I can remember working in college radio in the mid-90s, on the phone with a label rep, talking about our metal youths. “Mine was like something out of Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” he said. “What the hell is Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” I asked. Roughly two weeks later a padded envelope showed up at the radio station and inside it contained a VHS tape with “H.M.P.L.” written in sharpie. I watched it in my dorm room that night and more than twenty years later I still think it might be the greatest 16+ minutes in recorded history.
As it celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, Heavy Metal Parking Lot is more than just a widely produced bootleg of a cable access show. It’s a glorious cross-section of average American metalheads frozen in time for all eternity, filmed on location at a concert performed by one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all-time, Judas Priest. While hundreds of kids pre-game, for God knows how long before the show actually starts, two men, one mic, and a camera prowled the lots looking for people to talk about the music (and the drugs) they love. It’s brilliant, bizarre, comical, and at times slightly depressing in just how caricature these kids can become in front of a camera. But in the end it truly captures what an 80s arena show looked like.
I’ve watched Heavy Metal Parking Lot at least a hundred times if I’ve seen it once, turning on countless friends and acquaintances to this unintentional masterpiece. (Yes, I still have that original VHS tape too.) But it wasn’t until recently when I started to see a bunch of posts about it (including a surprisingly excellent article from Deadspin) that I decided it was time to write about it. So I sat down, watched it again, and picked out my all-time favorite characters – or what I’ve dubbed the “Greatest Hits” of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. The full film is embedded below for your viewing pleasure. (WARNING: The film is very NSFW and I don’t recommend watching in the presence of children either.) With that said, I present to you…
Leopard Lady (1:07)
Everyone talks about Zebra Man because of his get-up and drunken soliloquy (we’ll get to him soon enough) but no love for the Leopard Lady? She only appears for a few seconds during the opening montage of parking lot shots (just over a minute into the film). But with Priest’s “You Got Another Thing Coming” blaring in the background this chick, Bud in hand, and hair exploding off her head sets the tone unlike any other. You get yours Leopard Lady.
Young Love, First Love (2:20)
Just over two minutes into the film we meet Dave and Dawn. Dave is 20 years old and he’s “ready to rock.” Dawn is…13. 13?!?! They share a kiss and then Dave proceeds to tell us he’ll be in the Air Force in two weeks. That’s almost always followed by me blurting out, ‘…and she’ll be pregnant in less than two.’ Turns out, thanks to that Deadspin article, that Dave and Dawn were just family friends who were egged on by the camera crew to kiss on camera. Dave didn’t go into the Air Force, nor did he knock up Dawn. I’m almost disappointed in that…and this part is still creepy and kind of gross, even with that new knowledge in hand.
Graham of Dope (2:50)
“I’m Graham man, like gram of dope.” The shirtless kid, holding the beer, is Graham. Graham and his friends like drugs…a lot. Graham is currently on acid. Graham thinks we should legalize drugs. Graham and his friends also think that instead of Hands Across America we should have done Joints Across America and just had one giant, nationwide joint that we all smoked. I love Graham. Graham also annihilated any doubts I ever had about never doing drugs. They should show Graham to school children as part of a new scared straight program.
Backseat Driver (4:01)
Roughly four minutes into the film we are greeted by this young lady who proceeds to show off a bruise on her leg. She then tells us, “Don’t ever get it in a car.” Duly noted. Stay classy lady.
Mr. Living After Midnight (4:39)
See this guy with the bowl cut and DC 101 shirt. He serenades us to a chorus of Living After Midnight before telling us in his scratchy voice that Rob Halford is the “best mother f*cking singer arrrrrooooooouuuuunnnnd.” I don’t know why exactly but this guy always cracked me up. Probably because he was such a lovable ham in front of the camera. He’s also the first guy in the film to actually take the mic from our interviewers…won’t be the last…
Glen Burnie (5:17)
Glen Burnie is a town in Maryland. It’s also the town where this young lady called home. “Glen Burnie” is also one of only two answers she gives in her whole interview that aren’t a derivative of “Yeah,” “Hell yeah,” and “Great.” The other answer? When asked what she would do if Rob Halford was standing there she barks out, “I’d jump his bones.” It’s hilarious hindsight, you know, because Rob Halford prefers dudes. Sorry, Glen Burnie. No soup for you.
Damn Kids Today (6:16)
These two dudes are only 19 and 21 years old respectively. Yet they somehow feel that they are old compared to the “teeny-boppers” that surround them. The dude in the “Kill ‘Em All, Let God Sort ‘Em Out” shirt has seen “The Priest” six times. I don’t know what’s more impressive – seeing Priest six times before 1987 hits or that shirt. That guy is a “trve” and as “kvlt” as they come. The 19 year old, after trying awkwardly show off his girlfriend sitting in the car, pulls out a “Don’t Get Mad, Nuke The Bastards” shirt. Another classic. Fact: I love those ridiculous, distinctly 80s, military-themed t-shirts. Also fact: I’d wear them ironically ALL THE TIME if I owned them.
Your Mother (7:00)
Blink and you’ll miss this guy. He’s asked two questions. Both of which he answers with either “Your mama” or “Your mother.” In fact the exchange of: “Who are you here to see tonight?” “Your mother.” is one of my favorite moments in the whole thing. So simple and such a perfect use of the old “Your mother” line. Kids in the 80s said some really nasty crap to each other in jest and otherwise. ‘Your mother’ though was one that we never took seriously, yet probably should have because in most cases it came out super offensive to someone’s mom. The ‘Your mother’ line deserves its own dissertation.
Mr. B.S. (8:15)
This is another great one-question interview, only this time this guy does the interviewing. After being interrupted by a couple of annoying photo bombers this guys asks, “What is this?” When they respond, “Well, we’re with MTV…” he cuts them off with one giant, “Bull-shit!” The camera cuts away and this guy now lives in infamy as the best Doubting Thomas since the Bible (and maybe ever unless you picture Jesus walking in to meet his disciples and Thomas gives the same response this guy did…because that would be hilarious…see you guys in hell.)
The Zebra Man (8:52)
If this film had a ‘star’ this guy would be it. His full-body, zebra-print outfit alone is the stuff of absolute legends. But it’s what he says that really makes him so memorable in my book. He’s on camera for longer than almost everyone else and spends the entire time railing against punk rock and Madonna. His line, “Madonna can go to hell as far as I’m concerned. She’s a dick.” has been repeated back and forth by my wife and I countless times whenever the kids aren’t in earshot. We love it, even though we love old Madonna. I also love punk rock and find it interesting that in 1986 this kid is trashing punk (“It belongs on Mars!”) seeing as some of the greatest bands of the day were highly influenced by punk. My guess though, based on the bands he lists as being the best – Scorpions, Twisted Sister, Dokken, etc. – is that this kid only listened to whatever bands were on mainstream radio and MTV at that time. I would not be surprised at all if Zebra Man didn’t like Slayer and had never heard of Celtic Frost. Zebra Man is funny, but don’t be Zebra Man kids. It’s o.k. to be eclectic in your music tastes and it’s even more o.k. to not swallow everything mainstream media feeds you about music.
The first time I ever watched this I thought they were calling this guy “Ja-Hovie” but in reality their thick Southern accents were saying something along the lines of “John Halpert.” We’ll just continue to call him Ja-Hovie because Ja-Hovie might, in fact, very well be inbred. At the very least Ja-Hovie is wearing a half shirt and drinking some orange concoction out of a mason jar. When asked to play air guitar, Ja-Hovie grabs the girl standing next to him and starts to sing “I Get Around” by The Beach Boys, while the girl nervously laughs towards the camera, but you can clearly see the absolute fear in her eyes…through her sunglasses. If I was that girl I would have pissed my pants. Ja-Hovie is slightly frightening.
This group of kids, more than any other remind me of my friend’s older brothers from when I was in elementary school. Those guys were the “dirt bags” in Judas Priest t-shirts who smoked and were slightly intimidating, yet altogether fascinating. When asked who they are here to see the blond dude yells “F*cking Judas Priest!” while the girl calmly leans into the mic and says, “Dokken.” And that right there ladies and gentlemen sums up heavy music in the 80s. The dudes liked f*cking Judas Priest and the chicks liked Dokken. This group always fascinated me too. It’s four, scraggly, drunk and rowdy boys accompanied by a very pretty, well-spoken, clearly sober young lady. Why? How? I want to know this group’s back story so bad. Also, 13 year old me is totally in love with that girl.
The guy in the middle of this pack wants you to know that Michael Foster is in the hospital and they are going to jam out in his honor. The guy on the right is so completely blitzed that he takes the mic and starts making all sorts of loud and bizarre noises. I’m still not convinced that the guy on the right isn’t actually Michael Foster. The best part of this is that these guys immediately follow up a Jamaican parking attendant who was talking about how wild these heavy metal concerts are and how crazy the kids get. Cue drunken lunatics in 3…2…1…
Priest, I Guess… (12:23)
Two things I love about these guys. The first is the amazing, and homemade, t-shirt that Mr. Bandana is wearing. How do I know it’s homemade? Because he proudly declares that the big guy next to him made it, of course. Secondly, when asked who their favorite band was the big guy yells for Priest. Mr Bandana? “Scorpions, but they’re not here tonight so I guess it’s Priest tonight.” Hold up. You’d rather listen to Scorpions than Judas Priest in their prime? Oh, Mr. Bandana, your shirt and your musical tastes leave so much to be desired.
I Got A Ticket! (12:55)
These guys might be the most underrated part of the whole thing. First off, English is clearly not their first language so combine that with alcohol and what they are sometimes saying isn’t even coherent. Second, the guy on the right is so drunk that at one point he tries to take a sip from a bottle that still has the cap on. But the absolute best part is the guy on the left. Yeah, notice in the shot above his front teeth are missing? Throughout the interview he keeps popping them in and out of place, and flashes them sitting on his tongue at one point. It only lasts for a second or two but it’s one of the most bizarre moments of the whole thing.
“Unsubspecting Victim” (13:15)
All this guy wanted to do was get drunk and puke on somebody. No, it’s true. He says so. He’s also so drunk already that he has trouble forming sentences. Based on the way he dressed for a metal concert he probably also grew up to be an investment banker.
Pretty Kelly (13:37)
This blonde girl is Kelly. This is Kelly’s first heavy metal concert and I’m willing to bet all the money I’ve ever had that it was also her last. Kelly is a nice girl and is one of the only people to appear on camera sober (or at least not wasted). The best part of Kelly’s interview is the second time she is on camera. The interviewers ask her to say something about not drinking and driving. Two dudes get a little too close and she nervously blurts out, “Get away from me. Please.” Oh Kelly, those dirty boys don’t ever get a chance to get so close to someone who smells so nice. They just want you to join their Breakfast Club and maybe take you to their “Heavy Metal Vomit Parties.” I bet Kelly grew up and told her kids all sorts of stories about that one time she went a ‘rock concert.’
The Hairy Bass Player (14:51)
Towards the end of the film the filmmakers started to grab quick interviews with people waiting in actual lines to get into the venue. The best of them was from this bass player who thinks Ian Hill is the best part of the band. O.k. then. His best line though is when he heaps praise on everyone else…except Rob Halford. “Rob Halford. I don’t know about you…” We don’t know about you either buddy.
So there you have it. My favorite characters from one of my favorite films. I hope you take the next 16 or so minutes to enjoy the whole thing. If you’ve never seen it before, you’re in for a real treat. Just throw some headphones on if you’re at work…