PASSED/FAILED: Richard O'Brien

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The Independent Online
Richard O'Brien, 54, is a writer-performer and author of The Rocky Horror Show which, as a play, film and excuse to dress up in suspenders, is still going strong after more than 20 years. He found television success with Channel 4's hit show The Crystal Maze. Disgracefully Yours was his latest show and he has just finished filming Dark City with Rufus Sewell and Keifer Sutherland.

Primary promise? I went to a state school in Cheltenham. I was a very awkward learner and used to get the strap across my hands. I couldn't tell the time until I was 11; I couldn't "read" a clock. I assumed I was a little dense.

Revised opinion? About seven years ago, when my second son was at school, they told me that they thought he was dyslexic. I asked how they came to that assumption and they said, "He gets his 'Bs' and 'Ds' muddled up". I said I did, too. The more they described his dyslexia, the more I realised that it applied to me. The freedom I felt in the ensuing weeks was marvellous.

11-plus? No. My family emigrated to New Zealand when I was 10 and I went to Tauranga Primary School in the Bay of Plenty. It didn't seem too bad there because they were not too interested in the halls of academe and didn't want smart-arses, just the average kind of boy.

Secondary schooling? At 13 I went to Tauranga College (now Boys' High). I was caned severely, partly for mucking around and partly, I think, out of their frustration with a relatively intelligent boy who was doing badly.

Any good points? I only had one teacher I had any feeling for: Leonard James, a gentle old soul and Gallipoli war veteran. He taught both English and geography; I think he understood instinctively something about me and he never bullied me.

Dramatic points? I was in The Ghost Train, the school play. I played the station master.

Exit lines? I was doing so badly that at 15 it was time for me to leave. I went to a training farm for a year and for five years was an apprentice barber.

Theatrical education? In 1964 I got on a boat and came to England. I rode horses in movies, worked backstage in the theatre and went on tour with Hair.

Theatrical laurels? The Rocky Horror Show was put on Upstairs at the Royal Court in 1973. It won the Best Musical Award from the Evening Standard - a seated woman in fake bronze on a piece of marble - and from Plays & Players - a year's subscription.

Movie awards? The Rocky Horror Picture Show didn't pick up any. But it is in The Guinness Book of Records as the film that one person has been to most times - he's Sal Piro, President of the Rocky Horror Show Fan Club.

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