Richard O'Brien at the Fab Cafe in Manchester, England in 2001 (photo: Ruth Fink-Winter; Crazed Imaginations #75)
|Role||Riff Raff (A Handyman)|
Richard Timothy Smith|
25 March 1942
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, UK
Richard O'Brien (born 25 March 1942) is an English actor, playwright, singer and former game show host. He created "The Rocky Horror Show" after being fired from the London production of "Hair" (where he met Jim Sharman and Brian Thomson) - he finally got his big break as Herod's understudy, but his interpretation of Herod as an Elvis impersonator got him canned.
O'Brien was formerly married to Transylvanian Kimi Wong; they have a son, Linus. He has two children (Joshua and Amelia) with his second wife, Jane Moss, from whom he divorced in 2006. In 2012 he became engaged to Sabrina Graf; they married in New Zealand on April 6, 2013.
In addition to writing "The Rocky Horror Show" and "Shock Treatment," Richard O'Brien originated the role of Riff Raff. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was his first film. Film appearances since have been sparse, though his appearances in Spice Girls, Dark City, and Dungeons and Dragons (Variety said he was the best thing in it and they're right) are memorable.
Years after Rocky Horror, Richard was introduced to a new generation of fans as the host of popular UK game show "The Crystal Maze." Richard, dubbed "Reckless Rick," led hapless contestants through various zones where they solved puzzles to earn time in the crystal dome at the end of the show, where they could win fabulous prizes. Rick was known for playing the harmonica and making snarky comments while the contestants struggled with the brainteaser of the day.
Richard's notoriety as both the creator of Rocky Horror and as a former game show host probably led directly to his role as "The Child Catcher" in the 2001 West End production of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," which was very successful.
I periodically forget how amazing Richard's live chat at Virgin.net is- read it here: http://robcrusade.com/articles/olchat.html
See also the Rocky on the Web for selected Richard pages.
Writeup: Richard's October 2001 charity appearance at the Fab Cafe from Crazed Imaginations #75: Richard discusses the Rocky sequel he was writing, the Afghanistan war, and takes questions from the audience, including revealing his most embarrassing moment.
Richard's audio career started in the '70s. He performed with then-spouse Kimi Wong as half of "Kimi and Ritz," releasing a series of singles. In addition to various Rocky Horror-related releases (including a 2000 re-release of the Time Warp), Richard released a jazz album in 1999 consisting largely of slower versions of songs from his one-man show, "Disgracefully Yours."
- Absolute O'Brien (1999) - http://www.rockymusic.org/album/absolute-obrien.php
- Eddie (as Kimi and Ritz)
- Alex Harvey Presents The Loch Ness Monster (guest presenter; this was a spoken-word curio released by K-Tel in 1977)
- I Was in Love with Danny, But the Crowd Was in Love with Dean / Pseud's Corner (as Kimi and Ritz, 1975 7", Epic Records (EPC 3018))
- Over at the Frankenstein Place (as the "Richard O'Brien Crusade," B side of 'Touch Me' by Janet from The Rocky Horror Show / 'Over at the Frankenstein Place' by The Richard O'Brien Crusade (U.K. release of 7" single, TEA001 on the Rich Teaboy Label, 1979)
- Merry Christmas Baby / Eddie (as Kimi & Ritz, 1973 7", Epic Records (EPC 1971))
- Merry Christmas Baby (DJ version)/ Eddie (as Kimi & Ritz, 1974 7", Epic Records (EPC 1971))
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (film soundtrack)
- The Rocky Horror Show (original London cast)
- The Rocky Horror Show Interactive (video game)
- Shock Treatment (film soundtrack; also released as a single)
- That's A No No/Master of My Machine (sings and co-wrote 'That's A No No'; single by Dicky Hart And The Palpitations, 6006 455 Philips)
- Time Warp Two Thousand (B side: 'Angel in Me') (CD single)
- Tuff Little Surfer boy/Touch-a Touch-a Touch me (backup; by group Truth & Beauty on RAK Records, RAK 181)
Other sites credit O'Brien as appearing in play "Uggers and Me," but I've never seen a primary source (I think they copied it from here, frankly) and True-Life Horror Stories, which dates back to 1979 and is thus a lot closer to the source material, states 1) that it's "Uggles and Mee," and 2) that it's not a play but a short story for children.
