An Affair of the Heart
directed by Sylvia Caminer
starring Rick Springfield
Yellow Rick Road Productions
I was shocked to learn that not only is Rick Springfield still touring and recording, but he has a huge fan base, played a Swedish metal fest, and still has women throwing themselves at his feet. What better subject for a rock and roll documentary can there be? Director Caminer gets into the heart of the Springfield machine, penetrating not only the backstage trailers but also the ultra fanatic fan base and the people who have to put up with them. Springfield comes across as a sincere entertainer who’s been through the mill, where the grinder has honed and matured him, and the fans range from the obsessive-compulsive collectors of concert experiences to those that treat him like more like a personal savior than a guy who writes guitar-oriented power pop.
Springfield had his first fame on early MTV. Ex VJ Mark Goodman describes him as “a pop lightweight, a pretty boy, and a bit of an ass.” Not pretty, but that’s industry shorthand and you have to keep track of all these star wanabees somehow. Rock and roll isn’t a good long-term career, and Springfield moved over to playing Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. A soap star gig is as good as a pop star gig and you have other people to worry about the writing. But after a decade of that he returned to the stage, and now he’s back on the road, cranking out albums and selling tickets. This doc visits the full spectrum of touring options: Midwestern fairs and fests, tropical cruise ships, a four-day stint in a Milwaukee Indian Casino, and my favorite, a Swedish heavy metal festival. He kisses babies, mentors young musicians, and gives middle-aged women a taste of the sexual fantasies he instigated in 1985. Yeah, there’s some dirt, but his wife stuck with him through thick and thin, and let’s face it, groupies are more interesting than faithful wives.
Of course, those groupies are married now and have their own children and long suffering husbands. We follow several of them; Mommy Time included driving hundreds of miles to see concerts, getting exclusive backstage access, and dodging embarrassing photographs that need to be explained. One woman spent her youth surviving heart surgery and sees Springfield as a guru, others are entranced when Springfield visits their hotel rooms, and the only one who seems somewhat normal is the kid Dustin, whom Springfield took up on stage at three and 10 years later is soloing for him on “Victoria’s Secret.” This guy is lucky he doesn’t have any really creepy stalkers, or if he does, Caminer carefully edits them out.
I agree “Jessie’s Girl” is a nearly perfect pop tune, but what notched him up in my book was a cover of Bowie’s “Suffragette City.” I’m not ready to quit my job and follow the tour, but I enjoyed seeing into his later life success. Too often we read about pop stars dead or addicted or starving and bitter, and it’s refreshing to see someone who did well and continues to enjoy living the dream. If you’re a Springfield fan, you’ll see this as soon as it’s released, and if not, remember what was printed on some guy’s tee-shirt: “Real Men go to Rick Springfield concerts… and get laid after the show.”