Steve Pratt talks to one of the original stars of the Rocky Horror Show and learns the secrets of the 'luscious lips'.

The song is Science Fiction, Double Feature. The voice is that of Richard O'Brien, creator of cult musical The Rocky Horror Show. The lips belong to Patricia Quinn, the original Magenta - the cinema usherette who opens the stage show.

Those luscious lips are as much a part of the cult that's grown up around The Rocky Horror Show as doing the Time Warp or Frank-n-Furter, the sweet transsexual from Transylvania.

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Quinn points out that it's been said that Elle McPherson is to the body what Patricia Quinn is to the lips.

Yet it might have been so different. The close-up of the singing lips opens the film version, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, whereas the stage show begins with the usherette singing Science Fiction, Double Feature.

When Quinn was told the character wouldn't be in the film version, she said she didn't want to be in the movie. "One was like that, a young arrogant actress who said, 'you can stuff the film'," she recalls.

Then director Jim Sharman, who'd directed her in the first production at Upstairs at the Royal Court in London, took her to Bray Studios to see the sets and she was hooked. "I thought, 'when do I start?," she says.

When filming was completed, Sharman decided to start the movie with the lips. "Richard O'Brien had recorded the song. I thought they were bringing in Shirley Bassey or somebody and was thinking, 'you bastard, you've taken my song'," says Quinn.

"Then Jim asked if I'd be this animated mouth because they didn't know how to do it. So it was my mouth and Richard's voice. I was in a play, Murderer, in London and they came to get me to go to Elstree studios for the day. But there was nothing left in the budget to pay me."

The lips logo has become the internationally recognised symbol of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Magenta is but one of many roles in the career of the Belfast-born actress who was a London Playboy club bunny before going to drama school and later married Royal Shakespeare Company actor Robert Stephens, becoming Lady Stephens in the process.

Magenta remains the role with which she's most associated despite eye-catching turns as suffragette Christabel Pankhurst in the BBC series Shoulder To Shoulder and the evil Livilla in another BBC drama I, Claudius.

She was on stage last month in a special performance of The Rocky Horror Show staged as part of the Royal Court Theatre anniversary celebrations. "I used to joke that I will be doing it until I'm 90 - and it's going to come true," she says.

"The first production was just putting on a little musical for three weeks in the small Upstairs theatre. I was paid £18 a week which I handed over to my nanny. But it was quite wonderful and Jim Sharman was so marvellous.

"Then the film was extraordinary in that every day was a complete surprise. Like the scene with Meatloaf under the table in the dining room. No one knew he was there. When we saw Loaf under there, every reaction was real. I just burst out laughing."

She points out, with a touch of pride if I'm not mistaken, that the film was originally banned in Germany for cannibalism and in South Africa for corrupting the youth. "I never found it shocking. It seemed normal to me," she says.

She sang Science Fiction, Double Feature at the recent gala ("that was very nostalgic") while various narrators and past cast members performed numbers too. Michael Ball made an impression as Frank-n-Furter. "When he got into his drag - tiara, pearls and high heels - he looked like Hyacinth Bucket, like your mother's best friends," she says cheekily.

"My son has seen a lot of shows and said that for him it was the best night of Rocky Horror he'd seen. So it shows it can be done in a concert version."

Quinn got tired of playing Magenta on stage night after night. On camera, in the film, there was a lot more to do. "I couldn't wait to leave really. I stayed for three months and was then offered Christabel Pankhurst at the BBC. I caught the night train to Halifax covered in glitter and got on a soap box to made a speech about the suffragette movement. I couldn't wait to get on with other work," she says.

She hasn't deserted Rocky, attending conventions and getting recognised. People nudge each other in the street and say, 'it's her', and she's been in designer shops in London where assistants have started singing the songs when she appeared.

"I just did my job, I'm an actor," says Quinn. "I was much happier playing Lady Macbeth at the Bush theatre. I don't mean to be rude but that was what I was born to do. I like having language and lines. But Rocky Horror makes everyone happy. It's very uplifting."

* The 30th anniversary edition DVD box set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its sequel, Shock Treatment, is released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, £24.99. A limited edition Lips box set, containing both films and a host of collector's items, is also available, £69.99.