Projections - Movie Reviews

Mayor of The Sunset Strip
Mayor of the Sunset Strip
Starring Rodney Bingenheimer, Exene Cervenka, John Doe,
Chris Carter, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani

Rodney Bingenheimer has stood or hid in the shadows of rock n’ roll finest over the last 40 years. He has hung around with the likes of David Bowie and Sonny and Cher and was a double for the Monkees’ Davy Jones. The gnomish music lover who plays what he picks, from 45's to CD’s is the subject of George Hickenlooper’s documentary Mayor of The Sunset Strip.

An androgynous man here gives rise to what doesn’t always come up pop culture celebrity. Bingenheimer’s major claim to fame is providing air play for those like Courtney Love. Coldplay, No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani and those artists further back like Elvis Costello and the Sex Pistols. He’s more than those female groupies in Almost Famous, because he gave listeners the chance to help many struggling musicians rise in popularity. Yet, this Andy Warhol type was able to enjoy more than his share of relationships, beyond the platonic.

A Zelig figure emerges from his VIP section in a disco he ran and is an avant-guard DJ on Los Angeles’ KROQ radio station. But, the now middle-aged relic has found a niche, tucked away in a midnight to three am shift. Many stars like Nancy Sinatra, Joan Jett, and Mick Jagger (in Hickenlooper’s The Man From Elysian Fields) extend much adulation in a depiction which starts out more comedic than it ends.

Hickenlooper, whose documentaries include the fascinating one about Francis Ford Coppola, Hearts of Darkness, goes beyond the LA music scene. He does well in making the viewer side with a lucky person who is like a child-like adult, vacuous, yet resilient in his family and personal life. His deceased mother probably was his closest friend, leaving him at 16 at Connie Stevens’ doorstep for an autograph even though it turns out she wasn’t home. Mayor of The Sunset Strip parlays archival footage from Elvis and the Beach Boys and many other huge successes to make the music vibrant. But, someone who was different things to so many, never stood as tall as he probably could have, but is quite intriguing, in an oddly wistful way.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip

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