No One Here Gets Out Alive
Jim Morrison – The Fall Of The Lizard King
By: Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman
Issue No. 318
May 29 1980
In mid 1965 two UCLA cinematography graduates decided to put a band together. Ray Manzarek, a keyboardist and singer who’d led his own groups in the past, and Jim Morrison who couldn’t play an instrument and doubted his own singing voice, began writing melodies to fit Jim’s poetry. They were joined by drummer John Densmore and a young guitarist named Robby Krieger. The Doors were born.
Throughout 1966, the Doors played five sets a night, six nights a week at clubs in L.A.’s Sunset Strip, where Morrison, embolden by quantities of alcohol and hallucinogens, reached deep into himself for such psychosexual epics as “The End” and “When The Music’s Over.” Word spread quickly that this was the band to see.
The group signed with Elektra Records in late 1966; thus began a five year roller coaster ride up the pop charts, across the country in a series of manic tours and into the white hot center of politically divided America. Their landmark first album, “The Doors,” was released in January 1967, that summer, “Light My Fire” went to Number One on the charts. In late 1967, when the Doors put out their second LP, “Strange Days,” they were at the height of their powers. The critical acclaim was overwhelming and the group easily filled the largest concert halls. In 1968 they released “Waiting For The Sun,” which yielded another Number One single, “Hello I Love You.” Morrison, who pushed everything to limit, could seemingly find no limit; in those charged times, anything seemed possible.
Throughout it all, there were drugs and alcohol – in ever increasing quantities – and the toll they were taking was becoming evident. Doors shows frequently turned into hostile confrontations, and by the time the band arrived in Miami for a concert on March 1 1969, Morrison had already been arrested once for obscenity, in New Haven, Connecticut, and his erratic behavior was causing dissent even within the band.
What follows is excerpted from “No One Here Gets Out Alive” * By Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, the first full length biography of Jim Morrison due out from Warner books.
Jerry Hopkins, who published a biography of Elvis Presley in 1971, interviewed Jim Morrison for RS 38. Danny Sugerman joined the Doors entourage as a “management associate” in 1968, when he was thirteen. He now runs New Way Productions with former Door Ray Manzarek.
A hot, steamy, southern night.
Jim’s knee’s buckled. He caught himself with one hand on the huge black amplifier on the stage to his right, and with the other hand raised a large brown beer bottle and guzzled. He had grown a new beard, giving him a Mephistophelean toughness, and wore a dark shirt outside his black leather pants to hide the whiskey paunch.
It was a few minutes before eleven o’clock as he swallowed the last of the beer. The Doors were more than an hour late in starting and the audience was fever pitched. It was the band’s first appearance in Florida – the result of its winning a popularity poll on the University of Miami campus – but even the most avid fans can grow tense when far too many are packed into an old seaplane hanger without seats or ventilation.
Ray and Robby and John moved toward their instruments in the darkness. Ray glanced nervously at John, who was so bitter about Jim’s tardiness that is grip on his drumsticks was knuckle white. Ray’s eyes moved to Robby, who was absently cradling his guitar, as if unaware of the tension.
Jim leaned over the mixing board behind the drums to ask Vince Treanor for another beer. Although Vince’s official job was to supervise the setup, breakdown and maintenance of the Doors’ impressive sound system, his unofficial job was to dispense Jim’s drinks. But this time he shook his head, no. He didn’t have any more beer, how about a Coke?
Jim turned away, walked to the edge of the stage and belched. Peering into the restless darkness he asked if anybody had anything to drink. Someone came forward with a bottle of cheap wine.
First, Ray called to John to being “Break On Through,” the song that began most Doors sets. They played the intro for nearly ten minutes. It didn’t work. Jim wasn’t listening. He was talking with some kids in the audience, sharing a paper cup. The Doors fell into silence again as Jim clambered to his feet and grabbed the slim gold microphone.
“I’m not talking about a revolution! – I’m talking about having a goooood time. I’m talking about having a good time this summer…Are you ready? Are you ready? Are…are yoouu…Aahhh suck!”
The band was crashing into the opening of a familiar song, “Back Door Man,” from the first album.
“Louder! Come On, band! Get it louder! Come on! Yeahhh. Yay-ehhhh, ahhhm a back door man…”
Four lines into the song Jim stopped singing and began talking again. “Hey listen,” he shouted, “I’m lonely. I need some love, you all. Come on, I need some good times. I want some love-ah, love-ah. Ain’t nobody gonna love my ass? Come on.”
The crowd gasped.
“I need ya. There’s so many of you out there and nobody’s gonna love me. Sweetheart, come on…Nobody gonna come up here and love me, huh? All right for you baby. That’s too bad. I’ll get somebody else.”
The musicians were barely hanging in through most of the plea. When Jim paused, they began “Five To One” and he picked it up, singing the first verse fairly coherently. Then he made another speech, inspired by the greed of the promoters in jamming so many people together, but also by Paradise Now (a play by the avant-garde Living Theatre Troupe that Morrison had seen several days earlier at the University of Southern California: the performance culminated in the actors’ disrobing to the legal limit.)
“You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ idiots!”
Again the crowd gasped.
Jim was taunting them, trying to shatter their lethargy. Then he resumed singing, “your ballroom days are over, bayyy-buh/Night is drawing near.”
Somehow the song was concluded, and Jim began to talk again. “I’m not talkin’ about no revolution, I’m not takin’ about no demonstration. I’m talkin’ about getting out in the streets. I’m talking about love. Grab yer…fuckin’ friend and love him. Come ahnnn! Yeahhh!”
Then, as if to set an example, Jim pulled his shirt over his head and threw it in the audience. As he watched it disappear, he hooked his thumbs into the top of his pants and started playing with the buckle. This was the moment Jim had been planning since seeing Paradise Now. He had prepared for it carefully. But he hadn’t said anything to anyone in the band.
Ray called for “Touch Me,” hoping to draw Jim’s attention back to the music. Jim sang two lines and stopped.
“Heyyy, wait a minute, wait a minute…You blew it, now come ahnnn! Wait a minute! I’m not going to take this shit! Fuck you!” he hollered.
The crowd roared.
Jim began to unbuckle his belt.
Vince leaped over the soundboard and in two strides was standing behind Jim, one hand stuck down the singer’s pants at the small of his back, the other pushing against his back higher up, making it impossible for Jim to undo the buckle.
“Don’t do it, Jim, don’t do it,” Vince urged.
Although Jim rarely wore underwear, on this night he wore boxer shorts so large that he had them pulled up over the top of his leather pants. He had planned to shed his trousers, yet still not expose himself, to go to the ‘legal limit’ proposed in Paradise Now.
Amazingly, the band was still playing “Touch Me,” albeit haphazardly. Finally Jim relaxed and the concert resumed.
Jim remained obviously drunk, although the beer had been cut off and he stopped going to the audience for drinks. He slurred his words hoarsely. He forgot the lyrics to songs and got lost in the middle of verses. He delivered an insulting rap about being born and going to school in Florida. “but then I got smart and I went out a beautiful state called California.” An acquaintance from Los Angeles named Louis Marvin came forward carrying a lamb and gave it to Jim to hold, “I’d fuck her you know,” Jim said, “But she’s too young.” Then he removed a cop’s hat and sailed it into the sweating mob before him…and the cop took a hat that had been given to Jim and tossed it in the same direction, to much laughter.
For nearly an hour Jim invited and badgered the audience to join him onstage, and at the one hour mark in the show they began to come forward. One of the promoters spoke into the microphone, “Someone’s gonna get hurt,” and threatened to stop the show. The kids kept coming. Now there were more than a hundred of them milling around, dancing to the music the Doors somehow continued to play.
“We’re not leaving until we get our rocks off,” Jim shouted. He began dancing with two or three girls. The stage was vibrating so much, John and Robby thought it was going to collapse. Even more kids started scrambling for handholds on the rim of the stage to haul themselves up. Finally, one of the promoters security men, who held a black belt in karate, reached into the onstage swarm and with a proficient flip tossed Jim off the stage. He landed in an empty space, got up, formed a human snake and began trailing hundreds of kids behind him. He reappeared in the balcony a few minutes later, waved to the crowd, then disappeared into the dressing room. The show was over.
