The Capital Centre may have been blasted off the face of Landover, Md., years ago, but its hallowed parking lot still looms large in music-nerd culture. Local filmmakers Jeff Krulik and John Heyn made a night in the life of some tailgating Judas Priest fans into a perfect piece of 1980s cultural anthropology with 1986’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” (also documenting Dundalk accents for the ages), and carried the franchise over to parking lot assemblages for Neil Diamond and Harry Potter. They get ripped off all the time, too. From “Raver Bathroom” to … um, “Lady Gaga Parking Lot,” the concept works anywhere weirdos congregate.
But there’s something innocent and wild about the cast of characters in the original “HMPL.” That parking lot was just seething with Spandex and Michelob and the hormonal promise of summer. This was, after all, pre-’90s, before irony existed. Perhaps this is the inspiration driving “Heavy Metal Parking Lot: The Musical,” which played to a one-night only audience Thursday at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art. Choreographer Ryan Heffington — you may know him as the dance coach with the hairy, hot legs and high heels from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” — is the man behind the production, which is part of an ongoing HEFFINGTON MOVES MOCA series of events there. From what we can figure from this video, it’s mostly about a viking, which is pretty heavy metal.
But Krulik and Heyn only learned of this production the new-fashioned way: through a Google alert. “John got wind of it that way, on a LAMoCA schedule, and he was shocked, particularly since that’s one of the many projects we’ve considered over the years for exploiting our franchise,” says Krulik. “But title appropriation is something we are not unfamiliar with, although it’s a copyrighted property… I even heard from several people who asked if I was going to be in L.A. for this event. Frankly, once we went to the source we gave our blessing.”
“I had a nice little talk with this guy,” assures Heyn. “It looks like a real performance arty piece. Pretty avant garde. Nordic metalheads or something.”
For the 25th anniversary of “HMPL,” the guys are getting ready to embark on a screening tour of the doc, and will be on “Last Call with Carson Daly” next week to discuss the film’s enduring cultural influence. We’d love to see a full-on D.C. operetta, with Darkest Hour as the Greek chorus. Heyn says that, eventually, a real musical — or even a feature film — is the ultimate plan.
“I’d want to cast against type, with big-name actors you wouldn’t expect,” he says. “They’d have to grow mullets somehow, though.”