Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow
How rock ’n’ roll made Allan Arkush
I didn’t know it until last week, but Allan Arkush might be the guy I’ve always wanted to be when I grow up. Thanks to Justin Savage, I got to spend about an hour on the phone with Arkush talking about everything from The Beatles and The Ramones to “Moonlighting,” “Ally McBeal,” “American Graffiti,” “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “Rock ’n’ Roll High School.”
Arkush directed The Ramones in “Rock ’n’ Roll High School,” which Savage is screening at 7 p.m. on Sunday at The Palace as part of his Sunday Slashers series. He reached out to the director to see if he might talk to guys like me to promote the film.
Not only was he agreeable, he also provided a video intro that will be shown on Sunday. And like I said, he gave me all the time in the world on the phone and followed up with several texts and emails, including sending me a picture of him standing in front of his massive record and mixtape collection. We talked about those, too.
I’ll have a full story about Arkush and his career in Sunday’s Life section.
Do you remember the “Moonlighting” episode in which Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd’s characters finally hook up? Arkush directed that one.
Or the dancing baby episode of “Ally McBeal”? Yep. Arkush.
He directed a couple of “Nashville” episodes, and the movies “Deathsport,” “Shake, Rattle & Rock!” as well as “The Temptations” and “Elvis Meets Nixon.” He also did “Caddyshack II,” but I didn’t have the courage to ask about that, because, well, we were getting along so well.
Arkush said he remained friends with Joey Ramone after the filming of the movie and that the iconic punk/ new-wave musician turned him onto Metallica and AC/ DC, and even tried to get him into Kiss, “but I just couldn’t.” There was also a tense moment when Johnny Ramone found Arkush’s Grateful Dead albums. Ramone was not a fan, it turns out.
Now 70, Arkush grew up listening to and being greatly influenced by not only the songs themselves, but their relevance in the culture of the day. He said he would sit in class in high school and imagine a motorcyclist riding through the hallway.
During an early meeting with The Ramones, he showed them The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” as an example of the movie he wanted to make. Today, Arkush is teaching at the American Film Institute, listening to his records and generally just being a cool guy.
It’s fair to say that while Arkush made “Rock ’n’ Roll High School,” rock ’n’ roll made Allan Arkush, and it is still making him who he is.