Without some assemblage of the events which culminated in Jim Morrison's behavior on the night of March 1, 1969 at the Dinner Key Auditorium, one can only witness a small piece in a turbulent puzzle. A shrewd historian could, most likely, trace all of the significant moments in Morrison's short, brilliant life toward his ultimate destruction. Yet, Miami was that moment of fate when pressure strangled any thought of restraint and Jim lashed out once and for all time against the sex-symbol image he had dangled so tantalizingly at the media. The image the press had quickly preyed upon and proceeded to stretch and manipulate beyond any sense of reality. Jim had played along with the game in his youthful
ignorance, but his disdain for this image intensified as he matured. He had hoped his audience would mature with him, look beyond the absurd to the relevance of his beloved words. He had no idea his concepts existed as foresight, or decades would pass before they would embrace his perceptions of life. He experienced only the frustration and disillusionment of their indifference.
Jim had been secretly plotting his escape, not from The Doors or the life he genuinely loved, but from the excruciating pressure of the burden of his fame. He didn't have far to search, a decade of experimentation and revolution swirled around him. It was a series of performances of Julian Becks' Living Theatre which offered asylum. The plays were controversial, even for the opened-minded nature of USC's Bovard Auditorium. The performances were intricately laced with shock- provoking imagery and rhetoric, aimed specifically toward tapping into the audience's subconscious mind. Tom Baker, one of Jim's more outrageous accomplices in excess, accompanied Jim to the Theatre's volatile final performance. Profoundly inspired by the reactions of the audience to the content of the evening, Jim spent the rest of the night analyzing the process and discussing ways to weave the concepts into his own brand of artistic expression: Rock & Roll. The Door's next concert loomed less than twenty-four hours in Jim's future, Miami was a homecoming of sorts and he wanted it to be memorable.
Now night arrives with her purple legion.
Retire now to your tents & to your reams. Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth.
I want to be ready.
Daybreak presented its own domestic brand of upheaval. Jim and his long-time lady, Pamela Courson, had planned to fly to the Caribbean for a short vacation following the evening's performance. Their relationship had become a succession of intensely passionate farewells and reconciliation's. They were in the midst of a huge argument which started at home and flared and calmed all the way to the gate of the Miami flight. Morrison ended up sending Pam home, missing his flight in all of the confusion. His day became a blur of more delays and airport lounges. His thoughts were filled with the turmoil he was putting miles between, he had no way of knowing the scenario stacking up against him across the
The Dinner Key Auditorium was situated strategically across the parking lot from City Hall in Coconut Grove. Ken Collier, doing-business-as Thee Image Productions, had lured The Doors away from the university hall with a deal for more money. The building was a converted seaplane hanger in general disrepair, with an official seating capacity of seven thousand. The Doors were contracted for a flat twenty-five thousand dollars, based on what they understood to be an auditorium with a forty two-thousand dollar maximum. After the contract was signed, Collier took out the seats and sold several thousand more tickets, nearly doubling the maximum.
Bill Siddons, The Doors manager, was outraged when he arrived at the auditorium to take an accounting of the seating. Vince Treanor , the bands equipment manager, said the argument started right away. "When Siddons reminded the promoters that this wasn't in the contract, the promoters said, 'What are you gonna do about it?' Bill threatened to take the equipment and leave and the promoter said, 'You think you're gonna take this equipment outta here? You're gonna do this show.' Here's the band's brand-new equipment and a hall full of shouting people and the promoter is holding a gun to our heads." While Siddons and Collier were fighting over the deal, dozens of people without tickets were scaling the outside walls to climb in through the second-story windows, another thousand were jammed
against the entrances hoping to squeeze in. Temperatures were shooting upward, it was a hot night in Miami, even for March and the building had no air conditioning. People were scaling the walls to hang from the rafters, seeking desperately to make space and find relief from the heat. The hour was late and Morrison was still enroute, by this time some reports swore nearly thirteen thousand people were jammed into the hall.
