Rush and the Runaways set aside their differences and meet at the bar to discuss their respective chances for induction...
In January, 2010, I started a website at blogspot.com called "The People's Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame". Soon after, I set up a page on Facebook, which I linked to the blog so that people could have easier access to what I was doing there. I even wrote about it here at Pop Krazy. The idea was to create a fan-based alternative to the perennially controversial Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, OH.
I came up with a list of nominees and asked people out there on the web to pick up to ten and who ever got named on more than half the ballots would become the first members of the People's Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. For that first election, I used a cut-off date for eligibility of 1960, just as the Cleveland hall of fame had done in their first election back in 1986, setting the mark for eligibility at 25 years following an artist or group's first release. After that January election, in which we placed seven immortals as the inaugural class, we had our second election in February, moving the eligibility year up to 1961. The plan was to go month to month as the Cleveland hall did from year to year, and after about two years worth of hardcore grass-roots fan voting, we could be "caught up" to the other hall of fame and have a nice alternative canon to the one selected by industry insiders.
"What do you wanna watch tonight, Joe?", "How about that Mantis in Lace flick we read about on PopKrazy?", "Yeah, that sounded like a real stone gas, now where are those burgers? Did she just call 42? Joe, go see if she just called number 42...."
Only in the wild and woolly world of sixties American exploitation film could two men like William Rotsler and Harry Novak come together for the common purpose of making a buck, create pictures which rake the gutters for inspiration, and emerge with such oddly unforgettable guilty pleasures as Agony of Love (1966), The Girl With the Hungry Eyes (1967), The Godson (1971), and Street of a Thousand Pleasures (1972).
Rock 'n' roll fans have been complaining about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland almost since its very inception. Actually, SINCE its very inception, as a lot of people make the very justifiabe case that there shouldn't be a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the first place. Seeing bloated old has beens putting on their black ties and patting themselves on the back every year is repugnant to just about anyone who embraces the idea of rock 'n' roll as a rebellious and liberating force. Real rock 'n' roll isn't a stuffy museum piece. Quite the opposite, in fact - something alive, immediate, and only as tangible as the souls of the people who live it in their own ways every single day.
How does Roadie sound on paper? Well, not much different now then when Creem magazine's Dave DiMartino wrote in a 1980 Meat Loaf/Debbie Harry cover story that the plot of the then still in-production flick was "incomprehensible to the untrained eye".
The basics: Meat Loaf plays Travis W. Redfish, a good ol' Texas boy who drives a beer truck and lives with his father (Art Carney) in a television-filled house in the middle of a salvage yard. One day he helps fix a broken down RV on the side of the road which turns out to be transporting equipment for a Hank Williams, Jr gig in Austin. The truck also needs a driver, and jailbait groupie Lola Bouilliabase (Kaki Hunter) entices Travis to save the day.
Finally arriving for the show, the crew is given ten minutes to get Bocephus on stage by badass concert promoter Mohammed Johnson (Soul Train's Don Cornelius!!). Travis proves to be a born super-roadie and Don Cornelius,... I mean Mohammed Johnson calls him "the Ali of roadies, the fastest I've ever seen," and hires him on the spot for his big "Rock and Roll Circus" tour. Next stop: LA; "Louisiana?" Travis asks. "Not that LA," Lola tells him, "THE LA": Sunset Strip, swimming pools, rock stars.
Much cross-country mayhem and slapstick ensue. In addition to Messers Loaf, Carney, Williams, and Cornelius, Roadie also features Roy Orbison, Alice Cooper, Asleep at the Wheel, and Blondie (who we get to watch dressed in full cowboy garb performing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" at an Austin racetrack).
Later this month, Claudia Jennings would have turned 60 years old. Poor girl never even made it to 30.
After being named the Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1970, Jennings became one of the next decade's biggest drive-in movie queens, starring in a string of hits that included Unholy Rollers, Truck Stop Women, Gator Bait, Moonshine County Express, and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase. She was romantically linked to Bobby Hart, was up for one of the three leads in Charlie's Angels (she should've got it), and was the agent looking for a guy who "fit the suit" in the Johnny Bravo episode of The Brady Bunch. As the decade wore on, her parts got smaller and less frequent, and she fell deeper and deeper into the Hollywood drug scene. On October 3, 1979, she was killed in a head-on collision in Malibu, California. Her last film credit was in David Cronenberg's Fast Company, released earlier that year.
Jennings in Unholy Rollers (1972)
Last month, the Academy finally saw fit to give Roger Corman an honorary Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Well, it's about time. But Joe Bob Briggs gave Rog a Lifetime Achievement Award at the First (and only?) Annual World Drive-In Movie Festival and Custom Car Rally way back in 1982, and in my book, that's a lot more impressive.
Still, this is obviously a major milestone: recognition from an industry who looked down their noses at him for his entire career, yet had to marvel at his ability to always turn a profit. Corman and his partners at American International Pictures didn't invent ballyhoo or exploitation, but they perfected in a way few others have.
In recognition of this belated honor, I'm going to run down what I consider to be the ten best movies Roger Corman ever directed. When Corman is honored these days, it's usually as a producer who spotted a lot of great young talent, but between 1955 and 1971, he was furiously working behind the camera, churning out low-budget hit after hit--53 in all over those mere seventeen years!!
Of course not all of them were great, but even some of the mediocre ones had unforgettable titles. Check out 1957's The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent.
On second thought, don't check it out. Check these out instead: