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The secret history of the New York Dolls' disastrous trip to Tampa

Last Friday tbt* brought you an interview with David Johansen, frontman for the legendary New York Dolls. The punk glam rockers play the State Theatre Tuesday for what has been regarded as the Dolls' first-ever concert in Tampa Bay. Johansen himself said so.

But reader Shirley O’Sullivan knew better. She sent us an e-mail which read, in part: “The Dolls played in Tampa, I think in 1974 or 1975, for an extended stay at a small club. It was a surprise for us to see them there. ... But they were not in great shape. (guitarist Johnny) Thunders and (drummer Jerry) Nolan obviously had serious drug problems and Mr. (Johansen) was not in the best of moods as a result. We witnessed band disintegration at its finest.”

Indeed. The book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, documents the band‚Äôs 1975 demise during a stint at an unnamed hole-in-the-wall club in Tampa. Former manager Malcolm McLaren recounts how, during their stay, Thunders and Nolan sent a teenager to Miami to score dope for them. But then the kid got arrested, Thunders and Nolan had lost their tambourine man, and suddenly they were itching to get back to the Big Apple.

Here’s McLaren on page 194: "I thought they were leaving because they hated the group and thought there was no genuine likelihood of them having success in Tampa. This, of course, wasn’t true at all. They really wanted to get back to New York because it was easier for them to score heroin. I was so naive."

So were we, Malcolm. So were we.

By that trip’s end, Johansen was fed up with Thunders and Nolan’s fiendish ways. They quit the band, and Johansen didn’t stop them. The Dolls’ heyday was over. No wonder Johansen wasn’t eager to wax nostalgic about the Dolls’ stint in Tampa Bay.

Epilogue: Thunders died of a drug overdose in 1991. Shortly after, Nolan died of a stroke at age 40.

Better luck this time around.

— Dalia Col??n, tbt*

[Last modified: Monday, June 8, 2009 3:13pm]


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