Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jim and a Prelude to Destruction/Hippies in Miami Pt. 2

This is a the first of a Two-Part Post: Hippies in Miami
Pt. 1: Jimi and a Prelude to Beauty 
Pt. 2: Jim and a Prelude to Destruction

Hello and welcome back to Old Highway Notes. The last time we were in Miami on Interstate 95, we talked about a few music festivals in Miami that proved to be a precursor for a summer of  huge rock festivals in 1969, with inedible line ups of beautiful music being listened to by beautiful people leading up to Woodstock in August of that year. The Miami hippy scene also was the site of a prelude to destruction.

While Miami hosted two successful music festivals, it wasn't a hippy town per se. It was still the deep south and while they could tolerate a few busloads of hippy kids coming into town for a music festival when there was some money to be made, by 1969 the more conservative elements of the city were getting tired of tolerating the whole hippy movement. They weren't happy that the freak scene was so  popular with some of local kids. A concert was booked for the rock band The Doors to play at the University of Miami. A lot would go wrong.

Double Crossing Concert Promoter

Promoter Ken Collier, doing-business-as Thee Image Productions, manged to lure the band away from the planned appearance at the University hall to instead have them perform at the Dinner Keys Auditorium, a larger venue that was a apparently a ramshackle converted seaplane hanger with a seating capacity of 7000. The Band was offered the band a flat fee of $25,000, based on the maximum gross ticket sales of $42,000 for a sell out crowd. Once the contract was done, the promoted ripped the seats out of the auditorium increasing the legal capacity of the venue as now a standing room capacity could be applied. Even then tickets were oversold. Though it was early in the year it was reported to be a hot, humid, and tensely packed concert by the time the show began. The manager of The Doors, Bill Siddons, was furious. He threatened to halt the performance, but the promoter threatened to seize their new equipment as collateral for a new show. With obvious tension in the air the show would go on.

Jim Had Other Ideas

Meanwhile, the band was having its own issues. In 1969, The Doors fame was ebbing a bit from the successes of their first two albums. However, there was still a demand for their unusual, jazz-influenced style of psychedelic rock noire. That demand would cause a hurricane of circumstances to come together in Miami. Jim Morrison, the bands lead singer, known by such nicknames as the Lizard King, the Erotic Politician, and Mr. Mojo Risin', had begun to tire of the attention of fame, and had sought relief through heavy drinking and through exploring other artistic mediums than pop music. Jim had always had interests far more deeply into avante garde theater and poetry than most rock musicians. Before joining the band he had attended film school at UCLA. He also wrote poetry and was earnestly trying to make a transition from pop star to seriously regarded writer and poet. A daunting task to be sure. In February of 1969 he recorded an album of poetry tracks that would be released later as An American Prayer. He also had his first book of poetry, "The Lords and the New Creatures" published in 1969. During this time, Jim was also exploring avante garde theater. he was particularly impressed with "Julian Becks' Living Theatre". Wikipedia explains the Living Theatre:

From its conception, The Living Theatre was dedicated to transforming
 the organization of power within society from a competitive,
hierarchical structure to cooperative and communal expression. The
troupe attempts to do so by counteracting complacency in the audience
through direct spectacle. They oppose the commercial orientation of
Broadway productions and have contributed to the off-Broadway theater
movement in New York City, staging poetic dramas.

The primary text for The Living Theatre is The Theater and Its Double, an anthology of essays written by Antonin Artaud, the French playwright. It was published in France in 1937 and by the Grove Press in the U.S. in 1958. This work deeply influenced Julian Beck, a bisexual painter of abstract expressionist works. The troupe reflects Artaud's influence by staging multimedia plays designed to exhibit his metaphysical Theatre of Cruelty. In these performances, the actors attempt to dissolve the "fourth wall" between them and the spectators.

For more background this video retrospective of the theatre does not necessarily show the performances Jim saw, but it should give you a bit of the flavor of what was influencing him.

Florida was a homecoming of sorts for Jim Morrison. The son of a naval admiral, he never talked much about his childhood and even claimed that his parents were dead (they weren't). It seems likely he may have had some unpleasant childhood memories. Being a navy kid he moved around a lot, but large chunks of time were spent with his father stationed on Florida or living with his grandparents who were Clearwater, Florida residents. Jim may have had some dark memories on his mind as he returned to the state. To make matters worse, a fight with girlfriend Pamela Courson before leaving Los Angeles and numerous travel delays en route meant that by the time he got to Miami, Jim was drunk and surly. And he was thinking about challenging the audiences expectations, not knowing the tense situation he was walking into.

On With The Show

Jim Morrison arrived late due to delays in his flight schedule. When he arrived it was obvious that Jim was quite drunk, even by the standards of a drunkard. The band took to the stage, As the band played the intro to"Love Me Two Times" Jim hesitated approaching the stage, when he did he was brash and confrontational to the audience. In this clip you can hear the drunken rage.

It was during the ranting that, at one point, Jim had reportedly may have pulled out his  penis and masturbated onstage. This was widely disputed with explanations that people were seeing a shirt tail or his fingers. Regardless, it added to the infamy of the evening. When the show was over, the band left town, assuming it to be just a bad show caused by Jim's drunkenness. But the show was not over.

