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One Afternoon That's Still Rockin'

The cult status of a video shot outside a Judas Priest concert in1986 surprises even its creators.

July 29, 2001|STEVE HOCHMAN | Steve Hochman is a regular contributor to Calendar

Krulik took a job at the Discovery Channel, successfully battled Hodgkin's disease and eventually became an independent documentary maker. He has specialized in such offbeat short fare as "Ernest Borgnine on the Bus" (a road trip with the actor on his custom-fitted vehicle), "The King of Porn" (a profile of a mild-mannered Library of Congress staffer who amassed a comprehensive collection of X-rated material) and the in-production "Hitler's Hat" (about an American GI who purloined a top hat from the leader's Berlin quarters at the end of World War II).

Heyn, meanwhile, went to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs producing training films, got married and had kids.

But while they were getting on with their lives, "Parking Lot" was taking on a life of its own--unbeknownst to them--seeded by a few copies a friend took with him when he moved to the West Coast to work in the music business. They first became aware of the "Parking Lot" phenomenon in 1994 when Sofia Coppola cold-called Heyn to discuss possibly using the material on "High Octane," a series she was producing for Comedy Central.

"She was producing her pilot, and she said she was a big fan of our film," says Heyn, 43.

Flummoxed, Heyn asked how she had even seen it. Coppola told him she'd rented it at Mondo Video A GoGo, a Los Feliz store that specializes in offbeat material.

"John called the owner right away and he was thrilled to hear from him," Krulik says. "He said that the film was one of his most popular items, and read a list of people who had rented it--Paul Mazursky, Belinda Carlisle, the band Redd Kross."

Invigorated by the interest, Krulik and Heyn re-teamed in 1996 to revisit the same parking lot (although the facility had been renamed the USAir Arena) to cast the same video eye on a parallel universe--fans coming for a Neil Diamond concert. The crowd is older, the cars and clothes less flashy, the drinks softer. But the passion's the same.

Around the same time they started getting wind of other people doing "Parking Lot"-inspired projects. First came "Heavy Metal Sidewalk," a things-have-changed examination done in front of a 1997 Judas Priest concert (when Halford was long gone from the band) in San Francisco with nicely dressed fans asked about their pre-show substance consumption and giving such answers as "I had a Snickers bar."

Then there was "Girl Power Parking Lot" at the Hollywood premiere of the Spice Girls' movie "Spice World," followed by "Raver Bathroom," with hug-happy, Ecstasy-popping youths at a rave.

And Krulik and Heyn last year shot a passel of precocious preteens at a D.C.-area book signing by author J.K. Rowling for their own "Harry Potter Parking Lot."

So when they got a call from the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle about screening "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" earlier this year, they thought instead it would be worthwhile to compile the related pieces--plus the American Hi-Fi video, complete with a guy dressed as Zebraman doing a variation of his "metal rules" rant--into a 90-minute package, which in turn led to the current tour.

They also started developing the feature project, which they describe as a cross between "Rock and Roll High School" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" in which the parking lot fans turn activists to persuade the Parents Music Resource Center and politicians of metal's value.

And where are Zebraman and the rest today?

"That's a good question," says Heyn, who says there's some thought of trying to do a reunion for an epilogue scene if the feature is made. "We figured a lot of them are either dead or incarcerated."

One of them is anything but, and will in fact join the filmmakers at the Knitting Factory tonight. Jay Hughen, who moved to Los Angeles in the early '90s and settled into a solid career in record company promotion and marketing, says he learned six or seven years ago that an afternoon he spent in an arena parking lot leaning against his brown Firebird with his buddies had been immortalized.

"A friend told me that he'd just seen this hilarious movie about a heavy metal show, a parking lot in D.C. at a Judas Priest show, and I went, 'Whoa!' " says Hughen, 32. "So I went to Mondo Video and rented it, and I spat Coke out of my mouth when I saw my scene. I'm in a group of people, and they ask where we're from and I put my fist in the air and say, 'Reston, Virginia!' And there's another time I say, 'You can listen to heavy metal all the time, man!' "

Eventually he did an Internet search and contacted Krulik and Heyn--the first and only person in the movie to have done so--and they have duly dubbed him the official "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" Alumnus 001.

"It took me awhile to have perspective on it," Hughen says. "At first I was kind of embarrassed. But about five years ago, I was touring with a band on Ozzfest and every band on the tour had a copy of it on their bus. Then I started to wear it as a badge of honor."

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