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The Mayor of Sunset Strip shows how those closest to the spotlight can miss out on its rewards, with a particular emphasis on the subject’s wide-eyed, often inarticulate, inno-cence about the corruption and ultimate emptiness at the heart of celebrity worship and the star-making process.

JUNE GLOOM DESCENDS ON WEAKEND PLANNER

It’s More Than 14 Shades of Grey Around Here
SoCal residents are well acquainted with the thick mass of low clouds that fills the sky in June—so why are we always surprised when the calendar page turns and the gray curtain descends, right on cue, if not a few days early? This year, the June gloom has been so pervasive that the sun, if it breaks through at all, does so fittingly in the late afternoon, and up in the hills that divide the basin from the Valley, the morning and evening fog surely provides the same eerie, socked-in atmosphere that greeted George Harrison all those years ago, inspiring him to compose “Blue Jay Way.” The classic overcast presents in-house angler Todd Hensley with a contemporary problem: It prevents the circling weather satellites from determining the water temperatures in the Pacific, so he’s unable to locate the big fish lurking off the coast of Ensenada, his standard weekend destination, where his boat is docked. Hearing poor Todd complain about his plight led us to wonder whether using satellites to catch albacore is really fair—what technology do the fish have to balance the scales, so to speak? Too bad for Todd, but a welcome reprieve for ocean fish and sufferers of Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. OK, let’s get this boat in the water…

THE POPCULT TOP 10
1. Coldplay at the Bowl, Night One:
Neither an ailing throat nor raging PMS kept me from Saturday night’s gig (although I almost had a pre-show meltdown while stuck in Hollywood Bowl traffic). I was still on a musical high from Pete Yorn’s sold-out Wiltern show two nights prior, and Coldplay elevated the feeling to unmitigated euphoria. Sure, the celebrity sightings were fun and all, but the real highlight was the band’s ability to create an intimate, emotional experience for their fans, despite the imposing grandeur of the venue. Chris Martin played a solo version of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” dedicating it to his manager Dave Holmes (whom we adore) and his bride-to-be Jane. For a brief moment, I fantasized about which song Chris would sing to me and my intended on the eve of our wedding (which is likely to happen within a decade of the next Guns N’ Roses CD), but then the Midol kicked in and I snapped back to reality. I was also ecstatic that my view of the stage wasn’t obstructed by Lara Flynn Boyle’s large head, as was the case of my friends seated in the Terrace Boxes. —KG

2. Coldplay at the Bowl, Night Two: Those who thought the relatively spare and deliberate Brit-pop four-piece would be swallowed up by the vast Bowl surroundings were pleasantly surprised Monday night. Chris Martin, whose latest romantic interest is Gwyneth Paltrow, remains the riveting center of attention, but his bandmates—particularly underrated guitarist Jon Buckland, who provides much of the instrumental intricacy—and a stunning light show helped fill the enormous space. “Gimme real, don’t give me fake,” croons the closely cropped Martin on the first number, “Politik,” begging the audience to “open your eyes,” but it was our ears that received a special treat. Lush midtempo ballads like “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” and the title track to the Grammy-winning A Rush of Blood to the Head led into the first epiphany of the night, “Trouble,” from the band’s earlier Parachutes album. A smiling Martin coughed in the middle of the song, eliciting an appreciative roar from the audience for the humanity of the gesture. A down-to-earth Martin joked about the band being “four English guys who look like a young version of R.E.M.,” just as it struck me that they were one of the bands Coldplay reminded me of. A trio of new songs, including “Moses,” “Poor Me” and one they purported to have written only the day before, blended seamlessly into “our two or three hits,” as the self-effacing bandleader put it. “Yellow” and “The Scientist,” interspersed with a moving version of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” led into the two encores, including a climactic “Clocks,” “In My Place” and “Amsterdam,” featuring smoke and lasers that made it look like the band was playing on a lunar landscape. Capable of becoming the missing link between Pink Floyd and U2, with only two albums under their belt, Coldplay have a shot at developing into the Fab Four for a new generation. —RT

