Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sexual revolution, Jim Morrison's little girl

The first oral contraceptive, Enovid, was approved by the FDA in 1960. The Pill became the symbol of the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. Access to new dating apps such as Grindr and Tinder have opened a new world of possibilities. Despite this, research suggests that we’re actually having less sex now than we have for decades. In March, American researchers Jean Twenge, Ryne Sherman and Brooke Wells published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior showing that Americans were having sex on average nine fewer times per year in the early 2010s compared to the late 1990s – a 15% drop from 62 times a year to just 53. The researchers argued the drops may be due to increasing levels of unhappiness. Western societies in particular have seen a mental health epidemic in the past few decades, primarily depression and anxiety disorders. There is a strong correlation between depressive symptoms and reduction in sexual activity and desire. Bringing this evidence together Twenge, Sherman and Wells argue there is a causal link between drops in happiness and average drops in sexual activity. Research connects these mental health epidemics with the increasingly insecure nature of modern life, particularly for younger generations. It is this generation that has shown the highest drops in sexual activity, with research from Jean Twenge showing millennials are reporting having fewer sexual encounters than either Generation X or the baby boomers did at the same age. Job and housing insecurity, the fear of climate change, and the destruction of communal spaces and social life, have all been found to connect to mental health problems. A mixture of work, insecurity and technology is leading us all to feel slightly less aroused. Drops in sexual activity could be argued, therefore, to reflect the nature of modern life. This phenomenon is a mixture of insecurity and technology. Tackling the sexual decline will require dealing with the very causes of the mental health crisis facing Western worlds – a crisis that is underpinned by job and housing insecurity, fears of climate change, and the loss of communal and social spaces. Source:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy's 100th Anniversary is on May 29, 1917. The National Archives is set to release the last remaining top-secret files about JFK’s 1963 assassination. The trove of some 3,600 files, mostly from the FBI and CIA, were part of the collection assembled and sealed by the Archives, on the condition that they all be made public by October 2017. But there’s a catch: According to the same law, President Donald Trump has the ability to block the release of any or all of the documents—if he certifies that keeping them secret is a matter of national security. Philip Shenon, author of “A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination,” wrote recently in Politico Magazine the Archives could begin the process of releasing the estimated 3,600 files still under seal within weeks. As most of the files come from the FBI and CIA, the hope is that some of them may shed light on whether those agencies missed evidence of a conspiracy involving Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Many people believed the government either didn’t know or was hiding the real truth behind the assassination, and conspiracy theories abounded (as evidenced by Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie “JFK”).

—Steve Wheeler: Anyone who saw the Oliver Stone film would never think that Jim Morrison loved a group like the Beach Boys. He was such a dark, morose character in that film. What are your thoughts about the Stone movie? —Frank Lisciandro: I found it to be intolerable. Oliver Stone did not know, or maybe he did not want to know, who Jim Morrison was and he did not come close to capturing the essence of Jim. The film never presented the quiet, sensitive, extremely intelligent human being that Jim was off and on the stage. He wasn’t frantic and manic as he is portrayed in this Hollywood movie. Jim had a sensational sense of humor and that is what is entirely lacking in the Stone film. The guy was absolutely hilariously funny and he would make himself the butt of jokes. I never saw Jim lock someone in a closet and set the room on the fire. I couldn’t even imagine him doing anything remotely like that; this was absolutely not in his nature or personality. He was not a violent person. If Jim needed to get back at you, he would do it with words, and he could be devastating that way. Source:

Jim Morrison’s arrival in Los Angeles in January 1964 coincided with the birth of a generation whose tumultuous course was shaped profoundly by disaster. Only weeks prior to Morrison’s arrival, the dreams of Camelot were blown to hell when John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The bullets fired that day shattered not only flesh and bone, but the hopes of an entire nation for its future. Morrison once observed that human beings “have no real control over events or their own lives.” Jim Morrison’s arrival in Los Angeles that January also coincided with the arrival of the Whisky a Go-Go, the first club on the Sunset Strip to cater to the burgeoning youth culture. 

The New York Times called the club a “fad” and seemed shocked by the fact bare-midriffed, mini-skirted go-go girls were spinning records and dancing in glass cages. It was a new concept, and Mary Werbelow was one of those who was able to cash in on the craze. Jim had been anxious for Mary’s arrival, and had envisioned the two of them sharing an apartment, much as they had dreamed of back in Clearwater. Unfortunately, Mary now had plans of her own, not all of which included Jim. She wanted to live alone, she told Morrison. Moreover, she wanted to find an agent and seriously pursue a dancing career. Mary’s stubbornness angered and disappointed Jim. “He was crazy about her,” remembers Ray Manzarek, echoing Bryan Gates’ observations: “Mary was the love of Jim’s life.” Perhaps that had been true at one time. Recalls Manzarek, “Jim told her to stop dancing. He said, ‘Don’t do this. Stay in school, get your degree, finish up in art.’ And Mary said ‘No, I want to dance.’ Jim said, ‘Look, I’ll take care of us, this band is going all the way,’ but Mary said, ‘No I don’t like your band, I don’t think this band is going all the way.’

Jim drifted, spending a short time with a friend from UCLA, Dennis Jakob, living on the rooftop of the building in Venice where Dennis lived; today the building has been renamed “The Morrison.” Since graduation, Jim’s short hair had grown out until it curled around his face. Morrison had always been attractive. Now he was beautiful. There is little to say about Jim and Pamela in their early days together. Maybe if there had been more drama in the beginning then we’d know more about the relationship between Jim and his “little girl” during that relatively brief period of tranquilitybetween their first meeting in 1966 and The Doors’ first real taste of success. 

Pam Courson is almost a cipher in The Doors story, but Raeanne Bee and Alix Chavasse are trying to change that, as they’re writing a biography of Courson tentatively titled, “She Dances in a Ring of Fire: The Life and Death of an American Muse”, they hope to publish in the near future. Here is an excerpt from the introduction to their forthcoming book: One person more than any other, Pamela Courson, (Morrison’s common-law wife, friend, editor) withstood his fleeting and unpredictable darkness, and it has been thanks to her influence that the world is now able to recognize Jim as a brilliant poetic visionary. Their relationship was, by all counts, unconventional and strange. Jim took care of Pamela and found in her a kindred spirit and muse, while Pamela encouraged Jim’s creative gifts and tried to save him from the toxic rock scene that was swallowing him alive. They fought like hell, had affairs, and took turns tempting fate through their vices and whims, but in the end, they always returned home (wherever that was at any given time) to one another. Despite her personal demons, Pam’s loyalty and faith in his work remained constant until her premature death in 1974. Despite Morrison’s efforts to protect Pamela through his last will and testament, history has not been so giving, and she continues to this day to be a beautiful mystery, vilified and ultimately misunderstood. Source:

Oliver Stone simply tried to make Meg Ryan look as much like Pam Courson as possible physically (though one insider observed “It’s probably the only movie in history where the lead actors don’t even come close to being as beautiful as the people they’re portraying”), while the character’s words and actions seemed to bear little resemblance to anything Pamela might have said or done in real life. “That was just some other person, that’s all,” says Julia Negron of the character Meg Ryan plays in The Doors. When Cheri Siddons first saw the script of Oliver Stone, she told Stone that the Jim she knew—and she had known Jim quite well—was not incessantly dark and dangerous, but a loving, compassionate, funny man. Stone’s response to Cheri’s concerns was typical: “That Jim would make a boring movie,” he told her, “and I don’t want to make a boring movie.” In a 1994 interview, Robby Krieger said that Oliver Stone's film didn't give the viewer “any kind of understanding of what made Jim Morrison tick.” John Densmore said of Jim & Pam: “They were like Romeo and Juliet. They fought like hell, but they were meant to be together.” The Doors' manager Bill Siddons said: “Pamela was the only one. I knew there were other ones, but ultimately Pamela was always the only real one.” —"Angels Dance, Angels Die: The Tragic Romance of Pamela and Jim Morrison" (2010) by Patricia Butler

“Everything at the Castle was theater,” said Paul Rothchild. “Jim was a colossal madman pursued by his own demons. Jim took Nico up in a tower, and Jim, stoned out of his mind, walked along the edge of the parapet. Here’s this rock star at the peak of his career risking his life to prove to this girl that life is nothing. ‘This is theater, I’m doing this theater for you.’ He asked Nico to walk the same line and she backed down. I think Edie Sedgwick would have accepted his challenge.” Alain Ronay (1967): "The scene was a crowded locker room at California State University at Long Beach. Jim had just been told that he was to go on stage in a few minutes and that Nico, the Warhol superstar, in a predatory mood, had just flown in from New York to confront his long-standing girlfriend, Pamela. As part of her offensive, Nico had dyed her trademark blonde hair a flaming red to match Pam's. Jim became visibly edgy at the news. Nothing happened, though." 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Anne of Green Gables, Redheads, LSD, Jim Morrison: An Hour for Magic

Anne of Green Gables returns in a new adaption for Netflix. Debuting May 12, 2017, Anne With an E stars newcomer Amybeth McNulty. Anne Shirley is the heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables. If you know only one thing about Anne Shirley, it is most likely that she has red hair, braided into pigtails, sticking out from underneath an unfortunate straw hat. In the 1890s, red hair was a symbol of witchiness and passion.

Anne's hair immediately establishes her as an outsider. It was Moira Walley-Beckett's interest in trauma that attracted her to participate in both Breaking Bad and Anne of Green Gables' screenwriting"I am drawn to the psychology of wounded people," she says. Anne is also a romance, but a slow-burning one. Margaret Atwood wrote in an essay on the occasion of the Anne of Green Gables centenary, "The presiding genius of Anne is not the gritty gray Angel of Realism, but the rainbow-coloured, dove-winged Godlet of the Heart's Desire."

Gilbert Blythe first appears in Anne of Green Gables at school, “a tall boy, with curly brown hair, roguish hazel eyes and a mouth twisted into a teasing smile”. Gilbert Blythe is handsome, smart, witty and chivalrous. But he also turns out to be one of the great feminist heroes: he and Anne are the best students in their year, and he openly admires her brilliance and mouthiness, saying brains are more important than looks while she arrogantly disdains him for years, even when he saves her from drowning. Anne finally realises she loves Gilbert in the third book in the series, Anne of the Island. Gilbert tells her he loved her since the first day he saw her and called her 'Carrots,' when she broke her slate over his head. Years later, he gives up his job offer of teaching at the Avonlea school so that Anne may live at Green Gables.

Pamela Courson is usually mentioned in biographies of Jim Morrison as his redhead 'cosmic mate' but a closer look at her as a person is usually evaded. John Morton, from the American psychedelic garage-rock band of the 1960s Hunger, recounts how a fortuitous rendezvous with Pamela at the Whisky A Go Go inspired them to write the song Colors, published in 1969: "She came back stage and I just figured she was a groupie. She said her name was Valerie Sunshine (this may not have been unusual; in an article about her boutique Themis, Pam used the pseudonym Pamela Roselilly). She told us she wasn’t interested in sex but she had some LSD she wanted to share and go down to Santa Monica beach. Me, Valerie Sunshine, and Mike Lane walked on the beach in Santa Monica. The night was perfect on the beach, full moon and turquoise ocean with beautiful waves rolling in. In the distance you could see the lights on the pier. Valerie was like a goddess with long red hair, in a white lace see through blouse and an airy short white skirt. She was running and skipping on the sand like a carefree child. She just breezed through the air, floating like a leaf, a beautiful white leaf. Valerie had that magical quality that just drew you in. We were all high on Blue Owsley, one of the strongest mind-altering acid you could take.

Valerie was just this innocent soul, I was envisioning her as an angel passing through time. She was magical. All of sudden the intensity of colors just emerged from nowhere. She smiled and said “can you see how fantastic the world is?” She said, “Create me a song!” We looked over at the pier and flashed on the beautiful lights and colors and watched the waves roll in simultaneously from the turquoise sea under a bright moonlit sky and Mike Lane sang “lights flashing, images before my eyes, people turning finally/all the colors in the world have come from me.” I finished with “try and realize what life is worth if you don’t have a disguise.” At that moment there was a full orchestra at my command and the music just flowed in, the violins and strings just resounded as if I was conducting the song. She then became the mad hatter and said “I’m late! I’m late for a very important date.” We drove back to The Whisky and Valerie said as she got out of the van, “in the real world my name is Pam—Pam Courson.” Then she disappeared into the crowd. The next day as we were rehearsing we put together our new song “Colors.” Source:

Jim Morrison was a genuine Southern gentleman and believed that gallantry, charm and a dash of manners were the ingredients to win a woman’s heart. Pamela Courson Morrison was Jim’s soulmate, refuge and friend. Morrison thought and felt in planetary terms, and his mind had an uncanny way of reaching way back in time. In the heart and soul of Jim Morrison there was an uncontrollable rage against injustice. I never knew him to harm anyone physically—except himself. And then it was only to make a point, a statement he deemed important enough to suffer for. Jim always gave you back at least as much as you gave him. He always gave a good count and never short-weighted anyone. But in the last years of his incredible life, he ceased being other people’s image of him. He changed, he began to dislike performing in large halls and finally decided not to do it anymore. He became himself. His personality and his physical appearance were not transformed for the same purpose that a chameleon changes colors to blend into the environment. Jim changed on the outside because his mind was evolving into new levels of awareness. It was the final transition into James Douglas Morrison, Poet, that most confused and alienated his fans. They wanted him to stand still, to be forever the leather-limbed dark angel. For Jim that would have been as intolerable as wearing a mask to a fete and never again being able to remove it. In the years 1966 and 1967, Jim used LSD to journey to the frontiers of divine madness, seeking inspiration beyond the perimeter of reason. He was out there with Homer, Blake, Rimbaud, Poe, Whitman and others. The visions and portents he experienced were the breath and fire of his poems, lyrics and observations. Some of his visions were brilliant and clear, filled with universal mythological and symbolic images. Other times, what he saw was horrible and the words he put on paper could not adequately convey the abstract terror and nightmare transparency. —"Jim Morrison: An Hour for Magic" (1996) by Frank Lisciandro

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Woodshock (Kirsten Dunst), Jim Morrison's psychedelic interview

Woodshock will opens in theatres on September 15, 2017. Synopsis: A woman falls deeper into paranoia after taking a deadly drug. Kirsten Dunst stars as Theresa, spiraling in the wake of profound loss, torn between her fractured emotional state and the reality-altering effects of a potent cannabinoid drug. Immersive and spellbinding, Woodshock transcends genre to become a singularly thrilling cinematic experience that marks the arrival of Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy as a major new voice in film. Woodshock is a hypnotic exploration of isolation, paranoia, and grief that exists in a dream-world all its own. Source:

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), a potent psychoactive substance, induces profound changes in various mental domains, including perception, self-awareness and emotions. As with the other psychedelics (for example, psilocybin and mescaline), these effects are mainly mediated through agonism at the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor. Although several modern studies on psilocybin have been conducted, recent data on LSD in humans are still very limited. LSD hits the receptor at an unexpected angle, forcing it to create a lid and "trapping" the LSD in, leading to continual hallucination for up to 12 hours. It's an incredibly powerful drug, whereas most drugs as measured in grams, LSD is measured in 1/100,000th of a gram, the equivalent of 1/10th of the mass of a grain of sand. Permanent hallucinations are a possible and life-altering effect of the drug’s use. Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptive Disorder is considered to be a complex hallucinogen-induced psychosis  that feels like a "permanent trip". Bad trips give some users feelings of panic, confusion, sadness, and scary images. It’s nearly impossible to predict who will experience a good trip or a bad trip. Dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure, trembling, uncontrollable shaking, sweating, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite are all frequently reported effects. Source:

Pure unbounded joy or the beginning of the end? Psychedelic interview with the leader of "The Doors", Jim Morrison, in 1968.

