Mayor of the Sunset Strip
written and directed by George Hickenlooper
starring Rodney Bingenheimer and about a million rock stars
review by Stephen Notley
Rodney Bingenheimer isn't famous, except to famous people. Famous people, they love him, they flock to him, Bowie, Jagger, Brian Wilson, McCartney, Cher, Gilligan, Hendrix, everybody who's *anybody* knows Rodney. This whole movie is about how all these people *we've* heard of think *he's* just the cat's pajamas.
It's a little odd, considering the kind of guy he is, short, unattractive, with a spadelike nose and a timid, hesitant voice. He smiles but he doesn't seem particularly charismatic or funny or talented. He answers questions with simple declarations. He rarely says anything very interesting, even as he's poking around his room pointing out mementoes like Elvis Presley's driver's license or a photo of him with Jodi Foster.
It's bizarre; it's like we're watching a movie about a shleppy guy who found a genie or a magic shoe and his wish was "I wanna be friends with all the famous people!" and poof! it was so. Nothing about him changed to make him into the kind of energetic, creative, talented, successful person he wanted to be around, but somehow he became the guy who knew all of them and so that became his thing, what he had to offer.
He had an odd start, Rodney, abandoned by
autograph-hounding mother in
And as it turned out he did have a talent,
the talent of
taste, and a genuine abiding love of music. He eventually became a DJ
At the same time, the movie draws the sharp
distinction between being beloved and being loved. Everybody loves him,
everybody has good things to say about him, everybody wants to be his
yet he's alone. Rock starlets hug him and kiss him on the cheek, but
no girlfriend. He loves his friend Camille and they're "great
friends" but, yknow, she's kinda seeing someone, uncomfortable shrug.
he misses his Mom a lot, eventually taking a solitary trip to
There's a strange moment late in the film, though, when Rodney ducks behind a stage door to have an argument with a friend, pushing the camera out of the way and slamming the door shut. The camera peeks in again a few moments later and there's Rodney, his back to us, tearing a strip off this guy, "You're totally being me! You're always copying me!", stomping off and giving a quick finger and "Fuck you" to the camera. What the hell? Who's *this* guy? He's nothing at all like the quiet, nervously smiling dude we've seen him be for the rest of the movie; it's a strange glimpse into a facet of his personality of which we otherwise had no hint.
This movie is hipsterism in all its faces, the back-clapping bonhomie, the name-dropping, the status games, the slick and pointless power of fame. Rodney seems like a nice enough guy, certainly all these famous folks adore the poo out of him, but I never found myself thinking man, I wish he could be *my* friend! In fact, at 98 minutes I'd had plenty of Rodney, and since there wasn't much chance he was gonna introduce me to Jennifer Love Hewitt after the show I kinda wondered whether the time I'd spent with him had been worth it.