Last night I watched Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi‘s Personality Crisis: One Night Only, and I came out of it knowing and caring a bit…okay, a lot more about David Johansen than I had before I sat down.

It’s basically standard documentary portraiture, of course, but primarily a relaxed, low-key lounge concert film, shot in the Carlyle bar in January 2020.

The doc is augmented with recent interview footage (apparently shot in Johansen’s home by his stepdaughter Leah Hennessey, daughter of wife Leah Hennessey) plus some performance footage from the good old days (New York Dolls, ’70s solo career, Buster Poindexter in the ’80s and ’90s).

And the thing that stuck in my head, frankly, is the made-plain fact that Johansen is a free-floating existentialist dancer-singer-performer who’s more or less cool with the fact that he’s not stinking rich. He and his family are living with a certain amount of style, comfort and swagger, but the difference between David Jo’s lifestyle and that of, let’s say, Mick Jagger is apparently considerable or at least noteworthy. (There’s a moment during the Carlyle show when he repeats a famous line from Ira Levin‘s Deathtrap — “Nothing recedes like success”.) I also loved it when Johansen tells his stepdaughter about never having had a grand master plan for his life, and that he’s always considered his journey (Johansen is 73) in five-year increments.

Posted on 3.16.23: Along with ex-girlfriend Sophie Black, who matured into a respected poet, I co-produced two Save The Whales benefit rock concerts in Wilton, Connecticut. Both were held on a 52-acre property owned by Sophie’s parents, David and Linda Cabot Black. The first happened over the July 4th weekend in ’76; the second (for which Sophie and I were interviewed for a 6.26.77 N.Y. Times piece) happened a year later.

And I was proud and gratified to book the David Johansen band for the ’77 show, as I’d been a fan of the New York Dolls; ditto “Not That Much” and “Funky But Chic.”

Back to right now: A couple of months prior to the ’76 concert Johansen and I chatted in some downtown Manhattan bar, and I really liked his charm, aura, self-deprecating humor, etc. Plus I learned that night that Johansen loves (or loved) to play-act and pretend to be someone else. DJ made bank on play-acting when Buster Poindexter came along in the ’80s, but when I spoke to him that night he was speaking with a working-class British accent. Pretending to be, in a manner of speaking, some Jagger-like rocker from East London or something. It was well known at the time that Johansen was a lifelong New Yorker (raised in Staten Island), and so I was flat-out thrilled and fascinated that he was performing for me — an audience of one. Johansen was dishy in a Jagger-ish way back then, and the accent fit right in. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.

The Scorsese-Tedeschi doc is worth the price and the time.