Timothy Leary had announced that LSD was the most powerful aphrodisiac ever discovered. Terrence McKenna wrote about his LSD experiences in "The Invisible Landscape" (1975) a book that mixes psychedelics, shamanism, schizophrenic theory, molecular biology, and the implications of the neuro-consciousness frontier (how the composition of psychedelic compounds like mescaline, psilocybin, and ibogaine share a relation with the neuro-receptors in our brains). Between May 1, 1966, and April 30, 1967, the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control had seized approximately 1.6 million LSD acid doses. Thorazine was the traditional antidote for a bad LSD trip. In 1966, Pamela Courson revealed how Morrison was having awful nightmares about the Vietnam bombings, stating how they would burn through his flesh and the Vietnamese people around him. Morrison watched the bloodshed televised on every major American news station. Morrison’s lyric, “the music is your special friend, dance on fire as it intends,” from “When the Music’s Over” represented his belief that America’s existing social structures were on the verge of collapse. The Doors’ political motivation behind Waiting for the Sun is further realized in their track “Summer’s Almost Gone.” Written by Morrison in the winter after the New Haven arrest, the song confirms the fact that The Doors and America’s rebellious youth were no longer wallowing in the “Summer of Love.” The lyric that resonates most to this fact is when Morrison exclaims, “where will we be, when the summer’s gone?” as if he realized the United States was about to burst into chaos but was not sure when or how its bubble would burst. —"Storming Heaven: LSD & The American Dream" (2011) by Jay Stevens

“You never knew whether Jim would show up as the erudite, poetic scholar or the kamikaze drunk,” said The Doors' producer Paul Rothchild. Jim would tell Pamela that the paranoid song “Five to one” referred to exactly that configuration: Paul Rothchild, Bruce Botnick, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger, all, in Jim’s estimation, pitted against him. Paul Rothchild had known, in a peripheral way, that Jim had a girlfriend but, he said, “I didn’t become really become aware of Pamela until the second album. She was around a great deal more then. Every time he saw her coming into the studio, my friend [assistant engineer] Fritz Richmond used to call out, ‘Here comes the most beautiful girl in the world!’ And she was. She was very beautiful.” But while Paul was as charmed by Pamela’s beauty and apparent sweetness as anybody, he also sensed something under the surface that made him wary. “I have a thing called red signal danger, an alarm lights up in my head,” he said. “And to me she was dangerous. There was nothing but trouble there.” But as Jim had explained to January Jensen, trouble was just what he’d been looking for in a woman. Mirandi Babitz remembers Pamela mentioning that she had met Jim for the first time at a campus party either at UCLA or LACC, a story January Jensen confirms as well, based on Jim’s version of the event. In retrospect, it was a more romantic story than Oliver Stone’s version. —"Angels Dance and Angels Die: The Tragic Romance of Pamela and Jim Morrison" (2010) by Patricia Butler

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

40th Anniversary of Joan Crawford's death

LUCILLE LESUEUR YOU HAVE BEEN PLACED UNDER CONTRACT MGM STUDIO STOP SIX MONTH OPTION STOP SEVENTY FIVE DOLLARS A WEEK STOP LEAVE IMMEDIATELY FOR CALIFORNIA STOP — I kept the telegram clutched in my hand as the train rattled out of Kansas City and then swam on with chugging, steady strokes across this incredibly broad land—across plains and fields and forests I’d never really known existed, toward a destination I’d never really known existed either, Hollywood. Did they dance in movies? All that mattered was dancing. I’d seen six movies in my whole life. No one danced! And I wanted to be the best dancer in the world. Lucille LeSueur, a seventeen-year-old bursting with energy, with pent-up spirits. I longed to leap into the aisle and dance. Instead, I sat there sedately in my gray plaid suit, my small gray cloche hat pulled down to my eyes, my feet resting on my one suitcase. I was wearing pumps with huge bows, and inside the suitcase there were additional pumps with bows. Not many, it was a small case. Producer Harry Rapf from MGM had seen me dancing in the chorus of Innocent Eyes and offered a screen test to “the girl third from the left in the back row.” The girl third from the left would never even have taken the test if it hadn’t been for theatrical agent Nils T. Granlund, dear old Granny Granlund, the chorus girl’s friend in need. What was I thinking of, he said. Did I want to spend the rest of my life doing a time step in some Broadway chorus? Fighting for a place in the front row? So I took the test, along with eighteen others, a routine affair that consisted of walking toward the camera, stopping where a mark had been drawn on the floor, then full face to the camera, profile to the camera, after which I was to look “sad, mad, questioning, wistful and coy.” It was all over in fifteen minutes, but I was called back the next day to make a second test. This time Nils Granlund practically had to drag me. This time Mr. Rapf and Bob Rubin were introduced to me. Would I like to be an actress, they asked. No, I said candidly, I’d like to be a dancer. I wasn’t interested in acting. I was far more interested in going home for Christmas. So I went home. I was helping Mother iron shirts in the laundry agency when the wire came from MGM. We read it with absolute amazement. Mother never had approved of show business, she had all the arguments most parents have to a girl away from home in a glamour business, but those seventy-five dollars a week paralyzed her negatives. Mine too. Compared with the twelve dollars a week I’d earned behind the notions counter at Kline’s Department Store in Kansas City, compared with the thirty-five a week dancing in a Shubert chorus line and doubling in a nightclub—seventy-five dollars sounded a veritable fortune! Two days later, I was on the train. New Year’s Day 1925.

What would Hollywood expect? I couldn’t possibly foresee that awaiting me were love, laughter and disaster, power, and a lovely pinnacle. Not awaiting me either, experiences to be worked for, living that would demand everything I could give and that would give to me in return. I couldn’t possibly foresee that Hollywood was to be my high school and college. Everything I’d ever learn was to stem from the people I worked with, the characters I played, the people I learned to love. Seventeen is rebellious—and suppliant for reassurance. It took an endless while for the train to finally pull into the station at Los Angeles and when it did, I scanned the platform anxiously. There would be, I felt sure, a welcoming committee from the studio, people to guide me. Mr. Rapf probably. I searched the passing faces. People were rushing toward each other, hugging and kissing, there was buoyance, a sound of happiness in the air. But no one for me. Mr. Rapf had the sagacious look of a vaudeville agent, an old-time showman. I scrutinized the crowd, not a single sagacious look. The crowd was thinning. Redcaps were trundling away the luggage. I quickened my pace, ran, following my suitcase. It was a long walk, and when we got to the station itself there was a bewildering crowd of people. I walked back and forth as if I were expecting someone. It grew more and more quiet. I leaned against a pillar waiting. It must have been a strong pillar, for at this time I weighed one hundred and forty-five pounds of baby fat. I was self-conscious, unsure, and my “style” was strictly dreadful. I hated my round face, I hated my freckles, my big mouth and eyes.