When Jim finally arrived, it was obvious to everyone who knew him he was drunk, drunk beyond even Morrison standards. Jim was not a man to be reasoned with, even if his close associates hadn't been faced with thirteen thousand angry reasons why he'd better get on the stage. Morrison only needed a moment to size up the situation. While The Doors repeated the intro to Break on Through over and over, he bided his time at the side of the stage. When Jim finally crossed the stage and took the microphone, at least one tape-recorder ate up every word. You can still hear it if you want to, ask any hard-core Doors fan for an audio of the Miami concert. Just be forewarned, it wasn't Jim's finest hour.
The following is a summary of the controversial moments of the next 65 minutes:
While the introduction repeated, now painfully patient in the background , Morrison rapped incoherently into the microphone. He eventually managed to sing a couple of verses but lost interest quickly, returning to his aimless sermon. "I'm not talking about no revolution. And I'm not talking about no demonstration. I'm talking about having a good time. I'm talking about having a good time this summer. Now you all come to L.A. You all get out there. We're going to lie down there in the sand and rub our toes in the ocean and we're going to have a good time. Are you ready? Are you ready?......Are.... you.....ahhhhh!"
"Five to One" was always a controversial call to action and Jim fell into the first few lines of the song. Hesitation. As if transported through the moment to the stage of the Living Theatre, his voice twisted with anger and condemnation. "You're all a bunch of f**kin' idiots." Sounds of shock and outrage from the audience. "Let people tell you what you're gonna do. Let people push you around. How long do you think its gonna last? How long are you gonna let it go on? How long are you gonna let them push you around. Maybe you love it. Maybe you like being pushed around. Maybe you love getting your face stuck in the shit.....You're all a bunch of slaves. Bunch of slaves. Letting everybody push you around.
What are you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do about it...What are you gonna do?
On and on it went . At some point Jim staggered over to Robby and fell to his knees, focusing his attention on Robby's guitar solo (conflicting perceptions would debate his true intentions in the months ahead). Later. "THERE ARE NO RULES"........ "Anybody here from Tallahassee?" Audience affirmation..... " Well, I lived there until I got smart and went to California." At one point Jim made a direct reference to the Living Theatre. "Hey, listen. I used to think the whole thing was a big joke. I thought it was somethin' to laugh about, and the last couple of nights I met some people who were doin' somethin'. They're trying to change the world and I wanna get on the trip. I wanna change the world."
When someone jumped on stage and drenched him with champagne, Jim took his shirt off. "Let's see a little skin, let's get naked." Damp clothing fell to the concrete floor. "I'm not talking about revolution, I'm not talking about guns and riots, I'm talking about love. Love one another. Love your brother, hug him. Man, I'd like to see a little nakedness around here....grab your friend and love him. Take your clothes off and love each other." More clothing carpeted the concrete. When Jim finally got around to talking about what was really on his mind no doubt everyone was ready. "You didn't come here for music did you? You came for something more, didn't you? You didn't come to rock'n'roll, you came for something else didn't you? You came for something else --WHAT IS IT?" The audience recovered quickly from their initial shock and shouted all sorts of options. They weren't really sure what they wanted, but Morrison was. " You want to see my c*ck, don't you? That's what you came for isn't it? YEAHHHH!" There was a long, screeching crescendo from the floor. What happened next is anyone's guess, apparently, Morrison waved his shirt in front of his crotch in bullfighter tradition, he took it away for an instant and taunted. "See it? Did you see it?" The audience proceeded to "see" exactly what they wanted to see (reality has never been defined).
