We are likely seldom going to have someone I’m as closely connected to as Richard Bellis (who I could’ve done for October, given his credits, but did for personal emotional reasons when I did), and I’m not even as close to Richard O’Brien as I am to Brad Dourif—I’ve never been in a room with Richard O’Brien. Still, the one person I can think of that I would write up who’s closer to me than Mr. Bellis shares a credit with Richard O’Brien; they both did a lot of work on Phineas and Ferb together. It’s not where much of anyone thinks of O’Brien from first, though.
Still, he has a wide and involved career that most people don’t remember exists. Phineas and Ferb, yes. But honestly I’ve seen two of his other movies, beyond the big one, in the theatre. I saw Ever After, a movie I still love, in which he leches all over Drew Barrymore. And I saw the 2000 Dungeons and Dragons movie in the theatre as well—twice. (The short answer is “because college.” My partner does not understand this, but if you were in college and in your early twenties, I’m sure you do.) One of those, I continue to watch to this day.
O’Brien does not stick to quality films, exactly—though Ever After is a better movie than its reputation, if not exactly High Art. Anjelica Huston is having a wonderful time at it, at bare minimum, and so is O’Brien. He knows exactly what role he’s playing, and if he never actually twirls that moustache he’s got in it, well, he might as well be. He’s magnificent and I’m quite sure he knows it. He’s playing a cartoon villain whose name is practically Pepe le Pew.
And, yes, there’s Rocky Horror. You know him as Riff Raff; if you know the details of the behind-the-scenes stuff, you know that he wrote it. Ever since I was a literal child, I’ve been singing songs written by Richard O’Brien. “I’m Going Home” is a lovely anthem, and there’s nothing to get a junior high dance going like “The Time Warp” unless it’s “Rock Lobster.” I may be showing my age on this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still true.
He’s said some unfortunate stuff about “natural” women despite considering himself to be “third sex.” (He still uses he/him; I checked.) I’d like to hope that he’s one of those people who would benefit from just an actual talk with a real trans person, but who even knows? He’s an enormously important part of the film coming-of-age of a lot of people I know. When I was growing up, you knew you were considered mature by your parents when you were allowed to go to Rocky at the Rialto. And he launched Tim Curry to stardom. There will always be a soft spot in our hearts for him for that.