Rodney on the Roq III
Goddamn, don’t you miss the old sleaze of Hollywood?
Oh it’s still there alright, if you look for it: In the shadows of those nasty little souvenir shops on Hollywood, in the faces of a few bored looking teen hustlers chewing their fingernails further up on Santa Monica.
But in the old days, ah!
Getting off the 101, ready for another night on the town, the electricity of the street palpable as the Coors tallboy sweating between your legs.
Pioneer Chicken, lit up like a circus by the knot of police cruisers in the parking lot.
One poor soul already bleeding through the sheet covering his face.
Glammed out prostitutes would just be pulling on their tops as they walked out of the Tropicana, ready to hook another one in and undress all over again.
The Pussycat Theatre, surrounded by some surprisingly clean 25 cent video arcades, where a hard earned quarter would get you 90 seconds of charming and unshaven porn.
Maybe a late night grilled cheese at Ben Frank’s?
Gower Gulch, that Western themed meeting place for overworked pimps, stood across from Rodney’s Denny’s.
Disappeared as well.
A couple times, we got to sit down at the storied table with Rodney himself.
He didn’t have to order, of course, he just sat there as we chatted and the old waitresses would drop off a soft boiled egg, pat him on the shoulder.
I imagined him starting every day at this same spot. Comforting in a way, as well as sad.
But he was always there, just as he could always be found, could be counted on being there! on the radio those weekend nights.
Now Rodney played us, it seemed, at least once a night.
And the gigs steadily got bigger.
When we were on those strange first tours, we were the ones who got to call in to Rodney now.
He’d put us on the air, and we would try to sound weary yet terribly exciting.
And though it was probably something rather unfantastic, a rainy night outside of Atlanta with a small crowd still glaring at us from some moldy VFW porch, Rodney would aways say alright and how it sounded amazing.
Like a Mother marvelling at her son’s pedestrian Thanksgiving cutout turkey, just a head of thumb and four stubby feathers, energizing words.
You hung up the phone, and imagined the folks back home going on with their evening, but briefly thinking of you.
And now it didnt seem so bad, being in this fuckin hick hole, and gave us the spirit to go back in there and put up with the abuse once again.
As with your favorite teacher from Jr High, the one you vowed to always stay in touch with, we inevitably lost contact with Rodney.
Through those gray 90’s, the years we all had to grow up, there was hardly a thought of the man who was still out there somewhere! telling the world who the next big thing should and would be.
But Rodney came back into view: Talk of him finally getting that star, and an honest to God feature film!
The movie was alright, I guess.
Full of Rodney’s brushes with the greats, it showed him standing always in the shadow—- just outside of the spotlight’s glowing arc.
Yeah, yeah I get it: It’s a little indie doc and they had to show what a sad little life it can be as well, is that it?
The big stars come on, one after another, to tell you what Rodney meant to them.
I don’t know.
Maybe the filmakers should’ve talked more to the fans, the kids listening to those stars whose breakthrough on Rodney’s show now dictated the size of their private jets, hmmm?
It wasn’t until after we started working it again, you know, the great old school resurgence of 2001! that we finally met Maria Montoya, the voice of Make Me Feel Cheap.
It’s an old story, how we left the studio, Fear of Life in the can, and didn’t hear her emascualting answer vocals until Rodney actually played the track on the air Saturday!
Oh, we liked to complain about it: Man, that’s bullshit! No one told us!
But it was our biggest radio song, even got some daytime airplay.
Alright Posh, you win this one…….but we’re watching you!
Maria was still close to Rodney, and that’s really how we got the call in 2005:
Rodney was finally getting his star on the WALK OF FAME!
If you’ve ever been down that sticky stretch of land, and puzzled over the names under your sneakers, you know it can be a hollow recongnition at its worst.
I mean cmon! Ryan fuckin Seacrest?
But this time, yeah, they got it right.
You just knew that to Rodney, and what he loves and what he stands for, it would be a perfect fit, the only logical honor.
And it turned into a whole thing, ya know?
We even recorded a new track with Maria just for the occasion, this nifty update of Sonny and Cher’s It’s the Little Things:
Rodney’s still out there, still doing it.
Buried now, Sundays at midnight.
Though really, does it even matter?
We’ve gotten used to our own shitty playlists now.
Isolated by ear buds, with the ability to scroll to the next mp3 at a flick of the fingertip, we await the next song to pop up after giving the the last track only 15 seconds:
Lab monkeys awaiting a peanut after pressing the green button on cue.
As our attention span shrinks, so too, correspondingly, goes our soul.
A recent rainy Sunday night I vowed to stay awake and catch up with Rodney, the number of Manhattans leisurely sipped onboard the California Sun be damned.
Must’ve nodded off during Scarface, but I jerk myself awake as that sweet theme song comes back through the radio, and Tony pushes a tablespoon of cocaine into his nose with his forearm.
Rodney’s back on!
Rodney comes on after the first block, says hello and tells us what’s in store for the night. It feels just like it used to, it is.
There’s no pause button, and damned if I know how to record off the radio.
Rodney is talking to me, right now, in the middle of a cold night.
He’s talking to every other lonely soul still up, can’t sleep, even after a long weekend.
Under his voice, we are a community again.
Rodney plays a few tracks, takes a call from London, and, swear to God, bless his heart!—-plays You Make Me Feel Cheap!
And a fifty year old man gets up off the couch and raises his hands over head.
With only a snoring dog and a bleeding Al Pacino as witness, he smiles and laughs.
They’re playing my song on the radio!