This is a charming and surprisingly moving story about redemption. Arthur “Killer” Kane was bassist for the seminal ’70s glam protopunk band The New York Dolls. When the band imploded early in its career due to clashing egos and drug and alcohol abuse, Kane tried comebacks with a few minor bands, but never really got anywhere. While watching a movie on tv one night, he spotted his more successful bandmate David Johansen with a role in the movie Scrooged, and that sent him over the edge (where, granted, he’d been teetering alcoholically for awhile), and he attempted suicide by jumping out his 3rd story kitchen window.
Well, he only managed to injure himself. But it shook him up enough that he grasped the straw held out to him by a tv commercial for The Book of Mormon.
The documentary brings us up-to-date with Arthur Kane, happily working in the LDS geneological library in Los Angeles in 2004. In answer to a very specific prayer, he hears through the grapevine that the remaining members of his former band (Kane and vocalist Johansen, along with guitarist Sylvain Sylvain) have been invited to play at the 2004 Meltdown Festival in London, curated by Morrissey.
Director Greg Whiteley gets interviews with some pretty big names in rock–like Morrissey, Bob Geldof, Chrissy Hynde, Iggy Pop, Mick Jones, and a coupla guys from Blondie–and all of them cite the incredible influence that the Dolls had on rock music and on their own careers specifically.
It’s a very sweet-natured film, and seemed to please the entire audience that watched it with me. I was amused to see so many straight-looking older people there at the Broadway Theatre in downtown Salt Lake (the film was brought to town by the SL Film Society), and I think they were there for the “Mormon angle” rather than the “Dolls angle”. I wonder how they liked the music… Personally, I was delighted by this film. And don’t assume you have to be a fan of the Dolls to enjoy this one. You don’t.
It’s out on dvd now, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But be sure to sit through the entire end credits or else you’ll miss something great.
→ originally published 2006-04-05