It was then, Jim finally gave into the shouts for Light My Fire. The edge of the prior moment was dulled and the confused mass of followers basked in the rays of their anthem. By this time dozens of people were climbing onto the rickety stage. Collier had finally had enough and made his way toward Jim's microphone to cool things down. In the struggle that followed, Jim was thrown into the audience. No to be diminished, Jim lead a snake dance through the auditorium , disappeared in the midst of the movement, only to reappear in a balcony to observe the turmoil below. As the weary concert goers filed out, The Doors retired to their dressing rooms . There was the usual group of hangers-on and several policemen came up for autographs. Siddons paid for a policeman's hat which Jim had flung into the audience earlier and there was the usual good natured joking. Miami went home and The Doors left the next morning, as planned, for a vacation in the Caribbean.
Aftermath and Trial
Media Madness: Larry Mahoney saw the makings of copy first, his article appeared on March 3, 1969 as a review of the concert in The Miami Herald. "The hypnotically erotic Morrison, flaunting the laws of obscenity, indecent exposure and incitement to riot, could only stir a minor mob scene toward the end of his Saturday night performance." The rhetoric went on to fill three columns; "It was not meant to be pretty. Morrison appeared to masturbate in full view of his audience, screamed obscenities and exposed himself. He also got violent, slugged several of Thee Image officials and threw one of them off stage before he himself was hurled into the crowd." Once the article appeared in print, the press fanned the
flames by calling local politicians and demanding to know what they intended to do about the outrage. The police were turned to for an explanation of their indifference to the well-being of the community youth. A group of high school students decided to hold a Rally for Decency at the Orange Bowl. The event caught national attention, prompting a letter of appreciation from President Nixon and offers to appear on national television. The FBI played it's own clandestine part by issuing a report on "Possible racial violence major urban areas" documenting "Morrison's effort to provoke chaos among a huge crowd of young people."
On Wednesday, March 5, the city of Miami issued a warrant for the arrest of James Douglas Morrison. The complaint was signed by an office boy who had attended the show and worked for the state attorney. Officially, six warrants were sworn out by the Dade County State Attorney's Office: A felony charge of lewd and lascivious behavior and five misdemeanors; two counts of indecent exposure, two of public profanity and one of public drunkenness.
The effect on The Doors future was immediate. Miami was to be the beginning of a major tour of the United States. Once the news spread from Miami, one by one the concert halls canceled their upcoming contracts with the controversial rock group. Even Morrison's long standing allegiance with the rock press disintegrated. RollingStone led the circus by publishing the infamous "Wanted in Dade County" cover photo and followed up with an article entitled "Morrison's Penis is Indecent." Radio stations began to drop air play of their records. In the agonizing 18 months that lay ahead before Morrison stood before a jury to be judged, the masses were seduced into staging their own collective crucifixion.
The Trial: While the national media relentlessly mocked Morrison, fate was stacking up against him in the court systems of Dade County. For Jim, his day in court meant a meeting of the minds, the ultimate test of a generation who pushed him to the front lines in their quest for basic freedoms guaranteed them by The Bill of Rights. Morrison verses The Establishment. August 12, 1970 marked the beginning of 40 days of deliberations in the Metropolitan Dade County Justice Building. Max Fink, The Doors attorney had built much of his defense around the contention that the use of four-letter words and "lewd" conduct was already deemed acceptable by the present standards of the Miami community. X-rated
movies and theatrical productions (including the controversial rock opera "Hair" displaying frontal nudity) were playing in the neighborhood of the Dinner Key Theater.
The jury selection of six people took two days, the prosecution quickly dismissed anyone who showed the least bit of sympathy for youth. The age of the youngest juror was 42, hardly a jury of Morrison's peers. The first major shock wave hit when Judge Goodman refused to allow evidence relating to community standards. Because of a large number of children present in the courtroom (and accordingly at the concert), the community standards defense was ruled irrelevant.
