2 May 2005 | scorp_gal_03
A Study in the Tragically Hip
So who is this Rodney Bingenheimer? One can describe him as the "Mayor of the Sunset Strip," but in my opinion, "King of the Groupies" is more accurate. If you live in LA, you may be somewhat familiar with him due to his radio show. If not, you're still going to love this film if you're at all a fan of rock and roll music.
"Mayor of the Sunset Strip" is sort of a cross between "Zelig" and "This Is Spinal Tap," but unlike those pics, this is a not a mockumentary...Rodney Bingenheimer is a real guy. And there isn't a famous rock musician with whom he hasn't hung out, or been photographed. Lest you think this guy is just some kind of a Photoshop genius who never actually met Lennon, Bowie and the rest...well there are plenty of folks out there who will corroborate his life story. And these folks are featured in this documentary...everyone from Deborah Harry to The Doors' Ray Manzarek, plus the most famous groupie of all time, Pamela Des Barres (and I must admit that when I was 15 years old and read "I'm With the Band, I so wanted to be her).
Rodney began his career as a professional hanger-on when he got hired to play Davy Jones' double in "The Monkees"although aside from the height and hair, he really doesn't resemble Davy Jones at all. However, Rodney was somehow able to turn this 15 minutes of fame into four decades at the top (or outskirts, depending on how you look at it) of LA's social scene. Little 5'3",100 lb, not least-bit handsome Rodney propelled himself into a world where he knew every rock and roller, and they all knew him (I, for one, am convinced this is due to the fact that, next to Rodney, celebrities could feel good about themselves by appearing taller and more attractive). By the time he opened his famous "Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco" in the early 70s, Rodney was apparently, as we learn in the film, getting more girls than even Robert Plant. And when Michael Des Barres speaks of Rodney's success with women, he declares that the guy had a "posse of p*****." This fact is remembered fondly by the beyond middle-aged Rodney in the film
I found that scene particularly hilarious.
By the time disco music actually became popular in the latter part of the 70s, Rodney wanted to close his "English Disco." He had long since moved on to punk rock, worshipping the likes of the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. In the 80s, Rodney was able to establish himself as a DJ who brought the latest and greatest music to Southern California. Without a good radio voice, Rodney was able to turn his knowledge of the music into a paying job. Fast forward to the 90s, and we see Rodney, looking like a 60-year-old in a Paul Weller wig, still seemingly at the top of the rock and roll ladder, hanging out with the likes of Coldplay and Oasis, the latter he claimed to be playing on the radio when their music was still only available on tape (Well, I personally happen to have seen Oasis play very early on in a small club with only about 100 people in the audience, but I digress
) From the very beginning of the film, we see that life is getting tougher for Rodney. For one thing, it's hard to make a living when you don't have any particular skills, and your claim to fame is that you know (or used to know) a bunch of famous people. That's the tragedy of it.
All in all, it's the little things that make watching this documentary so entertaining...from the conversations in Bing & Zelda Bingenheimer's garishly decorated California home, to the scenes of Rodney driving around LA in his tres uncool automobile. Then there are the scenes of Rodney's friend Isadore Ivy singing his ode to Jennifer Love Hewitt, and his other friend, Kim Fowley(?) discussing the amazing sexual capacity of the male organ. Anyway, you can easily forget, while watching this movie, that Rodney Bingenheimer and the weirdos around him are not fictional characters. And that's what makes it all so chuckle-inducing.
In closing, it's films like "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" that are exactly the reason I enjoy watching documentaries so much.