Review: The Mayor Of The Sunset Strip
If I wrote this review twenty times it would come out twenty different ways. Let's see what happens.
KROQ disc jockey and scene maker Rodney Bingenheimer gets no respect. He's done so much for modern music, has asked for so little and has little to show for it except memories and an apartment full of memorabilia. Framed on his wall is Elvis' driving permit, given to him by the man himself. Director George Hickenlooper shows nothing but contempt for Rodney. The Mayor Of The Sunset Strip is a hit job from start to finish. So Rodney doesn't have a great radio voice. He's not forthcoming with information. He's had the same haircut since the 60s when he doubled for Davy Jones on The Monkees. He's a celebrity junkie. He has odd friends. His mother and father were shmucks. He wants to be loved but the object of his affection isn't interested. Big deal. Big effin deal.
Rodney was the John Peel of the United States. He played the original UK and NY punk records before anyone. His Rodney On The ROQ records were fantastic samplers of the original L.A. punk scene. He boosts bands he loves with the fanaticism of a pure fan with no agenda except to share his favorites with others. Still Hickenlooper chooses to make mock Rodney for his Zelig, Andy Warhol and Forrest Gump qualities. Worse, his attempt to reveal uncomfortable truths like in Crumb comes across as cruel and unusual punishment for a man whose only crime seems to be that he's the ultimate outsider type who somehow made himself the center of attention in the insider's world. Good for Rodney.
Special cruelty is saved for Ronald Vaughan, a.k.a. Isadore Ivy, an obviously mentally challenged man who yearns for fame with a passion you have to find touching (and also delusional). The camera stays on his cheap, worn out shoes for a few seconds and the only point I see is that the director finds this relevant. I was going to write he seemed harmless, but his infatuation with Jennifer Love Hewitt led to stalking and a restraining order. This was two years after the film though.
Kim Fowley litters the film too and I was constantly fantasizing him getting hit in the head with a brick. What a prick. Nancy Sinatra and Cher sing his praises endlessly, while David Bowie seems too aware of the camera to do anything more than act polite.
The Mayor Of Sunset Strip, for all its malice, is still well put together and an interesting history. Rodney deserves better though.