WEIRDLAND: Jim Morrison's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Friday, June 29, 2018

Jim Morrison's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


"She had orange ribbons in her hair/She was such a trip, she was hardly there/But I loved her just the same/There was rain in our window/The FM set was ragged/But she could talk/We learned to speak/All we did was break and freak it/We had all that lovers ever had/Now her world was bright orange/And the fire glowed..." Orange County (1970) by The Doors

There really are no good biographies on Jim Morrison except Frank Lisciandro's "Friends Gathered Together" or Jim Cherry's "The Doors Examiner," the rest written mostly by 'authors' trying to cash in by using sensationalism as their marketing tool. I just finished reading Patricia Kennealy’s book. Here are a few varied thoughts about her memoir Strange Days: *Kennealy seems utterly obsessed with Pamela Courson. Her name is mentioned (on average) at least every 3 pages. *Patricia Kennealy’s sense of humor is very barely existent... the couple of moments of intended humor (which are buried deeply beneath her self congratulating monologues) fall flat and feel embarrassingly false.

*98% of this book feels like pure bullshit. Jim Morrison was a very heavy drinker, behavior that is known to cause, amongst other things, lethargy and impotency. Yet, according to Kennealy, her and Jim’s sex life (something that she discusses redundantly) was fabulous all the time, and that he never, ever faltered in that department. I could list off countless sources that have remarked on Jim’s alcohol related impotency, namely Pamela herself. *Patricia fails to make Jim seem special or intelligent or wild or extraordinary at all. He becomes a caricature not unlike the one played by Val Kilmer. The Jim Morrison in this book can’t seem to shut up... he jibber jabbers constantly. There is even a scene at one point where Jim weeps uncontrollably over his love for Patricia. Okay.

*Despite her apparent dislike for Pam, PK falters at times with how she apparently feels about her. PK was actually friends with Pam while Pam was alive, but I suppose that was easy enough to discard when Pamela herself died, in favor of cashing in on Jim’s name. There are quite a few moments where PK portrays Pam as having the mindset of a child, and then she’ll turn around and say things like, “She wasn’t that kind of stupid!” She mentions a few times that Pam was very sweet, and that she feels sorry for her, and even prays for her to this day. Also, she cannot seem to let go off how beautiful Pamela really was. Some examples: “Pamela Susan Courson, nine months younger than I, three years younger than Jim, is a staggeringly pretty woman.” “She was charming, extremely pretty...” “Though Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan are pretty enough, next to Jim and Pam they look like dull unattractive urchins with bad hair (wigs, but still).” *Try as she may to discredit Pam’s intellect, she does not dare deny Pamela’s importance to Jim, and even admits the following: “I believe he loved Pamela as well as could love anyone.”

*She also prattles on and on about how she had such lovely auburn hair when she was “with” Jim, but colored photos from that time show that Patricia’s hair color was actually more of an ash brown, without so much as a hint of a red tone. Looks like she’s been dyeing her hair auburn ever since Jim died so that she can claim that his songs praising bright red hair were about her. This is not unlike what Pamela DesBarres, Nico, and Janet Erwin (a groupie) have done in an attempt to look Jim Morrison’s type since Pam and Jim have both passed on. *The book is wholly self serving. I can’t find not one admitted flaw. *Patricia takes as many pot shots as she can at other Doors insiders, as well as the surviving Doors, and Jim/Pam’s families.  Source: pamelacourson.tumblr.com

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The private Jim Morrison was the antithesis of his extroverted stage personality. He spoke slowly and quietly with little emotion, often pausing to reflect or collect his thoughts before continuing. Though he was confident, he was not usually egotistical or pretentious. On the contrary, he often was gentle, sensitive, and considerate of others' feelings. Many who knew Morrison will tell you he was a well-mannered "Southern gentleman," someone you would have no problem taking home to meet your mother. It was only onstage, or after having too much to drink, that his voice became deep and loud, his manner vibrant and gruff, and his actions mindless. Tom Baker was in New York doing a I, A Man at The Factory, when he and Warhol stopped in to see The Doors at The Scene, Baker saw a different Jim Morrison onstage. "His performance was a classic one," Baker wrote, "giving off glimpses of all our beautiful tragic/comic American Heroes... one moment I saw Brando's 'wild one,' the next James Dean's rebel, then Chet Baker, and finally Elvis."

