself to stop worrying about being transgendered and enjoy being what you are by default. And if others don't like it, then that's their problem not yours.
What 3 things are at the top of your bucket list?
There were things that that I would have loved to do that unfortunately I can't do anymore. I always wanted to ride in an amateur flat horse race, not one with hurdles as I think they're cruel, on the back of a race horse. I think it would be the most exhilarating thing and I would have enjoyed that, but at 73 years old I fear I'm too old for that. And the Cresta Run ice skeleton toboggan race at St. Moritz is something I would have loved to do but I'm too old now to be in a tunnel of ice going at those kinds of speed. And the other thing that I would have love to do, that hopefully I'm not too old to do, is to write an eternal Christmas song along the lines of White Christmas. I just love the idea of writing something that is connected with such a happy time of the year forever. And I still might. As long as you can hold a pen, then you can write a song.
What do you think happens when we die?
I'm an Evolutionist and a Darwinist so I do feel that this is all there is and that once you die then you die. It's one of the things that has pushed me to do so much in life, because if this is the only chance we get to do everything then I want to know that I've done a lot. But saying that, like most people who say that they don't believe in an afterlife or reincarnation and all of that, I wait with baited breathe to be proved wrong.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
I definitely get a sense that we are living in the presence of something bigger than ourselves, when I look up at the sky. The night sky especially. There's simply so much out there.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
Well, kindness would be the main thing that I try to bring to all my relationships. It's seems to be the glue for all problems and it's sadly lacking in lots of interactions. I used to think that love was the divine principle in life, but if we have equal love at the end of the equation then the important variable is kindness. Love without kindness is pointless. So love with kindness is the key to enjoying life more.
What keeps you grounded?
The main thing that keeps me grounded is having common sense. And knowing that I'm loved. And being surrounded by people who have known me for years and are still my long term friends.
What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?
The last good deed and act of kindness happened just this morning. The lovely people who served me breakfast at the hotel we are staying at in London. They did it with a good heart and such kindness. My lovely wife Sabrina is unwell so they brought coffee through to her and seemed to genuinely care about making her feel better. It's only small kindness by many people's standard, but it's much appreciated and the smallest kindness can mean so much. And I always think that small acts of kindness build up as the day goes on, so a day filled with small acts of kindness, both given and received, can mean that by the end of the day you find that you've had a rather nice day.
Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show. London's Playhouse Theatre, 11-26 September. A charity gala performance, in aid of Amnesty International, on 17 September will be broadcast live to cinemas across the UK. For tickets visit rockyhorrorlive.co.uk