Good things always come in threes, right? Today I saw an amazing documentary, and it’s weird how well it fits in with the two documentaries that I had meetings about last week. I caught a matinee of “Mayor Of The Sunset Strip” appropriately enough at the Sunset 5. Wow! Just awesome.
This film is a film about Rodney Bingenheimer, a legend in the LA music scene. Rodney started out as a superfan of the bands of the mid to late 60s. (I’m going to stay away from the term “groupie” even though it is used in the film. I was a superfan of a few bands in my time, and it really takes some dedication. There’s a great book about what it’s like to be a superfan, “Bye Bye Baby: My Tragic Love Affair With The Bay City Rollers” by Caroline Sullivan. But I digress…) Eventually he wound up playing Davy Jones’ double for the Monkees TV show.
From there he hung out and got to know every band and artist that was ever anybody–The Beatles, The Doors, Sonny & Cher, The Mamas & The Papas, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley. Everybody. Watching this documentary, seeing the photos and the films of Rodney with all of these classic bands makes you think he’s some kind of real-life Zelig. He introduced David Bowie to America. He opened his own club on the Sunset Strip in the early 70s where all the rock stars would party. The Runaways. The New York Dolls. Iggy Pop. Alice Cooper.
Finally in the mid-70s he wound up with his own radio show on KROQ. He became THE guy to break all the hot bands of the day. Every band from The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and Blondie to The Go Go’s, The Smiths, and Dramarama got their start (at least in the U.S.) because Rodney played their songs on his radio show. Even more recently bands like Oasis and Coldplay got the nod from Mr. Bingenheimer and have gone on to be huge.
He is truly an amazing individual, and director George Hickenlooper has done a fantastic job of capturing Rodney’s humanity and charm. A great documentary is informative, funny, passionate, and poignant, all at once, and “Mayor Of The Sunset Strip” is no exception. For me it ranks up there with other documentaries like “American Movie“. Even though the subjects are quirky people, they are so endearing that you can’t help falling in love with them.