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Into the Night

Thrashing to the Beat of a Different Drumer

July 31, 2001|SUSAN CARPENTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The subterranean parking garage for the Knitting Factory in Hollywood was hot, stuffy and lifeless, a fine place to leave a car Sunday night but not much else. It was definitely not a good place to party.

"I didn't see any girls down there. Didn't see a bar. No one was partying down there at all," said Andy Medway, a long-haired 32-year-old Hollywoodite who parked on level P2. He was headed to the club to see "Heavy Metal Parking Lot," the cult classic video shot outside a 1986 Judas Priest concert in Largo, Md. The short film was being screened in honor of its 15th anniversary.

The video perfectly captured the '80s heavy-metal scene in small-town America, where big-haired, Camaro-driving tailgaters--between sips of Budweiser--were rowdy and loose-lipped about their love for the music.

The subterranean Galaxy Parking Garage was decidedly calmer. And the cars were nicer. But even more significant, there was no dancing, no air guitar and no ear-splitting music. No bare chests. No bold declarations from girls who would "jump [Rob Halford's] bones" if given half a chance with the Judas Priest lead singer.

"'Heavy Metal Parking Lot' was a better experience. ... This was just parking. Plus I paid $5," said Bruce Shinden, a 35-year-old from Ventura who had already seen the movie 11 times but was seeing it again with his wife, Katie.

"We were wondering on our way over here if there were going to be people hanging out doing 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot' parking lot," said Katie Shinden, 32.

There weren't. At least not before the 8 p.m. screening, but Bruce Shinden had hoped for later.

"I think it's going to be a rager," he joked. "There will be a 'Planet of the Apes' crowd, too," he said, referring to those who had parked in the garage to go to the Galaxy Theater, where the new Tim Burton film was playing.

It was relatively easy to determine who was headed to "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" versus "Planet of the Apes," "Jurassic Park III" or any of the other mainstream movies on screen at the Galaxy. It was a good bet that anyone with a shag haircut, Pabst Blue Ribbon jacket or Iron Maiden T-shirt was going to the Knitting Factory. And anyone wearing Skechers or accompanied by individuals under 5 feet tall was likely headed for "Jurassic Park III."

"They're both dinosaurs," said Peter Stone, 36.

A freelance writer, Stone was part of a hundred-plus crowd headed to see "Heavy Metal Parking Lot." Like Stone, most were in their 30s and, having lived through the era documented in the video, could relate.

Elsa Megeath, 32, was wearing a vintage Van Halen necklace and faded Dokken T-shirt left over from her youth. With '80s nostalgia in full swing, she could have bought them new, but she was wearing them as much out of fandom as fashion. Both were originals she had owned as a teenager.

"It's the first time in nearly 20 years I found an appropriate time to wear [them]," said Megeath, whose high school nickname, Elsa "Megadeath," was taken from another heavy-metal band.

"I am 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot,"' she said. "I grew up in New Mexico, and we used to load the cooler in the trunk and hang out drinking beer. There was nothing else to do."

But tonight she didn't drive to the club, she walked. And instead of drinking a Bud from the trunk of a friend's car, she was having a vodka. (According to the Knitting Factory's bar manager, the club's most popular drink wasn't beer but apple martinis.)

Megeath, a development director for a nonprofit who lives in Hollywood, was outside the club taking a cigarette break with friends Janet Austin, an artist with flame-red hair, and Ann-Marie Holman, a UCLA musicology student who is researching the band AC/DC. Neither Austin nor Holman had seen the film before, but Megeath had already seen it 10 times. She said she came to see it again at the club because "I wanted to see how people reacted to it."

John Heyn, one of the film's two directors, was pleased with the crowd. "This is ground zero for 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot.' It's got a huge following on the West Coast. We know it's widely circulated,' said Heyn, referring to its notoriety as the most bootlegged video ever.

The film also has inspired numerous spawn, including "Girl Power Parking Lot" (shot outside the L.A. premiere of the Spice Girls' movie "Spice World") and "Harry Potter Parking Lot" (filmed at a Washington, D.C., book signing for author J.K. Rowling). Those were just two of the films Heyn and co-director Jeff Krulik gathered as part of Heavy Metal Parking Lot's 15th anniversary tour.

What did Heyn think of the parking lot for the screening of "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"?

"I actually walked here," said Heyn, 43, who lives on the East Coast. "I'm staying up the street. I didn't even rent a car, so I'm not in the parking lot."

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