New York Dolls Night @ The Barbican
First published June 2009
Even the absence of tubes could not stop a select band of Dolls enthusiasts gathering in the nether reaches of the Barbican Centre to watch the film ‘New York Doll’, preceded by a chat between Dolls aficionado Nina Antonia and Max Decharne, writer and lead singer of The Flaming Stars.
The film is a fascinating depiction of the rise, fall and resurgence of Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane, whos bass playing did so much to anchor the Dolls effervescence. Following the demise of the Dolls Arthur went through hard times until finding a second career as a Mormon librarian in Los Angeles. As Max pointed out, what makes this film so special is that it was made by two Mormon film-makers and so lacks many of the clichés that inhabit most (if you will) rockumentaries. The climax of the film is when in 2004 the surviving Dolls regroup to play Morrissey’s Meltdown in London. Intimate footage of the rehearsals and preparations show the importance of the friendships within the band. Having lost his mother and left his father at an early age it is tempting to see the Dolls as Arthur’s first family and the Mormon church as their successors.
The Meltdown shows were a triumph, and Arthur’s enjoyment at being back with his band after 30 years is wonderful to witness. There is a sad coda to the film as a few weeks after Meltdown Arthur was diagnosed with Leukaemia and he died a couple of days later.
Still, remember him this way. The last music is the film is the immortal bass intro to ‘Private World’ over which David JoHansson introduces him as “The Miracle of God’s Creation…Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane.” The strength of ‘New York Doll’ is that it gives us glimpses into that Private World. Well done Nina, Max and Jay Clifton for setting up such an entertaining evening.
For more info on ‘New York Doll’ go to http://www.onepotatoproductions.com/NewYorkDoll/home.html