The New York Dolls' story of decline and resurrection is one of the most stirring in rock 'n' roll history. No small part of that tale is how one of their key dudes, Arthur "Killer" Kane, converted to Mormonism about as far from glam rock debauchery as you can get then finally reconnected with his old bandmates.
In the much-anticipated doc New York Doll, director Greg Whiteley catches up with Kane 30 years after the Dolls broke up. After they disbanded in 1975, lead singer David Johansen went on to a so-so solo career before creating party-guy alter ego "Buster Poindexter"; guitarist Sylvain Sylvain continued to play in various bands; and guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan would go on to start punk catalysts the Heartbreakers.
The film finds Kane, now 55 years old, at his job in Los Angeles, working at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' Family History Center library. His marriage ended in 1989, and after faltering through years of addiction and psychological torment, Kane converted to Mormonism. Despite his newfound faith, Kane lives with guilt and a desire to reconnect with his former bandmates.
In spring of 2004, Morrissey, former lead singer of the Smiths and curator of the 2004 Meltdown Festival in London, asks the surviving members of the New York Dolls (both Thunders and Nolan are deceased) to reunite for the musical extravaganza. With the help of his friends at the church, Kane retrieves his guitars from a pawnshop and heads to New York to begin rehearsals with the other surviving members, Johansen and Sylvain. After mending decades-old wounds, the band agrees to play the festival.
The reunion exceeds expectations: critics rave and fans froth. It is what seems to be a new beginning. No one could have predicted that a month later, Kane would die due to complications from leukemia.
It's a sad journey, but Whiteley does a great job of telling a story that's beautiful and somehow hard to comprehend.
New York Doll screens at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 6, at the Smith Theatre on the Orchard Ridge Campus of Oakland Community College, 27055 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills. Call the Detroit Film Center at 313-961-9936 for more information.Eve Doster is the listings editor for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org