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Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders

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Listening to the music of Johnny Thunders, whether as a member of the New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers or other, is generally a lot of fun. Delving into his life story though elicits other emotions. While Looking for Johnny is a well-made and thoroughly entertaining documentary film, it's difficult to watch without being overwhelmed with sadness. Here those who knew Johnny, mostly '70s New York City musicians and scenesters like Sylvain Sylvain, Alan Vega, Lenny Kaye and Sami Yaffa but also family, girlfriends and managers (Malcolm McLaren, Leee Black Childers) tell stories about Thunders, generally either about the genius of his music or the depth of his depravity. A long time heroin addict, Thunders seemed to have no self-control when it came to drugs, and it all started with marijuana; the day after Johnny smoked his first joint he bought a pound of pot. While most of the film necessarily focuses on Thunders' as a musician there's also footage from earlier times; many would be surprised to find out that the late punk rock star loved baseball and played it well, even to the extent that he was scouted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lots of rare performance snippets are included and there's a bunch of interview footage of Johnny too. The film's title is a little ironic; Looking for Johnny ostensibly refers to how the film attempts to sort fact from fiction and give an unbiased look at what drove Thunders, but it's clear from the man's own commentary that he himself was perpetually looking for Johnny too. Thunders died under mysterious circumstances in New Orleans in 1991, not from a drug overdose, and there are those who to this day insist that he was murdered.

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Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders
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