Movie Recommendation- Mayor of the Sunset Strip
MAYOR OF THE SUNSET STRIP (2003)
If you’ve ever been stuck driving around Los Angeles at one o’clock on a late Sunday-into-Monday, you’ve probably heard Rodney Bingenheimer. Not exactly primetime, but for two hours per week you can still hear the elfin KROQ DJ’s thin, aggressively uncharismatic voice earnestly championing a eclectic slate of obscure garage rock. It’s a sad final chapter for the so-called “Mayor of the Sunset Strip,” who once reigned as L.A.’s preeminent pop music kingmaker, trend arbiter, and black belt celebrity starfucker. Director George Hickenlooper’s documentary is a film in two parts. The first tracks Rodney’s remarkable four-decade career, charting his unlikely rise from unprepossessing, celebrity-obsessed music industry nerd to unprepossessing, celebrity-obsessed music industry bigwig. At various times, Bingenheimer was a major label PR stooge, disc jockey, and club impresario. Part Forrest Gump, part Zelig, Rodney played an important part in popularizing every significant rock ‘n roll movement from the British Invasion to Alternative Nation, befriending everyone from Phil Spector to Gwen Stefani in the process. It’s a ton of glittery, effervescent fun. The second part of the film, however, is more sobering. Taking a look at Rodney’s life today (i.e. 2003), Hickenlooper finds a marginalized and largely irrelevant man who’s many adventures have left him with little money and even fewer “real” relationships. It’s bittersweet, but never morose. Hickenlooper does an excellent job balancing the two halves. It helps that Rodney himself is one of the all-time great characters, fiction or nonfiction. Wearing his own lack of self-awareness like a suit of honor, Bingenheimer forges ahead with steadfast optimism, never noticing or caring (except fleetingly) that his own options are on a steady decline. Part biopic, part ethnographic study, part portraiture, Mayor of the Sunset Strip is a fascinating ode to both a man and a moment that the world has largely passed by, with a kick-ass soundtrack that will animate your brain for days.