3. Nick Hornby, Songbook (McSweeney’s Books): Of all the people writing about contemporary music, no one does it more thoughtfully than Hornby, who makes his living as a novelist. If you read High Fidelity, you’ll recognize the tone and voice of Songbook from the first paragraph. The book, one of McSweeney’s limited-edition numbers, consists of 31 pieces, each taking a particular song as its starting point and going wherever the song takes the writer. The act of reading Hornby is akin to putting a table knife through room-temperature butter—the experience feels so effortless that you might be persuaded that Hornby’s writing is effortless as well. But don’t be fooled—writing this insightful and mesmerizing requires effort as well as talent. Truthfully, I’ve only had time to read the first two essays—on Teenage Fanclub and “Your Love Is the Place That I Come From” and Bruce Springsteen and “Thunder Road” (Hornby’s all-time favorite), but I’m thrilled that 29 more await me, including a couple of songs for which we share a long-lived passion, the Beatles’ “Rain” and Jackson Browne’s “Late for the Sky.” The book is visually and physically beautiful as well, flat-bound, set in elegant two-column type and adorned with Marcel Dzama’s whimsical drawings. It comes with a CD containing 11 of the 31 songs, a nice, if inevitable, touch. Songbook is sold out on the McSweeney’s site, but I managed to find a new copy on Amazon last week with no problem. But time’s a-wastin’—only 15,000 were printed, and the price will surely go up as the supply dwindles. —BS

4. Jane Says…Hello Again: We’re CRANKING the new Zep set in the cesspool, and as the 20-minute live version of “Moby Dick” pushes air out of the office system, I’m taken back to the early ’80s, when this song gave me my first inspiration to buy a drum set and learn to play. Unfortunately for the members in my first band, I didn’t act on that inspiration until March 15 of ’89. The night before, I’d witnessed Jane’s Addiction live at a small club in St. Louis and have been a different freak ever since. I’d been waaaaaaaaaaay into them since a buddy turned me onto their self-titled debut, but seeing Perry and the boys get their freak on, in the intense and magical fashion that they do, blew my Midwest ass away. So thanks, guys. I bought a set the next day, put together a band and got into radio a year later, which ultimately led me here (bummer for you, eh?). Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited to be writing about them 14 years later—’specially at a time when our biz needs something this refreshing. KRXQ’s Paul Marshall spells it out: “Every time rock music needs a swift kick in the balls, Jane's Addiction appears out of thin air to lay it on us. ‘Thank you, sir—may I have another?’” —JL

5. World Poker Tour (Travel Channel): If you ask me, this show, which airs Wednesday nights, is the best weekly series on TV right now, giving viewers a close-up look at the high-stakes world of competitive poker. The series consists of 13 televised tournaments, filmed in casinos around the world, and features the best poker players vying for multimillion-dollar prize pools. What’s really cool is that viewers get to see the players' concealed hole cards, so we get to see exactly what the pros are betting on—and what they are bluffing with. The series reaches its conclusion with The World Poker Tour Championship, held at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The championship, which has a $25,000 participant entry fee, features the winners from the previous 12 tournaments competing to become the world's best poker player; it airs for the first time on June 25. This week’s episode featured L.A. Lakers ownerDr. Jerry Buss, no stranger to high-stakes poker, going one-on-one with poker pro Layne Flack. A must-see for all poker enthusiasts. —MP

6. Homemade BLT Sandwiches: White bread, toast or no, spread with real Hellmans mayo (Best Foods to you Californians), juicy red tomatoes, a few leaves of crisp fresh lettuce and crisply fried bacon still sizzling. Maybe a bit of salt and/or pepper. A few potato chips or sweet pickles on the side. A big glass of fresh ice tea. All on the plates you eat off of everyday. Juicy and dripping with the real stuff. Nothing like it. Nothing makes you feel quite so settled, quite so home. —HG

7. Kulak’s Woodshed: If you geezers (or youngsters who feel like you were born too late) long for the casual, strummy atmosphere of the Troubadour circa 30 years ago, you can experience something very much like it at this cozy club a few blocks north of Ventura Blvd. Kulak’s, which has no cover charge (although owner Paul Kulak welcomes donations to keep his labor of love going), offers live acoustic music several nights a week, including (just like the Troub back in the day) Open Mic Mondays. Why, I remember bringing my houseguest Chris Bell over to the Troub back in the winter of ’74 so he could sing “I Am the Cosmos” in front of the indifferent patrons at an Open Mic Monday back in ’74, his sad, cracked little voice made even more fragile by a lingering head cold… But I digress. Hosting every other Thursday is songwriter Jack Tempchin, co-author of Eagles classics “Already Gone” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and no stranger himself to the vintage Troubadour vibe; Jack’s guests last night included Cali-country cult heroine Rosie Florez. And if you don’t feel like getting off your own sofa to plop onto one of Kulak’s couches, you can listen to live webcasts of Tempchin’s get-togethers, which, like all the Kulak’s evenings (also webcast), start at 8 p.m. and run till 11ish. Dozens of past performances are archived on the site (www.kulakswoodshed.com) as well. The club is located at 5230 1/2 Laurel Canyon Blvd. in N. Hollywood. —BS

8. This Is the Shit: If you have a dog, but not the gumption to keep up with it, this is for you: http://www.backyarddoodies.com/ —JO

9. Dwight Yoakam, "Late Great Golden State": With a deft whip stitch, the last of the mysterious rhinestone cowboys (who just got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week) embroiders an homage to the essence of three pivotal California country scenes: the Haggard/Owens Bakersfield reality, the Eagles/Ronstadt/Browne/Zevon/Emmylou post-Troubadour country-rock revival and the cowpunk insurrection of Lone Justice, the Blasters, X and even to a certain extent Los Lobos, with an epicenter at the hallowed shrine of all three schools of hillbilly music—the Palomino. With a circular banjo riff that moves fast and slides up, a bass line that bears down on you with an insistence of a Pony Express man running two weeks late and harmonies that suggest the "Doolin' Dalton"-era Eagles, this track—from Yoakam's watershed Population Me on ElectroluxeAudium/Koch—paints the horizon for something that could reignite 6-1-5's vitality, integrity and excitement from the inside out. —HG

10. Scoring a Killer Rate at the St. Regis: I’d live in NYC again if I could move into the St. Regis Hotel—I can imagine life as a postmodern, post-post adolescent Eloise, wreaking havoc amidst my genteel and refined surroundings. Hyper-aware of my own personal economic restraints (no Barneys or Bergdorf’s on this trip), let’s just say I was highly motivated to find a room rate that was less than most W Hotels or the Rihga Royal. So now here I am, happily ensconced in my usual room, waiting for my “buddy list” to fill up with co-workers and my phone to start ringing off the hook with the latest Tuesday airplay updates/deadline info. While I’m luxuriating in my affordable room at the St. Regis, back in Sherman Oaks, Erika has the office to herself, where she can blare Robbie Williams to her heart’s content.
—KG, 6/3

RODNEY ON THE DOC
The Mayor of Sunset Strip (unreleased): It’s the best movie about being a DJ since Howard Stern’s Private Parts and the most disturbing pop-culture documentary this side of Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb in its depiction of the thin line between genius and madness. A warts-and-all autobiography of legendary KROQ personality and “Andy Warhol of the West Coast,” Rodney Bingenheimer, the film is the product of a five-year project by fellow DJ (and erstwhile Dramarama bassist) Chris Carter and director George Hickenlooper (The Man From Elysian Fields). Like Standing in the Shadows of Motown, it shows how those closest to the spotlight can miss out on its rewards, with a particular emphasis on the subject’s wide-eyed, often inarticulate, innocence about the corruption and ultimate emptiness at the heart of celebrity worship and the star-making process.

