Went to see my only film in this year's London Film Festival this afternoon, NEW YORK DOLL a documentary on the one-time New York Dolls bassist Arthur 'Killer' Kane. I saw the 2004 Festival Hall gig covered in the film with her Dawness so 'twas right and fitting to see the film together too.
The shortish film - a mere 75 minutes - is directed by Greg Whiteley who met Kane at the Church of Latter Day Saints in LA where the former 70s rock star had found work in the Family History department. Mormonism had been a lifeline to him after a lengthy alcohol problem and a suicide attempt after the end of his marriage. The film follows the tall but strangely ethereal Arthur, taking the bus to work, going about his day job, to the news that Morrissey wants the three surviving members of the New York Dolls to fly to London to play at the Meltdown Festival he was curating.
This stroke of good luck for the film maker meant that the footage he had of Arthur talking about his journey 'from rock star to rock bottom' could form the basis of a proper film. Indeed 10 minutes of the interview footage has been previously seen in the extras on the Festival Hall gig dvd.
The events that shaped Arthur's early life are left out, his troubled family life hinted at when he reveals that he only found out about his father's death by idly going through the Family History Records where he worked. The Dolls' years are alluded to throughout the film but this too is kept to a minumum and it's just over halfway though before the deaths of Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan are mentioned, events which he is strangely never asked about. However the film really kicks into gear with the offer of the reunion and Arthur's tremulous optimism that his biggest dream is coming true - the chance to play with estranged friends David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain once more and to show the world what it's been missing for thirty years - is wonderfully infectious and makes their London triumph all the more deserved. However fate had not finished with Arthur....
The film includes interviews with Bob Geldof, Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones, Iggy Pop, Don Letts and, of course, Morrissey. Indeed the use of his Smiths song PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE LET ME GET WHAT I WANT is poignantly used. If you hear of this film playing - and so far I don't think it's been picked up for GB distribution - I do urge you to see it.
The first time I heard about the New York Dolls was in 1973 when I saw their poster in Biba announcing they were going to play the rooftop Rainbow Room. I remember being fascinated by the famous group shot with a combatative Johansen - if I had only had the courage to buy a ticket... £2.50 including dinner!
Especially waiting for Madonna's new single! Just two weeks to go.. When I heard the first short download I was worried Constant Reader. Why ABBA of all acts to sample? But now I've heard the track I'm lovin' it Currently blasting out of the cd player is the new Sinead O'Connor THROW DOWN YOUR ARMS, her roots reggae tribute. It was produced by Sly & Robbie at Tuff Gong studios in Jamaica - it's a richly rewarding cd, truly the Lion of Judah's bollocks!
I was in a delightfully original quandry last night Constant Reader... which of my two new Dusty Springfield DVDs do I watch? Yep two... would have been more than happy with one!!
I CLOSE MY EYES AND COUNT TO TEN is a Dutch DVD which collects 16 of her tv appearances from the 1960s and 70s, 8 b/w and 8 colour. Kicking off with a nervous looking Dusty with The Springfields singing "Island Of Dreams" the next two are from a Dutch programme of her miming "Once Upon a Time" and "I Only Want To Be With You". Shot from high up and picked out from the blackness by a single spotlight, for a minute I thought it was Lady Penelope - I had never noticed the similar blonde bouffant hair and panda eyes before!
There's a great version of "In The Middle Of Nowhere" from an NME Poll Winner's concert where she looks stunning (see photo) and is backed on stage by Madeleine Bell among others. Three clips come from her BBC series - including the one that is always shown of her singing "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" - then it's into the colour clips.
Most of them come from a Dutch show she did called "Just Dusty". Sadly the director deceided to art it up a bit so she is subjected to miming in long narrow neon corridors, stranded in the middle of a big studio stage surrounded by columns for the title song and most bizarrely during HOW CAN I BE SURE, she is superimposed next to a huge lightbulb. Poor the Dusty. Added to that the budget didn't stretch to a great wardrobe either. Huge big embroidered kaftan affairs which surely looked de trop even then! All is saved by the final clip of her doing the supercool "Spooky" straight to camera and looking great.
TV footage of Dusty with a live audience usually shows her at her best so LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL from 1979 is an essential addition to any Dusty fan's shelf. Not the best concert ever saved for posterity it must be said, probably down to a combination of under-rehearsal, Dusty's famous nerves and the added horror of performing in front of Princess Margaret! The first few songs are a bit worrying but soon Dusty starts finding her feet and, with the audience crowding the front of the stage, she loosens up and by the time she encores with an amazing version of Peter Allen's "Quiet Please, There's A Lady On Stage" she is in majestic form.
This song is an interesting choice for her - written by Allen after seeing Judy Garland face a disgruntled audience, it demands attention be paid to the woman behind the diva facade who has usually paid a high price to get where she is. At this point in Dusty's life - on her second attempt to restart a recording career after several unhappy years in Los Angeles - it must have been a particularly personal song. Sadly the momentum of this and her Drury Lane concerts earlier the same year did nothing to halt the disappointing record sales and there were eight more artistic wilderness years until she was offered the chance to duet with the Pet Shop Boys on "What Have I Done To Deserve This". Sadly the one thing that made the Albert Hall show infamous is missing - referencing how many queens were in the audience she said "It's nice to see the royalty isn't confined to the box". Princess Margaret took this as a personal insult, snubbed her at the reception afterwards and later sent Dusty a type-written apology to the Queen which Dusty was made to sign and return! What a cow!!!It is also not the full show but an edited-for-tv version which was ultimately never shown. There are however some excellent interviews with her secretary, agent, backing singer Simon Bell as well as Madeleine Bell talking about Dusty the artist and woman.
