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.