Published May 01, 2004In many ways, Andy Warhol is the angel of this film. The concept of fame everyone's 15 minutes guides Mayor of the Sunset Strip as director and audience try to understand the need for the spotlight. Or, as the case may be for Rodney Bingenheimer, the subject of Hickenlooper's documentary, the need to stand beside the famous. We see many a shady character in this film people who use and abuse any aspect of power they can acquire but Bingenheimer doesn't fall into that category. As cliché as it sounds, he really seems to be looking for love and acceptance rather than power. The fact that both elude him in any concrete way makes Mayor of the Sunset Strip one of the most heartbreaking and intriguing films I've seen in a while.
Bingenheimer's life is filled with stars but it's hardly stellar. He arrived in L.A. in his teens and quickly fell into the glamour of rock in the mid-'60s. He knew everyone and has the photos to prove it. There were moments when his life seemed on track he owned a disco in the '70s and, as a DJ, he brought punk to KROQ but none of that lasted. By the time we meet him, he's relegated to the Sunday midnight shift on the radio and has birthday parties with Kato Kaelin and Corey Feldman.
The famous, not so famous and infamous are interviewed David Bowie, Cher and Chris Martin all have kind words to say, and there seems to be an urge to protect him. Bingenheimer is optimistic in front of the camera but is aware of his circumstances. He isn't fooling anyone, least of all himself. Hickenlooper questions our need for celebrity. Is it enough to be a reference in a Frank Zappa song? Will that provide immortality? (Look Media/Lakeshore)