Judas Priest released the divisive Turbo in 1986. Despite alienating core fans with synthesizers and pop hooks, Turbo became the band’s highest charting album to date. The subsequent “Fuel For Life” tour was equally successful. Fans turned out in droves to see Priest live.
Although Judas Priest filmed the tour for home video, two filmmakers provided documentation of a different sort. Armed with equipment borrowed from a cable access studio, John Heyn and Jeff Krulik interviewed tailgating fans outside the Capital Centre in Largo, Maryland. Aptly titled, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, the 16-minute documentary quickly took on a life of its own.
Even without a distribution deal, the film achieved cult status. Proliferating through tape trading, fans made their own copies from borrowed VHS cassettes. In this manner, word of Heavy Metal Parking Lot spread.
After a friend brought copies to the West Coast, the documentary truly flourished. Indie-video stores began stocking bootleg tapes. The increased visibility led to even more fans making copies. It was the modern equivalent of going viral.
Heavy Metal Parking Lot is a documentary in the loosest sense of the word. Fans essentially talk to the camera about partying and heavy metal. The film now serves as source material that examines metal subculture as it stood in 1986.
Awkward moments abound in this timeless documentary. Take this 20 year old military man! In just 6 weeks, he would be off to the Air Force. For now, he is “ready to rock” with his 13-year-old female companion!
Unfortunately that’s not his kid sister. There’s no mistaking their relationship as they proudly kiss for the camera. It’s the first of many cringe-worthy scenes.
Take this painful interview. This woman has trouble eliciting a response other than “hell yea” and “great.” It’s only when asked her thoughts on Rob Halford that she becomes animated. Eloquently declaring that she would “jump his bones,” it’s an honest statement from a would-be groupie.
Glenn Tipton also has HIS admirers. These women aren’t shy about their intentions. “Glen Tipton….we want to fuck your brains out.” It’s always classy in the Capitol Centre parking lot!
Of course the most memorable scenes owe themselves to overzealous fans. This EXTREMELY intoxicated man feels no pain. After treating us to a rendition of “Living After Midnight,” he passionately sings the praises of Judas Priest. Iron Maiden even gets mentioned as runners-up to the heavy metal crown!
Laugh if you must, but there is a purity to his swagger. This is a man who loves metal. It’s a unique joy that only comes from seeing your favorite band in concert.
Although drug-use is not captured on film, it’s clear that illegal substances flow amidst the sea of booze. Introducing himself as “Graham…as in gram of dope,” this shirtless, beer-swilling man proudly serves as an ambassador for drug culture.
Eager to discuss his state of mind, Graham boasts, “Im on acid…that’s where I am!” Given the chance to elaborate, he admits to taking “Drugs…fucking a…everything!” Years later, Graham would learn of his celebrity and publish a book that details those hazy days of the mid-80’s.
It would be a mistake to focus solely on substance abuse. Much of the film’s appeal is its glimpse into a changing scene. Ironically, as Judas Priest were embracing pop-metal, the heavier sounds of thrash were beginning to take hold. A man wearing a Slayer shirt emerges behind Graham, not to shout drunken nonsense, but to discuss the current state of metal.
It’s clear that many in attendance were there to see opening act Dokken, but our Slayer loving friend is no minority. Metallica consistently gets name-checked. It’s easy to forget how fresh Master of Puppets and Reign in Blood sounded in 1986. Still, the night was all about Judas Priest…one of the few bands that could bring Dokken and Slayer fans together.
It’s not long before Graham seizes the spotlight again. This time he has an agenda. Stepping up to the camera, he boldly declares, “They should legalize drugs….that is a fact!”
Graham’s friend certainly likes the sound of legal drugs. His observation that “there’s enough burnouts here to go hands across America” causes Graham to respond, “They should make a joint so big it fits across America.” This brilliant insight has cemented Graham’s status as hesher hero.
Perhaps the most beloved personality is Zebra Man. The origin of his nickname needs no explanation. Just look at that outfit!
Only a Dokken fan would choose to mimic a zebra. Pointing out that his female companion is “tripping, Jack Daniels,” one can only assume that Zebra Man is under the same influences.
Zebra Man steals the microphone after his friend is asked her philosophy on life. What wisdom can he offer us regarding this cerebral question? “It sucks shit!”
Surprisingly, Zebra Man is narrow-minded in his musical tastes. Elegantly stating that Madonna “is a dick,” and “that punk shit belongs on fucking Mars,” his colorful language has earned him celebrity status.
The saga of Zebra Man gets even better. For the DVD release, directors tracked down the star of their film. Shockingly, his love of Dokken proved to be an adolescent phase. He has sworn off heavy metal and is now a fan of country music!
Heavy Metal Parking Lot remains a snapshot into a pivotal year when metal was in transition. It was a time when Dokken toured arenas and thrash was emerging from the underground. Never again will we have ¾ length sleeves, mullets, and muscle cars, but we will always have this time-capsule of the days when metal was king!