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Richard O'Brien (1942)

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  Summary  

Richard Timothy Smith , better known under his stage name Richard O'Brien, is an English writer, actor, television presenter and theatre performer. He is perhaps best known for writing the cult musical The Rocky Horror Show and for his role in presenting the popular TV show The Crystal Maze. In addition to writing The Rocky Horror Show, O'Brien also appeared in its 1975 film adaptation as the character Riff Raff. The stage show has been in almost continuous production and the cinematic version is one of the best known and most ardently followed cult films of all time. He is also the voice of Lawrence Fletcher, the title characters' father in Phineas and Ferb.

  Biography  

 early life
O'Brien was born Richard Timothy Smith in 1942 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. In 1951, O'Brien emigrated with his family to Tauranga, New Zealand, where his father had purchased a sheep farm. After learning how to ride horses, a skill which provided him with his break into the film industry as a stuntman in Carry On Cowboy, and developing a keen interest in comic books and horror films, he returned to England in 1964. Upon launching his acting career he changed his name to O'Brien, his maternal grandmother's name, as there was already an actor named Richard Smith.

 later career
Richard O'Brien continued writing musicals with arranger Richard Hartley, including: T.Zee , Disaster , The Stripper (1982– based on the Carter Brown novel and produced in Australia), and Top People . In 1995 O'Brien wrote his one-man revue Disgracefully Yours, singing as Mephistopheles Smith. O'Brien became a serial bit-part actor in cult films and has appeared in movies such as Jubilee , Flash Gordon , Dark City , Ever After and Dungeons & Dragons . Additionally he guest starred in five episodes in the third season of the popular HTV dramatisation of Robin of Sherwood, as the corrupt druid. In 1998 he released a music CD of the songs from Disgracefully Yours entitled "Absolute O'Brien."

He became the presenter of UK Channel 4's popular game show The Crystal Maze in 1990, specialising in sardonic put-downs, occasional eccentricities and playing his harmonica at random intervals. The show's heyday was around 1991–1993. It was regularly Channel 4's highest watched programme, mainly seen by children and young adults , reaching a peak of 7 million viewers for the 1993 Christmas special. The extent of both the shows and to a large extent O'Brien's success is shown by the fact that The Crystal Maze was named 'Greatest UK Game Show of All Time' in a 2006 poll by the UKGameshows.com website. Richard left The Crystal Maze in 1993 after the fourth series; the show was then taken over by Edward Tudor-Pole. It never achieved the same degree of success under Tudor-Pole, and was discontinued within two years.

In other roles O'Brien has conceptualized and played the role of the Child Catcher in the West End theatre production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He also occasionally does cabaret-style music and comedy performances on stages around the world, singing songs from Rocky Horror among others. In 1995, he performed a select number of shows as the devilish charmer, Mephistopheles Smith, in a musical/comedy show he wrote entitled Disgracefully Yours, which was later given permission to be adapted into a musical, performed first by Eubank Productions for the Kansas City Fringe Fest in 2006, and more recently by Janus Theatre Company for the Edinburgh Fringe 2007, simply entitled Mephistopheles Smith. In late 2005, he appeared in the pantomime version of Snow White, which played at the Milton Keynes Theatre. In the summer of 2006 he played the Child Catcher in the Queen's 80th birthday celebrations at Buckingham Palace.

Richard O'Brien performed in Thank-You for the Music, a 90-minute ABBA documentary for ITV, directed by Martin Koch, who previously directed the musical Mamma Mia! The documentary included a remake of the mini musical The Girl with the Golden Hair which ABBA performed during their 1977 world tour and which was featured on The Album. The musical was be performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre and featured Richard O'Brien, Liz McClarnon, and the Dynamos.

He is also a patron of the Five Stars Scanner Appeal, which benefits the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, UK. From 2001 until 2006 he hosted the annual Transfandango, gala gathering of "Dearhearts and Trans 'n' Gentle People" to raise money for the hospital. This has now been superseded by 'Richard O'Brien's Halloween Party'.

A script for another rumored sequel entitled Revenge of the Old Queen, has been circulated on the web and reproduced on various fansites, though officially denied as O'Brien's work by his representatives. While he has worked on a screenplay by that title, it was never publicly released. He has been working again on The Stripper , a musical for which he wrote the lyrics and which had its UK premiere at The Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex on 28 August 2009.

In 2004, Hamilton City Council in New Zealand honoured O'Brien's contribution to the arts with a statue of Riff Raff, the character Richard played in The Rocky Horror Show, on the site of the former Embassy Cinema. His love of horror and similar genres can be traced back to the countless afternoons he spent watching double feature horror/science fiction films at the Embassy before he moved back to England. This was made ironic when, in June 2010, O'Brien was refused New Zealand citizenship and so could himself not settle in the country. He commented "They build a statue of me and celebrate me as a New Zealander, but I have to go on my knees and do all sorts of things, and I'm probably too old." The government eventually made an exception, and O'Brien is scheduled to become a New Zealand citizen in December 2011.

In September 2007 he reprised his role as the Child Catcher for the final 2 weeks of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's 5 year UK run, and then played the role in its Singapore engagement for the month of November, extended to 9 December. Also in December, he visited Hamilton, New Zealand and presented An Evening With Richard O'Brien, in conjunction with an independent New Zealand film group, planning to film a musical based on his early life, The King's Stilettoes.

In December 2008 Richard O'Brien donated his original script, Pig In Boots to 'The Wireless Theatre Company' who converted it into an audio pantomime. The show was 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.

 personal life
O'Brien has married twice and fathered three children. In a 2009 interview he spoke about an ongoing struggle to reconcile cultural gender roles and described himself as being transgender or possible third sex. O'Brien stated, "There is a continuum between male and female. Some are hard-wired one way or another, I’m in between."

In June 2010, the media reported that O'Brien had been denied citizenship after he applied to retire in New Zealand. In August 2010, New Zealand's The Dominion Post reported that O'Brien would be allowed residency and possibly citizenship as an "exceptional" case. According to the Waikato Times, he will be officially registered as a New Zealand citizen on 14 December 2011.

On 16 August 2010, he appeared on a Celebrity Cash in the Attic episode, where he donated the takings from his sale of memorabilia to ''Royal Manchester Children's Hospital.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Richard O'Brien (acteur)", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.