Bingenheimer re-traces his childhood in northern California, the Buster Brown-coiffed son of a divorced, star-addicted mom who worked as a cocktail waitress and introduced him at an early age to the obsession with collecting mementos from the famous. Interview subjects include Cher, who took Rodney in with Sonny as a teenager, after Bingenheimer’s mother—whom fellow Sunset Strip scenester Kim Fowley refers to as an “autograph hound” as he relates the anecdote—dropped the 15-year-old off at his idol Connie Stevens’ Beverly Hills mansion with a suitcase.

Others who sing the man’s praises include David Bowie, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, Alice Cooper and a sidesplitting Michael Des Barres—who credits Rodney “for still having bangs after all these years.” Noted pop eccentric Fowley chews scenery with a “fuck you” attitude, wondering how someone who’s broken so many successful acts can still live alone in a cluttered apartment in Hollywood amidst a shrine of memorabilia. To add insult to injury, since the film was finished, Rodney’s beloved 1967 GTO was recently stolen from, of all places, Canter’s parking lot.

The movie also covers Bingenheimer’s Zelig-like stint as a Hollywood scenester and a double for Davey Jones in The Monkees, his introduction of ’70s glam-rock to the Hollywood glitterari at Rodney’s English Disco and his now-midnight-to-3 a.m. graveyard shift at what has become corporate monolith Infinity's L.A. centerpiece to its radio conglom. “I think they’re afraid to fire Rodney,” says KROQ vet Jed the Fish. “If they did, somehow, they’d lose their soul.” The heartbreaking climax finds Rodney scattering his mother’s ashes overboard in her wished-for final resting place somewhere off the coast of England. The movie includes vintage performances by X, Bowie, Sex Pistols, Oasis and Coldplay, all donated by the artists as a show of support for their benefactor.

The $1 million production has had several nibbles already from distributors, and will premiere June 17 at the L.A. Film Festival for a sold-out showing at the Cinerama Dome and one at the Arclight. There will be one more screening June 19 at the Sunset Five before it goes to the Toronto Film Festival. If the movie people don’t exploit Rodney like the music business has, maybe the real “Last DJ” (take that, Jim Ladd) can once again reinvent himself and maybe even belatedly cash in on the pure devotion he’s shown to rock music over the last 30-odd years. As Rodney himself tells John Doe at the close about his KROQ schedule: “They keep moving me around,” to which the X singer responds: “I’ll find you... I’ll find you.” Here’s hoping audiences find The Mayor of Sunset Strip. Rodney deserves it. Roy Trakin

SHINY ROUND THINGS
Rooney, Rooney (Geffen):
In the capable hands—and voices—of these young Angelenos, cranked-up guitars and choirboy harmonies go together so well that it makes you wonder why so few bands even attempt the combination. But Rooney has its own ideas about what works. Fronted by Robert Carmine (the 20-year-old kid brother of Rushmore and Phantom Planet’s Jason Schwatrzman), the four-year-old band craftily melds the staccato grooves of The Strokes and the overdriven guitar-pop of Weezer with deftly pulled-off musical moves derived from the sacred texts of rock (these guys are serious students), applied to songs whose primary model seems to be early-’60s Brill Building pop. Carmine and Taylor Locke’s glimmering guitars fly in close formation on “Stay Away,” with its girl-group chorus melody, and the rollicking, Cars-like “I’m Shakin’.” Best of all is the opener/first single “Blueside,” which is cut from the same gorgeous cloth as the Raspberries’ archetypal power-pop hit “Go All the Way”—a comparison I’m sure Rooney won’t mind at all. Bud Scoppa

