RIP All The OG RAMONES
Conjured by SeMeN SPeRmS on July 12, 2014
The Rodney Bingenheimer of today seems always to be smiling through a deep sadness. He is a small man who still has the youthful cuteness that must have won him friends in his early days. His hair is still combed in the same tousled mid-1970s rock star style, and his T-shirts are the real thing, not retro. He lives now in an inexpensive apartment jammed with records, tapes, discs, and countless autographed photos of his friends the stars. And, yes, they are still his friends; they have not forgotten him, and David Bowie, Cher, Debbie Harry, Courtney Love, Nancy Sinatra and Mick Jagger all appear in this film and seem genuinely fond of Rodney.
Well they might. He introduced some of them — Bowie in particular — to American radio. He was known for finding new music and playing it first: The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Nirvana. Stations all over the country stole their playlists from Rodney. “Sonny and Cher were kinda like my mom and my dad,” he says wistfully at one point. He ran a little club for a while, featuring British glam rock, and the stars remember with a grin that it was so small the “VIP Area” consisted simply of a velvet rope separating a few chairs from the dance floor.
The story of how Bingenheimer entered into this world is apparently true, unlikely as it sounds. As a kid he was obsessed with stars, devoured the fan magazines, collected autographs. One day when he was a teenager, his mother dropped him off in front of Connie Stevens’ house and told him he was on his own. He didn’t see his mother for another five or six years. Connie wasn’t home.
He migrated to the Sunset Strip, but instead of dying there or disappearing into drugs or crime, he simply ingratiated himself. People liked him. He hustled himself into a job as a gofer for Davy Jones of the Monkees (they looked a little alike), and then became a backstage caterer; a survivor of a Doors tour remembers a Toronto concert where Rodney had enormous platters of fresh shrimp backstage. But the Beatles were backstage visitors, and Rodney gave them the shrimp, so there were only a few left for the Doors, who had paid for them. Challenged by The Doors, Rodney shrugged and said, “Well, they’re the Beatles.”
Wherever Bingenheimer went in the music and club scene, his face was his passport. Robert Plant says, “Rodney got more girls than I do.” We hear a little of his radio show from the old days, and what comes across is not a vibrating personality or a great radio voice — it’s kind of tentative, really — but an almost painful sincerity. He loves the music he plays, and he introduces it to you like a lover he thinks is right for you. The road downhill was gradual, apparently. We get glimpses of Rodney today, repairing his mom’s old Nova with a pair of pliers, shuffling forlornly through souvenirs of his glory days. He seems very even, calm, sad but resigned, except for one moment the documentary camera is not supposed to witness, when he finds that another deejay, a person he sponsored and gave breaks to, is starting a show of new music — stealing Rodney’s gig. He explodes in anger. We’re glad he does. He has a lot to feel angry about.
The film was directed by George Hickenlooper, who made the classic doc “Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” (1991), about the nightmare of Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” and the wonderful fiction film “The Man From Elysian Fields” (2001). Why did he make this film (apart from the possibility that someone named Hickenlooper might feel an affinity for someone named Bingenheimer)? Hickenlooper has been around fame at an early age. He was 26 when he released the doc about the Coppola meltdown. He cast Mick Jagger and James Coburn in “Elysian Fields.” He was aware of Rodney Bingenheimer when the name still opened doors. His film evokes what the Japanese call mono no aware, which refers to the impermanence of life and the bittersweet transience of things. There is a little Rodney Bingenheimer in everyone, but you know what? Most people aren’t as lucky as Rodney. – Roger Ebert
Conjured by SeMeN SPeRmS on June 2, 2014
Phil Prince was a director of rather sleazy bondage and discipline films in the New York of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. As the editor of some of these films, Brian O’Hara became acquainted with Prince and gained his consent for a filmed interview. Outtakes from Phil’s films intercut with his ruminations on the porn world circa 1984.
