He Told Us Where We Stand.

Source: RiffRaffStatue.org

There’s a statue of Riff Raff, the traitorous servant from Rocky Horror, on a street corner in Hamilton, New Zealand. That might seem like an unlikely place unless you know that Richard O’Brien, the musical’s creator and original butler, lived there and worked as a hairdresser, which might be why they gave the statue Riff Raff’s climactic look, after he decided to get his hair done at Dairy Queen.

There are also instructions on the statue’s base on how to do The Time Warp, the great dance that’ll take ya back to the moon-drenched shores of Transylvania, and a camera you can use to catch others doing The Time Warp if you can’t make it to New Zealand, and this is added to my list of approximately three thousand other reasons I’d really, really, really like to go to New Zealand, but that’s another story.

Why does Rocky Horror survive? It was a surprise hit on the London stage, a dud on the New York stage, and the film was a commercial and critical disaster that turned around into the biggest selling midnight movie of all time, developing a huge cult following, spawning a sequel, and I’m pretty sure it’s still a critical disaster because like anything campy it does everything wrong and does it brilliantly.

It’s also prescient in a weird way. It’s not just that Rocky Horror aggressively challenged gender norms. The sequel, Shock Treatment, would too, with Brad locked away like a fairy tale princess and finally rescued by Janet only after her rise and fall as a reality star. The never-to-be-made third film, Revenge Of The Old Queen would, if you can believe the bootleg scripts floating around, take things even farther: Janet goes her own way, Brad is dead and buried wearing nothing but a pearl necklace and high heels, and Riff Raff makes an unceremonious return to Earth, his teleporter putting him under a running shower head. If you wanna get really deep there’s even a fitting kind of symmetry in Tim Curry originating the role of Frank N. Furter but making a comeback of his own in the 2016 remake as The Criminologist—the life of the party reduced to a voyeur.

Way back in the early 1970’s when it all started O’Brien was riffing—no pun intended but let’s say it was intended anyway—on the glam rock of the time that killed the rhythm and blues rock that came before it (sorry, Eddie!), but he knew glam would burn out, or be taken down by whatever came next. When Riff Raff and Magenta crash Frank’s orgy they are the embodiment of punk rock, which makes it fitting that it’s the vengeful, murderous Riff who’s immortalized down under. Richard O’Brien knew the times they were a-changin’, and would keep changing. History doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme.

Because of the time difference whenever I check in on the Riff Raff statue it’s almost always tomorrow there, but it doesn’t matter. It’s always time to do The Time Warp.

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9 Comments

  1. Arionis

    Can you believe I’ve never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show in a theater? I’ve also never been to New Zealand, but that’s another story.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It may be too late to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show in a theater, especially now, but, hey, New Zealand will always be there.

      Reply
  2. BarbaraM

    I’ve never seen it either, but I think that’s partly because I don’t know all the words or dialogue and would hate having the entire audience involved when I’m trying to hear the original. If it had come out maybe 5 years earlier, I would have been young enough to have really enjoyed it. It was on t.v. a while ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch with all the dialogue cut, censored and stuffed with commercials. But I DO know much of the music.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The last few times I went, which was decades ago, the audiences were so disorganized and obnoxious it just ruined the experience. If you want some sense of what it was like at its best the audience participation album will give you some idea–with everyone, or at least large groups, working in sync.
      Although really if you know the music you know the best part. Richard O’Brien’s lyrically very clever. The songs are the best part of Shock Treatment too.

      Reply
  3. Moonwatcher51

    I have seen Rocky Horror in the theatre and have my own copy. I love it! I wasn’t expecting audience participation the first time I saw it. It was in a north end Winnipeg theatre in the 70’s. Wow! Glorious!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      You’re so lucky. You really got to see it in its heyday. My introduction to Rocky Horror was a bootleg videotape in an Indiana hotel room. It was a couple of years before I’d get the full audience participation experience and, even though it was well-established by then, it was truly glorious.

      Reply
  4. mydangblog

    It’s just a jump to the left…I’ve seen it live and it was amazing. Then the local Shakespearian festival decided to do it, and told audience members they couldn’t throw toast or yell at the actors–nobody went and rightly so!
    mydangblog recently posted…Thanks For SharingMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Oh yes! I went to see it live in Birmingham, England, and when The Criminologist first came out everyone was booing him and yelling things at him. He picked one guy in the audience and said, “Oh shut it, sonny, I’m turning money and you’re unemployed.” Everyone laughed and The Criminologist became the most popular member of the cast. He got the biggest applause at the end.
      There was also a classic moment when Frank stepped to the edge of the stage and sang, “Don’t dream it…” and someone yelled, “FUCK IT!” and Frank stopped and you could tell he was trying hard not to laugh.

      Reply
  5. ANN J KOPLOW

    We’re all living in a time warp now, Chris, and madness takes its toll, so thanks for the sanity and joy you bring us with your blog.
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 2884: Deep inner feelingsMy Profile

    Reply

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