7 July 2010
By MARTIN DOYLE
How did we let these two get away?
First, someone in Waikato opened a very old suitcase and made a mind-blowing discovery: inside were the 200-year-old diaries and artwork of officer and artist Denzil Ibbetson. The handwritten papers included impressions of Napoleon Bonaparte in his last years on the world’s most remote island, St Helena. He was exiled there following his loss of the Battle of Waterloo at the hands of the Duke of Wellington. Effectively, these events are why our city is named Wellington. Stunningly, also preserved in the bag, was a lock of Napoleon’s hair (snipped from his corpse). It’s a treasure to be treasured. It is an exhibition ‘piece’ most museums would kill for.
Imagine its priceless viewing appeal to modern tourists. And Auckland’s response? They somehow decided it was just old baggage to make a buck from; and auctioned it off in lots to the highest bidders throughout the world for (what turned out to be) peanuts. Where was Te Papa in all this? Pass.
The second offence against reason (or against Life, really) was our immigration people denying citizenship to 68-year-old Richard O’Brien. His crime? He’s over 55 years old and he has no job to go to!
OK, O’Brien may have been English-born, but his family immigrated when he was nine and he only left NZ when he was 22. Both parents died here, and his brother and sister still live in Tauranga. Oh yes, and he’s also the author of cult-classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is the world’s most popular midnight movie even 35 years after it first came out. Richard O’Brien played the first, unforgettable Riff Raff, the hunchbacked sidekick of the rampant “transsexual from Transylvania”, Dr Frank-N-Furter. For the whole Western World, this film is a compulsory and hilarious baptism into adulthood.
And it’s not all fantasy: O’Brien partly based the masterpiece on real-life New Zealand. And it’s still accurate: take, for example, our newsreaders Simon Dallow and Wendy Petrie who are dead ringers for Brad and Janet; and the All Blacks are 15 Rockies to a T. At the end of the show, there’s a strangely sad song where Frankie sings, “I’m going home...” But poor old Richard O’Brien isn’t allowed to... We should be paying him to come here. The guy’s a Kiwi icon! Just like the suitcase from St Helena, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot (yet again).
But enough bleating, I’ve had an IDEA [work with me on this one]: some stroppy arts warden at the Council, or even the mayor, should get their leotards on and go into immigration and give the nutters a good flogging. Tell them this: “Wellington wants Riff Raff and to hell with his age! Wellington’s going to run an annual International Rocky Horror Carnival at Courtenay Place. It’ll be bigger than the World Cup! And not just your common riff-raff either: but Riff Raff himself! SO LET HIM IN!!!”