Half an hour later, only Vince and the Doors road crew and a few security people remained. The stage was broken and leaning dangerously, but more impressive were perhaps a thousand empty wine and beer bottles, and panties and brassieres, in sufficient quantity to stock a lingerie store.
Jim may have been prevented from undressing and approaching “paradise” but clearly his Miami audience had not.
In the three days that followed, the Doors’, future was being plotted by Miami’s politicians, police and press. The ax fell on Wednesday, March 5th, as Bob Jennings, a twenty two year old clerk at the state attorney’s office, agreed to serve as a complainant in the case. Jim was charged with one felony (lewd and lascivious behavior) and three misdemeanors (indecent exposure, open profanity and drunkenness). It was the felony charge that was most intriguing, and controversial, for in the bill of particulars it was claimed that Jim “did lewdly and lasciviously expose his penis, place his hands upon his penis and shake it, and further the said defendant did simulate the acts of masturbation upon himself and oral copulation upon another.”
At a press conference held by the acting police chief, it was announced that upon conviction of these charges, Jim could be sent to Raiford prison – one of Florida’s meanest – for three years and 150 days. The following day, Jim’s name and that of the Doors were smeared on front pages all over the country.
In less than three weeks it became clear that what happened in Miami was endangering the future of the group. A confidential newsletter distributed among concert hall managers warned of the Doors’ unpredictability and the numerous charges against Jim. The result was that the group was banned nearly everywhere. Most ominous, radio stations in several cities began removing the Doors from their playlists. For the first time in the Doors’ career, the media turned against them. Every development small and large, was amply covered, and Rolling Stone even printed a front page western-style “wanted” poster.
At the end of March, the FBI charged Jim with unlawful flight. It was a ridiculous charge because Jim had left Miami three days before any warrants were issued, but the FBI sent an agent to the Doors’ office with a warrant fro Jim’s arrest. That was the day the Doors knew the situation was serious.
For Jim, not a day passed without some reminder of Miami. On April 4th accompanied by his attorney, he surrendered to the FBI in Los Angeles and was released on $5000 bail.
It had been under six months since the mid-1969 release of The Soft Parade, but Elektra was pressuring the Doors for another LP as quickly as possible. They started rehearsing new songs in September, and by November were trying to get them on tape.
Ironic – considering the depressing aftermath of Miami – were the strength and vitality of the new songs. Lyrically, the new album would be Jim’s best work in years, and Ray, Robby and John rose to the challenge by providing their strongest support yet.
Morrison Hotel, named for a real hotel in the skid row district of downtown L.A. where rooms went for $2.50 a night, was discovered by Ray and Dorothy (Manzarek’s wife) during one of their weekend drives around the city. The album had many gripping songs significant to America in the year 1969. One was “Peace Frog,” a tune whose smoldering melody was recorded by Robby, John and Ray before any lyrics had been written. Ray later found a poem in one of Jim’s notebooks called “Abortion Stories,” and they used nearly all of it. It was startling how closely the lines Jim wrote fit the music created by others.
There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my ankles
There’s blood on the streets, it’s up to my knee
Blood in the streets of the town of Chicago
Blood on the rise, it’s following me.
During a rehearsal, Jim improvised the lines for the bridge of the song.
Blood on the streets runs a river of sadness
Blood in the streets it’s up to my thigh
The river runs down the legs of the city
The women are crying red rivers of weeping.*
Although the songs came quickly, Jim was usually drunk during the sessions, and it often took all night to record the vocals for one song. Once, when Pamela (Morrison’s wife) came to the studio and found Jim’s bottle, she drank it to keep him from drinking.
“So here were the two of them, completely out of their minds and crying,” said engineer Bruce Botnick. “He started shaking her violently. I think he was putting me on. She was crying out of control, telling him he shouldn’t drink anymore and that’s why she drank it. And I’m cleaning up, and I said, ‘Hey, man, its’ pretty late,’ He looked up, stopped shaking her, said, ‘Yeah, right,’ he hugged her, and they walked out arm in arm. I felt he had done all that for me. I’d seen him do that sort of thing before, because he’d always give you a funny look afterward, to see your reaction.”