I tried to stretch my five feet three as tall as possible, tossed my head in the air, poked my chin out, and dared people to notice me. When the station was virtually empty, I hid my face against the pillar sobbing. This alone I’d never been in my life. Suddenly into the loneliness came the sound of whistling. Around and around it went like the buzzing of a bee. I began to recognize the tune. I’d sung it myself at Harry Richman’s nightclub in New York, “When my sweetie walks down the street, all the little birdies go tweet, tweet, tweet...” I looked up to see a young man, strolling toward me, his hands in his pockets, still whistling and almost on key. He nodded politely as he approached and asked if he could be of any help. He was just a teenager too, so I blew my nose and sobbed my story. He gave me a quick appraisal, head to toe, and whistled his surprise, the kind of whistle every girl likes to get. “Why you must be Lucille LeSueur!” he said. “Honey, I’m looking for you. I’m the Welcoming Committee from the studio.” He was Larry Barbier, the publicity department office boy—they’d instructed him to go down to the station and meet one of Harry Rapf’s “show girls” from New York. “I was looking for a dame six feet tall with a big hat and wolfhounds,” Larry said, and we both laughed. Obviously I was no show girl, I was a pony. “Rapf usually signs show girls,” Larry said. “Come along, honey, we’ll find your luggage.” One nice thing—he did have a limousine waiting, with a chauffeur, and we drove out a long, long way through streets lined with palm trees. An infinity of palm trees. In nothing flat I discovered that the pretty young girls in film business were just as numerous. Business was booming. Metro had taken over the Goldwyn Studios ten months before. They were making big pictures, The Merry Widow, The Unholy Three, The Great Divide; they had wonderful stars like Ramon Novarro and Lon Chaney, Mae Murray, Lillian Gish, Alice Terry, Buster Keaton and Marion Davies. But they were constantly signing new talent, searching for some face or personality that might develop into stellar box office. Besides, every studio boss had some relative or protégé who wished a job. It was routine. We dropped my bag at the Washington Hotel in Culver City, continued on to the studio and signed the contract. It was all as unreal as a dream. What really hit me was that six-month option. I had six months to prove something. If I failed to make it, they could drop me. However, I had no time to worry about that—my screen test was scheduled for the next day. I’d never have gotten through it except for cameraman Johnny Arnold (later, for years, head of MGM’s camera department) and Tommy Shagrue, the little redheaded Irish electrician. They must have been pretty disappointed in me, freckles and all. But Johnny, seeing how tense I was, insisted that I’d photograph. “Don’t be afraid of that thing,” he said, pointing to the camera. “It’s only got one eye, honey, and it can’t talk back to you.” He and Tommy worked with all the great stars. MGM watched zealously over their stars in those days, and of first importance was the choice of cameramen, Ollie Marsh to this star, George Barnes or George Folsey to that star... Johnny Arnold made the assignments with great care. But he also ran these routine tests of newcomers every week, kids who’d last six months or less. When I was told to smile, I smiled. “Turn your profile to the camera, dear.” I turned. “Now let’s have a few lines from this play, right here.” Sad lines. It was very obvious—even to me—that all I knew how to do was dance. “Can you cry?” I thought of that six-month option, started crying and couldn’t stop. Tommy Shagrue had once hoofed in vaudeville. “You’re a dancer, aren’t you?” he asked. “Bet you can’t do this one.” He cut loose with a buck-and-wing. “Bet I can!” And I did. “Okay,” Tommy said, “now go in there and do your scene, honey. Give it everything you’ve got.” I gave. What the test looked like I never knew, but Johnny told me it was okay. 

“A lot of girls look just alike,” he said. “You don’t look like anyone else. You’re athletic-looking and your face is built” whatever that meant. Within a week, I was spending most of my time before the camera. Not the movie camera, but the still camera in publicity. I was strictly the “action queen” of cheesecake, as Greta Garbo had been. Pete Smith, head of the Publicity Department, had just bought an action Graflex for photographer Don Gilum and Don’s action shots were favorites with newspaper editors. There were a number of young starlets around the studio. Don Gilum would take Dorothy Sebastian and me over to the University of Southern California track—an excuse to put us in shorts and T-shirts—and snap us while we ran the fifty-yard dash and took the hurdles. Or he’d take us out to Santa Monica beach—an excuse for bathing suits—where we’d play volleyball, leap on the sands, kick, jump and play football, not the authentic version of course. We’d kick a football—I damn near broke my toe the first time—or toss a pass in very feminine fashion while Don’s camera caught us. There was no such thing as a portable radio, but the prop man improvised a horn on a box when Dorothy and I danced, and the caption read, “to the music of a portable radio.”

That gave the manufacturers an idea. Dorothy Sebastian and I became devoted friends. She was a jolly, vital girl from Alabama and we loved these excursions to the beach. We kicked, leaped, worked out with dumbbells, lifted iron weights and played with boxing gloves as if it were a game. For me it was. I probably had more pictures taken than any girl who’d ever been signed at the studio, because, as a dancer, I could leap the highest and jump the farthest. I threw myself into action shots with youthful abandon. They also took pictures of me as I came out of a firecracker for the Fourth of July, climbing down a chimney in a fur-trimmed Santa Claus bathing suit with a Teddy bear in my pack, and in all sorts of chiffon scarves and beads I’d dig up in wardrobe, some of the most artistic of these for European publication. Once they took me down to Seventh and Broadway in Los Angeles, put me in a traffic cop’s hat and let me stop traffic. I stopped quite a bit of traffic, and that photo broke in newspapers across country. I was in pictures, that’s true, but not moving. As a matter of fact, my first appearance before the moving camera was anonymous. I doubled for Norma Shearer in her dual role in Lady of the Night. This was the story of a reform-school graduate and a judge’s daughter, both in love with the same young inventor. Full face there’s no resemblance between Norma and me, but our profiles did look somewhat alike. While Norma played the Tough Girl (full front, close-up), I played the Lady (with my back to the camera); when she did the Lady, I was the Tough Girl (with my back to the camera). Between times, I tried to watch everything Norma did, for she was that wonderful being, a star. Also, she dated Irving Thalberg, who was in charge of studio production. Thalberg would come by the set occasionally, a cool-looking, dark young man who tossed a gold coin in the air, tossed it and tossed it, with such concentration that you never dared speak to him. I didn’t envy Norma, but I did long for a friend at court! She had Thalberg, Marion Davies had Mr. Hearst, Jeanette MacDonald had a good education and a hard-working mother, I, well, I still had never caught sight of that vanished showman with the sagacious look. Mr. Rapf I had seen only that once in New York. He evidently had forgotten I was here. No one else knew, except, of course, Johnny Arnold, Tommy Shagrue, the boys in publicity, Lulu, the matron in charge of the dressing rooms, and Edith and Eleanor in hairdressing. I was always showing up in hairdressing to experiment and watch. I couldn’t sit and watch those six precious months slide by. There were dozens of girls on the lot, with contracts and theatrical experience, and friends at court. I’d find out what pictures were being cast, then attempt to secure a bit part or extra work. What I didn’t grasp was that when Mr. Rapf went east looking for talent he wasn’t looking for actresses, he was looking for background glamour, which is certainly what I was. In New York I’d been so far back I never did see the audience.

