35 Years Ago: Meat Loaf Leads All-Star Cast in ‘Roadie’
Before he scored such notable movie roles as the Spice Girls' bus driver in Spice World or as Bitch Tits Bob in Fight Club, Meat Loaf made his big-time leading man debut in Roadie, a 1980 comedy about ... well, a roadie.
It may not sound like the most interesting setup for a film, but director Alan Rudolph made the most of it, lining up a seriously impressive list of cameos from the likes of Alice Cooper, Roy Orbison, the late Soul Train host Don Cornelius, Hank Williams Jr. and members of Blondie and Asleep at the Wheel. Meat Loaf played Travis W. Redfish, a truck driver who's lured into the rock-star lifestyle when he becomes (yep, you guessed it) a roadie for a traveling show. The movie's poster promised a madcap comedy with the tagline "Bands make it rock ... roadies make it roll."
Meat Loaf filmed the picture during the protracted lull between his career-defining smash hit LP Bat Out of Hell and its troubled follow-up, 1981's Dead Ringer – a period in which he was forced to take time off from singing after losing his voice. That wasn't all. Though Meat Loaf was coming off such a major success, he was also struggling with substance-abuse issues and was generally out of shape. (Also, according to one extra on the Roadie shoot, he was a "thoughtless butthole," but you can't please everyone all of the time.)
Sadly, audiences proved largely uninterested in rolling with Roadie; it grossed a paltry $4.2 million during its box-office run, and critics were less than kind. Roger Ebert, while crediting Meat Loaf with being a "large, cheerful, reasonably engaging performer," complained that the singer never had a chance to shine because "the movie's so genial, disorganized and episodic that we never really care about the characters, and yet whenever someone starts to sing, the performance is interrupted for more meaningless plot development."
Still, like many movies that flopped in theaters, Roadie went on to enjoy a relatively healthy life on home video. Fans even got a chance to see Travis W. Redfish in all of his hi-def glory with a 2013 Blu-ray release.
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