LSD was key in providing Morrison with access to the further regions of reality. With fame came more women. Except for Pamela, the majority of the women he was having affairs or one-night stands with were on the bizarre side. Many were alluring and attractive in their own way, but some were just outright weirdos who drew Morrison because of their strangeness: freaked-out go-go dancers who were into demonism, and disgruntled groupies. Morrison attracted the strange and the bizarre like a magnet and he was often surrounded by mystics, perverts, drunkards, and just plain lunatics. He collected people like stray dogs. While he knew they were sponging off of him, he was too kind to drive them away. Sooner or later they'd disappear. Sometimes he would get drunk and go nuts and that would scare them off, other times they got bored with him. Morrison saw these people as kindred spirits, people out on the edge, and he was fascinated by them.

Themis Fashion Boutique, 947 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles. Pamela Courson traveled to Europe frequently to stock her store. The store was hardly ever open and kept odd hours. Meanwhile, Jim and Pam's clashes continued. Although the boutique kept her busy, it didn't do much for her insecurity, and the effects of his drinking and her drug use were now taking their toll. Mirandi Babitz elaborates: "Pam and I used to do a lot of coke together in the early days, but now she was getting into heroin. She was snorting it. I don't think Jim cared if she did it, but if he found she was getting too fucked up he would probably get upset. I'm sure they were like any addicted couple would behave. Each one blamed everything on the other's problem." Others claim Morrison got very angry with Pam over her use of heroin. A neighbor in Laurel Canyon recalls Pam describing a violent argument over the issue where she locked herself in the closet to get away from Jim's rage. Close friends of Morrison's doubt the validity of this story, however. 


After the Hollywood Bowl, The Doors went on the road playing Houston on July thirteenth, 1968. Pam, feeling ignored while Jim was on the road, had a fling with actor John Phillip Law of Barbarella fame. She made sure Morrison heard about it and they had many a long-distance argument over it. Her idea was to force him to come home and finally he did the next best thing. Mirandi Babitz remembers: "He finally said she better get her ass out to New York where he was. She drove to the airport, parked the car in the regular parking lot, and took a flight to New York. She came back two weeks later and the police had towed it and discovered the kilo of marijuana she'd left in the trunk. They busted her, but Diane Gardiner [The Doors' publicist] had someone get her out on a first defense. I don't know how... a kilo was a lot in those days, but I think they realized she wasn't selling, she was just spaced out."


Even though he was pleased with many of the new songs, Morrison drank heavily during the recording sessions of LA Woman. As usual, this put additional pressure on everyone involved. Pam came to a few of the sessions, but her presence did little to change things. One time, however, she got hold of Jim's bottle and drank it to keep him from it. Bruce Botnick describes what happened next: "So here were the two of them, completely out of their minds and crying. He started shaking her violently. I think he was putting me on. She was crying out of control, telling him he shouldn't drink any more and that's why she drank it. And I'm cleaning up, and I said, 'Hey, man, it's pretty late.' He looked up, stopped shaking her, said, 'Yeah, right,' and hugged her, and they walked out arm in arm. I felt he had done all that for effect. 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 appeal of cinema lies in the fear of death — While The Lords contains many interesting insights on vision in general and cinematography in particular, it is The New Creatures that really shows Morrison's more poetic side. Dedicated "To Pamela Susan," the work resounds with imaginative verse centering mostly on sexual conflict and is interwoven with images of pain and death. Some of the poems began as ideas for songs while others took the themes of songs and explored them in a new direction. Though the meanings are usually obscure and shadowy, the language and depth of thought is often fascinating. The Lords appease us with images. They give us books, concerts, galleries, shows. Especially the cinemas. Through art they confuse us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted and indifferent. Morrison had originally thought of the "Lords" as the people who control society, but later the concept evolved into something else: "Now to me, the 'Lords' mean something entirely different. It's like the opposite. Somehow the Lords are a romantic race of people who have found a way to control their environment and their own lives. They're somehow different from other people." —"Break On Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison" (ekindle, 2014) by James Riordan

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