Mayor of the Sunset Strip, Rodney Bingenheimer documentary
November 14, 2011 9:25 PM   Subscribe

In Southern California in the 1980s, KROQ had this weird un-DJ-like guy named (seriously) Rodney Bingenheimer, who came on late at night on Sundays and played punk records and new bands like Blondie, The Ramones, X, Joan Jett, Devo and Cheap Trick. Did this weirdo really have some influence? A 90-minute 2004 documentary now on YouTube, Mayor of the Sunset Strip (Part 1) tells his story, and it's weirder than you may have imagined.

Literally abandoned at age 16 by his autograph-hound mother in front of Connie Stevens' L.A. home, Bingenheimer embedded himself in the L.A. music scene and never left.
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
posted by planetkyoto (24 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Is it my birthday or something?

Between this and the Xanadu thread, it's like MeFi has gone all MeFi.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:32 PM on November 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

I wanted to debut the Annette Funicello tag, but I think she was only mentioned once in the film, which was made by George Hickenlooper. He directed his biggest film, Casino Jack, last year, but died before the premiere.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:32 PM on November 14, 2011

It's a profoundly sad documentary, and Bingenheimer isn't always sympathetic, but it's pretty interesting for me to see the LA music scene having an actual history — there's always this sense, growing up in the Midwest, that bands from LA are just from "elsewhere," and it was cool to see the connective tissue.
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 PM on November 14, 2011

I remember watching this documentary in the theater when it came out. I was a big Rodney fan growing up in LA (until I got too hip in high school to be willing to listen to KROQ) and had only just moved away to go to college when the documentary came out, and I remember that it made me weep just hearing Rodney's voice. I'd had no idea what he even looked like.
posted by troublesome at 9:51 PM on November 14, 2011

Rodney is still on the Roq on sundays, and still a fixture on the local music scene here in LA.
He's every bit as... peculiar as he seems in the documentary, but goddamn if he isn't a living encyclopedia of modern music.
posted by ApathyGirl at 9:52 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

This weirdo -- who happened to be my neighbor when I was growing up -- had enormous influence and great ears, but makes music industry folks really uncomfortable, because he failed to capitalize on it.

Spotted him the other night at his usual evening haunt, all alone at the Bingenheimer booth at Canter's Deli. The city changes and what passes for rock and roll pretty much sucks now, but Rodney stays the same. Where does he eat lunch now that the Sunset Boulevard Denny's is no more? Is he lonely? I keep hoping he'll hook up with that other trapped-in-amber Angeleno, Angelyne.

Obligatory Angry Samoans YT link.
posted by Scram at 9:54 PM on November 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

I feel obligated to state that, in spite of having name-dropped KROQ several times, I never worked with or even more than briefly spent time in the same room with Rodney. As the station developed its format as New Wave, not Punk ("It's a whole different head," he said, quoting Square Pegs), the flow of talent from his show to the rest of the station slowed to a trickle and by the time I got there in '84, he was 'that guy on Sunday' who the DJs told stories about to avoid telling stories about each other. I've been curious how those stories pan out and have been looking forward to this flick since I first heard about it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:56 PM on November 14, 2011

He had great ears — a lot of what he plays now is bland modern rock.
posted by klangklangston at 9:57 PM on November 14, 2011

it's pretty interesting for me to see the LA music scene having an actual history — there's always this sense, growing up in the Midwest, that bands from LA are just from "elsewhere," and it was cool to see the connective tissue.

You might also be interested in watching this PBS/American Masters documentary about The Troubadour and its importance in music in the LA scene and music in general in the 1970s.
posted by hippybear at 10:02 PM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Or Bob and The Monster.
But why is this film on YouTube? Documentary filmmakers never make much $$--why post the whole damn thing?
posted by Ideefixe at 10:09 PM on November 14, 2011

I still see him at Canters deli from time to time too. I'm sad they closed the rock Dennys. That booth was his office!
posted by Kloryne at 10:14 PM on November 14, 2011

I've been meaning to watch this doc for several years now, basically ever since I met one of the minor players who shows up somewhere in it. Ronald Vaughan was featured in a series of weird videos I posted a while back, doing the routine he's sort of descended into dementia with. Weird little Hollywood.
posted by carsonb at 10:19 PM on November 14, 2011

Man, I LOVE this movie. Rodney Bigenheimer was (is?) a real life Zelig of cutting edge pop music trends. For a guy who seems to be such an music insider, his "outside"ness is what struck me the most watching this movie the first time. Keir Duella nailed him in his brief time on screen as Rodney at the end of The Runaways film.

Everyone loves Rodney, but nobody loves Rodney. It's sad, but it is also the world Rodney chose to immerse himself in all those years ago. There's something more than a little terrifying about the fact that one of his closest friends is that consummate user and manipulator Kim Fowley. It's like they came in with all the other weirdos on a rising tide of AWESOME years ago and now are holding on for dear life among the pop culture detrius left on the beach as the tide rolls back out.

Plus, the soundtrack kicks so much ass.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:32 PM on November 14, 2011

Man. I remember KROQ.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:34 PM on November 14, 2011

Wow. I was not expecting such a rush of nostalgia. Thanks for the post!
posted by spiderskull at 10:38 PM on November 14, 2011

So, watching this movie...

I'm struck by Rodney's single-mindedness at pursuing his passion. He's doing exactly what he should in order to fully manifest his interest in becoming instrumental in careers of bands he is interested in, to the point of sleeping on Dramarama's floor when he goes out to learn more about them. That he managed to be positioned as a disk jockey at one of the most influential radio stations in the country during the development of all this... that worked in his favor.

Today it would be internet bloggers who could possibly have this kind of reach. Is there a Rodney of the internet age? Is such a thing even possible, given the increase in possible channels for discovery?

Thanks so much for the post. I'd never heard of this, and I'm enjoying it hugely.
posted by hippybear at 11:14 PM on November 14, 2011

I haven't watched the whole doc yet, but do they bring up the Angry Samoans not-so-loving paean (NSFW, offensive as all hell) to him?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:00 AM on November 15, 2011

I would like to advocate for KNAC (before the Heavy Metal apocalypse).

Pink and Black for Life.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:29 AM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Prior to renting the DVD, I'd only heard his name when the GTOs name-checked him.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:45 AM on November 15, 2011

Bingenheimer was responsible for waking me out of my teenage stupor and getting me interested in some really amazing music. I was glued to his show on KROQ -- he made my boring life in Pasah-denah seem, at least temporarily, mildly exciting.
posted by blucevalo at 8:04 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rodney on the Roq. A staple of any music lover.
posted by Chuffy at 8:19 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having lived in L.A. for many years in the 80’s-90’s it’s odd to me that anyone would have to be introduced to Rodney. He’s a fixture. I’m sure there’s an equivalent everywhere.
posted by bongo_x at 11:03 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

blucevalo, are you by any chance one of the Pasadeneans who is also riding the nostalgia wave over on the E-Bar's Facebook page?
posted by gusandrews at 2:52 PM on November 15, 2011

Still have a couple of the compilation records... can't wait to watch this. THANKS.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:19 PM on November 15, 2011

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