The Rutles:

30th Anniversary Reunion

American Cinematheque

March 17th

It was here – well, not here, really, but in fact several thousands of miles away in the UK – that, Monty Python alum Eric Idle, along with Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band alum and frequent Python collaborator Neil Innes, concocted the idea for a loving and uncanny Beatles pastiche while working on BBC2's Rutland Weekend Television. Then, it was here!… er, no actually it was in New York, that The Rutles made a second appearance during an episode of Saturday Night Live which Idle hosted, and it was not long after that the Prefab Four made their fateful foray into full-length documentary legend with All You Need Is Cash, which aired 30 years ago on NBC and earned a staggering 76th place in the ratings. (Although as Idle is right to point out, hardly anyone still talks about the episode of Charlie's Angels that won the Nielsens that week anyway.)

You couldn't hear anything what with all the screaming at this point.

As a one-off presentation from the Mods & Rockers Festival, a sellout crowd – so sellout, in fact, that a second screening was added later in the evening – assembled to pay tribute to Dirk, Nasty, Stig and Barry at the Egyptian Theatre on Tuesday evening. With the event co-sponsored by Variety, the trade handed out copies of their daily edition with a special cover commemorating the screening and featuring stirring Rutle tributes from fellow music icons including Spinal Tap's David St. Hubbins (“The music of the Rutles always had that kiss-of-sunshine, upbeat, swingy, positive vibe to it. That always irritated me”) and polka legend Stan Shmenge (“Blow up a balloon and let it go. That is to aviation what the Rutles is to music”).

Ladies and gentlemen!… Barry Wom (Halsey), Stig O'Hara (Fataar)…

Milling about in the foyer along with numerous fans carting copies of the film and various and sundry memorabilia were notable Rutles fans including Michael Penn and Aimee Mann, Andy Summers, Alison Anders and Ileana Douglas. Of greatest significance, on top of the screening of the film the evening would bring together all four Rutles for the first time in… well, ever, actually, since they shot the bloody thing. Idle and Innes, along with Ricky Fataar and John Halsey, gathered to introduce the film and then follow it up with a riotous Q&A.

…Ron Nasty (Innes), and Dirk McQuickly (Idle)!

The panel was rife with terrific stories, including a corker from Idle about how Paul Simon (who appears in the film) managed to singlehandedly save him from a nasty case of the bloat by making him laugh and initiating a four-minute long bout of flatulence. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, though, inevitably the questions turned to just what the Beatles thought of their mockumentary antics. John Lennon, it turns out, simply replied to the question by breaking into a rendition of “Cheese & Onions,” and as Innes and Idle related, their crowning moment occurred while visiting George Harrison's estate when they were serenaded with a couple of Rutle tracks by Harrison (who also cameos in the film as a reporter) and Ringo Starr. “We realized here we are, the John and Paul [of our group],” Idle said, “and there's the other two. We thought, we ought to form a band of our own. Call it The Brutles.”

Ron Nasty, 2008 edition

Rockin' the socks off “Hold My Hand”

Capping the evening , the crowd were brought to their feet by four young lads currently appearing in “Rutlemania” at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre across town, who blew the roof off with performances of three Rutle songs. (Later, at the after party, Mods & Rockers guru Martin Lewis persuaded the actual Rutles to take to the stage together for an impromptu jam.) Ahh, it was just like being back at Che Stadium (named after the Cuban guerilla leader, Che Stadium).

Cheese and Funyuns, anyone?

– All photos by Nicole Campos

Clips from “All You Need Is Cash”; (c) Broadway Video

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