George Hickenlooper’s documentary based on the surrealistic life of legendary KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer is undoubtedly merited. Today, most young people know him only as Rodney on the KROQ, the soft spoken and unassuming voice on 106.7 FM every Sunday from 12 to 3 a.m. The average listener and rock music fan would be impressed with Rodney’s massive influence over radio playlists across the country. Interviews with dozens of celebrities attest to the magic aura that exudes from this self-proclaimed shy groupie. is lovable personality and good nature illuminate his uncanny ability to rub shoulders with legends such as Elvis, The Beatles, The Doors and Andy Warhol just to name a few. Theater audiences can’t help but sympathize with his mother’s passing which later becomes the emotional focus of the film.
Rodney first walked Sunset Boulevard during the psychedelic 60s after his mother abandoned him in front of a starlet’s house (Connie Stevens) and he never looked back. He bummed around and fell in love with the music scene. The documentary begins to take on aspects of a real-life comedy during the Davey Jones interview in which he discusses Rodney’s first big break as his acting double in ‘The Monkees.’ Moviegoers will enjoy a montage of classic music commercials (before MTV mind you) and film clips ranging from The Mommas and the Papas to John Lennon and Yoko Ono in which a young Rodney can be seen clapping his hands or just looking on in the background.
His home as well as his father’s home reveals that the Bingenheimers have devoted a good portion of their life to chasing celebrities and collecting memorabilia. Rodney may appear to be a nerdy and obsessive collector but even Robert Plant was impressed with this groupie’s knack for getting laid. After all, the next best thing to sleeping with Davey Jones is to sleep with his double. Rodney was eventually able to open up his own club in which he introduced abstract and unheard acts that he felt had something special to offer to popular music. Most of the time, he was right and would often escort musical imports around Los Angeles such as David Bowie and The Sex Pistols. The number of acts he discovered and introduced on his radio show throughout the 80s and 90s is far too long to list.
Humorous and entertaining celebrity appraisals of Mr. Bingenheimer are interlaced with his somewhat troubled life. His on-air partner leaves him for Y-107 and he must come to grips with the unsteady relationship he had with his mother. His love-interest Camille is an attractive young woman who ultimately reveals on screen that she considers Rodney to be only a good friend.
‘The man who knows everyone’ does not have the confidence to tell a woman (not a celebrity) that he loves her. This point emphasizes the dark and bitter aspects of Hollywood, which in turn underscore the loneliness of fame.
The greatest characters in literature and film are those that everyone can relate to. Rodney Bingenheimer is truly a ‘blank screen on which people can project themselves.’
‘The Mayor of Sunset Strip’ provides a powerful soundtrack, which may explain both the foot tapping and the tear jerking. Yes, a film with a Corey Feldman cameo made me cry.
The film also features additional cameos from Gwen Stefani, Keanu Reeves, Cher and Courtney Love among other music legends and favorites.
The film is rated R for sexual content/nudity, language and drug references.
‘The Mayor of Sunset Strip’ can be seen only in select theaters.