Eels, Shootenanny! (DreamWorks): Mark Oliver Everett, the prolific popmeister currently known as “E,” is a wizard who deserves to be a true star. His band’s first new album since last year’s brooding Souljacker finds the manic-depressive in recovery mode. Even in the midst of “age, fear and agony,” his falsetto praises the joys of a simple “Saturday Morning” (the first single) with an art-pop, Roxy Music whirl. Convincing himself “these could be the good old days” with a nod toward Beck and Neil Young, E insists, “everybody knows I’m not a violent man,” in the sardonic, slide-guitar drawl of “Restraining Order Blues” while also proving adept at the Byrdsy acoustic pop of “Dirty Girl.” When he finally tells himself, “You’re gonna make it through,” because “Somebody Loves You,” the eclectic tunesmith proves he has deftly survived these “Rock Hard Times” without losing his way. —RT

Ed Harcourt, From Every Sphere (Astralwerks): On his second full-length, this young Brit singer-songwriter parlays his soulful, slightly experimental pop-rock with stunning confidence. Playing piano, guitar and an army of other instruments, he creates (with producer Tchad Blake) a mysterious, intimate sonic atmosphere, his expressive vocals lending the inventive songs a striking poignancy. Though he at times recalls artists like Jeff Buckley, Remy Zero, Tom Waits and Nick Drake, Harcourt manages to season each track with touches all his own. Lead single “Watching the Sun Come Up,” with its rising piano figure and heart-on-sleeve singing, is irresistible; “Bittersweetheart,” “The Birds Will Sing for Us” and “Metaphorically Yours” brim over with charm; “Ghost Writer” and “Undertaker Strut” crackle with urgency. Prepare to be spellbound. Simon Glickman

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
2 Fast 2 Furious (Universal Pictures)
Premise:
Sequel to surprise 2001 hit about illegal drag-racing in SoCal, this time without Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen, but with Boyz N the Hood/Shaft auteur John Singleton.
Stars: Paul Walker, Tyrese, Cole Hauser, Ludacris, James Remar, Fabolous.
Director: Singleton stepped in when Cohen and Diesel went off to do XXX.
Thumbs Up: Lotsa name recognition, action and Walker’s about to become a full-fledged star.
Thumbs Down: This time, the movie won’t have a chance to sneak up on audiences; expectations are high for this to be one of the summer’s big hits.
Soundtrack: Def Jam South/UMG Soundtracks album includes Ludacris’ “Act a Fool,” along with Trick Daddy, 8 Ball, Chingy, Joe Budden, Dead Prez, Fat Joe, Lil Flip, Dirtbag, Pit Bull and K Jon.
Website: The hyper-kinetic www.TheFastandtheFurious.com includes film info, downloads, multmedia downloads, trailer, e-card, a desktop dashboard, soundtrack information and more.

Love the Hard Way (Kino International)
Premise: The unlikely romance between a kinda sleazy con man (Oscar winner Adrian Brody) and a seemingly innocent Columbia biology grad student (Charlotte Amana), against the backdrop of a sting that includes taking advantage of foreign businessmen with the help of two hired actresses.
Stars: Brody, Ayanna, August Diehl, Pam Grier, Jon Seda.
Director: Peter Sehr (directed 1994 film Kaspar Hauser, subject of Werner Herzog’s feature, Every Man for Himself and God Against All)
Thumbs Up: Brody should attract a following in his first post-Oscar role.
Thumbs Down: Though it doesn’t quite look like the high visibility follow-up he had in mind.
Soundtrack: No soundtrack, but the movie includes electronic score and up-and-coming chanteuse Sabina Sciubba, Peter Gunz, Kool G Rap, Acts 29, Coleon and Sackcloth Fashion, coordinated by music supervisor Susan Jacobs, along with songwriting duo Me and the Other and Darien.
Website:
www.kino.com/lovethehardway/ offers a plot synopsis, cast and crew information, stills/trailer, play dates and music info.

