New York Doll: A Documentary with Heart

The New York Dolls were to glam and burgeoning punk rock in the early ’70s what the Sex Pistols were to punk rock in the late ’70s, and this superb documentary answers the burning question “Whatever happened to bass player Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane?”

Thirty years after the Dolls forged new musical stylings, we discover what he’s been up to. The Dolls influenced the Smiths, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, David Bowie and countless other high-energy bands during their counterculture reign from 1971-1975, and then fizzled out due to the excesses of drugs and in-fighting. Bass player Kane bottomed out after the New York Dolls split apart; his marriage ended and his career stalled. In 1989 he was moved by a TV commercial he saw for the Book of Mormon, ordered it, and it was hand-delivered by two missionaries. Soon he was baptized into the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an event with far-reaching personal influence.

The film begins in 2004, when Kane is 55 years old, a Mormon, and living in Los Angeles. This documentary was made by Greg Whiteley, who is a Mormon himself, yet remains objective. We see how content Kane is in his life, how well-liked he is at work in the library, how he abstains from drinking and smoking, and that he’s generous in spirit.

Morrissey, the former lead singer of The Smiths (and former president of the New York Dolls Fan Club) organizes a London concert event called The Meltdown Festival, and sets out to reunite the Dolls for the concert. Only three of the original New York Dolls are still alive: Kane, David Johansen, and guitar player Sylvain Sylvain, and none of them are on speaking terms. The climax is centered on what happens at the concert, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

This warm-hearted documentary is a poignant, fascinating tribute to a man who has been mostly an unsung musical influence-until now. Don’t miss this one.

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