July 18, 2007

Heavy Metal Parking Lot

On a warm evening in May 1986, a couple of young videographers borrowed some equipment from their local cable television system and headed to the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, then the home of the NBA Washington Bullets and the NHL Washington Capitals, to film the goings-on in the parking lot. The reason was that Judas Priest was playing the Cap Centre later that evening. "The Priest" had recently released their album "Turbo," which became another platinum seller for the band.

The resulting film, "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," was recently released on dvd. Although it is only about 20 minutes long, "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" is an important time capsule of the mulleted, spandexed, Busch beered, stoned, Camaroed heavy metal music fans of suburban 1980s America. That is because, while many of the bands of the 1980s can be seen on VH-1 and elsewhere, and a direct line can be drawn from Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, co-leaders in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, to the mockumentary "This Is Spinal Tap," there are scant few documented memories of the fans themselves. "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" fills this void. The filmmakers interview scores of fans who came to see Judas Priest and their warmup band, Dokken, and, more importantly, to party in the Cap Center's massive parking lot beforehand. These fans sport clothes and hairstyles that today make one wince. Beavis and Butthead themselves might have been hanging out behind their Camaro in Landover that day.

Many of the fans in "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" are also soaked in alcohol and drugs, enthusiastically imbibing and rambling incoherently on camera, even while cops stand on the Cap Centre's roof and peer at them through binoculars. A lone exception is a tall, blonde, pure-looking, sober-sounding girl who says that this is her first heavy metal concert. She looks like Marilyn in a house full of Munsters. Her less innocent-looking friend standing nearby says, "She's in for a treat." A few minutes later, Miss Marilyn, trying to fend off some rowdy fans, says, "Don't drink and drive." No doubt, her message was largely unheeded that night.

"Heavy Metal Parking Lot" has a special significance for me. I moved to suburban Maryland, not far from the Cap Centre, a little over a year after the film was made. I was around the same age as many of the concertgoers. If I had gotten there sooner or if Priest had arrived a bit later, I might have been in the parking lot that evening. I wonder what became of the fans who were captured in the film, and who are now in their late thirties and forties. Are they embarrassed to death by their portrayal, frozen in time in perhaps their least flattering pose? Are they now the government officials, bankers, stockbrokers and corporate chieftains who are running the country? Did they even survive?


At 11:59 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

This made me wonder if many of the not-so-pretty parts of our collective history will be lost to future generations. In truth, they define us just as do the more positive spins. This is a very thought-provoking post.

At 3:28 PM, Blogger media concepts said...

Thanks. In the case of these kids in the parking lot, I think they would be happy if this very embarrassing bit of history was lost, rather than captured on film forever. Interestingly, this film was made for MTV. Between the MTV reality shows and YouTube, there is probably more not-so-pretty history of 16-25 year olds being recorded, preserved and distributed than any time in the history of the world.


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