He went out and drank a quart of peppermint schnapps.... He ripped all my clothes off, he started to beat me with the cat furniture.... And I left him. And that's when he jumped out the kitchen window.
I just heard those lines of dialogue in a movie--and not just any movie, but a documentary about a Mormon temple worker. One of the reasons I so love nonfiction is that you just can't make shit that weird up.... OK, you can, but credibility is strained. A Mormon temple worker once drank a quart of peppermint schnapps, ripped his wife's clothes off, beat her with the cat furniture (my favorite detail by far), then tried and failed to commit suicide by jumping out the kitchen window!? (The ellipses in the dialogue, I should mention, represent not anything I have deleted but editing cuts in the film itself.) To paraphrase Aristotle, the only reason something that weird can be believed is because it really happened.
The even weirder thing is, the Mormon temple worker was once a rock star, Arthur "Killer" Kane, a founding member of the New York Dolls. In 1989, as he lay recuperating in the hospital after his failed suicide attempted, Kane called a 1-800 number and requested a copy of the Book of Mormon. Two sister missionaries later showed up at his door and taught him the discussions.
Greg Whiteley, director of New York Doll, met Arthur Kane when he became his home teacher (meaning he was supposed to visit Kane once a month and make sure he was doing OK) in LA a few years ago. He started interviewing and filming Kane, but probably nothing would have come of it if Morrissey hadn't arranged a NY Dolls reunion at Morrissey's Meltdown in London 2004. This reunion was the fulfillment of a dream Kane had cherished for 30 years.
I had to stop this film right after the interview with Kane's estranged wife Barbara (be sure to click on that link for a truly bizarre coda to the whole story) because it shifted to a bunch of Mormon priesthood holders explaining what it's like to receive a witness of the Book of Mormon. I thought about not finishing the film--I was afraid there would be too much Mormon content--but curiosity got the better of me and I watched the rest.
I really liked it. It was a sweet movie, with interesting interviews from Morrissey, Bob Geldof, all kinds of people, and it was touching to see Kane's reunion with David Johansen (a.k.a. Buster Poindexter) and fascinating to watch Kane explain the Word of Wisdom.
The kicker (and this is sort of a spoiler, except that if you've read any reviews or heard anything about the movie in the news, this detail is usually mentioned) is that Kane died of leukemia a mere 22 days after returning from the festival in London--not only that, but he died two hours after he was diagnosed.
And that moved me and I thought, "Oh, how lovely that he saw the completion of this goal before his death; how tragic that he had so little time to enjoy it."
And the credit rolled and the mailman dropped my mail through the door slot and I sort of watched the credits and sorted my mail.
And then the pop song that had accompanied the credits ended and there was David Johansen singing A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief (Joseph Smith's favorite hymn) accompanied only by an acoustic guitar in tribute to Arthur and I simply burst into tears and sobbed until I couldn't breathe.
I never cared for that hymn--too slow and too long and too didactic in an earnest, Victorian way--but for some reason Johansen's performance of it was terribly moving, not only because it was a loving tribute to a friend but because... because it reminded me of my own loss, the loss of the church? I don't know. I'll try to figure it out. It's partly the amazing generosity of human beings...? Kane loved both the Church AND his band. And Johansen didn't seem to be judging that hymn; he let himself be moved by it as Kane would have been.
And after about half an hour I calmed down.... And then I went through the bonus material and heard Brian Koonin (I don't know who he is, I just noticed his name on the screen) playing Come, Come Ye Saints, which has always been one of my favorite hymns, and then Johansen sang the final verse, which goes
And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the saints their rest obtain,
O how we’ll make this chorus swell,
All is well! All is well!
The hymn is about the trek to Utah, which so many of my ancestors undertook.... I couldn't even sit up at that point. I lay on the floor and cried as if my heart had just broken. I'm still crying, to be honest.
If you've seen the movie, I'd like to know what you thought. And if you haven't seen it, watch it and let me know how you react. There will be a presentation on it at Sunstone this year; I'm really looking forward to it. I think this is a movie I need to own.