Watch: Essential Music Documentaries #1: New York Doll (2005)

new york doll

Stream the documentary below.

Synopsis: Arthur “Killer” Kane, a recovering alcoholic and Mormon, has the chance to reunite with glam rock/punk rock pioneers New York Dolls. He was one of the founding members of the band in 1971, but he left the band in 1975 in the midst of drug, alcohol, and interpersonal issues within the band. The band limped on before dissolving in 1977.

Kane found life post the Dolls break up difficult to navigate as he saw his former band-mates (Johnny Thunders and David Johansen) go on to popular and financial success, while also seeing lesser bands (Motley Cure, Poison, Stryper) essentially copying the Dolls style and selling millions of records while doing so. After a failed suicide attempt in 1989 after seeing David Johansen’s cameo in the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged, Kane was at rock bottom and became a Mormon. His rock star life seemed to be well and truly behind him. However, a reunion show organised by Morrissey, himself an enormous fan of the New York Dolls, presents Kane with the opportunity to perform with the band once more after nearly thirty years.

Director: Greg Whiteley (Resolved, Mitt, Most Likely To Succeed)

What’s so good about it? An endlessly fascinating and terribly tragic portrait of Arthur Kane’s lifelong search for a sense of place, belonging, and purpose, the documentary conjures a depiction of a man who seems profoundly lost after seemingly peaking very early in life. Ultimately, a story that is both wretched and redemptive for a man who, after years of strife and feeling forgotten, managed to return to his spiritual home despite the odds being so resoundingly stacked against him. Suitably, Arthur Kane is like a character from one of Morrissey’s songs: calamitously human.

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