The pressures were growing intolerable. Jim was being twisted this way and that. Various friends wanted more money to finish the films Jim was involved in making, and the Doors wanted the filming stopped, believing it was draining Jim of the energy he should be devoting to the group. They also wanted Jim to shave his beard and she a few pounds for the tour scheduled to start in New York in just a few weeks. Pam was incessantly demanding that Jim give up his singing career with the Doors and begin a domestic life with her. At the same time. No fewer than twenty paternity suits were pending. Jim knew that audiences would be expecting the grotesque, when all he wanted to do now was stand still and sing. His lawyers forbade him to speak of Miami, yet he desperately needed to proclaim his innocence as well as his disgust at the hypocrisy of the whole affair.
Jim was sitting on the couch drinking a beer the day after his twenty-sixth birthday, trying to sort out this list of demands when Bill (Siddons, the Doors’ manager) and the other came in. He nodded absently as each one entered, then turned his gaze to the December 9th Los Angeles Times that had been put on his desk. He stared blankly at the newspaper: “Vietnamization” was continuing in Southeast Asia; the Indians were in their third week of occupation of Alcatraz Island; the day before – his birthday! – there had been a four hour shoot out between L.A. police and the Black Panthers; a grand jury had indicted Charles Manson and four others for the slaying of Sharon Tate and others.
Jim put the paper down. He shifted the bulk of his body and cleared his throat. “I think,” he said slowly, “I’m having a nervous breakdown.”
It was a strange and frightening plea. Never before had he let these people see him so bleakly vulnerable.
A week later they hired another babysitter for him, a six foot, four inch football player who’d served during the recent Rolling Stones tour.
Morrison Hotel was released the first week in February 1970, and the band gave surprisingly satisfying concerts at Long Beach Arena and at Winterland in San Francisco. All sold out and got good reviews. Jim had shaved, had donned black jeans and a black shirt and had sung his best.
In March the trade papers reported the certification of Morrison Hotel as gold and pointed out that the group was the first American hard rock band to achieve five gold albums in a row.
In September 1970, after a long trial, Jim Morrison was found guilty of profanity and public exposure, both misdemeanors. He was acquitted on the charges of lewd behavior,a felony, and public drunkenness, a misdemeanor. Sentencing was set for late October. He posted $50,000 bail and returned to California.
The months after the trial were in some ways worse than the trial itself. In Miami, during the trial, Jim seemed to be marking time. Now he was moving with abandon toward disaster.
He went into a desperate funk almost as soon as he returned from Florida when he heard that Janis Joplin was dead of an overdose. First Jimi. Then Janis. Jim told several friends, “You’re drinking with number three.” And then he fought so bitterly with Pamela that she left him – threw up her hands – packed her bags and flew off to Paris.
Asked about the Miami concert by Salli Stevenson, an interviewer for Circus Magazine, Jim finally relented and spoke of it. “I think I was just fed up with the image that had been created around me, which I sometimes consciously. Most of the time unconsciously, cooperated with. It was just too much for me to really stomach, and so I just put an end to it one glorious evening…The basic message was: realize that you’re not really here to listen to a bunch of songs by some good musicians. You’re here for something else. Why not admit it and do something about it?”
The interview was reflective and articulate. For perhaps the first time, Jim intimated in public that he might not live much longer. “I’m not denying that I’ve had a good time these past three or four years. I’ve met a lot of interesting people and seen things in a short space of time and I probably wouldn’t have run into in twenty years of living. I can’t say that I regret it.” But he added, “If I had to do it all over, I think I would have gone for the quite, ‘demonstrative artist plodding away in his own garden’ trip.
On October 30th, Jim flew to Miami to face judge Murray Goodman. The sentence was what he had expected: the maximum. For profanity, he was given sixty days of hard labor in the Dade County Jail, and for public exposure, he was sentenced to six months of the same, after when he was to serve two years and four months of probationary time. He was also fined $500. (Morrison’s lawyers immediately filed an appeal.)
