Many fans of Rock & Roll will have come across the name Rodney Bingenheimer: KROQ DJ, proprietor of Rodney’s English Disco, friend of the stars and the self-styled Mayor of the Sunset Strip.
As a teenager, Rodney was dropped off at actress Connie Stevens’ house “to get an autograph” for his autograph-hunting waitress mother – who promptly sped off into the distance and wasn’t seen again by Rodney for “three or four years”. This type of bizarre incident came to typify his life.
Eventually, his artless, naive demeanour and frank adoration of celebrity ensured that he was nurtured by a succession of teenage girls on the Strip, then adopted as a friend by Sonny and Cher, who understood that Rodney had no ulterior motive, bar the desire to simply hang around with stars.
His subsequent aptitude for spotting exciting music – coupled with a total lack of embarrassment – qualified him perfectly for PR-ing Linda Ronstadt and David Bowie for Mercury Records (apparently, “Rodney’s in the lobby with a man wearing a dress” became a commonly-heard phrase on the Strip).
The establishment of Rodney’s English Disco in 1972 – a club devoted to his favourite English glam music – changed his fortunes even further.
The club soon became a hang-out for nubile young girls, and as Rodney controlled the supply, he became a Very Important Person on the scene.
The disco oozed style. The long hand-carved wooden bar had, apparently, been imported to Los Angeles by a previous owner, and it dominated the room.
Mirrors hung on every surface, even inside the DJ booth. Bright red carpeting gave it the feel of a down-market bordello.
The audience did the rest, setting up a solid wall of glitter that kept Rodney’s roaring for close to three years – years during which it made an indelible impact upon everyone who visited.
He was given his own radio show on KROQ in 1976, ‘Rodney On The ROQ’, which continues to this day (albeit with a changed timeslot). He proved instrumental in the introduction of the LA punk scene and championed bands such as The Runaways, Blondie, The Ramones, Van Halen, The B-52s and Duran Duran.
Bingenheimer was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 9 March 2007.