I could've anticipated a documentary about the New York Dolls, the cross-dressing band that lit NYC on fire in the early '70s. After all, the group counted Johnny Thunders as a member, and it famously instigated punk (not to mention '80s hair metal and, gulp, party boy Buster Poindexter). But a film centered on the bassist? New York Doll proves that Arthur Kane had the weirdest life of all.
Seth Lewis Gordon
Their Last Waltz: Arthur Kane and David
Johansen in New York Doll.
Screens Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 2, 4,
6:15, 8, and 9:40 p.m. and Thursday,
1, at 6:15, 8, and 9:40 p.m.
To wit: After seeing lead singer David Johansen's cabdriving cameo in 1988's Scrooged, the near-penniless "Killer" Kane, according to his wife, drank a quart of peppermint schnapps, beat her with the cat furniture, tore off her clothes, and then jumped out of the kitchen window. Three flights down, he landed on his head, and it took him a year to walk again. "In AA this is called being at rock bottom," he says in the film.
Afterward, biding time with a TV Guide, Arthur noticed a religious ad offering a free book. Intrigued, he picked up the phone, and "two beautiful, young, blond missionaries" arrived at his doorstep bearing the Book of Mormon. He decided to pray, and recalled his conversion as "an LSD trip from the Lord." Converted, he got a middling job at the Mormon Family History Center library, traveled to work on the bus, and passed his hours with elderly friends.
Here the film catches up with Arthur, expertly doting on the daily life of this nervous, gentle man, who struggles with his lost fame and empty wallet until Morrissey (who labels the Dolls' songs "the absolute answer to everything") arranges to have the band reunite for London's 2004 Meltdown Festival. Arthur is beside himself -- he borrows money from the church to release his bass from the pawnshop and worries over his reunion with Johansen, whom Arthur has recklessly blamed for his lot in life. The rehearsal scenes are precious. In London, right before showtime, Johansen smacks Arthur on the lips, and away they go. -- Michael Leaverton