New York Doll: the miracle of God’s creation*


    By Gretta Parkinson

    Rock stars don?t typically forfeit their lives in the fast lane for a job at the Family History Library, but that?s exactly what one New York Doll turned Latter-day Saint did.

    Former BYU student Greg Whiteley directed ?New York Doll,? a documentary featuring Arthur ?Killer? Kane, former bassist of a New York based punk-glam-rock band in the early 1970s. The film follows Kane from a Los Angeles bus stop to Morrissey?s ?Meltdown Festival? in London for a long-awaited reunion concert with the resurrected New York Dolls.

    The film documents the struggle that Kane faces as a recent convert to the LDS church as he entertains the idea of re-entering the world of rock and roll. He traded his red patent-leather jumpsuit and bass for a white shirt and tie and during the last months of his life, before he died of leukemia in July of 2004, Kane rode the bus to his job at the Family History Library in Los Angeles where he entertained his co-workers with harmonica renditions of hymns.

    ?I?ve been demoted from rock star to schlup on the bus,? said Kane as he utilized public transportation one morning on his way to work.

    ?New York Doll? features interviews with artists in the industry including members of Blondie and The Pretenders musing about the irony of ?Killer? Kane finding religion.

    ?It would be like Donny Osmond joining the NYPD,? said Blondie drummer Clement Burke. ?I?m always happy when someone finds something they believe in.?

    In thirty years, Kane had developed a completely different lifestyle, one that didn?t include rock. He had to buy his guitar back from a pawn shop before he could reunite with his friends after so long.

    Kane?s anxiety about returning to the industry for the reunion with the New York Dolls becomes the heart of Whiteley?s documentary. Kane was apprehensive about dealing with fans and parties, and he was especially nervous about seeing Mick Jagger-esque lead singer David Johansen again. The two of them never got along.

    When Kane approached his bishop with his concerns, he received some sound advice.

    ?He told me, ?Be a good Latter-day Saint, do your job, and everything will fall into place,? Kane said.

    In one candid scene backstage before the ?Meltdown? show, Kane takes advantage of the break to explain the life of a Latter-day Saint to his band-mates. He told them about the Word of Wisdom and compared tithing to an ?agent?s fee.?

    ?There?s a lot of stuff to do,? he said. ?I don?t have a list at the moment.?

    The New York Dolls took the stage after Kane led them in prayer in the dressing room. Kane and Johansen, who introduced his friend as, ?the miracle of God?s creation? were finally able to put their differences aside and put on wildly successful show.

    The concert footage was not accompanied by ?Looking for a Kiss,? but rather, it was juxtaposed with reverent choral music by Anonymous 4, illustrating the irony of Kane?s position as a member of a congregation and a member of a rock band.

    Kane returned to his job at the library in Los Angeles after the reunion concert and was diagnosed with cancer shortly thereafter at the age of 55. Whiteley who became close to him, said Kane?s friends were still dealing with their loss.

    ?We?re trying to carry on without him,? Whitely said.

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