The mascot of OC's rock scene stays out all hours of the night. He has taken shots and partied with some of the rowdiest local bands around. He's so popular that musicians have started a fan club in his honor; they even have buttons with his name on them. In a crowd, he never fails to stand out, with his long white ponytail and goatee. Oh, and he's old enough to be their grandpa.
Over the past six years, Rodman, 73, has documented a who's-who of hometown talent from the front row at such venues as the Detroit Bar, House of Blues in Anaheim and the Tiki Bar. Though he fancies himself a pretty quiet, humble guy, he's known to have photographed as many as three shows in a night. "People will see me at shows and go, 'Hey, Bob!' And I have no clue who they are, but they know me or know who I am," Rodman says with a chuckle.
It's rare to speak to him during daylight hours. Sitting down at Memphis Cafe in Costa Mesa, Rodman's wide, 6-foot-3 frame nearly dwarfs the table and the tiny cup of shrimp gumbo in front of him. He's eating light these days, ever since he had surgery to add a pacemaker.
Several months later, he's back to planning out his weekly concert schedule. "I'm just starting to get back into it," he says with a hearty rasp. "Before that, I was shooting four to five nights a week. It's become a passion, really."
When he's not being a concert photographer or a doting grandpa (actually, he's a great-grandpa), he's working as a business partner with OC blues favorite Parker Macy on Creme Tangerine Record Productions, a label tied to Macy's mobile, boutique record shop in Costa Mesa.
This rock-star lifestyle is more than a few years in the making. It started when Rodman's wife died in 2004; retired, he often wound up going to his local Starbucks in Laguna Hills, usually just to grab a coffee and find people to talk to. He befriended one of the baristas, a young guy who had a band on the side. One day, that guy invited Rodman to one of his shows. After a night of great music and mingling, the widower had found a new favorite pastime.
Growing up in Costa Mesa from 1940 to '68, Rodman went to his share of gigs. He watched surf rockers including Dick Dale at the Rendezvous Room in Balboa. In 1968, he proposed to his wife at a little Italian restaurant that later became Detroit Bar (which closed its doors in February); they married the next day in Las Vegas.
During recent years, people could usually find him at Detroit Bar, standing at the front of the stage and snapping shots of bands such as Jeramiah Red, Robert Jon and the Wreck, and the Devious Means. Though he'd expected to give performers plenty of great photos, the amount of respect and friendship he got from his favorite bands was something he never counted on.
After his heart surgery last year, members of his favorite groups came to his hospital bed to check up on him. OC Music Awards program director Ashley Eckenweiler even loaned him her iPod so he'd have something to listen to during his recovery. One of his newly acquired tattoos (most of which were inked after he turned 70!) is a heart with a pair of headphones, a jagged seismic wave in the middle. It's a constant reminder that it's his love of music that keeps him going.
Now that he's recovered, Rodman is back to shooting photos. Despite his passion for his craft, we still have to wonder where he finds the energy to head out the door with his camera, night after night.
"I'm going on 74, and I hang out with 25-year-olds," he says with a grin. "It's bound to rub off."