We originally published this piece on the 25th anniversary of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. We’re looking back at that influential film because the documentary’s co-creator Jeff Krulik is about to screen his new film, Led Zeppelin Played Here, on Thursday, August 22 at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore and Friday, August 30 at the AFI Silver Spring.
From the film’s press release: In 1969, did Led Zeppelin perform in the gym of the Wheaton Youth Center in MD in front of 50 confused teenagers? Featuring interviews with rock writers, musicians, fans, and several who claim they were there and witnessed history that night.
HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT is 25 (as of last night) – on that momentous occasion we decided to run this awesome interview Cale did with Jeff Krulik, the movie’s co-creator. (bonus reading: THE CAST-WHERE ARE THEY NOW?)
This time around there is an added bonus as they’ll also be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the cult classic “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” with a rare public screening. It’s 16 glorious min filmed in 1986 at a Judas Priest concert in the parking lot of the since demolished Capital Centre in Landover, MD. Any BYT reader who isn’t already a fan should be ashamed of themselves. I mean, John Waters said it gave *him* the creeps, c’mon.
I pinged Heavy Metal Parking Lot co-director Jeff Krulik to find out the deal:
Cale: So give us a brief back story to Heavy Metal Parking Lot? Who are you guys?
Jeff Krulik: We’re Jeff Krulik and John Heyn, long term local residents who were fortunate enough to be toting around a video camera in a Judas Priest concert parking lot in 1986. I ran a public access studio in Southern Prince George’s County, not long after graduating from the University of Maryland. John and I were new friends and aspiring documentary filmmakers stoked to have unlimited access to professional TV gear. John had the original idea to tape metal fans, and after I saw the footage I came up with the title. We paid a few dollars to park at the Capital Centre, and taped an hour’s worth of footage. Then we left. Who’d imagine we’d still be talking about our short documentary 25 years later!
C: No shit! What do you think it is about HMPL that has led to its longevity?
JK: It’s always managed to strike a chord with people, over these many years. I’ve always said that you were either at that concert, or sat next to someone in homeroom who was at that concert. There’s something archetypal and I’m very glad for that. Another reason for the longevity is that Judas Priest’ music holds up, and artists that are mentioned include Madonna and Metallica, both still vital today.
C: Do you think it would have still caught on if it has been unearthed for the first time this year?
JK: If it were discovered today I don’t know about it having the same type of grass roots build up. We live in such a viral instantaneous universe now, things tend to flame out quickly from overexposure.
C: Was everyone in 1986 ugly, or was it just Judas Priest fans? Or was it just Maryland?
JK: Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. No one is ugly in my opinion. These people on camera are all like family to me.
C: Right. How much material did you have to film to get that 16 min of goodness?
JK: We only shot three 20 minute tapes. Check out what these Umatic tapes used to look like. And now you can imagine what the camera and deck must have looked like. John took the tapes and edited it over several months at his job. This is way before non-linear computerized editing so it took a while.
C: What were you guys sporting while filming? Did you blend in with the crowd?
JK: I’m sure we looked completely out of place. Sadly there’s no photo of us and we never wandered into frame. But I’m sure I was wearing some OP shorts and a lacoste shirt. We weren’t metal fans, but we were curious.
C: How did the film start getting passed around originally?
JK: We used to show it to our friends at parties, and give copies out to anyone who requested a VHS dub. This was the day when video was not screened at film festivals, and there were very few outlets for it. And although it was made with public access television equipment, it never screened on public access (too raw and I couldn’t risk losing my job). So for many years it was just tape to tape sharing, and somehow it made its way across country.
C: When did you realize it was becoming a cult fave?
JK: We credit a friend named Mike Heath who was well placed with the alternative music crowd and it actually made its way to the Nirvana camp, among others. This video store in Hollywood called Mondo Video made everyone watch it who came in the store. This is what we heard when we got wind that it was becoming a cult film, this was around 1994 when Sophia Coppola called John out of the blue (she wanted to include the film in a never-produced tv show for Comedy Central called Hi Octane).
C: What’s interesting to me is that you saw potential in it that early on. What I mean is, I think HMPL is enjoyable on two levels, one is the great characters and hilarious quotes, the other is the cheesy nostalgia for the 80s culture and fashion. But that second level is only apparent with age, were you guys aware of that change at some point in people’s enjoyment of it?
JK: We knew from jump that it was funny material. But we never felt we were mocking anyone. We let them be themselves. It’s always been enjoyable as entertainment. But I think over the years it’s become more of an anthropological study, dissected like the Talmud even. Well, maybe not dissected like that. But it’s been analyzed on different levels, even taught in some classrooms so I’ve heard, which is very flattering.
C: How did you team up with the found footage dorks?
JK: Joe and Nick are not dorks! They are two cool guys who have created a great thing. They are alright with me.
C: I love Joe and Nick. But c’mon, I think they would admit they are dorks. I think they are proud to be dorks. Actually that was just a little inside joke stemming from a fake feud between the FFF and Everything is Terrible guys on our site that nobody will remember but me.
JK: We are all on the same wavelength, so when their current program was a few minutes short, it seemed like a good opportunity for us to tour for our 25th anniversary. Speaking of which, here’s my own anniversary video featuring a lot of significant images from the life of HMPL:
C: Do you think for the 30th anniversary youtube video you could include a screen shot of this HMPL inspired Halloween Costume that we ran ages ago?
JK: Yes. Be glad to. If we have a 30th Anniversary celebration… by then we’ll be having the five year anniversary of our new project Heavy Metal Picnic. Check out it out at http://www.heavymetalpicnic.com
C: Yeah, I caught a couple scenes at a previous Found Footage Fest, it was awesome. Will you guys be at the screening this Sat?
JK: Yes, both John and I will be at the Arlington Drafthouse on Feb 5.
C: I know you’ve tracked down some of the characters in the film over the years – what was the most memorable reunion?
JK: I’d say meeting the fellow known affectionately as Zebraman was a real thrill. He’s got a successful business, he owns some sweet cars and boat, and he’s into country and western music now. Meeting him is included on our DVD, which features other alumni as well.
C: Your short lived Parking Lot TV series seems like a great idea, any chance that will get resurrected? Any way to see it online?
JK: Funny you should ask Cale, I actually just created a youtube channel called ParkingLotTV. We were very lucky to have this opportunity. Sadly it was on a tv network called Trio that nobody could get.
C: How does the heavy metal parking lot scene of today compare?
JK: We weren’t metal fans in 1986, and we are not metal fans today. However we’ve never been dismissive of the music, and we have a great appreciation for it. I just don’t necessarily listen to it. I will however crank any song that strikes my fancy, like Crazy Train or Living After Midnight or Shook Me All Night Long. If that’s lame so be it.
C: Nothing lame there.
C: Do you know if Judas Priest are fans of the film?
JK: Judas Priest have referenced the film several times in articles, etc. We’ve never met them face to face, but we are grateful to have their support. In fact, since i’m in link mode, check out this recent 98Rock interview with Rob Halford. Towards the end, he gives a real nice soundbite about Heavy Metal Parking Lot:
So thanks Rob, and thanks Cale for this interview.