film review: ‘Dennis & Lois’ is a warm, inspiring story of love, fandom, and rock n’ roll
Dennis Anderson and Lois Kahlert met at a Fats Domino show, went on their first "real" date to see Television and Talking Heads at CBGBs, and it's been a rock n' roll love story ever since. They are legendary superfans, having made friends with the Ramones and sold merch for them on tour in the early days (they gave up their "RAMONES" NY State license plate because it kept getting stolen; they now have "MEKONS"). Happy Mondays wrote a song about them on their 1991 album Pills N' Thrills N' Bellyaches and, at 70, they are still at it. If you've been a regular concert-goer in NYC at any point in the last 40 years, especially if it's to see UK bands, you have probably seen Dennis & Lois at a show. I last saw them at The Charlatans show at Elsewhere in Brooklyn.
Chris Cassidy's long-in-the-works film Dennis & Lois is a warm, funny, and inspiring documentary about their dual loves. The film spends a lot of time with them, be it on tour with The Vaccines (the bulk of the film seems to have been shot at the start of the decade), in Manchester seeing Happy Mondays, or at their Long Island home that is packed to the gills with memorabilia and toys. Their house really is something and you quickly understand their obsession does not end with going to see live music -- there's barely enough room for furniture for all the trinkets that line their shelves and walls. They have whole rooms dedicated to Spiderman, Batman, The Simpsons, Doctor Who, and The Ramones, and their kitchen doesn't look like anything's been cooked in it for a long time.
Dennis & Lois is similarly packed with amazing stories, such as when they were on tour in the UK selling merch for the Ramones in the early '80s and, at the Manchester show, took a very young boy backstage to meet the band. That boy grew up to be Jimi Goodwin of Doves. Or the time Happy Mondays asked them to score some weed for them -- the band were recording in L.A. and Dennis and Lois FedExed it to them from NYC. (That's how they got a song named after them.) Or the time they flew to Manchester to see Oasis, barely made it to the show, then immediately caught the red-eye back to New York so they could make it to work the next day. (They've both been fired from day jobs, choosing seeing bands over going to the office.) Most of these stories are told in the film by both Dennis and Lois, but also the bands involved. There are interviews with The Charlatans, Badly Drawn Boy, A Place to Bury Strangers, The Mekons, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Happy Mondays, Peter Hook, The Stone Roses, John Grant, The Hold Steady, The Smiths' Andy Rourke, El Vez, and more.
There is a bittersweet side to the film, too. Chris Sievey, the man behind Frank Sidebottom's mask, lost a short battle with cancer during the filming of the documentary in 2010, and the last third of the film deals with Lois' heath problems -- after going from doctor to doctor she's finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Even though she watches from a wheelchair, she's still seeing shows with Dennis -- they haven't lost their love for rock n' roll, or each other.
Dennis & Lois makes its world premiere at the DOC NYC Festival on Wednesday (11/14) at 3 PM at IFC Center (tickets) and screens again on Thursday (11/15) at 9:45 PM at the SVA Theater (tickets). Dennis and Lois are scheduled to be there for both screenings for Q&As, along with director Cassidy, plus other folks like Andy Rourke, El Vez, and Craig Finn.
Watch the trailer and a few clips/outtakes from the documentary, and listen to a Dennis & Lois film playlist and their own Top 10 playlist, below.