Pamela remained in Europe, and Jim went on the prowl in search of a girl who’d go – as Bill Siddons described it “all the way.”
“Jim took things all the way,” Bill says. “Jim – especially Jim drunk – would follow a line of action to its conclusion, whether that led him into the morass of hell or into heaven. That’s one of the reasons people went with him, because they sensed that.”
Jim might have thought he found that woman in Ingrid Thompson, a large, buxom Julie Newmar look alike from Scandinavia. On November 19th, when her husband went to Portugal on business, Jim moved into the Chateau Marmont and they started seeing each other.
“We really got it on,” said Ingrid. “Neither of us was expecting it. He really loved life, and so did I. The only bad thing was there was too much cocaine, which blew our minds. He thought I was crazier than he was, and he wanted to see how far I’d go.”
One night, returning to Ingrid, he brought champagne and a larger than usual amount of cocaine in a film can. Holding both arms aloft with glee, he entered the house and sat down. After he toasted Ingrid’s intelligence, good looks and European charm, he emptied his glass in a single swallow. Then he unscrewed the film can and dumped a pile of coke onto the glass coffee table. Slowly, silently, he pushed it into thin, two inch rows with his BankAmericard. He produced a crisp hundred dollar bill and rolled it tightly. They snorted the powder, consuming about fifty dollars’ worth a piece.
After three hours, the film can was nearly empty. They had taken their clothes off and were dancing in the moonlight. They tossed themselves into bed. Ingrid began talking about her native land, her strange friends there. She said that sometimes, she drank blood.
“Bullshit,” said Jim.
“No. It’s true,” Ingrid swore, nodding her heard honestly. “I do sometimes…”
“Okay,” Jim replied, smiling. “Let’s you and me drink some right now.” He seemed serious.
Ingrid tried to turn it into a joke. Snapping her fingers she said, “I forgot – the blood man didn’t come today.”
“Let’s drink some blood now,” Jim repeated. “Ya got any razor blades?”
Ingrid knew by the way he asked that she would contribute the blood. She went into the bathroom to search. Moments later, she held a blade with one corner barely touching the fleshy pad of skin where her thumb joined her left hand. Nervously, she struck herself, eyes closed. When she opened them, she saw no blood.
On the fifth stab, blood spurred everywhere and Jim whooped, grabbing a champagne glass to catch it in. They made love and danced some more, smearing their bodies red.
The next morning, he awoke on blood caked sheets with dry brown streaks over much of his body. Jim was scared. The paranoia increased.
On December 6th, Jim called a phone number Jac Holzman had given him and spoke to the engineer who had built the Elektra studio. “It’s my birthday the after tomorrow,” Jim told him, “and I’d really like to record some poetry.” On the eighth, they were in Village Recorders, two blocks from the Lucky U, the bar where Jim drank when he was at UCLA. The engineer gave Jim a fifth of whiskey. Jim began to read and to drink.
Like his “An American Prayer,” much of what Jim read that night took the form of an invocation. For four hours Jim read his way through a thick sheaf of neatly typed sheets, becoming drunker and drunker.
Elated by his readings, Jim agreed to try performing again, in Dallas on Friday, December 11th and in New Orleans, the following night.
Dallas was a triumph. For that one night, the Doors and Jim proved that they were still a force to be reckoned with. They sold out two shows in the 6000 seat auditorium, and trotted out to do two encores after each set. Jim was in good spirits, the band tight and strong. They previewed “Riders On The Storm,” to a delighted audience. Backstage after the second show, the four Doors toasted one another for the successful rally.
New Orleans, though, was a tragedy. That night, Ray saw Jim’s spirit go. “Everyone who was there saw it, man. He lost all his energy about midway through the set. He hung on the microphone and it just slipped away. You could actually see it leave him. He was drained.”
As if to defy his own weakness, Jim picked up the microphone stand and repeatedly bashed it into the stage, until finally there was the sound of wood splintering. He threw the stand into the stunned audience, turned and plopped down on the drum riser, sitting motionless.
The Doors never again appeared in public as a quartet.
Morrison died in Paris on July 3 1971, while the Miami case was still in appeal.
Jim Morrison – The Fall Of The Lizard King
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