Thursday, March 31, 2005

You Can't Put Your Arms Round A Memory

Today I was lucky enough to have been invited to a screening of the soon to be distributed documentary, "New York Doll." It covers the life of one Arthur "Killer" Kane, the bass player for the New York Dolls, who had the idea for the band (he thought naming a band "the Dolls" would be cool), got it together, lived the rock'n'roll lifestyle, faded into a drunken obscurity and converted to Mormonism after a failed suicide attempt.

And then the band got back together, maaaaan. But then he died.

(He's the blond.)

This doc was a real treat, focusing on the "rock and roll Frankenstein" that was Kane, a gentle giant who oozed kindness, sincerity, and the true desire to rock. It is a bittersweet tale of the taste of success, and what failure can do to a person. At his height, he had groupies in limos. At his depth, he drunkenly abused his wife and threw himself out of a third story window to end the madness. In his recovery, he sent for the Book of Mormon.

Other members of the Dolls had success on some level... Sylvain Sylvain continued to play, Johnny Thunders & Jerry Nolan became the Heartbreakers, and David Johansen did some acting and that Buster Pointdexter stuff. Arthur Kane just sort of disappeared... although that wasn't what he was going for.

He never comes off like a born again weirdo or a Scientology robot, just like a guy who loved being in the New York Dolls, found something to do with his life when that was over, and yearned for it to happen again. Then Morrissey came along (and he gets a lot of screen time in this doc - a rare treat for Moz fans since the man is terribly reclusive) and asked them to get together for a festival he was curating in London. The interviews with members of his church are priceless (two old nuns claiming they are now "Killer Kane" groupies) as well as the footage of the band's reunion... very touching.

And about two weeks after he returned from this triumph, he got the flu. Well, he thought it was the flu, and he died two hours after being diagnosed with leukemia. Of course, this gives the documentary a punch it wasn't expecting to get. When "New York Doll" comes to your town (and it will, eventually), it's worth getting to... To understand the influence this band had on many, in a world of Jethro Tulls and Emerson, Lake & Palmers... To get an idea of what it might be like, living that "dream"... And to see a little story about a very sweet man, who went through some major shit but still kept the smile on his face.