The saga of Heavy Metal Parking Lot is practically indie-filmdom’s Greatest Story Ever Told. In 1986, Jeff Krulik and John Heyn brought a camera to a Judas Priest show and interviewed the fans milling about in the parking lot. The result was just about the funniest 17 minutes of nonfiction film ever produced—drunken, stoned, and just plain old amped-up metalhead kids mugged and preened for the cameras, and generally just obliged the videographers by absolutely reveling in the attention being paid to them. It’s people being people in some of the best slice-of-life filmmaking ever made, and no less an indie-film godhead than John Waters is said to have claimed that the film gave him the creeps.
Krulik went on to a career in video, working for Discovery Networks and the National Geographic Channel among other enviable gigs, and the notoriety of HMPL (nth-generation VHS dubs were practically a required possession of any self-respecting weirdo by the early ‘90s) allowed him to continue making short docs exploring the endearingly odd fringes of American culture. Most of them by far were NOT about parking lots, but the theme proved durable. In 1996, ten years to the day after he shot HMPL, he went back to the same concert arena to make Neil Diamond Parking Lot, which IMO was seriously way more fucked up than its forebear. The actually quite charming Harry Potter Parking Lot followed in 2000, and in 2004, the now-defunct Canadian cable channel Trio even commissioned Krulik to produce a parking lot documentary series called—yeah—Parking Lot.
HMPL was released on DVD in 2006. Rights issues concerning Judas Priest songs made it hard to release legitimately for a long time, though a legit-enough-seeming underground VHS compilation of Krulik films was commercially available at one time, if you were resourceful enough to find it. The DVD is blown out with extras, one of which is a wonderful short documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot Alumni: Where Are They Now, wherein Krulik and Heyn tracked down four of the people featured in the film (three quite prominently, one for literally half a second), all by then approaching middle age. Amusingly, for years, none of them had even the foggiest idea that they had been part of an underground sensation. In fact, the iconic “Zebra Man,” a loudmouth young guy in an amazing and preposterous zebra-striped jumpsuit who made himself a spectacle by loudly proclaiming the merits of metal and calling Madonna a “dick,” is shown on camera as an adult watching HMPL, of which he’s inarguably one of the stars, for the first time. (There’s another revelation about the guy that I thought was HILARIOUS, but which I will not here spoil.)
One downer: they didn’t find the shirtless dudebro in suspenders who seems to have rather brashly called Judas Priest singer Rob Halford’s homosexuality a dozen years before Mr. Halford actually came out—or at least that’s what I always assumed his “Robert Halford, I don’t know about you” remark was supposed to mean. I don’t want to call some guy out as a homophobe if I’m misunderstanding what he’s trying to get at, but either way, there doesn’t seem to be any way that could have been an uninteresting follow-up interview. UPDATE 08/20/15: Via internet magic, he found me! He’s Zev Zalman Ludwick of Silver Spring MD, and since HMPL he’s become a Hasidic Jew, a bluegrass musician, and an aquarium designer. (There’s auto-playing media on that last link.) We had a lovely chat on the phone, and he confirmed that his remark in the film was indeed a potshot at Halford’s homosexuality, but that time has softened his views on gay people considerably. He also confirmed that he was, indeed, an interesting follow-up interview.
If you have a Roku device, both the original doc and the alumni follow-up can be seen on the SnagFilms channel (or you can watch the follow-up right here at the end of this post). And really, if you haven’t seen the original, it’s on YouTube. You should get on that, there’s a reason it’s been a stone classic for almost 30 years. Plus, absent the context of the original, I can’t imagine Where Are They Now having a whole lot of impact.
Propers to Mr. Marty Geramita for suggesting this post.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The director of ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ returns with ‘Led Zeppelin Played Here’
Beatle bobbles, Madonna’s bustier, and half a Plasmatics guitar on Jeff Krulik’s Hard Rock Cafe tour
‘Where Are They Now?’: Bleak animation about the current lives of 80s cartoon characters