Back from our long weekend in Barcelona which continues to enchant me despite lowering clouds and the frustration of not getting to see either Gaudi's gate houses at Finca Guell or the Palau de la Musica Catalana.
We arrived on Saturday to find the city basking in warm sunshine and, after getting settled into Le Meredien off the top of Las Ramblas, we ventured out to join the florists, pet-sellers and mimes along that colourful thoroughfare. Visits to old favourites: the dazzling La Boqueria market, L'Espirtu cafe, Carrer de Montcada - the street of a 1,000 ceramic shops - and the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mare (just in time for a wedding!) was topped off that evening with a visit to the small Pizza Nostra... home of the half and half pizza. Why have one pizza when you can have two halves of different ones? Sunday was another wonderful sunny and hot day (hitting 30 in the afternoon) so, Constant Reader, your intrepid twosome deceided that was the day to race around the city like things possessed. Ventured up to Pedralbes for the first time to see the very grand Palau Reial - now the Museum of Ceramics and Decorative Arts. Nice to wander around and the gardens were nice and quiet too. Next to them is one of Gaudi's first commisions... the impressive gate at Finca Guell in the shape of a fearsome dragon made out of wrought iron. Eeek!
Not wanting to hang about waiting 45 minutes till the next tour of the Gaudi gatehouses we headed off for another favourite: Parc Guell. Worth every step of the long walk from the station, Gaudi's magical park never fails to make me feel at peace... despite the crowds. Third time lucky... this time we finally managed to get into see the interior of the 'gingerbread' gatehouse which had been closed the previous visits... a ho-hum exhibition of the park's history but a wonderful space that made me want to live in it's small curvy rooms. But then I want to live in Parc Guell full-stop!
I somehow managed to talk us both out of getting the Metro back into the centre and instead plumped for walking down the Carrer Gran de Gracia which leads into the elegant Passeig de Gracia - actually it didn't take as long as I expected and it was quite quiet being a drowsy late Sunday afternoon. Some lovely houses were seen on our journey down and somewhere along the way I passed the house where my nice shop customer Vicente was born 70 odd years ago.
After a visit to another much-loved haunt - the rooftop of La Pedrera - we wolfed down our late late lunch at the always welcoming Qu Qu. After somehow dragging ourselves out later for dinner at Montello on Via Laietana, sleep finally claimed us. Sadly the extensive walking of Sunday put paid to any dynamism on Monday allied to an overcast and mostly grey day. After another attempt at Finca Guell - and God help the bastard who told me on their phone enquiries that you could go in without the guided tour - we high-tailed it diagonally across town to finally get to see inside the palatial Palau de la Musica Catalana... to be greeted by a small sign that all tours were sold out for the day.
Constant Reader, I was plunged into the pit of Catalan despair which finally was lifted by retail therapy and the thoughtfulness of his Oweness. The evening improved with a visit to our favourite restaurant Citrus on the corner of Passeig de Gracia and Carrer Consell de Cent. Dunno whether it had anything to do with the e-mail reservation Owen sent the week before but when we went upstairs we found we had a window-seat. I should add that Citrus is on the first floor and it's huge window gives a majestic view up and down the Passeig. Delicious food, a nice Rioja and a glass of Cava to toast our third anniversary... people who live any other way are just silly.
Normal service will be resumed next Tuesday when Owen and I return from our long weekend in Barcelona! I hasten to add this trip is not just an excuse for shopping... it's our third anniversary on the 10th - and they said it wouldn't last.
CONSTANT READER, I have been pleasuring myself again..
After a few weeks of doing the "pick it up, look at the back, put it down again" trick, last night I succumbed and bought a four dvd box set of Joan Crawford films.. HUMORESQUE (1946), POSSESSED (1947), THE DAMNED DON'T CRY (1950) and GRAND HOTEL (1932).
The bugger is I have GRAND HOTEL already... but what's eBay for eh? Of the four films THE DAMNED DON'T CRY was the only one I hadn't seen before so last night it was finally viewed. Typical hard-boiled Warner Brothers fare full of crooked guys and seen-it-all broads, noir-ish lighting and tough dialogue "Don't talk to me about self-respect. Self-respect is what you tell yourself you got when you got nothing else."
Joan excels in a role which gave her a chance to combine her two best Warners roles: MILDRED PIERCE (1945) (sacrificing mother who wants more out of life) and HUMORESQUE (glamorous society woman). Indeed the film she made before DAMNED... was FLAMINGO ROAD which also tells of a woman working her way up the social ladder. Roles like this mirrored her own rise to stardom from very humble beginnings. Born Lucille LaSueur, her parents separated before she was born and had two step-fathers by the time she was 16. After the humbling experience of working in the college cafeteria to pay her way on campus, dance-mad Lucille won a talent competition and found work as a chorus girl. A few years later she joined the exodus to Hollywood and soon found work as an extra and in small parts at the most successful of film studios Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer who soon launched a film magazine competition to rename her. After the initial choice 'Joan Arden' was found to belong to a bit player, the runner-up name of Joan Crawford was chosen. Three years later, dancing again proved a success when she played the Charleston-mad Diana in OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS and became an instant success.
The transition to talkies was effortless and she soon became one of the biggest stars of the 1930s. By the end of the decade however she, along with Katherine Hepburn and Greta Garbo, were labelled box office poison and she was dropped by MGM. She was signed up by the no-frills, grittier Warner Brothers studio and triumphed in her first role there in 1945 MILDRED PIERCE which won her a Best Actress Academy Award.
Before MOMMIE DEAREST and the drag acts was the woman. Once a star, always a star.