The Northwest Film Center will celebrate the final weekend of its 29th annual Reel Music Festival with three days of music documentaries, including Keirda Bahruth’s 2011 documentary “Bob and the Monster.”
Bahruth’s film chronicles the life of Bob Forrest, erstwhile rock star and current drug treatment counselor. Some may know him as the lyrically brilliant, oft-intoxicated front man of Los Angeles “drunk-rock” group Thelonious Monster. Others will remember him as the longhaired, bespectacled addiction specialist on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
Forrest’s story begins in early ‘80s Hollywood, the setting for his role as junkie bon vivant in a music scene that featured bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, before they were selling out arenas or releasing greatest hits compilations.
Anthony Kiedis and Flea—lead singer and bass player of the Chili Peppers, respectively—were the first to note that Forrest could really carry a tune. Not long after they planted the idea in his head, Bob formed Thelonious Monster with a backing band of experienced and polished LA musicians.
It was during Thelonious Monster’s SoCal heyday that Keirda Bahruth first encountered the band—not as a documentarian but as a devoted fan.
“I was a teenager and hanging out and going out to all those shows in Los Angeles,” Bahruth said. “I knew Bob through the music scene.”
It wasn’t until 2000 when Forrest released an album with Josh Klinghoffer (the Chili Peppers’ current guitarist) under the moniker The Bicycle Thief that Bahruth felt inspired to reacquaint herself with Forrest’s story.
The Bicycle Thief’s music deals directly with Forrest’s recovery from his addictions to heroin and alcohol in a personal, direct way that invigorated Bahruth.
“I got familiar with him and his new story through that record,” Bahruth said.
Bahruth’s renewed interest in Forrest’s music compelled her to approach the situation as both a fan and a documentary filmmaker.
“I really think there’s a big story here with Bob, in overcoming this addiction and also overcoming his failure as a musician and a songwriter,” Bahruth said.
“Bob and the Monster” traces the rise and fall of Forrest’s music career—and his eventual rebound—through ample archival footage, plenty of tasty jams and insightful interviews with all of the major players.
Bahruth allows the footage of Thelonious Monster performing and Forrest’s attendant antics to stand on its own: The viewer witnesses the destruction and feels the pathos when Forrest propositions an audience for heroin, or tells a band-mate to fuck off.
The extensive interviews in “Bob and the Monster” provide much of the film’s emotional weight, primarily because of their scope and diversity. The film contains conversations with Dr. Drew, Flea, Anthony Kiedis, Courtney Love and nearly every other heavy hitter from the ’80s LA scene. These talking heads give the film credibility.
“If I tried to get this film done in a year, it would not have been the same film,” said Bahruth, who began filming in 2004. “It’s just scheduling people that takes a long time. It took a lot of dedication.”
The film premiered March 16, 2011, and has gained critical momentum as it makes the rounds on the festival circuit.
“Once we got into South by Southwest we were in a good position. It opened a lot of doors for us to play all these great festivals,” Bahruth said. “We have been so fortunate that people have been so attracted to the film.”
Bob Forrest’s message is attractive for its doggedness and candor.
“I inevitably thought this isn’t going to end well,” Forrest said in the film. “But I was mistaken because it does end well if you don’t die.”
“Bob and the Monster” will show at 9:15 p.m. Oct. 21 in the Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. Bahruth will introduce the film and answer questions after the screening.
After his pit stop in Portland, Bahruth will be back on the road, bringing the film, along with Bob himself, to Amsterdam for the International Documentary Film Festival in November.
“It’s the same thing as when a band makes a record,” Bahruth said. “You tour it.”
The Portland Vanguard, 10.18.2011. Link: http://psuvanguard.com/arts/4327/