Jeff Krulik and John Heyn’s 1986 film Heavy Metal Parking Lot has become an unlikely cult classic. In less than 20 minutes, the film—culled from footage taken in a parking lot outside a DC-area venue where Judas Priest was playing—captured all one might need to know about the 1980s. Jim Powell, a Priest fan who was at that concert but not in the film, reflects on the oversized impact of the short film. He also tracks down one of the film’s reluctant “stars,” the so-called “Glen Burnie Girl”.
It was May 31, 1986, and I reluctantly made my way to the Capital Centre in Landover, Md., to see my erstwhile heavy metal heroes, Judas Priest. At the time I was so disappointed in the direction the band had taken with their latest release, Turbo, that I had pretty much disowned them. Gone was the tough denim-and-leather heavy metal sounds of such monumental groundbreaking albums as Stained Class, Hell Bent For Leather, and Unleashed In The East. Now the band was using synthesized guitars, commercial song structure formulas, juvenile lyrics and polished production.
I understand they were going in the direction that a lot of metal bands were at the time, under the corporate influence, becoming commercially more accessible with hopes of expanding the audience but still… Eccchhh! I felt as though they stabbed me in the back, ripped out my heart and abandoned our audible relationship like nuptials gone terribly wrong. (Priest would eventually regain my loyalty with the release of Painkiller in 1990). Still, for some reason, I guess out of respect for their legacy and the impact their previous material had made on me, I decided to support them and go to this concert.
As expected, the Capital Centre concert featured the new look, new songs interspersed with the old classics, and a bit of a different crowd in attendance. That is all that I really recall; I could not remember who I went with or if I even saw the opening band, Dokken. This has nothing to with an aging brain, alcohol or any other stimulants. I didn’t remember too much about this show 30+ years ago simply because it didn’t leave any kind of a lasting impression and was soon forgotten. I showed up, did my duty, served my time and left.
Fast forward to the year 2000 at Goucher College in Towson, Md. The school was screening an underground film called Heavy Metal Parking Lot. I had heard of this footage floating around the underground music /video scene but had never seen it. I didn’t know much about it other than it involved fans hanging out in the parking lot before a Judas Priest concert at Capital Centre. Finally, an opportunity to see what this was all about. I hoped that the film would be from one of the tours Judas Priest played there in 1981, 1982, 1984 or even 1990.
But, as the film began to roll, I realized this footage was taken outside the concert that I so distressingly attended back in 1986. Though I did party in the parking lot at most Capital Centre concerts, I was certain I didn’t at this one. I didn’t know many people who were even going to this concert, let alone hanging out with beforehand in the parking lot (therefore I am not in the video footage). Most of my diehard music friends had bailed from the Priest ship by this time
My first reaction, as the film began, was anger at the crowd being shown. They were the type of people who I thought gave heavy metal fans a bad rap, making a mockery of the genre in the general public’s eyes. Heavy metal to me is sacred and here were prime examples of what I considered ‘posers,’ riding on a passing fad, not truly passionate about it. Basically, they come in, ruin everything that means a lot to others, then leave and move on to the next musical fad, leaving it to the true fans to pick up the pieces and put it back together again. People say that ‘grunge’ ruined heavy metal, but I lay the blame on the poser bands (aka, ‘hair’ bands) and their fans.
As the movie continued, though, I warmed up to it and even smiled along to some of the antics. I began to see the film as a sort of time capsule. This was a time when there were no cell phones, people were not photographing and video recording everything they did and sharing it with whoever would watch. It became clear to me that the guys who filmed this footage had caught lightning in a bottle. They really did capture a bit of magic. The debauchery, clothing and hairstyles, types of vehicles, favorite music groups and effects from drinking alcohol, sex and drugs and rock & roll were all captured here in this footage on a parking lot outside a heavy metal concert in 1986.
Aside from satisfying the curiosity of finally getting to see this Judas Priest-affiliated video I’d heard so much about, what I left there with the beginning of a friendship with one of the filmmakers, Jeff Krulik (and his film partner, John Heyn – who I’d meet a bit further down the road). After the screening, Jeff did a Q & A with the audience. I told Jeff I was at that Judas Priest concert and was a big Priest fan/collector, etc. Jeff was not a heavy metal fan, let alone a Judas Priest fan, nor did he know much about them. He and John were basically filmmakers, capturing a particular culture and having fun with it.
This friendship led to me being included in the bonus video segment “Visit The Heavy Metal Basement” on the Heavy Metal Parking Lot DVD release.
