If you’ve already seen this Rodney Bingenheimer documentary, you know that it’s the Being There of rock films. Legendary KROQ DJ Bingenheimer — known as “Rodney on the ROQ,” a guy who helped break Bowie, Coldplay, the Sex Pistols, the Go-Gos and scores of others in the United States — was Chance the Gardiner at the epicenter of a burgeoning rock scene. He liked to watch bands, didn’t say much and gave good directions to budding rock stars who were new in town. From this humble premise, the movie devolves into a pity party of sorts when Bingenheimer, basically a blank screen that everyone projects their career aspirations on, reveals his love for a young musician named Camille, a cold fish Lilith Frasier in knee-highs. She proceeds to shut him down on camera with news of her boyfriend and the “Rodney’s just a friend” speech. Plus she’s concentrating on her “music career”? Ouch. This is the humiliating, skin-crawling nugget you suffer through countless episodes of “Blind Date” to get to.
But it’s the extras that make this DVD so fun. Like the audio commentary where you learn as much superficial information about Bingenheimer as the regular movie. No secrets to what’s causing the strange gravitational pull on his mysteriously shaggy mane. No life-changing insights from Bingenheimer other than he’s getting more girls since the film came out. To hear Bingenheimer asking “How could I be heartbreaking?” you get the feeling it still hasn’t occurred to him that many of his celebrity “pals” treat him like a pet rock, or that his mother used his teen obsession for Connie Stevens as an excuse to dump him on her doorstep. If Bingenheimer had a vindictive bone in his body, that’s where he would’ve dumped his ma’s ashes, on Connie Stevens’ doorstep with a bottle of her “Forever Spring” skin cream glopped over ’em. No “darn my ma” moment ever occurs.
But enough about Bingenheimer. The celebrity interview outtakes are the best extra since it lets us ditch Bingenheimer and be Bingenheimer at the same time by allowing us to hang out with big names in real time. Bowie comes off like the smarmiest prick here, but since that’s always been his public image, he’s just giving the KROQ radio staff what they want. Kim Fowley is what Bingenheimer would’ve become had he not tried to parlay his notoriety into power. Michael and Pamela Des Barres have such a great time with each other it almost makes you wish they’d remake Hart to Hart with these jokers. There’s a 20-minute meeting between a very reverent Elvis Costello and a surprisingly coherent Brian Wilson which makes you think that it was an attempt at a collaboration that didn’t come off because Elvis was a little too quick-witted. And you come away with nothing but love for saintly Nancy Sinatra who actually remembers what car Bingenheimer drives (unlike Cher who doesn’t even remember meeting his mother), knows Kim Gordon and gives a speech about “the haves have to take care of the have-nots.” While we’re passing out humanitarian awards, Alice Cooper qualifies for suggesting that rock stars have a responsibility to rehearse!
See Metro Times’ review of Mayor of the Sunset Strip’s theatrical release in the film section of metrotimes.com.
Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].