“Lookin’ Fine on Television”: The New York Dolls, all dolled-up for the cameras in NYC and L.A.

By on June 18, 2018

New York Dolls: Lookin’ Fine on Television — subtitled “Films by Nadya & Bob Gruen — features footage of the legendary proto-glam/punk forefathers shot by acclaimed NYC-based photographer Bob Gruen Gruen and his wife in and around New York City, all the way out to the TV studios, clubs and swimming pools of Los Angeles.

Watch the NY Dolls performing ripping versions of songs like “Personality Crisis,” “Who Are the Mystery Girls'” “Babylon” and more over on Night Flight Plus!

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Lookin’ Fine on Television captures some of their early performances, circa 1973 and ‘ 74, and follows the band — David Johansen (vocals), Johnny Thunders (guitar), Sylvain Sylvain (guitar), Arthur “Killer” Kane (bass), and Jerry Nolan (drums) — on their tour of the West Coast.

We see footage of the Dolls from the Whisky a Go Go, “The Real Don Steele Show,” Rodney Bingenheimer’s E Club, and much more.

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If you’ve already seen All Dolled Up: A New York Dolls Story, you’ve seen these rare live clips already, which are now edited into music videos.

We previously described this same footage as being intercut with “backstage banter and late night debauchery.”

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Here’s a full list of those tracks you’ll hear in Lookin’ Fine on Television:

“Lookin’ For a Kiss,” “Babylon,” “Trash,” “Bad Detective,” “Vietnamese Baby,” “Bad Girl,” “Chatterbox,” “Human Being,” “Private World,” “Subway Train,” “Personality Crisis,” “Frankenstein,” “Who Are the Mystery Girls?,” and “Jet Boy.”

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In our previous post, Bob Gruen told us about the Sony Portapac video tape recorder he bought in 1971, which was quite heavy (the camera weighed three pounds and the recorder, which he carried on a shoulder strap, was about twenty).

The internal battery only worked for about a half-hour, so he had to carry around a bigger battery that lasted about two hours long.

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This DVD, should you want to investigate furthers and check that out, also features a rare bonus track eight-minute interview with David Johansen and Johnny Thunders, who are talking to Night Flight’s very own Lisa Robinson in front of CBGB’s in 1976.

Johansen goes out of his way to diss the club, while drunk rockers stumble around in the background, before a very stoned Thunders happens by and starts talking about his upcoming European tour with “a group called the Sex Pistols.”

He also talks about how he might end up changing his band’s name from the Heartbreakers because he found out there’s some new band called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Read more about New York Dolls: Lookin’ Fine on Television below.

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In a Creem magazine poll, the magazine’s readers voted the New York Dolls both the best and the worst new group of 1973, which tells you quite a lot, really.

Since Bob Gruen has previously told us about some of this footage he shot, we’ll just quote Gruen below from our previous interview with him.

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NF: Tell us about the NY Dolls’ trip to Los Angeles? That was in the summer of ’73, right? The band really seemed to be enjoying themselves, lots of groupies, etc. Any good stories? The Whisky? “The Real Don Steele” TV show? Rodney Bingenheimer? (The NY Dolls were in Los Angeles several times in 1973 & 1974.)

GRUEN: The NY Dolls went to Los Angeles in the summer of 1973. When they arrived at the notorious Sunset Marquee on the first trip, the lobby was filled with groupies Rodney Bingenheimer had rounded up to meet them.

When the self-proclaimed “Queen of the Groupies” Sable Starr met Johnny Thunders it was love at first sight, and they were together for several years. The NY Dolls had just finished a sold out week at New York’s Max’s Kansas City club and then played a sold out week at the Whisky A Go Go.

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GRUEN: They got very little sleep as their trip was a non-stop party. Since it was very hot in L.A., David Johansen only wore a jockey bathing suit most of the time, going out to eat, or to a radio station get-together.

When they taped a performance at the “The Real Don Steele” TV show, Rodney brought groupies to dance like go go girls behind the band. They also taped a performance for the national TV show, “Midnight Special,” but this time without the dancing girls.

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NF: David Johansen has a funny bit in the film, where he describes the three kinds of California kids he’d met. Anything to say about that?

GRUEN: David was surprised by the seeming air-headedness of the kids in California, and says “California kids are like eggs… they come in three styles, once over easy, sunny side up, and scrambled, mostly scrambled.”

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NF: What can you tell us about the Dolls’ New York fan base? Any good stories, particularly about some of the band’s fans we might see in the film?

GRUEN: The fans in New York ranged from young excited kids to famous artists. Most of them drank or took drugs or did quantities of both so it was a very loose and happy crowd. But also an intelligent crowd.

The Dolls songs and stage patter related to current events with a very sarcastic New York attitude. They were very fashion forward.

Watch New York Dolls: Lookin’ Fine on Television and feel free to compare and contrast it with All Dolled Up: A New York Dolls Story, both of which you’ll find streaming on Night Flight Plus

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.