Enter The Law

Three days after the concert, a warrant was issued by Dade County, FL for the arrest of Jim Morrison. Rolling Stone reporter John Burke's April 1, 1969 states:

Miami — Jim Morrison, the Doors' cataclysmic, electroplastic lead singer, finally let it all
 hang out at a March 2nd concert in Miami, Florida, and in the outraged
aftermath became the object of six arrest warrants, including one for a
felony charge of "Lewd and lascivious behavior in public by exposing his
 private parts and by simulating masturbation and oral copulation."

The five other warrants are for misdemeanor charges on two counts of
indecent exposure, two counts of open public profanity and one of public
 drunkenness. The total maximum sentence the 25-year-old Morrison could
get would be three years and 150 days at Raiford State Penitentiary, one
 of the tougher state pens in the South.

It wasn't the first run in Jim had had with the law. Prior incidents in Long Island and Connecticut had resulted in his arrest for inciting a riot, but he had so far managed to avoid conviction. Again from the Rolling Stone:

The reaction went like this:

The Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, personally cancelled a Doors concert in his city scheduled for the following weekend.

The Miami Herald went for the throats of the off-duty cops who'd
failed to arrest Morrison on the spot: "They saw and heard laws being
broken.... We cannot see why some of the policemen did not make the

The president of the Crime Commission of Greater Miami called for a
Grand Jury investigation both into the alleged obscenities and into how
Morrison had been allowed to perform there in the first place.

In response, Collier copped out by issuing a public statement to the
effect that he had no idea Morrison would come on anything like he had
and (in the classic phrase) "anyway, if we hadn't brought him here,
somebody else would have."

It was Wednesday, four days after the concert, before the State
Attorney's Office weighed in with its warrants (which set bonds
totalling $4,500), under the pressure of the public uproar.

"I was extremely shocked at the facts in this case as to what this
man did, and the State Attorney's Office will prosecute him and ask for
the maximum sentence on each count to run consecutively," promised Joe
Durant, an assistant to State Attorney Richard E. Gerstein.

"It is our intent to serve these warrants on him and bring him before our courts," chimed Acting Police Chief Paul M. Denham.

In the past, Morrison has gotten off without serving any time. His
major contretemps with the law have taken place in New Haven,
Connecticut (breach of the peace and giving an indecent or immoral
exhibition were the charges there), in Phoenix, Arizona (started a riot
at the State Fair—and will never, the manager said, be invited back
again), and in Long Island, New York (another riot).

These were the acts of an "erotic politician," to use Morrison's own
term. "I just think I'm lucky to have found a perfect medium to express
myself in," he recently told the New York Times. "When I sing my songs
in public, that's a dramatic act, but not just acting as in theater, but
 a social act, real action."

The Doors were paid $25,000 for this latest social act of Morrison's,
 and it will be wise for them to save it carefully. It may be some time
before they are allowed to carry out another social act of this
kind—within the framework of Floridian/American society, at any rate.

But there's a brighter ending to this story for Ken Collier, the
promoter, who said: "There's one good thing in this for me. Before this
happened, nobody ever heard of me or the club in New York. But now I
think they have."

Once again, Collier had made a move to benefit himself at the expense of the band. The situation was serious, though, and public opinion was not in favor of The Doors as this video shows:

Many of the bands concerts over the next year were cancelled by the host cities pending his trial. In September 1970, Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure and profanity. He was sentenced for six months in prison and had to pay a $500 fine. Morrison remained free on a $50,000 bond.


While the case waited for appeal, Jim joined his girlfriend, Pamela Courson who was already living in a rented flat in Paris. They would walk the city exploring its art and architecture while Jim continued to drink and reportedly dabble in heroin use. On July 3, 1971 James Morrison was found dead in his bathtub. The attending physician ruled the death a heart attack and pursuant to French law no autopsy was performed. Jim was quickly buried in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris that was the final resting place of many famous writers, perhaps most notably Oscar Wilde. Few people saw Jim's body before his death and a wealth of theories speculate that he death was faked to escape the trappings of fame. Others suspect that the reported "heart attack" was really an overdose. That suspicion was widely held, especially following the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin that same year due to drugs. Regardless of the cause of death, whether overdose or heart attack the stress of his impending legal issues likely hastened his demise.

A Postscript

The rest of the Doors continued persueing careers in music and entertainment with perhaps Ray Manzerick  achieving the greatest post-Doors success including production of the band X's first album Los Angeles an essential album in rock history that just happened to feature the old Doors song "Soul Kitchen". In 2007 Florida Governor Charlie Crist suggested the possibility of a posthumous pardon for Morrison, which was announced as successful on December 9, 2010.

Thanks for joining us for this week Old Highway Notes. Make sure and join us in three weeks when we return to Interstate 95 and continue to expolore the Miami area. In two weeks we will back on the Highway 101 in San Diego County where we will learn about another of National City's famous sons. Next week we return to Route 66 and our digging into the history of Chicago blues music. Join us won't you and until we meet again, avoid exposing yourself onstage.

Mileage Stats

Route 66: 0 Miles/1 State/466 Tracks/93 Videos/22 Posts
Highway 101: 13  Miles/1 State/433 Tracks/129 Videos/16 Posts
Interstate 95: 0 Miles/1 State/10 Tracks/23 Videos/5 Posts

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