Mayor Of The Sunset Strip

Mayor Of The Sunset Strip


Reviewed by: Keith Dudhnath

Rodney Bingenheimer is a DJ on the American radio station KROQ. He is very much the American version of John Peel: a well-respected and long-standing DJ, who's credited with continually breaking the hottest new bands. Mayor Of The Sunset Strip is a look at Bingenheimer's life.

Despite his standing in the world of music, he is an odd choice for a documentary, being a quiet and introspective man, almost to the point of melancholy. Getting him to talk about how he feels is next to impossible. Getting him to talk about music and musicians is a little easier, but only just.

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Thankfully, director George Hickenlooper augments the story of Rodney with a fabulous array of musicians. Through hearing about Rodney and watching his reactions to events developing around him, the audience is gradually able to get a feel for who he is. It's not always entirely successful though: no comment is made whatsoever about a storming row between Rodney and his friend, fellow DJ and producer of the film, Chris Carter. It's not until you hear them talking together on a commentary track that you realise they patched up their differences. Too often questions go unasked, let alone unanswered.

Mayor Of The Sunset Strip is aimed more at an American audience, than a British audience, who are likely to be completely unfamiliar with Rodney Bingenheimer. His devotion to music seems to be taken as read, with the documentary tending to focus on his excitement by celebrities. Without knowing initially who he is, he comes across as a groupie, appearing to have only a passing interest in music. It's still a fascinating documentary, but there's always an underlying feeling that you're missing out on the full picture.

There's quite a bit else that doesn't sit quite right. In a couple of interviews with musicians, it's revealed halfway through that Rodney is sitting in the same room. At one point, during an interview with Cher, she asks him to remind her about a past event. It certainly plants seeds of doubt in your mind about the veracity of all that you've heard in other interviews.

Whilst I wouldn't call the documentary dishonest, I would call it exploitative. During one scene, Rodney is seen scattering his mother's ashes at sea. Although he seems to be fine with the cameras being there, it's an intensely private and personal moment that could and should have been handled less explicitly.

Mayor Of The Sunset Strip is an obviously flawed film, but one that still manages to be thoroughly engrossing.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2005
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Mayor Of The Sunset Strip packshot
Documentary about Californian DJ, who likes to be seen with the stars.
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Director: George Hickenlooper

Starring: Rodney Bingenheimer, David Bowie, Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Gwen Stefani, Ray Manzarek, Kim Fowley, Brian Wilson, Pamela Des Barres.

Year: 2003

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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