- And They Used to Star In Movies (as Mickey Mouse, with Nell as Minnie; Soho Theatre, 1975)
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2001, Palladium in London, "The Child Catcher")
- Disaster (1978, wrote and performed)
- Disgracefully Yours (1995 at Edinburgh Festival; 1996 at the Comedy Theatre in London and The Bottom Line in New York City)
- Eastwood Ho! (1981, Mermaid Theatre)
- G.O.4 (Edinburgh Fringe 1999, appearing on a videoscreen)
- Gulliver's Travels (1968, Mermaid Theatre, various small roles)
- Hair (1970-1971)
- Jesus Christ Superstar (1972, Chorus, and one disastrous night as Herod)
- Little Shop of Horrors (1986, University Theatre, as Mushnik, 1986)
- The News (City Theatre, London, 1986)
- Oliver! (2012, Founders Theatre, Hamilton Operatic Society, Hamilton, NZ, as Fagin)
- One God, One Farinelli (as the older Farinelli, Battersea Arts Centre, London 29-30 Aug, 2000)
- Pig In Boots (wrote; 2008, The Wireless Theatre Company, London). Download it here: http://www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk/index.php/component/jotloader?Itemid=15&cid=14&id=84. Originally written for the stage, TWTC converted it into an audio pantomime, recorded live at the Headliners Comedy Club in front of a studio audience with live FX and music. The production was opened by an original interview with Richard O'Brien.
- Robert and Elizabeth
- The Rocky Horror Show (wrote; performed in London and Broadway as Riff Raff and at least twice as Frank; has done guest performances since as Frank and Eddie)
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Christmas Pantomime) (Spirit of the Mirror, Dec 2005-Jan 2006, Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes, UK). Read an interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/threecounties/content/articles/2005/11/28/richard_obrien_interview_feature.shtml
- The Stripper (lyricist/adapted play from the book; Sydney Theatre Company, 1982; played "Mr. Arkwright" in 2009 revival)
- T. Zee and the Lost Race (wrote; 1976, Royal Court)
- Tooth of Crime (1974)
- Top People (acted and wrote, 1984)
- The Unseen Hand ("Willie the Space Freak," 1973)
As is noted at the Internet Movie Database, there are actually two Richard O'Briens with film acting credits. So you may have heard that "Richard O'Brien" is in, for example, "The Andromeda Strain." That's not our boy (speaking as someone who sat through the entire movie looking for him, pre-IMDb) - that's the other Richard O', who was born in North Dakota in 1917.
- An Evening with Richard O'Brien, 2008 - straight to video; this is a 44 minute recording of Richard O'Brien being interviewed in his hometown of Hamilton, New Zealand. At least for now it's available on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omeUM1UoAk8 . In addition to telling a bunch of great stories, Richard sings "I'm Not Dead Yet"; "There's Many a True Word Said in Bed" from the Stripper (a capella); and a new song ("Once Bitten"?). He appears in a frock for the second half.
- Carry on Cowboy (stuntman; as an Indian riding a horse, 1966)
- Royale (stuntman)
- The Contraption (film short; acted and wrote, 1977; available as an extra on the DVD "Little Malcolm" - http://www.bfi.org.uk/blu-rays-dvds/little-malcolm-and-his-struggle-against-eunuchs ; you'll need a Region 2 or region-free Blu-Ray player to watch it)
- Dark City ("Mr. Hand," 1998, in a role Alex Proyas wrote for him) Richard is creepy in this; it's some of his best film work after Rocky Horror.
- Digital Dreams ("Butler," 1983)
- Dungeons and Dragons ("Xilus," 2000) Richard plays the head of the thieves' guild in this horrible piece of dreck. Variety said he was the only good thing in it, and they were right: he's brilliant for the two minutes he gets. He runs the characters through a maze and was featured prominently in the trailer (as he was famous for his role as host of UK game show The Crystal Maze).