Now in Hollywood I was still background glamour. Carey Wilson cast me—at Mr. Rapf’s suggestion!—as Miss MGM, introducing a sales film which would show clips from forthcoming MGM attractions to exhibitors at the annual convention. Mr. Wilson sent me to Sophie Watman in wardrobe for plain opera pumps—no bows—size two and a half at that time. The opening shot was of me, all legs, in high-heeled black patent leather pumps. I liked Mr. Wilson and he became one of my self-appointed guardian angels. Later he told me why. He was used to girls in what he calls “the Hollywood pattern”: brassy exteriors, a vamp technique and the ability to scheme, plan and finagle to get ahead. “You were different, you were just plain scared to death,” he told me years later. “You hadn’t come to a boil yet. You’d have been overwhelmed anywhere and here you were in a spot that was honestly overwhelming, the biggest studio in the business, a place teeming with the brightest stars.” —"A Portrait of Joan: The Autobiography of Joan Crawford" (1962) edited by Jane Kesner Ardmore

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Twin Peaks returns, F. Scott Fitzgerald's lost stories, Jim Morrison's poetic vision

TWIN PEAKS—2017 Teaser for the return of David Lynch's SHOWTIME Series. After 25 years, the cult hit Twin Peaks is finally returning to television. The eerie show, which first debuted on ABC in 1990, is getting a revival on Showtime beginning May 21. The film genre that fascinates Lynch most of all is film noir—a style that reached its pinnacle at midcentury—with its shadowy lighting, brooding detectives, and femmes fatales. Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001), and Blue Velvet (1986) are all neo-noirs. “There’s a beguiling and magnetic mood,” Lynch once said of the genre. “There’s so much darkness, and there’s so much room to dream.” Laura Palmer is, in Lynch’s words, “radiant on the surface but dying inside”—Through the course of the series, you can detect Lynch’s realization that the films he’s loved, from Laura to Vertigo, contain their own hidden stories. Only by making an even larger story, a story expansive enough to contain all the rest of them, could he begin to get at the one that most needed to be told. For Agent Cooper, Twin Peaks is an idyll, but to the contemporary viewer, it’s a more like mirage. Source:

As Agent Cooper unravels the actual story of Laura’s demise, the truth involves a much wider conspiracy than originally conceived. With his unorthodox divinatory methods of solving crime, Cooper astounds local law enforcement with the concept of utilizing synchronicity to associate similar names with inanimate objects in a game of rock toss.  This odd practice will configure Cooper as both a classic pulp detective figure along the lines of Sam Spade, but also grant a mystical side from which he will draw to peer into the psychosphere. Mircea Eliade defined shamanism not as religion, but as a “technique of ecstasy,” a system of ecstatic and therapeutic methods whose purpose is to obtain contact with the parallel universe of spirits. In Twin Peaks, it is the light in the morgue over the place where the body of Laura Palmer had been kept, and which is then visited by Mike, the one-armed man, who recites the famous poem: “Through the darkness of futures past The magician longs to see; One chants out between two worlds ‘Fire walk with me.’” There, in a strange little verse, we have the key to unlocking the mystery not only of Twin Peaks but virtually all of Lynch’s films: the suspension of normal laws of time (“futures past”) and the idea that the magician lives “between two worlds.” The suspension of normal, linear narrative event in favor of a dreamlike, hallucinatory set of images that are taking place all over the fourth dimension is part of Lynch’s appeal as a director. ‘I learned that just beneath the surface there’s another world, and still different worlds as you dig deeper.’ –David Lynch Source:

Jim Morrison was a man who should have stomped as a shaman in the ritualistic paces that left footprints, unseen and windswept but indelible, on the floor of the desert landscape. Jim’s face—the visage of an Adonis whose bright smile and gleaming eyes were in the process of beholding a grand vision. Jim, like Rimbaud, knew that words were a sword in an endless battle with a culture that could care less about poetry, mysticism, wisdom, rhythm, vision, and prophecy. The rebels who were his contemporaries needed a Dionysus, a true Jesus, an actor who could live and—most importantly die—as the eternal messiah and scapegoat. Artaud and Nietzsche combined to teach him that his own life and death had to be theatrical in nature. Forget Dylan and his protest songs. Forget The Beatles and their innocent image, which made the psychedelic into the secure. Forget The Stones and their bad-boy image, which was so calculated that it made their desire for “Satisfaction” passionless and commercial. Jim became a rock god of an industry that worshiped the image of the swaggering frontman (the Jaggers and Daltreys that imitated him).

Jim metamorphosed into a Dionysus who was willing to carry out a martyrdom for a people who had lost all sense of the sacred—a people who had the Kennedys and MLK killed, “the Moral Majority…” Jim Morrison, now as fiery an orator, a biblical-style prophet, no longer the shaman from the desert floors of peyote trances, was using the rhetorical fire-and-brimstone of Nixon’s Moral Majority—the very technique of his enemies—to bring about revolution. But Morrison's passion would be made meaningless by the same mentality that drove Nietzsche to the asylum and forced Rimbaud to abandon poetry. Illiterate audiences wanted him half-naked, teasing, and pornographic in stark black-and-white images. They weren’t able to comprehend that Jim’s life was made for a stage. The depth of his martyrdom was disproportionate to the depth of his audiences’ understanding, so that when he performed, he was taken for a drunken fool who refused to sing the hits. Instead, he’d dance like a shaman, hide under stages, improvise poems and lyrics, joke... Jim Morrison’s martyrdom became a tragedy of incomprehension. Source:

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a wunderkind by many accounts destroyed by the hedonism of the ‘Golden Twenties’ he defined. A common take on the trajectory of Fitzgerald’s life runs through the arc of fame and success after the publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, at the age of 24, to death in obscurity at the end of a late wilderness period marred by alcoholism and a sense of personal failure. The descent of his effervescent wife, Zelda, “the first American flapper” as he called her, into ever more severe mental illness, has added another layer to the tragic aura that has built up around the author’s life story. Fitzgerald died at 44, desperately trying, and failing to successfully write for Hollywood, “a great sculptor hired to do a plumbing job”, as Billy Wilder put it. Most of the stories collected in I'd Die For You were written through the 1930s, in an increasingly dark period.

There are ostensibly bleak currents running through these stories – divorce, suicide, the effects of the Depression – but what really makes an impression is the humour. Some of Fitzgerald’s stories can read at times as frothy throwaway bagatelles but from the first, early (1919) story in this collection, The I.O.U., a Woody Allen-ish sensibility comes to the fore. Preston Sturges would have made a sympathetic collaborator. Doctors are, understandably, targets for Fitzgerald’s satire, as in the raucous Women in the House, as are the Hollywood set of the title story. It’s possible that his wit was piqued as his life became ever more traumatic and pressured, literally “writing for his life”, and he moved his focus away from the frivolous and the tragic. Source:

—Jim Morrison: How many other guys have you fucked since you been with me? —Pamela: How many dogs have you fucked? You're the only one who couldn't make it, you asshole, the only limp dick! —Jim Morrison: Would you die for me? (The Doors, 1991)

—Frank Lisciandro: In 1990, Oliver Stone’s film was in pre-production and Stone’s production team asked me about using my photographs for research, and about me being a consultant for the film. So I asked to see Stone’s script before accepting their offer. Stone responded that he didn’t allow anyone to read his scripts before production. I replied that I didn’t want to be a consultant on his film if I didn’t know how he intended to portray Jim. I didn’t want to be part of spreading any more lies, rumors and misinformation. Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together is still the #1 Rated Morrison tome on Amazon. Michael McClure  confirmed my own unschooled opinion of Jim’s work, saying that Jim Morrison was one of the finest poets of his generation. I also appreciated his general review of the ’60s art scene in L.A. 

