B R I E F   S Y N O P S I S
Writer/director George Hickenlooper (The Man from Elysian Fields, Hearts of Darkness) melds biography and social history with a cultural analysis of our society's obsession with fame and celebrity by chronicling the picaresque life of pop impresario Rodney Bingenheimer. Bingenheimer was a constant on the Los Angeles music scene in the late '60s, befriending countless luminaries and performers from all walks of life. Featuring interviews with David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Cher, Brooke Shields, Brian Wilson, Debbie Harry, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Nancy Sinatra and Coldplay's Chris Martin.
  Mayor of the Sunset Strip
   
 

As a young boy growing up in Northern California, music was what made me tick—what made me happy. While other kids my age were playing sports and collecting baseball cards, I was reading old issues of Billboard magazine and Cashbox—not your typical reading material for a twelve-year-old boy. I would study the music charts and read about the bands and how they got their start. It fascinated me. I especially loved the B-bands—the Beatles, the Beach Boys. It's funny, but I've found that many of the best bands' names start with B—at least in my opinion—The Byrds, Bowie, the Bangles, you get the picture.

Late at night I would lie around and try to tune in far-away radio stations. On rainy nights especially, I'd usually be able to pick up the Los Angeles stations. They played the best music! I had a job at Mountain View Music Center and sometimes I would take the train to San Francisco to the radio station, meet the DJs and hang out. I had a sick sense from a very early age that this was my calling—music was my life and the glamour, beauty and energy of Hollywood mesmerized me.

Sonny and Cher were the first celebrities I ever met. It was after they played a show at the Circle Star Theatre in San Mateo with Dick Michaels and the Dave Clark Five. Back then the bands would come out after shows and meet and mingle with their fans and they loved doing it. Cher liked my hair.

Before I was sixteen, I was making regular weekend trips to Hollywood—a few with my mom, some with my friend Steve Jenkins and some by myself. I would take the Greyhound bus, hitchhike or borrow my mom's Dodge. Hollywood was all bright and the people were friendly. I loved the girls in mini-skirts with their flashy go-go boots and the food was amazing. It was just like I had seen on TV. I loved going to Dino Lodge, the Hollywood Ranch Market on Vine Street and Capitol Records. Sometimes I'd rent hotel rooms. You could get a hotel room back then for $10 a week, but there was a curfew on the Sunset Strip and countless times I got busted for being out and was sent back home.

But soon enough I'd be back again. We'd hang out at Ben Franks on the Sunset Strip (now Mel's Drive In) and after the shows all the bands would come in. We'd see Eric Burdon, the Byrds and the infamous Kim Fowley. Sometimes we'd venture over to Canter's and see Phil Spector and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones with their entourage. Despite my shyness, I became friends with these people. I'd go to the recording studio all the time with Sonny and Cher. I learned so much from them, both about music and about life.

I couldn't believe it—I was living my dream. Working for record labels, writing weekly columns for national music magazines like Go and Phonograph Record. Actor Sal Mineo even dubbed me "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" because I was so knowledgeable about music and always "plugged in." In the early '70s, I brought David Bowie to Los Angeles. I would take him to radio stations and they thought he was weird—maybe because he had long hair and wore a dress. Knowing how much I loved everything about the U.K., especially the music, Bowie convinced me to open Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco on the Sunset Strip. Everyone came to my club. Shaun Cassidy opened for Iggy Pop there, Keith Moon mingled with the cast of the Brady Bunch, and Rod Stewart, Bowie, T. Rex, Suzi Quatro, Led Zeppelin, Joan Jett, Mackenzie Phillips and the Sweet were all regulars. It was all happening!

Through it all, the most fulfilling part of my life has always been introducing new bands and music to the world. And with my popular radio show "Rodney on the ROQ" which I've had on Los Angeles' world famous KROQ since the late '70s, I've been able to do just that. Still today, I'm always in search of the new sound, whether it be Brit-pop, punk or local. Music right now is on an upswing, especially the sounds coming out of the Scandinavian countries.

I've been approached numerous times over the years by different people wanting to make a film about me, but always shied away from the idea. I live a very private life and the thought of cameras following me around capturing every little detail—the kind of toothpaste I use, where I lived—really didn't appeal to me. This time however was different. I trusted the producers, especially Chris Carter (Dramarama) who had been a close friend of mine for years. And with the talented George Hickenlooper in the director's chair, I finally felt like the time was right.

   

©2004 Landmark Theatres