It's taken a lot of celebs, dopers, hookers, runaways and other assorted freaks to make a mile-and-a-half stretch into a mecca for music, fashion and sex. It took San Diego-bred, LA-based documentary filmmaker Hans Fjellestad (Moog, Frontier Life) to put the at once glitzy and grimy Sunset Strip into proper context. With the help archival footage and talking heads like Johnny Depp, Slash, Hugh Hefner, Sharon Stone, Dita Von Teese, the Osbourne family and many more, Fjellestad's Sunset Strip is a cinematic love letter to the former trading route known for good times and great tragedies.
Over 89 minutes you'll learn things such as, despite the old television series 77 Sunset Strip, there really is no 77 Sunset Boulevard. That Stephen Stills drove onto the boulevard just before the infamous "hippie riots" broke out, sensed something bad was happening there, turned around, went home and wrote the Buffalo Springfield classic "For What It's Worth." That the funky Chateau Marmont opened at the absolute worst time thanks to the Great Depression, was inherited by Hollywood's A-list in the 1950s and devolved into a scum palace long before John Belushi O.D.'d there. Despite its modern renaissance, some famous former residents liked the place better grungy.
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Sunset Strip is especially appealing to frequent visitors to what Frank Zappa called "the cesspools of enjoyment where Jim Morrison once stood." Watching Cher time tripping next to Rodney Bingenheimer, subject of the 2003 doc Mayor of the Sunset Strip, is worth the price of admission alone.
Sunset Strip is one of tonight's Friday Night Spotlight films at the Newport Beach Film Festival. 8:15 p.m. at Regency Lido Theatre. $15. For $40, you can see the film and attend the 21+ after-party at Newport Lexus, 3901 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach. Cocktail attire recommended. The documentary also screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Fashion Island Cinema. $12.
Also recommended tonight: I Want My Name Back (see review) at 8:30 p.m. at Triangle Square, Costa Mesa. $12. Also screens at 8:15 p.m. Monday at Fashion Island Cinemas with a post-screening Q&A with Wonder Mike of the Sugarhill Gang. $12.