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Metal/Prog Metal DVD/Video Reviews

Phil Varone

Waking Up Dead DVD

Review by Greg Olma

I know that the glamorous life of rock and roll is not real. The real story is more about bad hotels, crappy food, groupies that are not super models, and addiction. All of that and you don’t necessarily make money. I sometimes wonder how anyone can put up with so much negativity and still plug away at it. The Phil Varone story is not a pretty one. The film is a behind the scenes look at his life for 4 years with band member, wife, and friend interviews peppered in to keep the story flowing. Here is someone who was touring arenas with Kiss and had roughly a $1.00 in his bank account. Many of the scenes are difficult to watch. You get a front row seat to Phil’s decline into drugs and at times you just want to reach into the screen and grab him by the scruff of his neck and knock some sense into him. This film shows the seedy underbelly of the rock and roll lifestyle.

Even though I found some scenes hard to watch, this truly is reality TV. There is no happy ending and someone does not walk away with a million dollars. The reason Waking Up Dead works is because Varone does not want to be portrayed as the victim. He does not want you to feel sorry for him, instead, he wants people to learn from his mistakes. A couple of times during the film he suggests that the best course in life is to stay in school, get a degree, and get a steady job. I’m sure there are people who think he has the great life. Well, for those people, Varone put out this downward spiraling documentary of 4 years of his life. It is a cautionary tale and it’s proof that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at
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