- Elvira's Haunted Hills ("Vladimere Hellsubus," 2001) A Roger Corman sendup. His performance is somewhat painful. The sunglasses he's wearing make more sense if you've seen Vincent Price in Roger Corman's "The Tomb of Ligeia" (somewhat hard to find).
- Ever After ("Pierre le Pieu," 1998) Richard's the main villain in this one, sporting a goatee. Watch him briefly manhandle Drew Barrymore, and appear onscreen with Anjelica Huston.
- The Fighting Prince of Donegal (stuntman)
- Flash Gordon ("Fico," 1980) A small speaking role as a Tree Man (Timothy Dalton plays their leader, Prince Barron). In addition to his role "rescuing"/betraying Flash, watch for him in the initial crowd scenes in Ming's court (he even turns up in a publicity still or two).
- The Four Dimensions of Greta (bit part in a soft-core porn with 3-D sequences! - non-sex role, 1972)
- Jackboots on Whitehall ("Himmler" - voice only, 2010)
- Jubilee (Dr. John Dee, 1977)
- The Mumbo Jumbo (Archie, DVD release 2001)
- The Odd Job ("Batch," 1978) Very minor role in this Graham Chapman vehicle; he's dressed up in an SM outfit.
- The Return of Captain Invincible (did not appear in; co-wrote three songs with Richard Hartley, 1983)
- Revolution ("Lord Hampton," 1985)
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (cowrote and performed, "Riff Raff," 1975)
- Spice World ("Damien," 1997) Richard is actually fairly prominently featured as a journalist chasing the Spice Girls. I'm told the current generation of Rocky fans views this less as an embarrassment and more a beloved memory of childhood; hurray. If you find the book of the movie and it's not part of your childhood, don't bother...Richard isn't in it.
- Shock Treatment (cowrote and performed as "Dr. Cosmo McKinley")
- Brit Awards (hosted)
- The Crystal Maze (series; created and hosted 1990-1994)
- The Detectives (BBC, 1995, series 3, as "Dr. Phibes" in episode 'Welcome to the Dungeon of Death')
- The Dick Francis Thrillers (one season on Yorkshire TV)
- Full Stretch (series; as Rousseau, in espisode "Cadillac Dreams," Season 1, Episode 2)
- Good Stuff (one season)
- A Hymn From Jim (BBC TV play; this was season 1, episode 2 of "Premiere"; bit part as "Reporter" and wrote screenplay) Extremely hard to find.
- The Ink Thief (in title role; children's miniseries, 1994) Richard actually appears in only 3 episodes. It's a musical; he sings. Toyah Willcox (from Jubilee and the Rocky Horror Show presentation for the Royal Court's 50th anniversary) is featured as "Dog."
- Mongrels (voice of "Zombie Dog," Episode #2.2 (2011)) - Richard sings! Watch (or listen) to "Die, Evil Zombies" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCIMYVOIokg .
- Mystery Train (as host of a horror mini-series; 1991 - lasted about 8 weeks) A fan writes: Every week you could see an episode of Kolchak the Night Stalker, a short movie and a feature cult movie. (http://kurtodrome.tripod.com/mysterytrain.html for details)
- Notes and Queries (guest presenter)
- Phineas and Ferb (TV series, voice: "Lawrence Fletcher"). Richard fans may be particularly interested in episode "Ladies and Gentlemen, Meet Max Modem!", which features Richard's character as a singer in a band, singing the song "Alien Heart" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQBtIgLdXPc). I'm a Richard fan, and I didn't recognize his voice the first time I heard it, but it's him - most recognizably so when he wails a little.
- Robin of Sherwood (as Gulnar: recurring character in series; HTV)
- Rushton's Illustrated (for ATV - 5 episodes, 1980)
- Urban Gothic ("Thin Man" in episode "Thirteen," 2000)
- Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1989, "James"). Richard plays footman "James" in this UK TV presentation of the beloved children's classic.
-  commercial for "Hula Hoops," a potato snack -- Richard appears in it, directed it and does final voiceover. Appears to refer to his Crystal Maze days - if you like Richard, go watch it now.