How Ex-Runaways Manager Kim Fowley Stole The Mayor Of The Sunset Strip

The Runaways opens nationwide next Friday and one of the things Hollywood Shuffle is most looking forward to when the film hits Houston theaters is how delicately director Floria Sigismondi will treat the character of Kim Fowley, whom HS likes to refer to as the Creepiest Man in Hollywood. Hey! At least he's honest about it!

"I mean, lookit me. I'm balling two 20-somethings in a row. I'm 70 years old and I don't think I've dated anybody over 30 since I was 17 and a sex worker. Women over 30 have to pay to play. Unless they haven't had a baby, I'll give 'em a shot, but the baby ruins everything. The baby brings cottage cheese and custard and Jello after the fact, but let's not talk of such things."

The name Svengali is used repeatedly to describe Kim Fowley, and the reason is there's no better word to use. The self-proclaimed mastermind behind The Runaways was involved with nearly everyone who was famous in L.A. during the 1960s and 1970s, but he was involved with them before they were famous, and as a result has remained a cult figure on the fringe of both mainstream success and normal human behavior for nearly 50 years.

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And this is how he comes to steal the show in the 2003 documentary The Mayor of the Sunset Strip, about legendary LA disc jockey/sycophant Rodney Bingenheimer. Bingenheimer was a pint-sized fame seeker in the 1970s who, unable to make a name for himself (he famously auditioned for Davy Jones' part in The Monkees), turned to befriending actors and musicians and promoting them on his long-running radio show, Rodney on the ROQ.

It was in his blood - Rodney's mother was an autograph collector. Many a musician has credited Bingenheimer with helping to promote them before they found fame, either through the radio show or his short-lived L.A. nightclub modeled after hipster hangouts in London.

Though Bingenheimer's ubiquity - the documentary features everyone from Tori Amos to David Bowie to Belinda Carlisle to Alice Cooper - seems a less than altruistic, to write off Rodney's effect, or Fowley's for that matter, on American music of past and present would be a mistake.

So, halfway through Mayor when Fowley basically takes credit for launching Rodney's career, it's a bizarre and kind of sad moment. And that's part of the mystery of Fowley -- you can't believe everything (or anything) that he says.

In the same film, Cherie Currie claims on camera that Fowley was abusive verbally, sexually and financially to The Runaways. She says the same in her 1989 memoir, Neon Angel, which became the basis for the new Runaways biopic. However, two years ago Currie and Fowley apparently reconciled. This was before filming on The Runaways began, but as Fowley himself said, "Every movie needs a hero and a villain."

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