Segarini: Jim Morrison and The Doors May 20, 2012 12:26:37 GMT
Post by casandra on May 20, 2012 12:26:37 GMT
Segarini: The Weekend Roundup: Jim Morrison and The Doors.
by FYI Editor on December 11, 2010
So The Pie, Zontar, and I are at Cherry Cola’s Wednesday night enjoying the tunes from DJ Metal Mel and Care Failure, (better known for her on stage presence in Indie-band darlings, Die Mannequin), when a very attractive woman (Hi Bonnie) tugs on my sleeve and asks me if I want to go outside for a smoke. “Yes” , I answer, hoping she doesn’t see the “she must think I’m someone else” look in my eyes, or the drool forming in the corner of my mouth, and we head outside into the wilds of Bathurst Street and the Great (cold) White North. Lighting up, I asked her why she chose me to join her in sharing our addiction to nicotine and she told me, “Because you look interesting” . How much, I wondered, has this beautiful young woman had to drink?
As it turns out, Bonnie and her friends, a bevy of ridiculously attractive women wearing designer clothes and drop-dead shoes and boots, all work at an up-scale shoe store on Queen Street West, and had allocated the VIP section of Cherry Cola’s for their annual Christmas Party. The Christmas party (which resembled more of a vodka testing session judging from the bottles of Grey Goose, Belvedere, and other high end vodkas chilling in ice buckets on the table) spilled out into the rest of the club and brought its seasonal good cheer and rosy cheeked friendliness with it. God, I love this place. Cherry’s is a classic “bar to remember”. The owners, the staff, the decor, the music and the live bands they present all add up to the kind of place that becomes legendary. In the short time they’ve been opened they have become a magnet for musos, rock stars, actors and industry folks as well as a destination for regulars who come from as far away as Niagara to enjoy the vibe. Cherry’s even has a resident cat, CC, who adopted the place a month or so ago, and cruises the bar at night, as friendly as everyone else, purrs when you pet him, and can sleep through Led Zeppelin, The Ramones, or Eagles of Death Metal without so much as a twitch of the tail.
After Bonnie and I came back in from the snowless, frozen sidewalk, Bonnie introduced us around and one of her friends asked me what I did and I told her. And then she heard Metal Mel and Care spin a Doors track and remarked, “I love Jim Morrison” , and I mentioned that I had known him.
She looked at me like she expected my nose to grow and a streak of blue lightning to reduce me to a pile of smoldering ash. “No you did-ent!” , she shouted. I waited for her to punch me and shove me like Elaine on Seinfeld. Thankfully, she did-ent. All pictures above courtesy of Richard Freedman.
Morrison and Me
We weren’t best buds or anything, but we did manage to hang out a couple of times and have some great conversations.
I (and everybody else who hung out on Sunset) first became aware of The Doors when they had a residency at a little bar on the Strip a few doors down from the Whisky, although I’m pretty sure I had seen them once or twice at the even more obscure club, The Brave New World.
If you saw Oliver Stone’s film, The Doors, you probably think The London Fog was a big nightclub with a large stage, lots of lights, and a pretty spiffy clientele. Not true. The Fog was a dark and somewhat dingy bar that was located next to the much more popular Galaxy and steps away from The Whisky, the most popular club in Hollywood at the time. The clientele was mostly musicians that got wind of the band, and other denizens of the Sunset Strip, but the kids from San Fernando Valley, just over the San Gabriel mountains that separated Hollywood from Van Nuys and Sepulveda, found the place soon enough.
The London Fog didn’t have a stage per se, but it did have a very high ceiling. That was a good thing, because the “stage” was on top of the washrooms, which were housed in a little wooden “building within a building” that jutted out from the wall next to the bar itself. The band was about 10 feet above the floor of the room, and you had to climb a little wooden ladder to get up there. The audience always looked like they were watching a flock of ducks flying overhead. “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the Doors!” You could cut the cigarette smoke with a knife, but the drinks were cheap and well poured. Hot, twirling hippie chicks were a bonus, and as word of the Doors (and Jim) spread, the dancers from Gazzarri’s down the street, and the peelers from The Classic Cat (a classy strip joint on Sunset) started showing up. Every female in the L.A Basin (and probably some of the guys) wanted a piece of Morrison even then.
