Like most viewers of his documentary Mayor of the Sunset Strip, director George Hickenlooper (The Man From Elysian Fields), doesn't seem initially all that impressed with little Rodney Bingenheimer. A small, black-clad moppet with a Monkees haircut, Rodney may be this legendary DJ for Los Angeles alt-rock powerhouse KROQ, but how cool could he be? Then there's that scene early on when Rodney's taking us through his house, showing his walls of framed photographs and letters, some quite impressive, when he gets to Elvis's driver's license. You can hear Hickenlooper stop short and ask, "What? How did you get that?" Rodney says off-handedly, "Oh, he gave it to me," as though talking about somebody loaning him a dollar, before tottering away on his little matchstick legs.
To look at the life of Rodney is to look at a near-complete history of several decades of music. A shy kid from a broken home, Rodney left Mountain View, California, for Hollywood in the early 1960s and never really left. Quickly making himself at home on the Sunset Strip scene, Rodney surrounded himself with every kind of celebrity, especially from the music industry. One interviewee after another comments on his Andy Warhol-like blank demeanor that allows the famous and talented to see reflections of themselves. But there is also an eternally childlike innocence to him that was quickly picked up on: Cher, who practically adopted Rodney for a time with Sonny, talks about how you could just tell that Rodney never wanted anything from you, just to be there and absorb the glittery experience was enough. There's a sense of a kid trying to make up for his own fractured past with a famous family, and also just looking for someone to take care of him.
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