By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“Yeah, it’s very weird,” he says, half-giggling. “’Cause I’m real shy. To see my life onscreen is really odd. You get the feeling of what reality TV is about.
“I feel like I’m not that guy, I’m just seeing a movie of this guy, and all this great rock & roll stuff. It’s [director] George Hickenlooper, the way he sees my life. The real people that really knew me, knew me . . . What’s fascinating about it is, George Hickenlooper doesn’t know a thing about rock & roll, and he’s doing the greatest rock movie ever filmed. He didn’t know who No Doubt was.”
...and Bowie It’s an excellent film, but Rodney’s right: There’s an obvious, probably intentional distance between the filmmaker and his subject, and a sense of condescension toward Rodney’s foibles. At the same time, the film documents Rodney’s daily life with real tenderness — the banality and loneliness of it, and his poverty relative to the many stars he’s promoted.
Bingenheimer may have been a starfucker, but he’s never given a shit about money. And when you think about the amount of wealth he has generated for the record industry, for bands and for KROQ’s owners, it just doesn’t seem fair.
...and Brooke “But, I mean, look at what I’ve got here,” he says, gesturing at his stacks of vintage vinyl, his snapshots and autographs, his prized Nina Hagen Halloween mask. “And getting named on the records — bands always thank me and stuff. I get recognition from them.” He pulls out a coffee-table book on Oasis featuring a picture of the band getting signed to Creation Records in 1993. Rodney’s there, grinning on sofa. His walls are covered with framed photos, many of them taken in his club: Rodney and Marc Bolan; Brooke Shields and Jimmy McNichol; the Turtles; Bowie. Then there’s his prized possession — John and Yoko’s autographs.
He’s also got a framed letter from Phil Spector hanging next to the bathroom door: “Always be good to rock & roll,” it says, “ and it will always be good to you.”
“When I go to New York, I can stay with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein,” Bingenheimer continues, a little defensively, “and when I go to London, it’s like I’m like the Beatles. Everybody takes care of me in London — you’d be surprised. Parties, out every night, dinners, everything.”
...and Bowie The wide reach of his fandom is a reflection of his musical aesthetic, too. Like early KROQ itself, Rodney’s show, which started in 1976, has always been a cross-genre haven for weirdoes of many persuasions: To him, there was never any big leap from the Beach Boys to the Cramps. On Rodney on the Roq, as on freeform radio of the past, it all makes sense.
“I like happy music,” he says. “Punk is fast, it’s very aggressive — it might be sad or about violence, but the tempo keeps you going, keeps you alert. It kinda makes me happy. I just don’t like disco or techno or rap. I hate disco. It’s trying to kill rock & roll.”
(Disco’s trying to kill rock? See what I mean about the living-in-all-eras thing? Sometimes it seems as if Rodney collects favorite phrases and just repeats them endlessly for fun. “Parking killed rock & roll” is another one: “You can’t park anywhere — they haul your car away. Look what’s happened to Spaceland! It costs you an arm and a leg to park. It’s not like you can just pull up in front of a club anymore and go, ‘Hey, what’s happening?’”)
In the film, George Hickenlooper (which Rodney pronounces “Hinkenlooper”) makes a big deal of Rodney’s fascination with famous people, from Connie Stevens to Kato Kaelin. But when it comes to choosing music for his show, Bingenheimer has always considered a band’s fame to be a liability. Like any good hippie, or punk, Rodney’s whole purpose is to support brand-new music with no money or machinery behind it — music that has nowhere else to turn, except maybe college radio.
“‘What if you heard this on the radio?’ was my motto, my moral,” he says, raising his voice slightly. “Something you don’t usually hear on radio. In fact, I don’t even play the Strokes that much anymore. Basically, they graduated. They got too big. “
As the film asserts, Rodney is, and always has been, the go-between for the little people and the beautiful ones. He’s Everyman in La La Land. If DJs were paid based on the success of bands they’ve broken, Rodney would need a bodyguard when he goes to Denny’s. Instead, he’s an everyday icon: You see him waiting in line at the Hollywood Wells Fargo; sipping barley-bean soup at Canters every goddamn night; standing outside the Troubadour. “I do normal things every day,” he says. “I go to restaurants. I do laundry. People come up to me all the time at Ralphs or Rite-Aid. I don’t even go out very much anymore. I stay at home. I just prepare for my show.”