The first time I ever saw a guitar player use a bottle to play slide was at the Fog when Robbie drank the last out of a little green glass six ounce Coke on stage in the middle of a song, and ripped into a solo with the now empty bottle. Every guitar player in town soon emulated the move.
You have to remember that no one in the current pantheon of iconic rock stars from the era were famous yet. The Doors were just another local band, and Jim was just another local singer. Within a year they would blow up and out of L.A with a sound that was (and has remained) totally unique. A rock band covering a song written in 1927 by playwright Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill? WTF?
You have probably all read about Jim, usually painted as a drug-addled dilettante, a man who went to film school, fancied himself a poet, and made headlines with what mom and pop would consider borderline psychotic behavior. Others wrote of him with stars in their eyes, calling him an iconoclast, a poet born out of time, and a sexual totem who was lusted after by all who witnessed and heard him, a charismatic man beholding to no one, a cipher in so many ways, and a tragedy waiting to happen. Morrison is remembered as the Uber-masculine antitheses of Michael Jackson both in appearance and spirit. A man who had clearly (if you believed his detractors) embraced the dark side.
I don’t recall him in quite the same way.
Although we had met a few times in passing (Sunset denizens were a pretty high profile bunch on the Strip. Eventually you pretty much knew who everyone was and would nod to each other on the street or in the bars) Morrison and I didn’t exchange pleasantries or have a conversation until the Whisky A Go Go hired The Doors away from the London Fog, making them the “house band”. Earlier, The Family Tree had held that position off and on, and would, in fact, open for The Doors on occasion when Elmer (Valentine) and Mario wanted three acts on the bill. The Whisky in those days was amazing. The cover was never over 2 or 3 dollars and for that you would see Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Otis Redding, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and, triple bills like The Byrds, The Doors, and Buffalo Springfield.
After Elektra’s head of A&R, Barry Freidman ( who later ran the Elektra Rock Ranch in Keddie, California and eventually changed his name to Frazier Mohawk, became a circus clown, and ran away to Europe) raved to Jac Holzman (the founder and president of Elektra Records) about the band, Jac went down to the Whisky to hear them himself. Still not convinced, he made a few more trips to the club and, being the wise man he still is, listened to Barry and others he trusted and signed The Doors. By now, the band I had put together after The Family Tree, Roxy, had also been signed to the label, and running into Morrison became an almost daily occurrence.
I was walking down the hall one day at Elektra and found it blocked by Ray Manzarek and a Hammond organ. Ray asked me if I had a minute and I did. He was recording a track, either for a Doors album or a demo. I don’t recall the song, but I do know it went on to be one of their many hits.
Ray asked me to sit down and, on his signal, change the settings on the organ with the drawbars at the top of the keyboards. I sat down on the piano bench next to him and he showed me the moves and would nod when he wanted me to make the changes. I asked him why he was in the hallway. If I remember correctly, he said he couldn’t get the organ through the door for one reason or another, but it may have been something else.
When we were through, I made my way past the Hammond and walked into the back area where most of the offices were located, buffered by a fairly large bullpen with a half a dozen desks. Sitting in a chair in front of the little refrigerator was Morrison, drinking a beer and reading a hardcover book. The book, written by 19th century French author, Stendhal, is titled The Red and the Black. Jim looked up from the book when I walked into the space and put the book face down, open, in his lap. “Want a beer?” , he asked. That’s easy, “Sure”, I said, and leaned over to get one out of the fridge. I sat down across from him, took a swig, and deciding to make small talk said, “So how’s the book?”