DENISE’S WEAKEND COCKTAIL
Today I’m tired and cranky and want to say, “Screw writing this column today! I have nothing to say.” But, fortunately for my dedicated fans, I’m going to channel my negative energy and sexual frustration (what else is new?) into another exceptionally humorous rambling session about more crap that doesn’t matter—but for some odd reason, you guys love crap. So here’s some more crap.

What’s my problem? Well, first off, being single sucks! A guy gave me his number Saturday night, but I didn’t call. How many days are too many to wait before making the first call? He told me to call him Sunday, but I forgot, and when I finally remembered, it was too late to call. That happened every night this week; now it’s Thursday, and I’m wondering if it’s too late to call. Maybe I’ll call him tonight. It kind of seems pointless. I’ll call, we’ll chat, go for drinks and one of two things will happen. Either we’ll hit it off and I totally like him only to never hear from him again, or I won’t be feeling it but he will be feeling it and I’ll never get rid of him. So why bother? I’m beginning to sound very bitter. It’s probably because I’ve forgotten what a warm body next to me feels like—it’s very sad. This week’s cocktail is something I haven’t had to worry about in quite a long time.

Wet Spot
1 oz. Cuervo Tequila
1 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
Shake with ice and strain into a shot glass

So, I’m constantly griping about nobody asking me out, and when a guy finally does, I blow it off. Why must I be so complicated? It’s tough being a woman. I wouldn’t have even considered calling this guy, who I met at a bar, if he had used some cheesy pick-up line. Instead, he was smooth about it and slinked up to the bar, waiting for the perfect moment to drop a funny comment, in turn, catching me off guard and making me laugh. The singles bar scene is grueling, especially if you have to dodge bad pick-up lines all night. The key is to be cool and suave without being creepy. I’ve picked a few examples of the best and worst lines I’ve ever heard. Deliver these correctly, and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is not being the one stuck in the wet spot.

Ten Pick-Up Lines That Should Never Be Uttered
1. Do you want to have breakfast tomorrow? Should I call you or just nudge you?
2. Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?
3. You turn my software into hardware.
4. Are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only ten I see.
5. Can I buy you a drink, or do you just want the money?
6. That dress looks great on you, but it’d look even better on my bedroom floor.
7. Excuse me. Can I borrow a quarter? I promised my mom I’d call her when I met the girl of my dreams.
8. Was your dad a thief? Because he stole the stars out of the sky and put them into your eyes.
9. Drop the zero and get with a hero, baby.
10. I may not be the best-looking guy in here, but I’m the only one talking to you.

Five Stupid Lines That Might Actually Work
1. Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?
2. I bet you $20 you’re going to turn me down.
3. So, do you like fat guys with no money?
4. Be unique and different, and say yes.
5. OK, I’m here. What’s your next wish?

De’s L.A. bar pick of the week: If you want to get picked up, Britannia Pub in Santa Monica is definitely the place to go. It’s a cozy little English pub with a pool table, good beer, great food and bad karaoke on certain nights. This was one of the first places I hung out upon moving to Los Angeles almost four years ago. I was there one night and met a guy who seemed really cool and pretty hot. But unfortunately for him, he committed the cardinal pick-up crime—he pulled a Swingers and called me repeatedly at all hours that night. Needless to say, I never returned any of his numerous calls.

I leave tonight to go home for the weekend. My best friend Jenn is having a huge birthday bash. She’s celebrating her first 29th birthday. All of my best girlfriends are going to be there, and probably a few ex-boyfriends. There may be an end to my pent-up frustration in sight—combining lots of alcohol and an ex could be just what the doctor ordered! I want to say happy birthday to both my mom and Jenn—they share the same birthday. Everyone have a safe weekend. Until next week—hugs and kisses.
Denise Bayles

Contributors: Denise Bayles, Darren Cava, Karen Glauber, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman, John Lenac, Marc Pollack and Roy Trakin

Edited by Bud Scoppa

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