(NR) 3 1/2 starsEd Johnson-Ott
A fascinating look at a pop music mover and shaker whose day has gone by. In the '70s on cutting age L.A. radio station KROQ, Rodney Bingenheimer blazed trails by giving first airplay to many artists who later became stars. If it was happening, Rodney was in the middle of it. But after decades have passed, what has happened to Rodney? Actually, he's still on the scene. Marginalized, to be sure - where once he was on the air weekends at 8 in the evening, he now is consigned to the midnight to 3 a.m. slot - but he keeps the job, because he loves his music.
Mayor of the Sunset Strip is a compelling, funny, sweet and sad documentary by George Hickenlooper (The Man from Elysian Fields, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse) including interviews with David Bowie, Cher, Mick Jagger, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love and many more.
All of them talking about Rodney Bingenheimer.
Rodney is a short, skinny man with faraway eyes and a wistful smile. In the '60s, with long hair and bangs, he looked like an elf. In 2003, still wearing the bangs and a poofy sort of hairdo, he looks like your timid, aging aunt.
As a kid he was drawn from Northern California to L.A., where the magic was happening. With a Zelig-like ability to get physically close to the celebrity elite, he started building friendships. Sal Mineo dubbed him "the Mayor of the Sunset Strip." After a stint as stand-in for Davy Jones in The Monkees, he wrote for various magazines and split for Europe because the L.A. scene was too full of "guys with long hair and beards."
Enthralled with the glam-rock scene, he later returned to L.A. and, in 1972, opened Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco, which became the place to go for the next couple of years. Then, in August of 1976, he made his debut on KROQ, where he introduced and championed the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Ramones, X, The Go-Go's, Blondie, Devo, Madness, Van Halen, The Smiths, Dramarama, Nirvana, Oasis, No Doubt, Coldplay and the Strokes, to name but a very few.
The interviews are colorful and the various tales of excess are fun to hear, but watching Rodney is hypnotic. Only once in the film did he get angry and show his emotions. For the rest of the film he maintains the kind of blank look that Andy Warhol cultivated.
Watch him. Study him as he stands by the stars. I think he's feeding.