Jim spoke passionately about what he was reading, his face animated and his intellect firing on all cylinders, explaining the importance of the novel both in its story, and the way in which it was written, and how it was responsible for many firsts in the world of literature. After we discussed the book and literature in general and cracked open another beer, Morrison explained he was waiting to meet up with a current poet and playwright he had become friends with, Michael McClure. McClure, a beat poet who had been embraced by the hippie culture, (he co-wrote Joplin’s Mercedes Benz), still performs spoken word concerts with Ray Manzarek, and with Manzarek and Robbie Kreiger’s band, Riders of the Storm.
After I left Elektra that day, I ran out and bought a copy of the Red and the Black. In many ways, the main protagonist, Julien, reminded me of Morrison, and I don’t think the comparison was lost on Jim.
A couple of times, Morrison and I had a few drinks at The Telephone Booth (or was it just “The Phone Booth”), a strip club just up the street from Elektra on Santa Monica Blvd. I don’t remember much about the conversations, but sitting with Jim Morrison in a strip club in Hollywood was like like sitting on a park bench with a bag of bird seed. Only instead of attracting birds, he attracted stunningly beautiful, barely clad women in droves. It’s good to be the (Lizard) King.
There were drunken excursions to the Santa Monica Pier to see the Electric Flag, Jim heckling Hendrix at Thee Experience, a great little bar on Sunset, where he was “escorted” out between two giant bouncers after some remarks that shocked even me.
The Wackers were eventually managed by Bill Siddons (in the red shirt), long time Doors manager who signed us up after Jim passed away. We did the tour that was meant to relaunch the Doors after Jim died, including playing Carnegie Hall with the now Jimless 7 piece band. Bill thought we were nuts. After being with The Doors for so long, we must have been really crazy for him to think that.
Here’s an excerpt from Rand Bishop’s book, Makin’ Stuff Up.
Rand Bishop: “While the rock press slathered praise on The Wackers, Top-40 radio and the general public pretty much turned up their noses, and we were reduced to applying for food stamps while we prepared to record Elektra album number two. Our original manager finally passed the brutal California bar exam, thus segueing into the unenviable role of our attorney. So, our band of ne’er-do-wells was adopted by one Mr. Bill Siddons. Bill, who also handled The Doors, had very little empathy or patience for the befuddling, gender-bending image of The Wackers, or for our frequent rock ‘n' roll shenanigans.
Siddons deigned to throw our band a bone by booking us in the opening slot for a Doors tour the campaign Manzarek, Densmore, and Krieger misguidedly engaged upon after Jim Morrison’s death. While the billing did offer us Wacks some much-appreciated prestige, the two acts on the bill had such divergent appeal that our colorful, highly kinetic sets probably won us as many enemies as they did new fans along the way.
As the Doors tour unwound, my bandmates and I grew more and more frustrated by a distinct dearth of attention coming from our manager. In his defense, Siddons most certainly had his hands full trying to win and sustain the interest of the press and the public for a legendary act left widowed by its infamous lead singer. But, to our constant chagrin, the sum total of Siddons’ Wacker career-shepherding amounted to handing each of us an envelope of per diem cash at the beginning of each week, with the following instruction:
“Don’t have too much fun.” An absurd suggestion, if I’ve ever heard one.
Our frustration came to a head on the eve of our scheduled appearance at the shrine of all performance venues venerable Carnegie Hall. Holed up at the staid, midtown Wellington Hotel, surrounded on all sides by high fashion, and dispirited by the increasingly disheveled state of our thrift-store, bargain-bin, and/or hand-made wardrobe, we demanded a powwow with the man himself. Siddons relented by scheduling a confab in a conference room just off of the Wellington’s starched main lobby.
There we sat, the most unlikely looking corporate board in New York history. CFO Siddons called the meeting to order. Without waiting to be recognized by the chair, lanky, craggy-faced bass player Kootch Trochim piped up:
“So, Siddons, are we gonna get some money for some cool clothes, or what?”
Siddons’s negative response resounded succinctly in the shape of a single syllable.