—I wanted a photograph (for the front cover of Friends Gathered Together) that was recognizable as Jim and one that captured the viewer immediately. In that photograph Jim is looking at the camera so he’s looking at the viewer; his expression is neutral and engaging. There’s an instant contact.  From the beginning I thought of the book as a gathering of friends each adding their testimony for a true picture of the character and person of Jim Morrison. Over the years Jim’s fans have matured. They want to know about Jim’s character, about his poetry, his filmmaking, his lyrics and books. They want evidence and facts and are not as ready to rely on rumor and urban legend.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Moral Codes and Broken Dreams: L.A. Confidential's, The Black Dahlia (Hard-Boiled Hollywood), Jim Morrison (Laurel Canyon)

Curtis Hanson’s gripping, graceful 1997 thriller “L.A. Confidential” (based on James Ellroy's novel) is such an immersive invocation of a bygone past that it can be hard to process the fact that the film is now 20 years old. A movie of classical virtues is now a classic in its own right. Less than a year after Hanson’s death, “L.A. Confidential” returns to the big screen on Tuesday for a 35-mm screening at Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts Theater. A 35-mm print will also screen June 3 at downtown’s Orpheum Theatre. Confidently navigating a labyrinthine plot propelled by a multiple homicide at the downtown Nite Owl Café, “L.A. Confidential” exemplifies what critic J. Hoberman calls "sunshine noir," a tributary of film noir that takes the Hollywood dream factory as its subject. Beyond the surface pleasures and narrative tension, “L.A. Confidential” is a sensitive study of moral codes and broken dreams. The tortured relationship between the ambitious straight-arrow Det. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and the volcanic enforcer Officer Bud White (Russell Crowe), each forced to negotiate his own naivete about a system he thinks he understands, is the film’s emotional core. And Kim Basinger’s heartbreakingly direct portrayal of a call girl “cut” to resemble Veronica Lake grants the film an air of lingering melancholy. Source:

James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia (1987) was a crime novel based on Elizabeth Short's mysterious murder case. Ben Hecht, screenwriter, proffered a peculiar theory in the Examiner, viewing Short's death as a symptom of a crisis not of unbridled female freedom but of masculinity in general in Hollywood. Hecht opined with conviction, though without any supporting evidence, “In nearly all torture crime cases and mutilation after death, homosexuality is the basic motive.” The media regarded the murder of The Black Dahlia as a symptom of an increasingly dark subculture, awash in social and moral crises endemic to a city in which the movie colony held sway. The police booked Jeff Conners though they knew he didn't kill Elizabeth Short. Conners' real name was Artie Lane, who had lived in Los Angeles in 1947 and was employed at Columbia Pictures, where Short had aspired to work. When reporters for the Times tracked down Conners’s “attractive blond ex-wife, Miss Grace Allen," a somewhat sweeter version of the transient-character sketch emerged. She described her ex as “a screwball,” a daydreamer “a la Walter Mitty.” The comparison proved apt; Conners had claimed (falsely) to police that he was once married to a dancer named Vicki Evans, who had made news a year earlier when police raided a Laurel Canyon marijuana party that culminated in the arrest of the actor Robert Mitchum. —"Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles" (2017) by Jon Lewis

Jim Morrison posing in the doorway of his home in Laurel Canyon, 8021 Rothdell Trail, photo taken by Paul Ferrara in 1968. The house that Morrison shared with Pam Courson was a quaint bungalow in the hills. Morrison is said to have spent his most peaceful years on Love Street, recording the Doors' Waiting for the Sun and living with his muse Pam. "Morrison lived and loved the happiest days of his life on Love Street, his only attempt to domesticate himself," says Matt King. According to Vince Treanor, The Doors' road manager, Pam "was flighty, gushy and really unfocused. Her diet was usually strange chemicals. She was temperamental at best and her drug habit made her almost maniac depressive." Paul Ferrara, who met Pam intimately, remembers: "Pam supplied some sense of normality to an otherwise hectic rock star existence. At times I was invited for dinner. Pam had been cooking all day. Stoned, and with jewels and flowers in her hair, she was the perfect hostess for Jim and his house. She had some authority issues as well; she was always stoned or in a state of bliss." Robby Krieger said that Pamela was "mostly good for Jim" and “If it were possible for Jim to have a mate for life, we all felt that Pamela was that person.” John Densmore agreed, saying that it was only Pamela who “had the fire to be Jim’s match.” In Ray Manzarek's opinion: “They were the opposite sides of the same coin, the same person as a male and as a female. They were perfect for each other.” 

Oliver Stone uses Morrison the character as a symbol of decadence that leads to decay and death, both the death of the ego and the death of the body. Morrison becomes a symbol of the 1960s and early 1970s and the end of a dream that enlightenment was possible through excess. During a montage of clips showing the various horrors of the age, Morrison’s ego structure seemingly collapses as he says “I think I’m having a nervous breakdown.” Sadly, audiences never really get to know the soul of Jim Morrison through the lens of Oliver Stone. Perhaps Morrison is symbolic of the death of the artist in a society bent on war and destruction. In Stone’s vision Morrison is not so much an artist tortured by the existential truths of existence, but by himself.

Audiences do not get to see Jim Morrison the poet at work, or why his relationship with Pamela Courson (played by Meg Ryan) continued to endure despite the drink, drugs, fame and infidelity. In the film, Pamela Courson tells Morrison that he’s “a poet, not a rock star”. This, in fact, may be the most penetratingly truthful line in the film. He was, it can be gathered from Morrison lore and scholarship, a poet at heart. It’s hard to believe that Jim Morrison’s seemingly nihilistic plunge into the depths came without meaning. By most accounts, Morrison was a brilliant performer, a passionate poet and a sensitive soul. It was, perhaps, in his wounded soul—that he found himself and his art and he shared it with the world. And one can appreciate his poetry and music and also sympathize with a fellow human being who felt great pain. Source:

"Psychologists distinguish among three different components of attitudes, the cognitive component or thoughts, the affective component or feelings, and the behavioral component or actions (Kassin et al., 2011). Frequently these components are not aligned with one another. For example, in the case of a bad relationship, your thoughts may be negative, telling you that your partner is not good for you, but your feelings may still be positive. We may continue to love our partners even though we consciously recognize that we are involved in bad relationships. It is also possible that strong positive and negative feelings toward a partner may co-exist (Zayas & Shoda, 2015)." —"The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships" (2015) by Madeleine A. Fugère and Jennifer P. Leszczynski

