Let's do The Time Warp again
When I meet him in the bar of the Hippodrome, Richard O'Brien looks as if his skin-tight jeans have been spray-painted on to him.
Now 68, his distinctive bald head and minute physique are virtually unchanged from the early Nineties when he was haring around The Crystal Maze.
He recoils in horror when he's offered a morsel from the buffet that has been laid on, crying, "No! I mustn't ruin this svelte, young girls' figure of mine!"
Richard is funny, kooky and wonderfully odd, much like the cult hit musical The Rocky Horror Show, which he wrote four decades ago.
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The tale of a straight-laced couple who stumble upon an old house filled with hedonistic misfits, Richard's story has enjoyed an enduring appeal, and is back at the Hippodrome from Monday, July 5.
Richard, who hails from Cheltenham, is confident and flamboyant, but this hasn't always been the case. In his youth, he waged an internal struggle over who he was, finally emerging as transgender.
"I decided to just be myself and say 'This is who I am and I'm going to enjoy myself and not be intimidated by dinosaurs'."
It's a philosophy Richard shares with his most famous creation, Dr Frank N Furter, Rocky Horror's charismatic, cross-dressing lead character for whom enjoyment is top of the agenda.
Almost 40 years after Tim Curry first pulled on his stockings and suspenders to play the role, Frank N Furter and his band of freakish cohorts the Transylvanians are as irresistible to audiences as ever.
Since its humble premiere at London's Royal Court Upstairs in 1973, the stage show has been in almost continuous production.
The show really has taken on a life of its own, with audience participation high on the agenda. Fans dress to impress in suspenders and corsets, quote the script and sing along to all the hits, including Sweet Transvestite, Dammit Janet and The Time Warp.
"It's basically a rock'n'roll fairytale and I think that's why it doesn't age. It's the same way that pantos never really age – Rocky is like the eternal pantomime.
"When we were making the movie of Rocky Horror, our producer told me that the most successful films ever made were Hammer House of Horrors and Carry On films and I thought 'Ahhh! Rocky Horror is the two of those put together. I'm on to something here!'
"I think putting the Transylvanians in the film was a good call. Everyone on some level can relate to the Transylvanians. The shape and size of them was so varied, there was no standard norm. I went into a room where the Transylvanians were rehearsing The Time Warp and one chap was about 6'5" and another was so wide that her stomach would arrive in the room before she did!"
Richard penned the show in the Christmas of 1972 in an attempt to combat the boredom of unemployment.
"I was watching a lot of late-night television and B-movies at the time. It was puerile, adolescent tran stuff, there's no doubt about that.
"To have a character come out on stage and sing I'm A Sweet Transvestite with gusto was interesting. I have no idea how I had the bravery to write that really or how Tim Curry had the courage to sing it with such aplomb!"
In addition to writing and starring in Rocky Horror, TV viewers will be remember him as the presenter of The Crystal Maze. "I only did it for four years and it was on Channel 4, which wasn't that popular back then.
"I went to see Janet Street Porter once and she brought this book out that logged how many people and what demographic tuned into the different channels and at what time. She said 'look... 7.30pm nothing, 8.30pm nothing, you come on and immediately we have 500,000 viewers of all ages'. Kids, their parents and their grandparents would come up to me in the street and say how much they loved the show. It wasn't really meant for children, but it became family viewing."
Rocky Horror and Crystal Maze have made Richard O'Brien a household name, but the quirky star insists he has always resisted the temptations of fame and fortune.
"I have never been that ambitious and I never wanted to be famous or anything like that, but one of the things that I think is lovely is that when I started off in this wacky world of showbiz I never thought I'd have any longevity, yet here I still am.
"It's funny the whole celebrity thing. When I first started out, like when I first came here to the Hippodrome in 1967, I worked behind the scenes as a general dogsbody and the leading man and woman were swanning around like stars and their attitude to people like me was ridiculous.
"They'd look at you as if to say 'and who are you?' The director was that same. So it's nice to look back and think 'I'm still here – where are they?'
"I'm fascinated by that and also very grateful. I really do feel like the luckiest person on the planet and I honestly don't take anything I have for granted.
"Money and fame, fame and fortune are whores. They accompany people down the wrong alley for a while. You see it with young actors, singers and in particular reality stars who make their names on Big Brother. They come out, have money and fame, and are deliriously happy for a time, but within three years that all dissipates and disappears and the next minute they're a coke fiend and their life is ruined."
The Rocky Horror Show appears at Bristol Hippodrome from Monday, July 5, until Saturday, July 10. Tickets cost £26-£33.50 – call 0844 847 2325.