Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Video Killed the Radio Star

You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognise, some that you've hardly even heard of.
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.
Everybody's a dreamer and everybody's a star
And everybody's in show biz, it doesn't matter who you are.

-The Kinks

Last night I saw the documentary, Mayor of the Sunset Strip. It's the tale of one certain Rodney Bingenheimer, a little guy who was somehow at the center of every important thing that happened in music over the last 40 years or so. I knew him as Rodney on the Roq, a DJ on LA's infamous KROQ - one of the first "alternative" stations in the country. I lived in San Diego, though, some 90 miles south of LA, so I couldn't really listen to the show.

I have friends who grew up listening to him, going to his clubs, befriending him. I got to watch the documentary with one of those friends, at least, and it was fun to watch with a sort of similar reference point. In one interview (a cavalcade of stars are featured) with Ray Manzarek of the Doors, my friend Tim and I both muttered "Putz!" at the screen under our breath, and then had to laugh about it. Because Ray Manzarek is really a wanker, even if he did produce X's best stuff.

Anyway, Rodney is a funny little guy who got dropped off at Connie Stevens' house when he was 15 or so by his mom, who then left him there and drove off to places unknown. Thus began his illustrious career in Hollywood, which included living with Sonny & Cher, introducing David Bowie to the American record companies, hosting a club so popular that Led Zeppelin came there to troll for babes, standing in for Davy Jones on the Monkees' set, and breaking new artists on the radio like Oasis, the Go Gos, No Doubt, etc... But really it's about what a sweet and peculiar little man he is, and how everyone in the star studded universe of LA loves him. He's like the hero you never knew about, because you were too busy trying to beat him up in school. And there's an innocence about him that is amazing in that industry, especially since he's been in it for soooooooo long in some capacity. The best part, though (well, for Tim and I), was that the closing shot was Rodney talking to John Doe from X after a performance, and John Doe is wearing a Snackcake t-shirt, which was a magazine I wrote for and Tim founded. We were more than a little exhuberant.

It gets released nationwide on April 9th, and for those of you abroad... well, find a way to see it. If you love music, you'll love this documentary. I was very jealous to have been too young to have taken full advantage of his heyday, but I dated a couple guys who were older than me who liked to rub that fact in. "Oh, I saw Roxy Music play in that little club when they were still doing music you could dance to" or "I was at a party with Rodney and the Go Gos in 1983 because he was dating my sister" or " I used to meet him for dinner at Canter's on Thursdays" or whatever.

It was a sweet film - try and find it. You'll love Rodney too.