As our moans and groans of dissent crescendoed, peach-cheeked roadie Steve Wood poked his head into the room, alerting our manager to an incoming phone call. Doors business, no doubt, I thought to myself, resentfully. During the next 10 minutes, while Siddons tended to this urgent matter, we determined insurgents conspired to impress him with our wardrobe-woes by way of a much more visual form of protest.
Bill re-entered, marching myopically to his place at the head of the table. He then took a deep breath, preparing himself to weather the next gripe from his recalcitrant charges. At that point, Kootch rose from his chair, revealing that he was wearing not a single stitch of clothing””aside from the tie around his neck. His genitals bobbling at the edge of the mahogany conference table, he repeated his earlier query”:
“So, Siddons, are we gonna get some money from some cool clothes, or what?”
“Yeah!” we all chimed in, as we stood in unison, expressing our solidarity, while simultaneously revealing our common nudity.
Our manager’s face was blooming valentine-crimson, as he rose from his chair. Without uttering a word, he strode out of the room, leaving only the echo of the slamming door behind him. At the tour’s end, Bill Siddons resigned as our manager, demanding that we repay him the $900 he claimed we owed him. Not being a band of deadbeats, we obliged by asking him to drive to Eureka from L.A and pick up what we owed him in his Volkswagen Bus; Lots of very heavy cardboard boxes we got from the bank containing 90,ooo pennies.
I had first met Bill at Pam Courson’s boutique, across the street from Elektra on the ground floor of the building that housed The Door’s offices. Pam was Jim’s soulmate, girlfriend, and wife. She made amazing clothes and we all bought stuff from her, made to order or imported, one of a kind “rock star” duds. Jim, Bill, and others would hang out in the back rook of her store sometimes. Pam was a beautiful woman, with extraordinary taste in clothes. I bought a lot of clothes from her including pants that were suede, tie-dyed crushed velvet, and doeskin, and shirts that were hand made out of Irish lace. Occasionally, you would see Pam and Jim out and about, but Jim did a lot of tom cat-ing on the side.
Late one night, when Roxy was recording our album, the door to the control room swung open and Morrison weaved into the room and sat down on a stool in the corner next to the 8 track tape machine. He nodded at me but didn’t say a word. We continued listening to a playback. About a minute later, 2 uniformed policemen walked through the door. They entered the control room and stood in front of Jim. “We understand you were in an altercation this evening” , said the youngest of the two. Morrison shrugged. “Well, we just wanted to make sure you were alright” , continued the officer. “By rights, we should take you in, but seeing how you’re you” , he trailed off. The well oiled Door, slurring his words, thanked the gentlemen and smiled a lopsided grin like that guy in the Cheers opening credits. We’re all just standing there watching this happen. The cops turned to go and the young one stopped and turned back. “Can we have your autograph?” Our engineer/producer, John Haeny handed Jim a track sheet and a pen. Morrison signed it twice, handed them the paper and with that, they were gone. “Okay, what happened?” , I had to know. Jim looked into space and said, “Art Gallery opening, open bar” I guess stuff “happened.” And with that, he too was out the control room door.
Later in the week, there was an incident with our mascot, an inflatable doll we kept on top of the plexiglass sound baffle suspended over the board. We came in one night and she was deflated, a knife sticking out of her pink, plastic ass.
It didn’t take us long to find out it was Morrison.
When he died at 27, it saddened us all, but guaranteed that he would be forever young, a rock star for the ages, and like Elvis, suspected of faking his own death to escape the spotlight. Gaining weight and growing a beard hadn’t helped, nor had his move to Paris to soak up the atmosphere and history he so much wanted to be a part of. He never achieved his dream of being regarded as a poet and an intellect to be reckoned with, but his words still resonate, his voice still engages, and his image still stands with other symbols of sex and stardom, as popular now as he was almost 50 years ago. Otherwise, that 20-something girl at Cherry Cola’s would never have inspired this column.