Film: Documentary on New York Doll’s bassist Arthur Kane?

UPDATE: No word on the documentary, but I did contact Southern California LDS Public Affairs and have confirmed that Bro. Kane did work as a volunteer at the Los Angeles Family History Center. I realize that news outlets have already reported that, but considering how often they get Mormon-related stories wrong, I decided to do a little reporting of my own.

Also: For recent photos of Kane, see the Web site of rock photographer Bob Gruen.


LDS Today’s news roundup for July 16 includes a link to an ap obitiuary of Arthur Kane, bassist for the newly-resurrected glam-punk band the New York Dolls, that appears on the USA Today Web site. Kane “died of complications related to leukemia” at the age of 55 not long after the New York Dolls got back together (at the prompting of Morrissey, president of England’s NYD fan club during the ’70s).

The obit hints that Kane converted to the LDS Church just over a decade ago:

“[Doll frontman David] Johansen said Kane suffered an abusive childhood, then conquered years of alcoholism.

‘Practically every trauma that could befall a person happened to Arthur. But finally 12 years ago, through spiritual studies, he was able to overcome that vicious cycle and put his life back together,’ Johansen said.

Kane had been working at the Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Los Angeles. But he rejoined the band after British singer and Dolls fan Morrissey persuaded the group to play at London’s Meltdown Festival last month” (“New York Dolls bassist dies at 55.” Associated Press wire story. July 16, 2004).

Blabbermouth.net reports that Kane indeed was a “devout Mormon.” What’s more the site also says that Kane “was being followed around by a camera crew from the church for a documentary, ‘A New York Doll’, which detailed his recovery from alcohol and drug abuse.”

Can anyone confirm this? I’d love to hear more about the documentary — it sounds like a great story that, sadly, has come to an end much too soon.

ALSO: For more on the New York Dolls see the wikipedia entry and the punk77 page (make sure to check out the brief sound clips at the very bottom of the page).

Film: Napoleon Dynamite and the limitations of urban(e) critics

Most of the “Napoleon Dynamite” reviews I have read mentioned that the film doesn’t have a strong plot. So I wasn’t surprised when I saw the capsule headline for Carla Meyer’s San Francisco Chronicle review: “There’s no cohesive story.”

However, when I read the full review, I did find it interesting that Meyer accuses Jared and Jerusha Hess, the film’s writers, of trying to make an ’80s period piece a la John Hughes.

Her specific objections:

1. “The comic setups are rather geek-movie conventional for a picture that keeps trying to announce its differentness. ‘Napoleon’ is unique only if you gauge uniqueness by an inability to tell the era in which a film is set.”

2. “Napoleon’s Idaho high school classmates seem to be living in 2004, but they slow-dance to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time.'”

3. “The filmmakers want to evoke the ‘Sixteen Candles’ era of geekdom without committing to a period movie or acknowledging what’s happened in the intervening years. Napoleon’s three-piece, 1970s thrift-store suit was unfashionable in 1984, but today it looks like something a San Francisco hipster might wear.” (Carla Meyer. “‘Napoleon’ falls too much in love with its own nerdiness.” San Francisco Chronicle: June 18, 2004.)

It would seem Meyer doesn’t know rural Idaho very well. Sure her reactions are valid (for her). And I’m sure they reflect the likely reactions of some of her readers. But with this review Meyer proves something that I’m sure Motley Vision readers may have already suspected — there are limitations to being an urban(e) critic.

Film: Newsday on ‘Napoleon Dynamite’

The June 6 edition of Newsday features my favorite article so far on “Napoleon Dynamite,” the film from LDS director Jared Hess that was a hit at the Sundance Festival.

Here’s why:

1. Hess reveals for the first time (that I’ve read) that the character of Napoleon Dynamite is loosely (very loosely) based on a man he met on his mission.

From the article: “For Jared Hess, a 24-year-old filmmaker based in Salt Lake City, it began when he was serving a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He commenced his stint in Caracas, Venezuela, but finished up in Chicago after hernias forced him back to the States for surgery. It was while he was in Chicago that an elderly Italian-American man came up to him and introduced himself as Napoleon Dynamite.

In the next couple of years, this flamboyant senior from Chicago would morph in Hess’ imagination into a sullen, misfit high-schooler from Preston, Idaho” (Jan Stuart. “A dynamite muse.” Newsday: June 6, 2004).

When I was on my mission in Romania I met a guy who called himself Roberto Christo and claimed to have worked for Donald Trump back in the States. He spoke and dressed like a New Jersey Italian mobster — right down to the two track suit look [that’s right — a red and black tracksuit zipped down the sternum with an unzipped yellow and baby blue track suit jacket over the entire ensemble] and the big gold chain with cross dangling in the chest hair. I’ve thought about how I could work this character into a piece of fiction, but I only met the guy briefly so it’d be hard to get all the details right — so I like what Hess has done better. He’s taken the weird character from his mission and transposed him to a setting [Preston, Idaho -and- High School] that he knows really well.

2. It discusses the working relationship Hess has with his co-author and wife Jerusha. She says about working with her husband: “Jared needs someone, especially me, to get him to start writing. He can’t multitask. He’s jotting down note after note on random bits of paper, then I sit down and start putting things together. I’m the get-the-ball-rolling person. He listens, we fight about it, and we come up with a better arrangement.”

I like this because I’m always interested in hearing about other writers’ creative processes, but also because I think that, considering the building-Zion-together aspect of Mormonism, LDS writers would be eminently suited to doing interesting, unique collaborative projects. Of course, a husband-wife duo is quite different from what I’m thinking about — it’s a whole other dynamic. But this article brought that interest of mine back to mind.

Know of any really cool example of collaborative writing in Mormon fiction [non-fiction is different because it’s more of a normal practice]? Post a comment. I’m always looking for reading that matches up with my theoretical interests.

BY THE WAY: “Napoleon Dynamite” opens in New York this Friday.