Conjured by SeMeN SPeRmS on May 25, 2014
NY Illustrated – Saturday Night At Fort Apache – March 4, 1973
‘Three types of people use the streets of the South Bronx after dark: Policemen, Criminals, and Potential Victims.’
One in this public affairs series devoted to issues that concern the greater New York area. This program profiles Police Precinct 41 in the South Bronx, nicknamed “Fort Apache” because of the frequency and severity of violent crimes committed in the surrounding area. Narrated by Norman Rose, the program begins with a clip of Sgt. Bill Taylor addressing officers of the precinct’s anti-crime unit. Later, accompanied by Rose, Taylor tracks down and arrests a suspected mugger. In interviews with officers stationed at and previously assigned to the precinct, the following topics are discussed: the high risk of incurring severe injury while on duty and the ability to cope with fear; the reluctance among members of the police force to be assigned to the 41st precinct; completing tenure at the precinct as a step toward promotion; the high incidence of illegal weapons possession among area residents; and the factors linking street crime with drugs and poverty. Also included is footage of a typical night at the Lincoln Hospital emergency room, where the number of people suffering from gunshot wounds and stabbings often exceeds the hospital’s nightly capacity. Among those interviewed are Deputy Inspector Matthew Neary and Officers James Finn, Bob Gardner, and Tony Imbimbo. Commercials deleted. (This series occasionally runs under the title “New Jersey Illustrated” or “Connecticut Illustrated”; series dates unverified.) – The Paley Center For Media
The Police Tapes (1977)
The Police Tapes is a 1977 documentary about a police precinct in the South Bronx. The original ran ninety minutes and was produced for public television; a one-hour version later aired on ABC. It won two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and a DuPont-Columbia University Award for Broadcast Journalism,and became an influence on later television and film dramas.
Filmmakers Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond spent three months in 1976 riding along with patrol officers in the 44thPrecinct of the South Bronx, which had the highest crime rate in New York City. They produced about 40 hours of videotape that they edited into a 90-minute documentary.
The result was what New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor called a “startlingly graphic and convincing survey of urban crime, violence, brutality and cynical despair”. Cases followed include the discovery of a dead body on the street, the rescue of a mother trapped in her apartment by a mentally ill son, an attempt to negotiate with a woman armed with an improvised flail who refuses to stop threatening her neighbor, and the arrest of a 70-year-old woman accused of hitting her daughter in the face with an axe. There is some introductory narration at the beginning describing the neighborhood and the time the documentary was filmed, but some unifying commentary is provided by an interview with Bronx Borough Commander Anthony Bouza, who ascribes the crime rate in the 44th Precinct to poverty, describes the hardening effects of urban violence on idealistic police officers, and likens himself to the commander of an occupying army, saying “We are manufacturing criminals… we are manufacturing brutality”.
The production was financed by the New York State Council on the Arts and WNET and cost only $20,000, thanks to the use of Portapak tape equipment; it would have cost an estimated $90,000 if film had been used. Special Newvicon tubes in the video cameras allowed them to tape with only streetlights for illumination, making them less conspicuous to subjects who might otherwise have fled from or approached the cameras.
The Police Tapes was an important source for Fort Apache, The Bronx, a 1981 film with Paul Newman and Ed Asner. It influenced the deliberately ragged visual style of the 1980s television police drama Hill Street Blues, which used handheld cameras to provide a sense of realism and immediacy—particularly during the morning roll call in each episode, which was based on a similar scene in The Police Tapes. Robert Butler, who directed the first five episodes, urged the camera operators to avoid carefully composed shots and to move their cameras frequently, telling them “If you’re having trouble focusing, that’s great.” This mock-documentary style, in turn, influenced many other television dramas.
Another line of influence runs from The Police Tapes to the Fox Network reality TV series COPS. COPS, like its predecessor, closely follows police officers, suspects, and crime victims with handheld cameras. According to New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell, the style of COPS then became part of the visual language of feature films, so that “the DNA of [the Raymonds'] original has found its way into the film mainstream.”
Conjured by o~ SeMeN SPeRmS ~o on May 16, 2014