Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)

Genres - Music  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Music History  |   Release Date - Mar 26, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Josh Ralske

George Hickenlooper's The Mayor of the Sunset Strip is a fascinating examination of fame and celebrity worship -- a sporadically amusing, wonderfully entertaining, but inexorably sad portrait of L.A. music scene demi-legend Rodney Bingenheimer. Early on in the film, asked if there's anything he wishes he could change about his life, Bingenheimer forlornly says, "Yeah, actually." His obsession with celebrity started at a young age and seems to have been the driving force behind his life. We live in a culture where knowing people who are famous, even if they patronize you the way many of Bingenheimer's celebrity friends seem to, makes you worth knowing. Bingenheimer used his connections to musical stars to meet girls and make his living (as a gossip columnist, club owner, and DJ) but he seems to have operated pretty guilelessly. This is made clear when the filmmakers interview him alongside the sleazy music producer Kim Fowley (whom former Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie calls "a beast" in the film). Bingenheimer clearly has genuine respect and admiration for those he's glommed onto and sincere enthusiasm for the music. This has translated to a genuinely trailblazing career as a disc jockey. Bingenheimer seems hesitant to put any but the most positive spin on his troubled family relationships and his ephemeral friendships with stars and those who want to get close to them. But he's still a compelling film subject. The filmmakers treat him with obvious respect and affection (one of the producers, Chris Carter, was a member of Dramarama, a band Bingenheimer discovered) and he seems like a genuinely nice person, but there's something tragic in this story of an odd little guy who has basically lived his entire life vicariously and no little irony in a film that critiques our obsession with celebrity while simultaneously exploiting it.