Sunday, 20 March 2005

Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003) - ickleReview (cinema)

Rodney Bingenheimer is the American John Peel: he has his own radio show on KROQ, which has broken some of the biggest acts in recent times: David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Coldplay, Nirvana, No Doubt (I could go on). He's small and weedy and walks kinda funny, like a kid who was beaten up a lot at school. His friends say he was. And yet the famous names of the music business seem to love him, to let him be their groupie. There's an avalanche of photos of Rodney with the stars, especially girls, in various states of undress. He loved these people, and they seemed to love him. How he differs from John Peel is that he doesn't seem to have had the support of a great family behind him. His mother abandoned him as a kid after she divorced; in his dad's home today, the photo of him as a kid with the Easter Bunny is pathetically hidden down the side of a dresser, away from all the other framed family photos. For all the girls he could have had, the love of his life, Camille, is somewhat frigid and unthankful for the devotion he shows to her. She kinda has a boyfriend at the moment, she tells the camera, as he sits on the bed next to her; you have to be ready and willing to have a relationship, ready for the fall.

This documentary is produced by Chris Carter (formerly of Dramarama, another band Rodney broke to the bigtime), one of Rodney's best friends; but who sells out on him by moving to another radio show at the rival station. Meanwhile, Rodney is shunned with the Sunday graveyard shift at KROQ from midnight till 3am, kinda like John Peel was treated by Radio 1. It's about a remarkable life on the Sunset Strip, of how Rodney built around himself a revolution, of which he was a leader, but never quite a part - or at least he didn't buy shares in it. He was only in it because he loved the music and the attention he never seemed to get from his family or those who should have cared about him. His only profit was the company and a hall of fame of fading photographic memories. It feels like you're prying into this guy's private life; and yet he's lived so much of it for the past 30 years in public: he has the pictures and souvenirs to prove it! It's also about how cold and hard a place Hollywood is, how it shits on you from above and below, how it preys on you like a vulture, characterized by Rodney's rival, Kim Fowley, the sort of man who gives LA its bad name, and for whom the word "creep" must have been invented.

Nugget: only once does Rodney crack, but it suggests that this loving living epitaph isn't quite as reliable as perhaps it should be. A life in pictures will always be two-dimensional unless you can understand the people behind the camera and their reasons for making it. This could just as well be a big industry hoax; but it's nice to believe that there are people like Rodney Bingenheimer out there who somehow slip through the net.

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