The prosecution used the environment of the trial to it's shrewd advantage. Although hundreds of photos were submitted as evidence of Morrison's exposure, not one proved beyond reasonable doubt that he was guilty. The young people who were called to testify were clearly unsure of what they had seen of Morrison's performance, yet the prosecution used their innocence and fragile emotional state in the courtroom to draw sympathy from the observers. Rare news footage recently found covering the trial is still perhaps the strongest statement of selective editing, often showing Morrison speaking; but not allowing the viewers to hear what he was saying, the commentators doing their version of the days
proceedings in the voice-overs. As the days stretched into weeks, media interest in the proceedings waned. By the time the defense began their arguments, the press was all but absent. Much has been quoted about how it appeared no one really cared what happened to Morrison.
The defense made a crucial mistake by allowing a tape of the concert to be played for the jury. People sat quietly avoiding each others glances while the sound of Jim's voice echoed through the room. Finally, each of The Doors stepped up to testify. The transcript reads like a comic strip while each of the musicians try to maintain their composure in the face of questions like, "Did he [Jim] at any time while he was on his knees or any other time stick his tongue out and wag it up and down?" addressed to Ray Manzarek. Morrison was grilled four hours with questions like "By the way, you are what is called a rock singer?" To which his replied: "Among other things, yes."
Morrison was eventually convicted of two misdemeanors; open profanity and indecent exposure. The convictions were in the process of appeal when Morrison finished the L.A. Woman album and left for Paris in March of 1970. James Douglas Morrison died twenty five years ago this year in Paris on July 3, 1971. He was 27. Perhaps Jim saw his future more clearly than any of us ...
"There are no longer 'dancers.' the possessed. The cleavage of men into actor and spectators is the central fact of our time. We are obsessed with heroes who live for us and whom we punish. If all the radios and televisions were deprived of their sources of power, all
books and paintings burned tomorrow, all shows and cinemas closed, all the arts of vicarious existence...
We are content in the 'given' in sensation's quest. We have been metamorphosised from a mad body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark."
--from Jim's poetry book, The Lords and the New Creatures.
Today ... As it turned out someone does care. As a matter of fact, Jim Morrison has never been more alive and influential in the minds of thousands of people worldwide. Since the first publication of The Doors Collectors Magazine nearly three years ago, we have had the opportunity to talk with fans from around the world. While we have a strong network of people working to celebrate the artistry and foresight of Jim and The Doors, we also face many whose objective is to exploit the negative aspects of Jim's encounters with the law. It is a well known fact that the authorities intended to make "an example" of Jim's actions at the Dinner Key Auditorium. Over time we believe their intentions backfired. Jim was adamant about what he wanted, " ... I got acquitted on everything else. We were trying to get this erased because it's not good to have something like that on your record ... It's just if
something really serious happens then you have a record and it looks a lot worse ... The trouble with all these busts is that people I know, friends of mine, think it's funny and they like to believe it's true and they accept it; people that don't like me like to believe it because I'm the reincarnation of everything they consider evil. I get hung both ways." (from a 1971 interview with Bob Chorush in the Los Angeles
Something serious happened. Jim died just months later and became one of rock music's greatest legends. Today, thanks to the World-Wide-Web, members of the generation Jim tried to reach are emerging from a long silence to right a few old wrongs ...
Break On Through by Prochnicky & Riordan
The Lizard King by Jerry Hopkins
TV news footage from 1969-1970 provided by the Louis Wolfson II Media History Center
Please take the time to read over our Miami information. We feel that there are many public officials who will join our cause once they hear from their constituents.
Please join us and add your voice to this cause!
You can obtain the addresses of these officials by accessing the information, which is listed in the front of your local phone book, or by visiting the following locations on the Internet:this page
Please see the previous page to download the form letters you are asked to please send to your Representative, your Senator, and Governor Jeb Bush. The petition is also enclosed in these zip files which we need signed by as many responsible parties as you know! In the near future, this petition will also reside on our webpage and we will be requesting support from other "First Amendment" rights and other political activist groups. This is a cause that we will not ignore.
In the mean time, please send petitions to:
Miami Petitions c/o
PO Box 1441
Orem, UT 84059-1441
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