In April 2001, Jeff came over to my house to borrow my concert ticket stub from that 1986 Capital Centre show and some of my old concert shirts to use in the photo session for a GQ magazine article being prepared about the filmmakers. He asked me to give him some history of Judas Priest, so I pulled out all my Priest albums and went through them from beginning to end and gave him my opinion on each and on the band’s career. Jeff filmed me going through the albums so that he’d have something to use as a reference on the band. It was not planned or thought out, not even meant to be filmed for public use, just a spontaneous conversation really. When they were shopping the film around for the DVD release, since the film was so short, they added a lot of extras to make it longer, my segment being one of them (a whopping 40 minutes), so there you have it, nothing more, nothing less.
Getting back to my initial first impressions of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, they did not reflect anything personal against anyone in the film. I just felt as though most of those interviewed in that parking lot were not true Priest fans and that most of them were just going along with the current music trend and partying. I doubted many were still listening to Priest, which I later learned was true, although some were still Priest fans. After becoming friends with Jeff, I’ would attend and take part in numerous screenings that he has done since the one in 2000. Part of the fun has been meeting some of the HMPL ‘alumni’ who’ve been located or come out of the woodwork to participate in the various screenings and Q&A’s. A lot of the main characters (‘Zebra Man’, ‘Gram Of Dope’, ‘DC 101 Guy’) have been recognized and located. Some have embraced it and some want nothing to do with it.
A standout personality in the film who had yet to be located was ‘Glen Burnie Girl’, infamous for such quotes as “paarrrrty!”, “half and half”, “yeaaahhh”, “group’s great” and of course the legendary line “I’d jump his bones!” (referring to JP singer Rob Halford, who is gay). Well, a couple years ago, one of my friends mentioned to me that he knew someone who knew who she was! I pressed for him to find out her name, in which he was able to produce. Finally, after all of these years, a lead on the elusive ‘Glen Burnie Girl’!
I was almost shaking when I contacted Jeff to let him know that I knew her name and through the power of the internet, I knew how to contact her! Now the issue was who, when and how should we approach her with the phenomenon known as HMPL and her role in it? Does she know it exists? If not, how do we break the news to her about her unprecedented ‘celebrity-ness’? The planning, anticipation and hesitation went on for the longest time. Once I learned that she and I had gone to the same high school (she graduated 3 years later), I thought it would be a good ‘in’ that might break the ice and maybe she might talk to me. Then with that plan in motion, we were thinking what is she going to be like? What should I ask her? How is she going to react? Not knowing what we were going to uncover by contacting this clandestine person, I sent her a brief message explaining what I’d like to talk to her about.
To my astonishment, she responded, she was aware of HMPL and gave me her phone number, said she’d be up for talking to me as long as I kept her name, whereabouts and everything else about her anonymous (she chose the ‘want nothing to do with it’ option that I mentioned earlier). I obliged. We exchanged a couple emails and then would go on to have a couple conversations. Finally, for the first time ever, she was going to speak about HMPL and I would be able to reveal the enigma of GBG.
The result, after all the anticipation, indecisiveness and buildup….was that she was not much out of the ordinary. She is a wife and mother with a professional occupation, living the American dream (I did not ask her if she had a white picket fence). In 1986, she was a typical teenage girl, hanging with her friends, partying, would just jump in a car and go to concerts or wherever the crowd was going, pretty much like a lot of the kids did. She went on to say that she frequented Capital Centre often in the years 1984 – 86, seeing bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Motley Crue, etc. She was into MTV, the whole rock scene and look, wearing bandannas, spandex, hung with guys wearing muscle shirts, etc. pretty much blended in with everyone else in the scene, though she was not the heavy partier that people may think (makes sense, she seemed to me like a deer in the headlights when the camera was on her, didn’t know what to say, seemed out of sorts). After that culture ended, things changed for her when hip hop happened in the 1980s and 1990s.
GBG isn’t much of a rocker these days, but does like some Def Leppard once in awhile and misses the days of the 1980s. Commenting on HMPL, GBG found out about it when she was in her 20’s, but didn’t think much of it at all. Occasionally, friends have mentioned something to her about it, but that is as far as she goes with it. No real story or mystery to uncover, so I guess that is the story… quite anti-climatic, huh? I am happy for her.
As a wrap, HMPL is a snapshot of time in the mid-1980s rock world when things seemed a bit more simple, calm and in the moment…with a lot less angst than they are in the world of 2020. Or maybe, as they say, hindsight is simply 20/20.
Still images from HMPL courtesy of Jeff Krulik.
A “prequel” to Heavy Metal Parking Lot exists. Called Heavy Metal Picnic, it was filmed at a 1985 ‘Full Moon Jamboree’ in Maryland. Different cast of characters but same vibe.