New York Doll

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If one wants to watch a documentary of a guy who wore fishnet stockings and lipstick... If one wants to watch a documentary of a "music" group that spawned "punk"... If one wants to watch a documentary of a chronic binge's effect on a brain... If one wants to watch a documentary of a rock star bottomed out in Los Angeles... Before I saw New York Doll, that's all I thought I would write. But if one wants a spiritual rags to spiritual riches story and a dream come true ending, then this is the flick.

Regardless of your age (although the PG 13 rating is for some rather offensive language and drug use), it's a good production; no, it's a great production. The team work of Greg Whiteley, director, Ed Cunningham, producer, Seth Gordon, producer/editor/graphic designer, and Roderick Santiano, cinematographer, combines talent to create an opus like the man himself, Arthur "Killer" Kane: strange, artistic and yet compelling. They achieve their goal: it's got purpose, it's got class, it's got... well, it's got pizzazz.

A strange sense of destiny is the story of Arthur "Killer" Kane. "Killer" is hung on him because of his "killer" bass style, not his other behavior. The fates were kinder to Arthur than most. Though he lived a thirty-year nightmare, his story ends with his dream come true. How many times does that happen to anyone? A man obsessed on the name "doll" as part of his band's name, clearly this dude's weird. He's not selfish--it's not a self-absorbed weird--but just the opposite: he cares about those who come to see his band. A man creating a band so others could enjoy it for the moment, he was driven to perform by letting his audience's energy lead him. He never made rock star level cash as he kept his band in time with his "killer" bass thumping. For the music world in that period, it was too over-the-top. He suddenly appears on the scene to set the stage for "punk" and scores of other bands (e.g., The Sex-Pistols), and just as suddenly, was lost from everything, rumored killed in action in some Los Angeles riot.

The transition from lost to found is a story in itself. I mean this is not just a story of any rock star, but a rock star who is lost and then found as a member of the church--I mean "The" Church, the LDS Church. "Killer" was in a flophouse reading the Bible. He saw an ad in some publication like Reader's Digest promising a free copy of the Book of Mormon. He called the 800 number, and to his surprise, two beautiful blonde LDS sister (i.e., female) missionaries showed up to give him the book. Just before his death, at the stroke of midnight, just when all hope that his life would take a good turn had seemed lost, he did as the sisters told him. He read Mormon 9:21: "Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth." He prayed about the Book of Mormon and knew that he'd found the true church.

There we go; this is what the movie is all about. And by the way, "Killer's" three-decade dream came true, just like the Blues Brothers. "Killer's" band got the call: "We want you at the London Meltdown Royal Festival." One hundred thousand fans to play for, but there's still a broken friendship with lead singer David Johansen. It's a bit too much for "Killer." "Killer" seeks encouragement from his LDS bishop. Bishop "Mac" reassures "Killer," "Just be a good LDS, do your job, and all will be fine." And all is fine. What a great gig in London! Hey, I loved it and I'm definitely into music, even if I'm certainly no "punk."

In the middle of "punkdom," here's a stalwart, a statue who presents LDS doctrine quietly and patiently and prays before the performance. The New York Doll band ends up receiving applause from the "punk of punkdom." It is a warm and emotional time after the success of this one last tour as his fans embrace him.

Quietly resigned, even as one sits thinking, "Wow, he can do it. He can achieve stardom; he's on his way. Wow, what a great come back. What a story!" And then he dutifully returns to Los Angeles, and within days he dies of leukemia--just two hours after his diagnosis! Sad? Yes. Fulfilling? Yes. His dream has come true. His life has been fulfilled. Up from the depths of hell on earth to paradise, his change from booze and nihilism to Mormonism is well, a great story. "It's like LSD--a trip without drugs." That's how "Killer" described being LDS. Unfortunately, "Killer" never further questioned if LDS is similar to LSD--a trip that doesn't fit with reality.

I congratulate the team who created the film. "Killer" would be pleased with New York Doll. Music is to emit emotion, and this movie does this. The lady next to me cried as "Killer" faded out for the last time, playing his harmonica to the tune of Love One Another.

If you're LDS, it's worth watching because it speaks volumes. If you're not LDS, it should be watched because it speaks volumes. And the volumes it speaks are well orchestrated by Whiteley, Cunningham, Gordon, and Santiano. Kudos to what I thought would be a boring film. It is a strange story about a strange man, whose dream strangely came true.

For more information on New York Doll, please see here and here.

Steve Klein
November 19, 2005

Steve is CEO of Courageous Christians United--the pre-eminent experts in the U.S. on conducting safe and meaningful First Amendment educational outreaches in front of mosques and locales in California. We work to make Romans 10:13ff. possible under the First Amendment. Steve is a former Marine officer who came up through the ranks and in Viet Nam was a team leader and interpreter in the Marine's Combined Action Program which excelled in dismantling the masters of Cell Organization, the Viet Cong. Steve has a BA with honors in Political Science from Cal State University Long Beach, has been married for 35 years, and has two grown children.

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