THE Bangles squeezed past waiting ticket-holders, among them David Arquette, as a harried event staffer wearing a “You’re in and you’re happening” placard shouted: “I’m not letting anyone else in! So don’t ask!” A few minutes later, people stampeded past her into the Sunset Boulevard theater.
This was far more fan fervor than even director George Hickenlooper expected for the IFP Los Angeles Film Festival premiere of his documentary, “Mayor of the Sunset Strip.” A New York screening held the same night, June 17, was also overrun, he said.
Perhaps Hickenlooper underestimated the lure of his film’s subject: a relatively unknown local character named Rodney Bingenheimer.
As a Sonny and Cher pal in the ‘60s, the owner of the glam rock English Disco in the ‘70s and, for the past 20 years, a KROQ DJ, Bingenheimer has helped launch the careers of musicians from David Bowie and the Ramones to Coldplay and No Doubt. Yet, as the film reveals, Bingenheimer has acquired none of that fame himself. At least until now.
He arrived in true rock-star style -- in a limo with a model (Jessica Taylor) on his arm. And when he entered the theater, the crowd, including Jeff Goldblum, Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, rock producer Kim Fowley, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, gave him a standing ovation. Someone shouted, “It’s all happening!,” an answer to Bingenheimer’s well-known “What’s happening?” greeting.
“I wasn’t ready for that,” Bingenheimer said the next day. “It was an amazing feeling.”
After the screening, a group of friends, among them Brian Wilson’s wife, Melinda Ledbetter Wilson, presented Bingenheimer with the keys to a vintage GTO to replace his, which was recently stolen. The gift apparently was so personal that Bingenheimer refused to talk about it.
“I think he’s half embarrassed by the attention, and the other half is satisfied his achievements have been recognized,” said friend Michael Des Barres. “It’s such a strange duality that after living a life of standing next to celebrities, he now is one.”
At the after-party, held at the Hollywood club Deep, two dancers in glass “cages” above the bar writhed and tossed their hair as guests milled around a buffet of smoked salmon and crudites. DJ Jason Lavett spun songs, ordered up by Bingenheimer, from artists such as Suzi Quatro, the Sweet, Mott the Hoople and T. Rex.
“At the corner of Hollywood and Vine! How Hollywood can you get?” Bingenheimer said later.
There was Corey Feldman and his wife, Susie Sprague, smiling into a storm of flashes. Former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson wandered through the crowd, as did Belinda Carlisle, wearing a tangerine sari, and Matt LeBlanc.
Bingenheimer, however, was nowhere to be found. In true star fashion, he was holed up in the VIP room.
“I’ve been to a lot of parties like that,” he said the next day. “But to have one of your own -- it was mind-blowing.”