Quiet Riot finds its voice

While wading through his personal archive of film footage, Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali came upon a snippet of the band horsing around offstage. On the soundtrack, lead singer Kevin DuBrow can be heard boasting, "This is gonna be in a Quiet Riot movie in the theaters someday. I don't know how far in the future."

That footage was shot in 1983, and the "someday" that DuBrow promised has finally arrived. "Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back," a documentary about the heavy metal band's history, is set to have its world premiere April 29 at the Newport Beach Film Festival. In an affectionate nod, the film opens with the singer's prediction of big-screen stardom.

But DuBrow, who fronted Quiet Riot for more than two decades, will be absent when the lights go down at the Triangle Square Cinemas in Costa Mesa. The singer died of a cocaine overdose in 2007, and the band has continued with a string of replacement lead vocalists since.

DuBrow's tenure with Quiet Riot was famously rocky — he drew ire for criticizing other musicians in the press, and his bandmates fired him at one point — but nearly a decade after his death, Banali still feels his loss daily. The film shows the drummer visiting his longtime friend's grave and growing misty-eyed talking about him. And the discovery of that decades-old clip made DuBrow's presence feel even nearer.

"All of these things, we're talking about VHS tapes from 30 years ago," Banali said. "And I remember pretty much everything that happened, but you're obviously not going to remember every spoken word or every sentence that was uttered. And when we came across that, that was just amazing. That was just amazing. It was almost as if Kevin was in the room participating in the making of this movie."

By grim coincidence, the festival will be a homecoming of sorts for DuBrow. The singer is buried at Pacific View Memorial Park and Mortuary in Corona del Mar, just a few miles from the site of the screening, although Banali was quick to note that the connection was unplanned.

Still, with DuBrow's relatives living in the area — and with Regina Russell, the director of "Well Now You're Here," now engaged to Banali — the event will serve as a reunion of sorts for the Quiet Riot family. And Banali is eager to see the band's story told on screen, just as his partner hoped to long ago.

"It's an interesting story," he said. "Interesting to me, because I lived it."


'Like a little sister'

When Russell first met Quiet Riot, she was a high school student who beamed at the band through a mouthful of braces. A friend who knew the band got her a pass to a show, and she wound up hanging out with the members — most happily with Banali, on whom she had a massive crush.

"They treated me like a little sister," Russell recalled. "They took me on their tour bus. Oh my God, I wish I had taken a video camera then."

The camera would come later. While Quiet Riot's prospects dwindled from its 1980s peak — the band's 1983 "Metal Health" is sometimes called the first metal album to top the Billboard 200 — Russell found work as an actress, playing a mermaid in Steven Spielberg's "Hook" and appearing on "Saved by the Bell" and other series. Later, she hosted style segments on the "Today" show and directed short films about animal rights.

By the time Russell reconnected with Banali in 2009, she had a long-simmering dream: to shoot a documentary. Then Banali told her about a new development with Quiet Riot, and she decided on her subject.

The drummer, now widowed with a teenage daughter, planned to ask DuBrow's mother for her blessing to restart Quiet Riot with a new lead singer. He got the blessing, and Banali and Russell launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for the movie. When the band hit the road again with singer Mark Huff at the forefront, Russell imagined the shape her film would take: a historical recap of the band's career, plus a glimpse of the modern lineup on tour to wrap the story up.

That approach didn't last long. With Russell's camera rolling, Quiet Riot struggled to find its bearings with Huff on lead vocals. A house painter by day, the singer excelled at his audition but drew hostile reactions from fans — "Kevin DuBrow is rolling in his grave," reads one headline shown on screen — and after a series of onstage gaffes, the band dismissed Huff and went looking for a replacement.

Whatever their romantic feelings for each other, Banali and Russell kept a professional reserve during the making of the film. Banali let his beloved carry her own equipment on the road, while she, in turn, kept the camera rolling during tense moments. At one point, she captured Banali snarling on the phone that if Quiet Riot's future depends on Huff staying on board, "I will break up the band. I will sell the house. I will move into an apartment, and I will still have my family, my drums and my talent."

Later, in an even bleaker moment, the drummer ends a speech to the camera by intoning, "There's your [expletive] ending. Are we done?"


An up-and-down history

Well, no, they weren't.

In 2012, the band hired Scott Vokoun as its new vocalist, and the film ends on a high note as Quiet Riot continues to tour and draw adoring crowds. Banali talks about coming to terms with the death of DuBrow, and the band gets honored in an exhibit at the Grammy Museum, in Los Angeles. The reconfigured lineup appears built to last — except that it isn't. Vokoun soon steps down as well.

How many personnel changes does that make for Quiet Riot? In one of the documentary's most amusing sequences, Russell leads the viewer on a whirlwind tour of past members, with graphics showing who left and joined in rapid succession. And even that montage, Russell said, doesn't paint the full picture.

"That was abridged," she said. "There's people that just played a few shows. There's people that got hired and fired on the same day. We didn't include them."

However the band's lineup may have fluctuated, "Well Now You're Here" makes clear the reverence that other bands have for Quiet Riot. The documentary features a series of talking heads, including members of Guns N' Roses, Weezer, Twisted Sister and Deep Purple, hailing Banali's crew as a major influence.

Although Quiet Riot continues to tour — the band, which was once parodied on "The Simpsons" for playing state fairs, recently completed its first gig on a cruise ship — Russell has opted to stay at home with Banali's daughter and their seven pets. She's also concentrating on life as a filmmaker. Distributors, she said, have called her expressing interest in "Well Now You're Here," and she expects a group of them to attend Newport.

"We're gonna make a deal with somebody," Russell said. "We're gonna take meetings with everybody who comes down and make a deal with someone — to get this out there, so that the whole public can see it."

If that comes true, then Quiet Riot's movie will find the audience that its onetime singer imagined. And, as DuBrow predicted years ago, it will show in theaters, plural.

If You Go

What: "Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back"

Where: Triangle Square Cinemas, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m. April 29

Cost: $14

Information: (949) 253-2880 or http://www.newportbeachfilmfest.comhttp://www.newportbeachfilmfest.com

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