A few weeks ago, I saw The Mayor of the Sunset Strip -- a movie about longtime LA radio personality Rodney Bingenheimer. The film was produced by Chris Carter, formerly of Dramarama--one of the many bands who garnered tremendous exposure nationally with the help of Rodney.
The documentary transported me back in time, not only because Rodney was such a large part of the LA-culture during my teens, but also because he and I share a similar silly fondness over celebrities, though he's lapped me thousands of times over in terms of who he's met. And though I'd known about his star-connections, his "English-Disco" and his bit part as Davy Jones' double in the Monkees' "Prince and the Pauper" episode, I learned quite a bit more about him from the film.
When Rodney was a teen, he began his life in Hollywood when his mom drove him from northern California to Connie Stevens' house. Being a celebrity-buff herself, she told him to knock on the door to get an autograph, and then she took off, leaving him on Connie Stevens' doorstep with nothing but a suitcase. So he walked to the Sunset Strip and hasn't left since.
Rodney is neither handsome nor particularly talented; but when he was younger, he had a cute puppy dog-like quality that made him a chick magnet. Pretty soon, women like Pamela Des Barres and Cher were looking after him like a little brother. And because he always had a flock of beautiful young women tending to him, he was always accepted by rock 'n rollers.
I met Rodney for the first time in 1987 at an aftershow party for Duran Duran at the Lhasa Club. He was about a half foot shorter than me and his handshake was very timid; yet I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Susannah Hoffs fawning over him; or Nick Rhodes paying homage. It just seemed so strange to see such a little guy have such an enormous presence.
Yet that's how it was whenever I saw him. We traveled in similar circles for a brief time in history since I interned at Capitol Records and became friends with some of the KROQ jocks, including my former boyfriend, (Dr.) Drew. At the last "Loveline" show in the old studio in Pasadena, Rodney milled around with his "good friend" (everyone is Rodney's "good friend") Eve Plumb and I could see why the two hit it off so well...they were clearly recognizable but not someone you were really clamoring to meet.
Part of me is a little envious...because in a way this little guy represents the little star-struck girl in me, only he gets to hang out with all of the pretty people I'd wanna hang out with too! But the movie also made me feel incredibly sad because they'd show rooms full of celebrities who just kinda smiled and patted Rodney on the head like he was the tolken pet of the party. And at the end of the day, no matter how many people he knew, he was still incredibly lonely; and that is why dubbing Rodney Mayor of the Sunset Strip is apropos.