Recently I checked out the film Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon. It’s a documentary all about Shep Gordon who has managed acts like Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Teddy Pendergrass, and many more. One tidbit that was shared in the film was that Gordon had played a big part in producing the 1980 film Roadie, which I had literally just picked up at a used DVD shop. He was able to fill the film with a bunch of his industry buddies and strangely a rock star is cast as the world’s greatest roadie.
The hero of our story is Travis W. Redfish (Meat Loaf), a good ole Texas boy who delivers Shiner Beer and works with his father (Art Carney) at the family junk business. While out delivering beer one day, Travis and his partner run across a broken down RV on the side of a lonely road. Inside is a rock n’ roll road manager named Ace (Joe Spano) and a groupie named Lola (Kaki Hunter). They have a load of band equipment they need to get to Austin for a Hank Williams Jr. show. Travis, who can fix anything, repairs the RV and then takes the wheel to drive them to the show. When they arrive late, leave it to Travis to set up the gear in record time. This impresses the promoter (Don Cornelius), who insists that Ace hire Travis full-time.
Now, Travis hits the road, primarily because he’s got a bit of a crush on Lola. Problem though…Lola is only sixteen and is saving herself for Alice Cooper. Along the way, Redfish proves to be handy at just about everything. When a band refuses to play, he has ways of persuading them. When an environmental group convinces a town to shut off the power for a concert, Travis rigs up his own method of getting electricity. He soon becomes the most famous Roadie in the world and ends up working with Alice Cooper, but will Lola run off with the shock rocker or stick with the plus-sized country boy?
Roadie is not without promise. Meat Loaf is actually well cast as a handy country boy who becomes an in-demand rock roadie. I will say that the film doesn’t really do a good job of setting up the idea that he tinkers with stuff and can fix anything. He and his dad are like a Texas version of Sanford and Son, and they’ve got all sorts of weird cobbled together inventions around the house, but it was never really made clear that Travis was the one responsible for all this. I think a bit more setup would’ve made Travis’ sudden rise to the rank of the world’s most famous Roadie make a bit more sense. Travis also has a few strikes against him since many viewers will be understandably bothered by the fact that he still pursues Lola even after finding out that she is a mere sixteen years of age.
Ultimately, though, the film is pretty aimless It weaves its way around various scenarios created with one goal in mind: to create excuses for various music acts to make cameos. The biggest, of course, is Alice Cooper…which makes sense since he was Shep Gordon’s first client and closest friend. When I’ve seen Cooper in interviews he’s always struck me as a very intelligent person, so I was a bit surprised with the way he’s portrayed in this film since he comes across as a bit of a flake. There is also a segment of the film that involves the band Blondie. Again,the film takes an odd direction with how the band is portrayed. One sequence has them in a cheesy hotel lounge/restaurant where Debbie Harry sits and flirts with Meat Loaf while the other band members goof off in the restaurant. The scene feels like a half-baked attempt to mix A Hard Day’s Night with a Marx Brothers movie.
Had Travis’ story been more fully developed, I think Roadie could’ve been a much more worthwhile film. I think it suffers, however, since the primary concern seems to be more exposure for a bunch of music acts…who just happen to be managed by the guy who helped produce the film.