When the New York Dolls broke up not long after forming in the 1970s amid drug and alcohol abuse, the band had never gotten their big break. But while other Dolls members like David Johansen, better known in the 80s as Buster Poindexter, went on to continue their music careers to varied success, blonde locked bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane receded into the background. The documentary “New York Doll” catches up with Kane in 2004 as he discusses his past and prepares for the New York Dolls’ first show in over thirty years at Morrissey’s Meltdown Festival.
Embittered by his lack of success and living alone and mostly in his mind, Kane is a heartbreaking figure. After becoming a Mormon in 1989, Kane works three days a week at a family history center library where he fixes copiers. Watching Kane talk to two sisters at the church is awkward but endearing, like listening to your dad trying to sound hip mentioning “power slides” and explaining bass guitars. The film builds up to the feud between Kane and Johansen but it is unclear from the documentary how much was real and how much was in Kane’s head. However, when Kane makes the trip to London for rehearsals and the festival, his demeanor seems to change and he finally adopts some confidence. At a banquet, Kane dons sunglasses as adoring (and young) fans begin approaching him and autographs are sought.
“New York Doll” tells the story the right way with plenty of A-list interviews. Sir Bob Geldoff, The Pretenders’ Chrissy Hynde, Iggy Pop, members of the Clash and Blondie, and über Dolls fan Morrissey — whose twenty minute interview is included as a DVD extra — are among the participants. Also interviewed is Kane’s family at the church. His bishop, teacher and coworkers take the interviews seriously and seem genuinely sympathetic and supportive, even giving him the money to get his guitars out of a pawn shop for the festival.
At only 78 minutes, “New York Doll” seems to only begin the scrape the surface. The history of the band is brief but informative and the interviews are succinct and insightful. While you come away from the documentary with a better understanding, you can not help but feel a little downtrodden at all Kane has gone through. A true rock ‘n’ roll soldier who just never got enough time to prove himself.
Originally posted on PlugInMusic.com.