NEW YORK DOLL: Arthur "Killer" Kane

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This past Sunday, I was feeling a little under the w
eather, so I watched this wonderful documentary. I recommend you all do the same.

This documentary is the heart warming, yet heart breaking, story of Arthur "Killer" Kane, bass player of the legendary New York Dolls. The story begins with an introduction to the New York Dolls, and has several interview clips from some of Punk and New Wave's biggest stars, including Sir Bob Geldof (of The Boomtown Rats), Chrissie Hynde, Morrissey, Mick Jones (of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite) and members of Blondie. These musicians share their memories of falling in love with the New York Dolls, and how the Doll's music really shook up an otherwise very boring early 70's.

The story then ventures into the demise of The Dolls, mainly because of the death of a band member, which ultimately surrounded Heroin abuse. With several members of The Dolls on Heroin (including the now deceased member), and Arthur "Killer" Kane abusing alcohol, the band fizzled away.

Several members of The Dolls went on to successful solo careers, or outings with other bands, but Arthur Kane disappeared into obscurity. He shares the stories of where his life ended up, culminating with a drunken episode where he beats his wife with the cat furniture, then attempts suicide by jumping out the 3rd floor kitchen window. Unsuccessful at killing himself, he remain hospitalized with injuries sustained from the suicide attempt, and alone, as his wife had left him, after being beaten.

AS IF this story isn't juicy enough, Mr. Kane was reading from the TV Guide, when he discovered an ad for a free Book of Mormon. After requesting the book, he was visited by two attractive young Sister missionaries. He ends up joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (you know, The Mormons), and finds some comfort there, although he ultimately remains on welfare, and with very little money to his name.

The documentary really takes off, when he finds out through a friend, that The Dolls are reuniting per a request from Morrissey, who is hosting "Morrissey's Meltdown", a music festival in London. He immediately gets excited, as he has always felt bittersweet about his leaving the music business. He is in a new place, and knows that the old Rock and Roll lifestyle is for him, but he looks forward to getting up in front of an audience, again.

The documentary takes through the reunion of the three surviving members (three had passed away, by this point), including a very nervous reunion between Arthur and David Johansen (some of you may remember his as Buster Poindexter, 80's Pop icon). The two had parted on bad terms, and Arthur had always remained bitterly jealous of David's success in Pop music, as well as his brief acting career.

After some nervous hugs, and a week's rehearsal, the band sets off for London. The truly emotional part was watching Arthur Kane get his bass guitar out of a pawn shop, where it had remained for years. He owed $250.00, but payed an annual interest on his loan of nearly $200.00. At no point, did he ever have sufficient money to get his bass out of the pawn shop. It wasn't until the LDS ward members rallied together, donating the money to Arthur, that he was able to get his bass guitar out of pawn, for the upcoming show.

Some of the most amusing parts in the movie, are when the LDS Family History Center missionaries (where Arthur had been working two days a week) are interviewed about their relationship with Arthur. There are two darling old ladies, that giggle as if they are new found Rock and Roll groupies.

The show culminates with their reunion show at Morrissey's Meltdown.


Only a matter of days after this extremely emotional, and exciting performance, Arthur "Killer" Kane began feeling ill. As the documentary was being filmed, Arthur was diagnosed with Leukemia, and he passed away within a few weeks of his final reunion concert. As sad as the ending really is, you can't help but feel warm about a musician who had found a peace with God, and who had found a new level of happiness with the reunion of his former band, putting to rest any bad feelings that he had harbored for nearly two decades.

This movie is the true definition of "bittersweet". A wonderful movie, in every regard. Whether or not you believe in Arthur's religious beliefs, this show is informative (you learn a lot about the early Punk scene), touching (need I say any more about that?), and satisfying in every regard. I was just browsing music related DVDs at my local library, and they had five copies. Maybe yours does, too...



Kate said…
WOW! What a wild story! Thanks for sharing it! I will try to see this movie.

Have you seen Rise of Western Civilization I and II?! Those are also awesome rock-u-mentaries.

Another cool musical documentary I happened upon recently, quite by accident, is "Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey." Damn, that is a wild one. Crazy instrument, crazy stories associated therewith.

Have a great weekend, Zekester!