Roadie

This film has one nirvana moment: Don Cornelius doing something approaching the funky chicken. It only lasts seconds and might escape you, so keep your eyes glued to the screen. This may prove difficult, as the film has some problems, the central plotline in particular. Meat Loaf, charming as the accidental roadie, pines for a wannabe groupie, who leads him across the country to amaze rock and country acts with his astonishing technical skills. The groupie has a physical appeal particular to the turn of the decade (her teeth are a delightful mess!), but the character and actress are so irritating it seems impossible that anyone would follow her across the street, let alone the country.

More entertaining is time spent with Art Carney at his Texas home/salvage shop. The musical acts are also fun, starting with Hank Williams Jr. and Roy Orbison. Blondie does Ring of Fire onstage, and Debbie Harry has a too-small role as the groupie’s rival. (As if Debbie Harry really could have a rival in 1980!) Alice Cooper’s acting performance was a nice surprise, and his warm-up number is far better than his usual recordings. Maybe more musical numbers (and more Don Cornelius!) and less of the roadie romance would have made this a better rock-and-roll picture.

Debbie Harry plays the fork 'n empties for an astonished Meat Loaf.

Debbie Harry plays the fork ‘n’ empties for an astonished Meat Loaf.

As it stands, I still can’t figure how Alan Rudolph ended up directing it. His trademark fill-in-the-blanks characters and wondrous emptiness is nowhere here! Car chases, cartoon characters, and broad comedy are not his usual style. I’m not sure any director could have really made the movie work, but the film does capture some musical acts, especially Blondie, at their peaks, and who can resist the latter-day Art Carney watching a wall of televisions from his wheelchair while operating a sliding indoor/outdoor phone booth in his salvage shop?

Don Cornelius in Roadie

Never enough Don Cornelius.