Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mayor of the Sunset Strip

I had never heard of Rodney Bingenheimer, which presented a challenge for this documentary about him. However, I was pretty impressed with the next three names on the Tivo's cast list: Cher, Courtney Love, and David Bowie. It turns out that Rodney is someone who's had a fascinating life, and I'd rather watch a documentar about someone interesting than someone famous.

Although in a way, Mayor of the Sunset Strip is a documentary about fame itself. Rodney came to Hollywood as a young man, when his mother dropped him off in front of Connie Stevens's house and wished him good luck. Connie wasn't home, so Rodney went to the Sunset Strip and should have starved to death. Instead, he got a job as Davy Jones's stand-in on The Monkees and went from there to hanging out with Sonny and Cher, and was generally on the fringes of everyone famous in the world of rock and roll for the next forty or fifty years. He was in charge of the backstage refreshments at the Monterey Pop Festival, and Ray Manzarek still sounds kind of ticked off that Rodney let the Beatles eat all the shrimp. He had a club and introduced David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Marc Bolan, Suzi Quatro, and apparently the entire glam scene to Los Angeles. He's not the only one making this claim, you understand; David Bowie is the one actually telling us this.

Then he had an important show on KROQ and broke Devo and the Ramones and the Sex Pistols and Nirvana on radio. At this point, he's famous in his own right, and all the bands of the '70s and '80s know him. We see some home movies of Chris Stein and Debbie Harry on his bed in 1977. It's really quite impressive.

I think we're supposed to feel pity for him because when the movie was made in 2004, he's living in a tiny apartment and his radio show has been cut down to the Sunday night midnight-3AM slot. But he's had an amazing life. And apparently Robert Plant once claimed that Rodney was having more sex than anyone in Led Zeppelin. And it seems like every rock star in the world not only knows who he is but is fond of him. Joan Jett shows up to say a word or two, and she wouldn't even do the documentary about the Runaways themselves!

1 comment:

DeeJay said...

Rodney is a strange bird. I remember how influential his show was back in the eighties when the GoGos and the like were coming up. KROQ is my morning station here in So Cal now and the morning team Kevin and Bean have had many a run in with Rodney, mainly because they are somewhat relentless in their mocking of him. They were instrumental in getting Rodney his walk of fame star tho. His voice to me is almost unlistenable! But I hear he is also in the Rock n Roll hall of fame, recordings of his anyway. This movie was fascinating to me for the reasons you mentioned, but sad as well. Sunset Strip in the 60's man!