Jim Morrison: Unlocking The Doors, 50 Years On

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Doors, the legendary band’s debut album, a deluxe box set was released on March 31, 2017. Its third disc features live versions of the band’s classics at the Matrix club in San Francisco on July 3, 1967, during the Summer of Love. The Doors’ debut album has been hailed as one of the greatest milestones in rock music; Rolling Stone magazine called the record “a stoned, immaculate classic,” and ranked it as number 42 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In September 1967, The Doors reached number 2 on Billboard, just behind The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (released in June, 1967)So to commemorate—half a century later—the rise of Jim Morrison as a key figure in that period’s counterculture, and his sitll-influential artistic legacy, I'll recount a few snapshots from the life of the Lizard King.
Bill Siddons, who became The Doors’ manager, met Jim Morrison at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom in May 1967. He was both moved and scared to death by Morrison’s performance, thinking, “This guy is completely out of his mind. His poetry was like a movie. The images were so strong that they came to mind in photo form instead of imagination.” Siddons is one of the 13 characters interviewed by Morrison’s close friend, the filmmaker and photographer Frank Lisciandro, for the enlightening oral biography Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together (2014), which succeeds greatly in dispelling old myths about the singer’s controversial personality—some of them fueled by Oliver Stone’s movie The Doors (1991)—and focusing on the real James Douglas Morrison. “One of Jim’s real strengths was that he could see through any of us; whatever game we were trying to play,” reveals Siddons in the chapter “No Respect for Authority”: “Jim was willing to suffer in his pursuit of the truth. The burden of him being pegged as a miscreant and rebel just destroyed him as a performer. He ended up being branded as a freak and a pervert. I think that’s what broke his spirit. It was the reaction to the Miami [arrest for indecency]. I think he was fundamentally unhappy because he couldn’t escape his demons. Paul Ferrara was the one who said the word ‘demons’ to me.”
Paul Ferrara, official photographer for The Doors, friend and collaborator of Morrison in the film projects HWY: An American Pastoral (1969) and Feast of Friends (1970), recalls in his memoir Flash of Eden (ekindle, 2016) some remarkable impressions of Morrison. Like D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers, Morrison gathered Lisciandro, Ferrara, and Babe Hill for adventures, excesses, and existential moments on the road: “We were a threesome for some time until Jim started living with Pam more like boyfriend and girlfriend,” explains Ferrara: “Jim would disappear to be with Pam for days on end. We partied all over the place with Eric Burdon, Timothy Leary! In New York Jim met up with Andy Warhol. One of Andy’s actors was Nico (The Velvet Underground), a tall wispy blonde who looked like she was on Quaaludes all the time. Jim and Nico had an on-again, off-again relationship. Through all of his romances, Jim managed to keep a (rocky) relationship with Pam.” Ferrara had a one-night stand with Pamela Courson, Morrison’s muse and cosmic mate, but that isolated tryst didn’t ruin his camaraderie with the singer. In contrast, Danny Sugerman, The Doors’ second manager, tried to bed Pam after Morrison’s death but she kicked him off her bed—shouting at him that Jim would have killed the author of No One Here Gets Out Alive (1980) and Wonderland Avenue (1989) for his transgression.
The most sensationalized stuff by Sugerman and Stone would be countered by Tom DiCillo’s documentary The Doors: When You’re Strange (2009), which manages to separate facts from fiction, giving Morrison a more humane aura. Ferrara also recognizes Morrison’s habitual experimentation with LSD: “Acid can cause long-lasting or even permanent changes in a user’s psychology, and personality. Jim Morrison was one of the people that took a lot of doses. He was always pushing the envelope; he would take four or five hits at a time. He did change. He was always on the edge of hurting himself. Right up to the very end, he was trying to hurt himself.”
Despite Morrison’s reckless lifestyle, Ferrara highlights his often overlooked good qualities: “He was truly unique. He had an elevated sense of his self that is rarely seen among people. Like his dislike for possessions, his generosity, the way he tempted life. His confidence was so strong. He was a prince among men. He didn’t fit any mold. Let’s face it: Jim was The Doors. He was the inspiration. His ‘Jimbo’ character was the link to an alter-ego, a multiple personality.” Morrison confessed to Ferrara that after watching The Misfits (1961) on TV, he had felt like Marilyn Monroe—selling himself and not being comfortable doing it. "Babe Hill and I were very close to Jim and if he was bisexual, we would have known," said Paul Ferrara.
Jim Morrison wasn’t a chauvinist, according to his lover Eva Gardony in the chapter “This Affair of Ours” from Friends Gathered Together. Indeed, as EJ Greenham’s doctoral thesis Vision and Desire: Jim Morrison’s Mythography Beyond the Death of God (2009) illustrates, Morrison recognised “the oracle function of women, particularly the culturally censored, and though his writings are read with a male voice in mind and within the context of a phallocentric language, he honours woman in all her forms. ‘Violence kills the temple of no sex’ is a verse from Morrison’s The Lords and the New Creatures (1969). The transformations of life through threshold experiences—sex, death and sacrifice—are scattered throughout this mytho-graphic landscape.”

Ray Manzarek deduced that “Cars Hiss by My Window,” a song from L.A. Woman (1971), “was about living in Venice Beach, in a hot room, with a hot girlfriend, an open window, and a bad time. It could have been about Pamela Courson.” The line “Can’t hear my baby, though I call and call” seems to reference Pam, who was at that time in Paris dabbling with forbidden heroin while waiting for Jim’s arrival. Morrison had begun to see Paris as “built for human beings,” a refuge in exile, far away from the hellish environment that imprisoned him in Los Angeles.
Morrison, who had been an avid reader and self-declared disciple of the influential poets William Blake and Arthur Rimbaud, “was more Rimbaud than Mick Jagger,” Frank Lisciandro said. Wallace Fowlie, author of Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet (1994), theorized in his dual study that some passages from Morrison’s Wilderness: The Lost Writings Volume 1 echo the prose poems from Rimbaud’s groundbreaking Illuminations. As Rimbaud wrote in that 1886 work: “I am an inventor… a musician who has discovered something like the key of love. I do not regret my old portion of divine gaiety: the sober air of this bleak countryside feeds vigorously my divine skepticism. But since this skepticism cannot, henceforth, be put to use, and since, moreover, I am dedicated to a new torment—I expect to become a very vicious madman.” The ending of 1960s era—and Morrison’s sudden death at the beginning of the 1970s—marked a deep cultural schism that felt as incongruous as a vivid dream blending Los Angeles’ damaged present and Paris’ glorious past. 
Published previously as Jim Morrison: Unlocking The Doors, 50 Years On on Blogcritics.

Friday, May 05, 2017

"Hollow Triumph" and "Shield for murder" in May

Pursued by the big-time gambler he robbed, John Muller takes a new identity, with ironic results. By most accounts, the 1948 crime film, Hollow Triumph, based on a novel by Murray Forbes is as Film Noir as they come. A gangster pulling off a final job against a rival is mistaken for his double, a psychologist. Paul Henreid, the late consummate director and actor, headlined and produced the film, playing dual roles while Joan Bennett kept a watchful eye. The endeavor is a class act and the way Monika Henreid sees it, her father’s film would be a highlight in any Film Noir festival. Coincidentally, Hollow Triumph leads off this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival at 7:30 p.m. May 11, at Camelot Theatres with a restored 35mm print. And Monika Henreid will be in attendance for a post-film Q&A. Others notables include: Black Angel (May 12) — Richard Duryea, former manager for The Beach Boys and whose late father, Dan, starred in the film, will be on hand; Meet Danny Wilson (1951), a pre-From Here to Eternity Frank Sinatra romp with Shelley Winters and Raymond Burr (May 13). Source:

Crime films adopted a more realistic attitude in the 1950s, shifting away from noir romanticism and acknowledging unsavory realities such as police corruption. One of the best 'bad cop' tales is 1954's Shield for Murder, notable for being co-directed by its star, Edmond O'Brien. The overachieving thriller came from a novel by William P. McGivern (The Big Heat, 1953), who also provided the source stories for Rogue Cop (1954) and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), all of which dealt with crooked lawmen. Detective Nolan (O'Brien) kills a bookie for $25,000 to further his relationship with Patty, the cigarette girl of his dreams (starlet Marla English). Harassed by the mob and a police colleague who he once mentored (John Agar), Nolan commits more cover-up crimes but cannot prevent the truth from coming out. Critics thought the movie effective and saved special praise for actor Emile Meyer as Nolan's captain on the force. The movie made news in Mississippi as well, where the notorious film censor Lloyd T. Binford, called up on tax evasion problems, attempted to deflect the blame to immorality on our screens. He called Shield for Murder 'a burlesque on the City Police Department.' The movie makes a point of having Detective Nolan cornered at the unfinished tract home he hoped to buy for Patty. Nolan's need for consumer success links to later movie cops tempted by dreams of the good life in the suburbs. In Don Siegel's remake of The Killers (1964) Lee Marvin meets his end on a patch of green lawn, and Glenn Ford surrenders to his fate next to a swimming pool he can't afford in the aptly titled The Money Trap (1965). Source:

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Jim Morrison & Pamela: Sadness and Love

Jim Morrison illustrates a man who was very aware of the power struggle between crowds and their leaders, offering a window into each stage of his increasing fame and growing frustration at his commodification and inability to inspire action in others. The first section of The Lords and the New Creatures (1970), titled "The Lords: Notes on Vision", contains Morrison's autobiographical commentary on the dialectic between individuality and expectation. One of Morrison's concise observations of popular culture reads, "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." He clearly identifies himself wholeheartedly as a spectator, not an actor. Morrison's eventual transformation from spectator to actor is the final blow to his authority; eventually, instead of critiquing the society and the status quo (as DeLillo also believes should be the artist's role), he is irrevocably connected to it, and thus, is unable to affect any real change. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Morrison eventually became one of the "heroes" that he speaks of.  

As Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek put it, in an interview with Andrew Doe and John Tobler, Morrison eventually became "tired of being The Lizard King. Jim Morrison was a poet, an artist-- he didn't want to be the King of Orgasmic Rock, The King of Acid Rock, The Lizard King." Morrison's withdrawal and subsequent death can here be equated with Bucky Wunderlick's withdrawal and the eventual death of language that he suffers in Great Jones Street (1973). DeLillo makes it clear that Bucky regains his power over his fans by willfully disappearing, and Morrison's life can be used as a test case that proves DeLillo's theories. Late in his life, Morrison took to baiting and insulting fans in The Doors' concerts, partly as a manipulative gesture and partly because he himself was miserable about the celebrity that he had attained and his own inability to lead or inspire action in anyone, especially himself. Tony Magistrale points out, "As Morrison argues in many of his poems, the 'sleeping city' is a general metaphor for passive acceptance of the status quo." Morrison uses the metaphors of disease and dying to describe the afflicted society he was living in, in much the same way T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) was an indictment of the societal death happening all around him. 

Morrison meditates, for instance, on images that others may find grotesque or macabre to illustrate the uneasiness society has when confronted with anything that reminds them of their own mortality. Later in his life, his fans would become the spies, looking through the camera at him, dissecting each segment of his life ad infinitum, inspecting Morrison himself as if he were a "rare aquatic insect." In this way, Morrison's early writings were prophetic. Another seemingly prophetic passage from this early book reads, "Everything is vague and dizzy. The skin swells and there is no more distinction between parts of the body. An encroaching sound of threatening, mocking, monotonous voices. This is fear and attraction of being swallowed." This passage from Lords and the New Creatures is reminiscent of the opening lines of Elias Canetti' s influential study on crowds, Crowds and Power (1960): "There is nothing that man fears more than the touch of the unknown. He wants to see what is reaching towards him, and to be able to recognize it. Man always tends to avoid physical contact with anything strange." Morrison had no interest in pandering to any portion of society, he found that no matter what he did, he was always associated with one group or another and given titles by the media that diverged from his own self-image. "Even the bitter Poet-Madman is a clown. Treading the boards" (Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison). In this poem Morrison calls himself a clown because he realizes that his message is being overshadowed by his image, as the audience expects entertainment from him, instead of guidance. As Dylan Jones points out, "Like many performers, Morrison was unable to harness his own stardom, and because of this, he began lampooning himself." "The boards" are theatrical jargon for the stage; Morrison here again recognizes that he has become an actor. 

His audience expects him to be an actor, and due to this expectation, he can no longer reach them. The poem, entitled "Road Days," contains the following verses: "I have ploughed My seed thru the heart Of the nation. Injected a germ in the psychic blood vein. Now I embrace the poetry of business & become—for a time—a "Prince of Industry."  Part of Morrison's frustration in this poem (and in his life) comes from his realization of his own entrapment by market forces. Like Bucky Wunderlick in Great Jones Street, he realizes that he is more commodity than person, a name to to be held up as an example of the corruption of the youth of his generation. By "embrac[ing] the poetry of business," Morrison recognizes that he should attempt to take control of his own persona and image by becoming aware of the business side of his career, in much the same way that Bucky begins a corporation, Transparanoia. Morrison, at the height of his fame, realizes that he is more a puppet-like performer than a revolutionary leader, and realizes the fans and the media are consuming him. Unlike DeLillo's Bucky Wunderlick, who used gibberish lyrics as a means to test the crowd's devotion to him, Morrison used his onstage persona to try to push the crowd away. Although he continued to strive against his restraints, he eventually tired out and had no choice but to give in to the public's idea of his identity, because he no longer knew what his identity was. According to friends such as Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, Morrison never really wanted to be a rock star. James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky describe his initial reluctance to make himself the center of attention: "When they agreed to form a band, Morrison figured Ray would sing the songs, but Manzarek insisted that since they were Jim's songs, he must feel them more and should sing them." 

Morrison had gained the reputation for being so high on LSD that he "could eat acid coated sugar cubes all night without visible effect." Morrison's self-medication also allowed him to anesthetize the spectator part of himself and cultivate his actor persona, a persona he was carefully crafting, but to the detriment of his individuality. Unfortunately, the more comfortable Morrison became with the power he held over the crowd, the more the power shifted toward his audience and ensnared his individuality. As though to mock his stardom, Morrison rebelled against even his band mates and producers, knowing that very little could be done without him. According to Riordan and Prochnicky, Morrison loved to toy with the media by describing the band as "erotic politicians" and telling joumalists that he loved "activity that seems to have no meaning." These sound bytes were jokes to him, and he was surprised when people took them seriously. He found it "ludicrous for anyone to assume that a philosophy worth anything could be summed up in a few choice phrases. I just thought everyone knew it was ironic," Morrison said, "but apparently they thought I was mad." The meltdown in Miami meant he thought he was a fraud to himself by this point in his career, and was the foregone conclusion of such a power struggle between a proliferated image and the man. Morrison fought and pushed back as hard as he could until he broke on through to another stage. —"The sadness of great fame: The conflict between individuality and expectation in the works of Don DeLillo and Jim Morrison" (2005) by Sue-Ellen Norton Francis 

Bobby Klein, occasional photographer for The Doors, took a few photos of Jim and Pamela naked in bed, although these snaps weren't ever made public. Klein spread the rumor that Morrison had set Pam's closet on fire. Steven P. Wheeler (editor of Frank Lisciandro's book Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together): "The biggest problem, it would seem, is that even if Jim did 20 outrageous things in a 27 year period, too many fans believe that those 20 outrageous moments encapsulate a person's entire lifestyle. I believe that a vast majority of the time that you dealt with him, Jim was a quiet, sensitive and thoughtful human being.... but the Myth is that he was partying every single waking moment of his life, as the Stone celluloid debacle would have us believe. Nobody in the universe, dead or alive, can truly know about Jim Morrison's relationship with Pamela Courson." Maybe nobody can exactly define Morrison and Courson's complicated romance although some tried to. Salli Stevenson, journalist for Circus Magazine (she interviewed Morrison in October, 1970): "I met Jim on October 13, 1970. Jim and I were in daily contact after that until he and Babe Hill left for Miami on October 29th. When Jim returned, he called me. We got together for a movie with Frank and Kathy Lisciandro. We were in touch on and off until January 17, 1971. We finally spoke to each other twice in March, before he left for Paris.

The only woman that Jim ever took seriously was Pamela. They experienced every facet of a relationship that could be experienced together: friends, brotherly, lovers, partners. She was his old lady. She is the only woman he ever allowed to say she was his wife. Jim for many reasons completely bonded to Pamela. I knew that nothing could come between them. I felt that they both deserved Purple Hearts for weathering the challenges of their journey together." In words of Pamela: “The body is such a complex figure. There’s lots of little tricks and even some things feel purely magical. Pain endures through your body—Love endures through your body—Sadness even endures through your body. Yet here we all are, still standing strong as if nothing happened. Sometimes the simplest things can turn me on. Like for instance, if a guy can be really masculine one second and then he next acts like your personalized teddy bear. It’s really simple things like that, that can get me going. I have a soft side too, you know. Just because I put out a mysterious vibe doesn’t mean that I don’t have permission to act girly every once in a while.” In words of Jim: “I drink so I can talk to assholes/This includes me.” According to manager Vince Treanor: "Jim was possibly disgusted by Pamela's heroin habit; however, he supported it."

According to James Riordan: "Jim Morrison always craved attention from male and female audiences while his personal sex life was exclusively heterosexual. His face was more than handsome, it was pretty and displayed vulnerability, but he was not feminine. In his eyes something definitely masculine burned. More than masculine, something dangerous." ―"Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison" (2014) by James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky