Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Summer with Jim Morrison", "Last Summer"

Jim Morrison, the starving boy from Venice Beach, the rock god, became something else, a male Norma-Jean. He belonged to the Romantics: Coleridge, Wordsworth, Goethe, Chopin, Liszt... Jim Morrison was one of those. He struck me as being, unlike his fellow students at the Film School, a basically serious character. Morrison, lacking much money, was an accomplished book thief. In my first conversation with him, the talk turned to Metempsychosis and its central axiom: that all thought is remembrance–Jim used the word anamnesis–a recollection of what was in the mind. “Translation is something women are real good at. Everything will come out in English sometime. One day the truth will come out and it will all be in English. And it will all be translated by women,” said Morrison. The next time I saw him he wasn't lugging library books into the stacks. He was sitting quietly with his girlfriend Mary Werbelow in one of the Film School screening rooms: Bungalow 3-K7. This class was conducted by a character named Brocow, who achieved eternal fame by inventing a little metal rod for an editing machine called the Moviola. 

There was also the tall, gaunt figure of a man named Arthur Dewitt Ripley: This was the man whom Andrew Sarris once called “One of the most bizarre and mysterious silhouettes in the American cinema.” Ripley had directed the cult film noir The Chase (1946) and died before Jim had a chance to meet him. So Jim asked me about him. Ripley was a man of great emotion and great personal beliefs. And while he had witnessed great disappointment and tragedy in his own life, he never betrayed the slightest cynicism or despair toward any of his students. He believed that the Motion Picture was an Art that could be ranked with the highest examples of any other form. “Ripley once discoursed on the idea of actually achieving a double retrospect. You can see it used in John Brahm's The Locket (a 1946 film noir). Ripley himself used the retrospect device in A Voice In The Wind.” “What was A Voice In The Wind all about?” Jim inquired. "Maybe one of the greatest dark films ever made," I answered. Jim said: “I would like to have talked to this man.” Jim gave me an old copy of Film Culture, the issue that contained Andrew Sarris' first notes on the Auteur theory. I found that Sarris said it was impossible to overlook Ripley. Which he promptly did in his book The American Cinema, 1928-1968. I never forgave him.

I had seen Anatahan (1953), and this film gave me the first clue to what others later divined about Jim. What some said was his incredible dependence on women. Anatahan was Josef Von Sternberg's last film, with a rewarding sequence: men making advances on the one sole woman left on their island, and the look of ecstasy on her face—that single sequence that had so impressed Jim. I had, at that point, a small room in Venice, California, right above the Kickapoo Logan Company. It was half a block from the beach. The rent was thirty-five dollars a month, a sum impossible to imagine in today's inflationary times. “Hell, you can sleep on the roof," I said to Jim. His girlfriend Mary had abandoned him for professional dancing, and he moved in with me without a single coin to his name. 

Venice Beach was not like it is today. Back then, it was a place, caught in a time warp. In those days, the air was warm and delicious, with a cool sea breeze that came directly from the beach into the room. It was a slow time, unhurried, leisurely. In those days we had time for anything. Not like today, when life is full-speed ahead, hurtling all of us and everything else towards whatever the hell? The food cost just $20 each month for both! According to, in 1960 70% of families were single income households and the minimum wage was $1/ $8.35 today. Median family income was $5,620/ $46,927 today and the average income was $6,691, or $55,839.93 today. The federal minimum wage is today $7.25, whereas the median family income is $29,930.13 and the average family income is $46,119.78

Sitting in my room Jim Morrison pondered his career options: “Either I write lyrics for Rock and Roll songs,” he said, “or I write cheap paperback novels, like westerns about Billy the Kid.” I said I had written a four hundred page novel about an archaeologist dying slowly by the ruins of the largest colonial mansion in America. It got me Third Place in the Samuel Goldwyn contest. I had worked as a film assistant for Roger Corman too. Jim had been without a method, just drifting. Now he had a method: the concept of a trajectory toward a certain way of life that almost corresponded to Jim's notion of male sexuality: a long, slow, rhythmic development, then a sharp peak upward. Finally, a sudden and abrupt descent. One day he just packed himself up with the clothes on his back and a new notebook in which he had been writing the poetry that later would become the incendiary lyrics of The Doors' songs. He bumped into Ray and Dorothy Manzarek on the Venice West boardwalk. I saw Jim change. I thought he was much more interesting before he was a Rock Starthe exact moment when he signed his contract with Elektra Records became the beginning of his downgoing. When Jim introduced me to Pamela, they were both living up in Laurel Canyon, near the Market. It was a wooden house stuck up against the mountain side. I remember, when Pam answered the door, seeing Jim propped in an easy chair focusing on a book, they struck me as suited to one another. It was quiet, up there in the canyon. You could hear the hum of insects. It was like something out of a Raymond Chandler novel. Chandler had written in The Long Goodbye (1953): "There is no trap so deadly as the one you set for yourself." I thought if Jim could actually escape that trap. I remembered one time when the three of us, Jim, Pam and myself, were in a car and she put her head on my shoulder. Was this just an unconscious gesture of friendship or was it to inspire a jealous Morrison response? Jim remained inscrutable—but he probably was jealous as hell. Jim, having grown up in the Fifties, was an adept of mystery novels and pulp magazines.      

Herbert Gans, who wrote the masterful sociological study The Levittowners (1965), lived in Levittown, N.J. to conduct his research. His account of early suburbanites as generally content with their lot, differs starkly from the critiques of popular writers. Not only did Gans reject those critiques, he came to the opposite conclusion: "that suburban life has produced more family cohesion and a significant boost in morale through the reduction of boredom and loneliness." Gans was quite cutting about intellectuals who condemned suburbia’s "little boxes" and mocked their inhabitants as feeble. Even Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique (1963) she described housewives feeling cooped up in city apartments and suburban ranches alike, and saw the birth of the suburbs as, in fact, "a limitless challenge to the energy of educated American women," with abundant opportunities for civic innovation and leadership—which women too often rejected to focus on the family. Despite the urban hype, the share of Americans living in urban neighborhoods actually dropped from 2000 to 2014. 

Jim Morrison, believer in the consolidation of the matriarchy system in America, distanced himself from the archetypal male-centric writer that Jack Kerouac had represented. Kerouac had written his opus On the Road in April 1951, and when he was done his second wife Joan Haverty tossed him out of their New York City apartment for being a bum and a bore. Kerouac's relationships with women were mercurial; as Dennis McNally put it: "One of the central myths of Jack's life was of Dostoevsky's wife and her unflagging support of her husband, of the duty of the untalented to support the creative artist." Kerouac saw no reason to question his chauvinist attitudes towards his women. They were there to fuck him, feed him, fawn over him, and then hopefully fade into the background. Unfortunately, few modern girls could put up with this for more than a few months, which shows just how far the women of the Fifties were from Madame Dostoevsky; the juices of feminism were starting to simmer.

“Nietzsche is one man who has never disappointed me,” Jim said. “Women aren't fools, though. Nietzsche said once they are the loveliest swans in the world.” Jim understood clearly that the Apollonian principle was Aristocratic, a dream realm. And the Dionysian was the Democratic principle, the state of intoxication. He just laughed at Philosophy Professors who wrote about Nietzsche. Like Walter Kaufman's chapter of his Nietzsche, Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, about “Nietzsche's admiration for Socrates.” “It's nothing but a lie,” Jim said. “It's not true.” I waited. “That lousy Sophist,” Jim declared. “What an old ugly pederast. Socrates lurking in Greek law courts so he could pick up enough gift of gab to con innocent young men into the sack! They should have killed that fucker decades before the hemlock.” Jim wasn't fooled by Kaufman. “He taught Plato a skeptical philosophy and utterly ruined him. Why? Because Socrates wanted to kill off the Greek religion – another Sophistry – a lawyer's rhetoric. And what happened? That poor bastard Plato takes a trip to Egypt. Ever read The Egyptian Book Of The Dead? It's nothing but a primitive form of the ‘allegory of the cave’, i.e. the love of the dead. Pure nihilism! These philosophy teachers – they can get rid of ‘God’, but they can’t get rid of Socrates? Why, it’s ridiculous.” Jim often favored the German culture over England's. “I never knew an Englishman I didn't despise," he said, "or an Englishwoman I didn't love.” He thought the class structure and behaviourism had ruined England: “It's a shopkeeper’s mentality. Survival at any price.” Jim exempted the Irish, the Scotch, and the Welsh.

“Numbers are a hallucination,” Jim sniffed. “Some dude used algebra to prove that nobody could fly. The truth will come out some day about these fucking Pythagoreans.” “Then, what is the truth?” I asked. He was silent a long moment. “Man, it's Pound’s economics that’s going to insure his place in American history.” He could be pretty funny at times. “How do you figure that one, Jim?” He smirked. “Well, in fifty-sixty years this whole set-up is going to collapse.” “You really think so?” “Everybody's gonna lose their money to a bunch of crooked politicians and white-collar criminals. You'll see. And then these guys, let’s call them economists, they're all gonna say finally, ‘Well, Pound was right!’ And Social Credit will come in." “Well Jim, ya’know Pound was in the nuthouse at Saint Elizabeth's hospital for twelve years.” “So what?” “Well, there’s this charge of Treason.” He cocked his head and gave me a sharp glance. “No.” Pound's transcripts had been censored. “Well, they're all in the Library of Congress. The OSS made wire recordings and the transcriptions are in the Library of Congress. I went up there from Arlington, one time, and read them.” “You did?” “Sure. And what the fools don't realize is that Pound is a hero and should’ve been given the Congressional Medal of Honor!” "How do you figure that?" “It's all in code! The broadcasts! It's in cypher! You just gotta know how to figure it out. He was broadcasting troop movements and such over the radio. Pound was a spy for the government and he oughta be decorated." He concluded, “Everybody else thinks you’re a communist or whatever. Actually, you're a patriot.” “Well, who contacted Pound?” “Roosevelt.” Silence. “Just read Ezra’s Selected Poems”. “So Pound was doomed – unless he played ball with the Government. Of course, he could have stayed right here in America, but that's what makes him such a hero. He had guts, alright. He took the packet and went over there and made the broadcasts according to code.” “Well, why didn't all this come out at the trial?” “Because, by 1946, when the troops arrested Pound, Roosevelt was dead, and Truman didn't know anything about it." And there he had me. “Well, why didn't Pound say anything after they put him in the nut house, Jim?” “Because the U.S. Military put him in that cage in Pisa and he got sunstroke and went bonkers. Maybe later on he realized this was a case of state security. It's as plain as day.” Those broadcasts did get published and I have a copy and from time to time I try to find the cypher.

“Orson Welles... could he have directed a film about Billy the Kid?” I asked Jim. “Welles directed a film called Touch Of Evil. And that’s one of the best American films ever made,” Jim said: “The amazing part about being an American are the endless possibilities. The idea of the frontier, though closed, has entered the national consciousness and cannot easily be erased.” “Ralph Waldo Emerson is our greatest thinker,” Jim said another day. “Read that essay called The Over-Soul. That’s a good one.” "How does it go, Jim?" And again, I was treated to a bit of his phenomenal memory: “Man is a stream whose source is hidden. Our being is descending into us from we know not whence. The most exact calculator has no prescience that somewhat incalculable may not balk the very next moment. As with events, so is it with thoughts. When I watch that flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water; that I desire and look up and put myself in the attitude of reception, but from some alien energy the visions come.” He was the young Nietzsche’s favorite American philosopher. It's not really surprising that Jim knew Emerson by heart.

Jim Morrison could be oddly patriotic. “Dostoyevsky said, the Russian hates freedom. Those fuckers wouldn't know what to make of it. Like a primitive man under an open sky gone crazy from the light. The Politician, one of the two examples of the ‘secular Priest’, becomes the consummate actor of our day,” Jim said. “What's the other example?” “The Psychiatrist. According to Freud, the future of illusion needed secularization.” I said: “Your Mr. Pound said that Rome was destroyed by its Rhetoriticians.” “The Rhetoriticians took over when the Romans lost their Poets. Rhetoric is just another word for politics,” said Jim: “Politicians are too shrewd to be neurotic, by and large. Greed so wonderfully concentrates a man’s mind.” All this while the Vietnam War was raging. —"Summer with Morrison: The Early Life and Times of James Douglas Morrison, A Memoir" (2011) by Dennis C. Jakob

Last Summer (1969) directed by Frank Perry was one of a handful of counter-culture movies that were released in 1969 along with Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, Haskell Wexler's docudrama Medium Cool and experimental film HWY: An American Pastoral (by Jim Morrison, Frank Lisciandro & Paul Ferrara). Last Summer is adolescence viewed through a doggedly nihilistic prism, being at its heart an existential parable on authenticity, dread, and the concept of morality as a choice, conveying the darker aspects of American disillusionment in the late '60s. The story's dominant figure is Sandy (Barbara Hershey), a pretty girl who claims to possess a high IQ. Two boys wander into her life: Peter and Dan, when Sandy has rescued a wounded bird that will die if they don't remove the fishhook stuck in its throat. Last Summer's screenplay by Eleanor Perry is based on an eponymous novel by Evan Hunter, whose writing credits appeared in the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Birds (1963). Time magazine reviewed the film as an "enormous debt to J.D. Salinger," adding that Burns's performance as a quintessential outsider was "exactly the kind of kid Holden Caulfield wanted to catch in the rye." New York Times critic Vincent Canby called the screenplay "tough and laconic." Source:

There was a continual stream of enigmatic secrecy which both Jim and Pam fostered. The same applied to their domestic lives together. True, we as the public would hear about the rows, the fights, the outrageous behaviour, but was this part of ‘the act’ part of the Jim and Pam show? Jim needed trusted friends and Babe Hill, who had been a construction worker, was one of his closest ones. Jim Morrison hated Pam taking heroin, verified by Tony Funches, his bodyguard. As Pam often said, alcohol was Jim's favourite drug. He didn’t mind cocaine or an assortment of pills, but heroin was a no go for him. Paris was awash with it in the summer of 1971. The city had become the central trading point for the white stuff and the cut percentage on the street was unusually pure– somewhere in the region of 86% pure. Pam liked to be on the edge as much as Morrison did. She was no shrinking violet. The demure Pamela Courson was in reality a human firecracker. Even Morrison said she was the cat to his mouse. Perhaps the fact that she simply did not do what Jim wanted was the kind of response he needed. For years men had wanted to be Morrison and girls wanted him between their legs. Pamela’s great power was that she could stand up to him. Whatever her hold was, it was extremely strong, that old chestnut of a reason: love. Morrison may well have slept with other women and betrayed Pam’s trust, but he also loved her. Together they had starved in Los Angeles, often walking back at night from The Doors gigs because Jim had spent his share on booze. When the first real pay cheque had come in, it was Pam with whom he had shared the Chinese feast. Every other girl lusted after Morrison the idol, the sex god, the pathfinder. Pam, however, got to see all the weaknesses, all the insecurity. Pam stated that they did not have sex on his final night. Actually she said they didn’t have sexual intercourse – they could have indulged in some sexual activity and then Morrison, having taken heroin as opposed to cocaine, became too lethargic to continue. —"Mr. Mojo Risin' ain't dead" (2011) by Ron Clooney

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lost Opportunity: John F. Kennedy, Jim Morrison

This Monday John F. Kennedy would have turned 100, and it has taken nearly this long to develop a full picture of his presidency: The more we learn about it, the more impressive he becomes. Much of the biographical work until recently has been filling in the gaps created by censors—JFK had a taping system installed in the White House a decade before Nixon, and these recordings have only been fully opened since late 2012. Unlike the technophobic Nixon, whose taping system would turn on at the literal drop of a hat, Kennedy’s was controlled by a button usually pressed by him alone. John F. Kennedy was not only far less hawkish than his public rhetoric, he was far less hawkish than the American people. He was certainly anti-communist, and mistrusted pro-Kremlin revolutionaries, but he believed, as he would reveal publicly in his American University address in June 1963, that Americans had an irrational fear of Russians and that both peoples shared an aversion to nuclear war. At the same time, the president’s brother underscored that an arms-control agreement would only come if the Soviets stopped underestimating U.S. power and causing trouble in divided Berlin and Southeast Asia. The Kennedys also refused to soften their hard line on Fidel Castro or even discuss it with Moscow. “Cuba is a dead issue,” explained RFK. Some of this was na├»ve—Khrushchev did not want an arms-control agreement as much as Kennedy did and was suspicious of the president’s gesture—and all of it was politically dangerous at home for JFK. Had these secret discussions ever become public, RFK, let alone his brother, might well have been charged with being pro-Soviet. In retrospect, these risks were worth taking at the height of the Cold War. The Kennedys’ secret meetings certainly helped to make an accidental war less likely. 

JFK sought liberal outcomes while abhorring instability and uncertainty. But, in the end, he could and would take risks, avoided nuclear holocaust during the Cuban missile crisis and negotiated a partial nuclear test-ban treaty with the Soviet Union. He took office with a muscular promise that the United States would “pay any price, bear any burden” in the battle for freedom. But five months before his death, he became a prophet of what would be called detente, describing peace as “the necessary, rational end of rational men.” All these years later, we share a collective sense of an unfinished era, an unfulfilled promise and a lost opportunity. One of Kennedy’s most admirable traits was his talent for maintaining a critical distance from himself and who he became. Theodore Sorensen noted in 1965 that JFK was “a constant critic” of his own myth. In the 1960s, we know now, a president and his closest adviser took creative and audacious steps to make the world a safer place. Happy 100th birthday, JFK. Source:

Between the late 1950s and the early 1960s Jim Morrison preferred to cut school and visit beatnik hangouts in San Francisco. Two significant events had shaken America. First the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the earth. This sensational event provoked spasms of American self-doubt and recriminations about being beaten into space by the Russians. It began the so-called missile gap debate that later helped put John Kennedy in the White House. In the summer of 1960, something in Jim Morrison changed. Classmates remembered he seemed to undergo a change of personality. He appeared depressed and angry, and neglected his studies. Morrison wrote in a notebook that he was both a fool and the smartest kid in class. Apparently he took no interest in the November presidential election—hotly debated in his politically conservative school—in which John Kennedy beat Richard Nixon. Kennedy’s death occupied a dark corner of the Morrison psyche, making frequent appearances in notebooks and later lyrics. “Dead president’s corpse in the driver’s car” is one of the keystone images from both 'Celebration of the Lizard' and the song excerpted from this long poem, “Not to Touch the Earth.” On the same notebook page on which Morrison recorded the Kennedy assassination, he wrote the name of Aldous Huxley. Huxley had died at his home in Los Angeles on the same day Jack Kennedy was murdered. We as a nation have never fully recovered from the psychological disarray resulting from the JFK assassination in 1963. Oliver Stone's "JFK" reprised the circumstances and complexities behind that historic and fateful day: the exact moment when the bullet struck the President's head, that precise instant when an entire civilization was forever changed. Kennedy's death established a milestone that American society had reached unknowingly. It became more significant the further away in time we got historically from that event. The assassination was a huge tragedy that created an inability for the nation to find firm footing after it had been knocked off balance.

Ray Manzarek saw in Jim Morrison political potential. Although Morrison was essentially a lonely and tortured rebel, he was likable and engaging in all kinds of conversation. Leonard Pitts, Jr., a columnist for “The Miami Herald,” wrote: "Whatever you think of the 60's one thing is undeniable: They tore us apart, ripped American society to pieces and threw those pieces in the air so they rained down like confetti, falling into new configurations, nothing where it used to be. It was an angry time—Fifty years later we are still angry, still sifting through confetti pieces, trying to find a way to make them whole.” The events of the 1960's set up the impulse toward “psychic disintegration” we are now encountering. Morrison saw what was happening to our souls as a society and reported as a witness to "the vultures descending on the scene for curious America aplomb," a nation possessed and frozen in time. JFK and Jim Morrison seemingly had in common health ailments and a sex addiction, but whereas the President had multiple liaisons with Hollywood stars (Gene Tierney, Marilyn Monroe, June Allyson, Arlene Dahl) Jimbo juggled female journalists and groupies.

It was against the backdrop of these tumultuous days that Morrison wrote “Peace Frog,” with innovative guitar sounds by Robby Krieger. For Morrison it was a song not only of isolation but a complete rejection of what America had become that suggested an inevitable and violent end. He unconsciously intimated mayhem in America that would become epidemic. In the song’s opening line there is a chorus chanted in counterpoint by Morrison. “She came” is the chorus that parallels and follows Morrison's opening warning, “There's blood in the streets, it's up to my ankles.”  “She came,” has a dual meaning.  It is an easy reference to sexual climax. But the phrase also refers to a line in the first break, “Just about the break of day, she came, and then she drove away, sunlight in her hair.” The sunshine in her hair is a brilliant image that might be just Pamela Courson. She is a fleeting, unreachable image, she leaves the city, and she remains beyond us, unobtainable, the queen of the highway, waiting for us on the edge of town, beckoning to us. “Blood screams her brain as they chop off her fingers,” which speaks of the social insurrection Morrison possibly foresaw in a destructive break-up and dismemberment of the city.

I never saw Jim make a homosexual advance towards anyone. As for Jim's wife Pam, she was straight too. She once mentioned that two of her girlfriends had come together in a Lesbian experience. But she completely rejected that kind of experience. Pam, underage, had been convicted of driving under the influence and remanded to the custody of Juvenile Hall. One night, she and another girl resolved to escape by climbing into the ventilator shafts: she was still bitter about the law and all it had tried to do to her. Once Pam and I left Jim and Mary Werbelow alone for awhile and Pam said something I will never forget: “I feel sorry for Mary.” I knew it meant she was not threatened by the emergence of Mary. That something had long been settled between her and Jim. A relationship deeper than either one of them had ever had before. I’d begun to suspect that something had been settled between the two of them – unbreakable except by death itself. Nietzsche once said: 'In the end what a woman wants is a warrior'. Perhaps the women who gravitated toward Jim Morrison were attracted to this quality. Morrison felt that women had a greater future perhaps than most men would have. Most men were concerned with the accumulation of empty numbers. Morrison was the contemplative type, hardly the freak that popular consumption would have us believe. He was Apollonian in his life, Dionysian on stage. He aimed at the heart of American Democracy. He believed in it. —"Summer with Morrison: The Early Life and Times of James Douglas Morrison, A Memoir" (2011) by Dennis C. Jakob and "Some Are Born to Endless Night: Jim Morrison, Visions of Apocalypse and Transcendence" (2011) by Gerry Kirstein

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Twin Peaks' Mystery, David Bowie, Jim Morrison

Laura Palmer's murder is the case that sets off Twin Peaks and which brings Dale Cooper to the sleepy town drenched in mystery. Laura's soul still appears to be trapped in the Black Lodge, along with Cooper's. When we return to the Red Room, Laura Palmer sits in a chair opposite Agent Cooper. The Man from Another Place claps his hands, turns around, and says “Let’s rock.” He goes on to say many cryptic things, including, of Laura, “She’s filled with secrets.” Music begins to play— Badalamenti’s “Dance of the Dream Man”—while a strobe light flashes. Laura walks to Agent Cooper, kisses him on the lips, and whispers into his ear. Martha Nochimson links the strangeness of language in the Red Room with the pervasive sexual imagery: 'These comic sexual images involve speech that is materially distorted and gesture that is untranslatable into logos. In seeking knowledge, Cooper must immerse himself in plasticity, in tension—that is, in the tension between the masculine and the feminine.' Laura is so many women at once that whatever original subjectivity existed has disappeared, destroyed by the expectations placed upon her by the small town as the object-cause of their desire. In truth, there is no a real Laura—there is merely the homecoming queen and the mysterious woman in the Black Lodge. Laura has lost herself; as Todd McGowan states in The Impossible David Lynch (2007), “Her subjectivity is an emptiness that remains irreducible to any identity.” —"Dark Reflections: Fantasy and Duality in the work of David Lynch" (2014) by Nolan Boyd

Could David Bowie appear in the 'Twin Peaks' reboot? Anything is possible in a David Lynch production. A new article speculates on the admittedly unlikely possibility that David Bowie will appear in an upcoming episode of Showtime‘s Twin Peaks: The Return, a sequel to Lynch’s cult television series. Bowie had a small part in 1992’s prequel movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, as FBI agent Philip Jeffries. Despite the brevity of his time on-screen, Mashable notes that Jeffries has been mentioned on two of the four episodes of the new series that have aired to date, with intimations that the character could still be alive. In one scene towards the end of the second episode, Bob Cooper believes he’s talking to Jeffries, although his voice is distinctly different from the Southern accent Bowie used in Fire Walk With Me. The article notes that Lynch filmed the series between September 2015 and April 2016, putting Bowie’s January 2016 death in the middle of that timeframe. Actor Harry Goaz, who plays Deputy Andy Brennan, revealed last year that Bowie had been scheduled to spend a day on the set, but canceled it for an unknown reason. The author suggests that it’s possible that Bowie was too busy completing Blackstar and returned at another time to film his part. Source:

Angie Bowie: ‘I didn’t care about David’s lovers as long as they realised I was the queen.’ Angie, just 19 when she first met David Bowie, got close to him after recognising his potential while she was working for Mercury Records. She was charmed despite knowing that he had cheated on former love Hermione Farthingale, the inspiration for Life on Mars, with Mary Finnigan. Angie says: 'We met when David was pretty much just starting out. I already knew he was a dirty dog because there had been Hermione and Mary and I’d only been around him a month or two.' Angie claimed she was caught up in a rock ’n’ roll love tangle when Mick Jagger tried to bed her. She said the Rolling Stones star, then sleeping with her pal Dana Gillespie, tried to seduce her at a hotel. His alleged failed bid was an attempt to pay back David for sleeping with Mick’s then-wife, Bianca Jagger. Angie says “I wasn’t particularly impressed or interested. I had one job and that was David.” Their marriage began to deteriorate after Bowie, who had dabbled with acid and smack, became hooked on cocaine. “I really didn’t care about anyone getting in my face with David as long as they realised I was the queen,” she says. “I thought, ‘Sure, flirt, do your thing. But guess what? I’m the queen bee, baby!’ I will remember David now as a passionate talent. The two of us, we set out to change the world with his music. And that’s what we did. ”  Source:

I see dissociation as the defining characteristic of our culture, a direction we've been heading in for the last few decades since the end of the 1960s. I am naming that we are living in the Age of Dissociation. The 1960s represented the greatest collective movement for love to save the world, the greatest collective effort for love to prevail—for association to prevail. That experiment failed spectacularly in its day, at least in terms of bringing forth a world based on basic similarity and connection among all members of the human family. Perhaps it was premature, a wishful fantasy, whose day has not yet come? That experiment was a reaction to the fear of the 1950s and early 60s, a fear we could imagine, especially in the more immediate aftermath of WWII, the Holocaust, and the psychically overwhelming actual use of nuclear weapons to attack Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Viewed from a collective perspective, these events were an attack by humanity on itself, a suicidal gesture of previously unseen proportions. Source:

As Jim Morrison’s political leanings toward the Living Theatre indicate, his philosophy was not necessarily incompatible with notions of the beneficial role of the state in society. In the 1960s both tended to be connected. “Rock is Dead” describes how Morrison’s childhood was transformed by rock music : “I used to be a boy in my home block / Used to feel alone then I heard some news / Bunch of cats got the rocking news / You know I love my rock n’ roll people.” Morrison was not able to cope with the apathy of his audience—it seems as if his attempts to “wake” them up from their collective submission did indeed fail.  Around December 1969 Morrison told friends he was having a “nervous breakdown.” Culture was about to become ideologically idle in the next decades. Morrison in the poem “Latino Chrome” equates his sexuality with a union of forces—the act of combining his male perspective with feminine instinct and knowledge: What Morrison could have thought of as a female weakness is converted into a positive image, a celebration of humanity. There is a clear case in these lines: “Are you her / Do you look like that / How could you be when / No one ever could”. This is a “woman as muse” concept—sexuality reflecting a desire for perfection, in a sense of an “answer instead of a way.” Jim Morrison liked to cite Nietzsche's quote: "All great things must first wear monstrous and terrifying masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity." —"A Theatre of Perception: The Doors and The Sixties" (2016) by Mark Vanstone 

Jim Morrison, a film school poet, could be all things to all people, like Marilyn Monroe, but how can an actor stay in character if he’s not actually Jim? Casting anyone to play Jim was just totally ridiculous to me. Oliver Stone was so uncool he voluntarily went to Vietnam instead of prowling around the Sunset Strip with the rest of his generation. Stone was such a nerd he became a soldier, a Real Man. He didn’t understand that in the 60’s real men were not soldiers. Stone’s heroes always wind up as victims, no matter how sleazy they are. Stone was asking everyone in connection with The Doors if Jim Morrison was impotent, and it makes you think Oliver Stone didn’t know much about Jim’s main disease. You’d think he’d at least read up on the symptoms that show up in a person who takes depressants as a cure for depression. Taking Seconal and Tuinal and drinking brandy will bring your sex life to a grinding halt. After his death in Paris, I began running into women who kept Jim alive–as did I–because something about him began seeming great compared to everything else that was going on. Eve Babitz for Esquire Magazine (March, 1991) 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Frozen in Time: Oliver Stone's JFK (100th Anniversary) & The Doors

President John F. Kennedy would be 100 years old on May 29, 2017, but he is forever frozen in time at age 46, following his assassination in 1963. To be exact, JFK served two years, 10 months and two days as president, the fifth-shortest time in office among the nation’s 45 presidents, but his legend has no end. Candidates of all political persuasions have imitated his charisma and style, but there was only one JFK. His centenary brings new books, the most notable probably “The Road to Camelot”, a provocative reconstruction of his “five-year campaign” for the White House. Kennedy’s quotations still apply to life in America today and offer plenty of material the current president might want to study. “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer,” Kennedy said. Tourists visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota in the mid-1990s were asked to pick their favorite president, and a majority selected John F. Kennedy—“the president of the world” had passed, a common thought from a wintry November day 54 years in our past. 

Thurston Clarke, in his book “J.F.K.’s Last Hundred Days” argues passionately that J.F.K. was moving ever more decisively left, flapping his wings like a dove, just before he was killed. The evidence is that Kennedy began to argue, more loudly than he had before, that American politicians should do everything possible to avoid provoking a nuclear holocaust that would destroy civilization. Kennedy was planning to get out of Vietnam by the end of 1965, or at least had made up his mind not to get drawn any farther in.  Paranoid as the period was, it was in ways more open. Oswald’s captors decided that he would have to be shown to the press, and arranged a midnight press conference for him, something that would not happen today. Source:

More than 25 years after its premiere, JFK (1991) is the way most Americans now learn about one of the most traumatic events in their recent history. According to Robert Brent Toplin, a historian who admires Oliver Stone, JFK has probably “had a greater impact on public opinion than any other work of art in American history.” Indeed, the movie remains a great source of pride for Stone, if not his masterpiece. Allegedly, the film exposed a fascist-led coup that “hit the central nerve core of the establishment,” and has “held up very well over time,” the director contended recently at the Lucca Film Festival in April, 2017. Source:

The Doors (1991) was not considered a box-office success. But in some ways, The Doors was like Scarface—it may not have fared that well at the box office, but it was a film that people would remember. Yet as far as the movie industry was concerned, a lot of people were looking for Stone to fail and now they felt justified. Many wondered if he would become a more cautious filmmaker and stay a little closer to the safety of the Hollywood system. Stone's answer was his most outrageous, biggest, and riskiest project ever: JFK. "Yeah, I missed out on the sixties," Stone admits. "I'm not angry about it, but I am saddened that I missed it—especially the healthy male/female relationships. I never had a coeducational existence. The sixties had this enormous sense of sexual liberation. Women started to come out of the closet and fucking was 'in'. It was stylish, fashionable. I missed all that, and the honest, open man/woman communication that came with it." 

In the original screenplay Jim Morrison was talking about death in a dramatic scene and he begged Pam: 'Tell me your cunt is mine.' And in that scene Pam bends over and says, 'Fuck me, Jim.' Some of the actors were uncomfortable auditioning, not just the actresses. Even Christian Slater was uncomfortable doing that scene during the casting process. About sixty actresses auditioned for Pam's role, one of them was Patricia Arquette. Former Doors' manager Bill Siddons felt the script focused "virtually, exclusively on the more sensational side of Jim's personality and not the man I knew: a bright, warm human being who actually gave a shit about people." Though Kilmer did look amazingly like Morrison in many ways, his eyes were not nearly as piercing and deepset. People generally wouldn't notice this, but those who were most drawn to Morrison's eyes would probably never be convinced. As Val Kilmer found with Jim Morrison, Meg Ryan's biggest obstacle was the conflicting accounts she received about Pamela Courson. "It was hell researching her," Ryan said. "One person would say she was a heroin addict, another person would say, no, she was afraid of needles. Some people said she was a monster, mean and awful, and others said, no, she was the sweetest thing that ever came down the pike. The only thing that everyone agreed on was that she was a redhead." 

Oliver Stone saw Jim and Pam's relationship as a great love story: "She may be basically a figure of innocence, but I see the movie character of Pam as a monster, too. She's very much a sixties child, not too thoughtful. She decides to ride the snake with Jim, and once having ridden that snake, proves she can hold on and stay with him all the way out—till the point where she's willing to die with him. What I like in their story is that Jim had this loyalty, too. He stuck with her to the end. That's at the center of the movie. He really loved her." Stone adds: "Morrison was even darker than we showed in a lot of ways—what struck me was his sadness and depression. I assumed from the records that he had a lot more fun, but it seemed like he had become this Dionysian figure whom was denied fun. The beautiful women I thought would be all around him were not, on closer inspection, so beautiful after all." Stone did seem to miss Morrison's humor in the film: "I believe Morrison had a terrific sense of humor and I'm not so sure we caught it [onscreen]. We tried to show the holy and the fool at the same time. People might say I didn't get enough holy. I couldn't find the exact Jim. He's an enigma. Nobody could play Jim Morrison but Jim Morrison," concedes Stone. —"Stone: The Controversies, Excesses, And Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker" (1995) by James Riordan

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Rock and Grunge Saviours: Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Jim Morrison

Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell's death Wednesday night left rock fans reflecting on the grunge era, and many came to a sorrowful realization: Eddie Vedder, the frontman of Pearl Jam, is one of the movement's only icons who is still alive. Eric Alper tweeted, "The voices I grew up with: Andy Wood Layne Staley Chris Cornell Kurt Cobain… only Eddie Vedder is left."

Eddie Vedder stands alone now. Let that sink in. The story of grunge is also one of death. The genre's songs were gloomy as the gray Seattle sky, and heroin usage was not uncommon among its guitar-wielding practitioners. Still, with breakout hits from Nirvana and Soundgarden leading the way, grunge finally flooded American soundwaves and, with them, the Billboard charts. In 1994, the genre was arguably at its peak. Soundgarden and Nirvana songs continued to blast from speakers in shopping malls and car stereos.

That was also the year that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the genre's leader, put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger, killing himself. At the time, heroin was pumping through his veins. He was the first major figure to go but far from the last. "If their music failed to make it clear, life was intolerably painful for many of Cornell's peers," wrote The Washington Post's pop music critic Chris Richards. "Singer Layne Staley and bassist Mike Starr of Alice in Chains each died of drug-related causes, in 2002 and 2011, respectively. In 2015, Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland died of an overdose on his tour bus." Cornell hanged himself in a Detroit hotel room after performing what would become his final show with his band, which he closed by playing "In My Time of Dying" by Led Zeppelin.

Vedder's Pearl Jam, however, persists. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder combined a Jim Morrison-style natural baritone range with other punk and rock influences. It long ago took up the mantle as grunge's longest-lasting band, steadily releasing albums for the past 25 years. At its commercial height, Pearl Jam wrote songs that weren't quite as angry; they were more melodic, more stadium-ready. To some, the band was softer, more easily digestible by the masses. 

Among those was Cobain himself, who once said, "They're a safe rock band. They're a pleasant rock band that everyone likes" and on a separate occasion said, "I find it offensive to be lumped in with bands like Pearl Jam," according to rock critic Steven Hyden's book "Your Favorite Band is Killing Me." Unlike many of his contemporaries, Vedder wasn't known for using heroin. Though the phrase "sell out" often appeared when describing Pearl Jam, Vedder, like Cobain and Cornell before him, didn't enjoy his fame. Rather than turn to substances, though, he merely began writing songs that loyal fans found much more appealing than a mainstream audience. Source:

Jim Morrison seemed not to be all that satisfied by the fame he had gained. Shortly before his death Morrison had confessed, “I’m so sick of everything. People keep thinking of me as a rock and roll star and I don’t want anything to do with it. I can’t stand it anymore… who do they think Jim Morrison is anyway?” Many of his lyrics refer to death and could be described as depressive: “As long as I got breath / The death of rock is the death of me / And rock is dead.” His friend and fellow poet Michael Ford claimed Morrison “contributed to American Indian funds. I think he really wanted to help people.” Morrison made conscious efforts to turn concerts into “a theater of confrontation.” Because “for all his tragic flaws, Morrison was not faking it - his show was theatrical, but his rebellious image and philosophy of life was not.” The “Woman as Muse” theme which frequently appeared in Morrison’s works suggests that women should not be displayed in any other environment except a complex one. In The Real-Life Death of Jim Morrison (an article based on an interview conducted by Bernard Wolfe, printed in Esquire magazine in June, 1972), Morrison is quoted as saying: “If there were real things in the world instead of just a panorama of symbols all the poets would have been accountants and census takers.” His next comment acknowledged the artificiality of much of the discourse of life: “People have the feeling that what’s going on outside isn’t real, just a bunch of staged events, all I did was to record this feeling.” —"A Theatre of Perception: The Doors and The Sixties" (2016) by Mark Vanstone 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Uncommon Rock Stars: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed

The term ‘rock star’ really came into widespread use in the seventies and eighties when the music business was looking to sustain the careers of its biggest names. The music industry was no longer happy to hop from fad to fad. It was beginning to realize the value of brands. There was no better brand than a rock star. By the twenty-first century, the term 'rock star' has been spread so thin as to be meaningless. In the twenty-first century it seems rather inappropriate to describe Kanye West or Adele as rock stars. These people are cut from a different cloth. The age of the rock star ended with the rise of automated percussion, the domination of the committee approach to hit-making, the widespread adoption of choreography and the advent of the mystique-destroying internet. The age of the rock star is over. We now live in a hip hop world. The game has changed. If we no longer have a breed that qualifies for the description ‘rock star’, how can it be that the idea of the rock star as a social type remains so strong? This didn’t happen yesterday. Back in 1973, just two years after the death of Jim Morrison, just as a new generation was beginning to warm to David Bowie’s tongue-in-cheek rock-star figure Ziggy Stardust – Texas Monthly magazine published what was the first recorded example of the term ‘rock star’ being applied to describe somebody who wasn’t a rock star. I don’t see any sign of the acts who came afterwards, who were born in the late eighties and nineties, accumulating successive generations of fans or acquiring the patina of legend in quite the same way.

If you were born in one of the decades immediately following the 1950s, a pantheon of rock stars provided you with a cast of fantasy friends who lived out their lives in a parallel universe. Now, like the cowboy, the cavalier, the wandering minstrel, the chorus girl, the burglar in the striped sweater, the top-hatted banker, the painter with his beret and the writer in his smoking jacket, the rock star must finally be consigned to the wardrobe of anachronistic stereotypes. In real life he has been overshadowed by brazen hip hop stars, and overtaken by talent-school munchkins who are far more manipulative than he would have dared be. His power base has been destroyed by the disappearance of the record industry, his magic fleeing in the twenty-four-hour daylight of social media. While they were on the stage they captured our imagination and our trust in a way no movie star or writer managed.  Rock stars were uncommon people. They were a product of the rise of post-war prosperity. They came from ordinary lives and had no reason to expect that they would ever be special. At the same time they refused to accept that they would ever be anything but exceptional. Many of them had careers that lasted far longer than their hits and their legends continued to endure. They endured because, like the stars of the great cowboy films of that earlier age, they were playing themselves and, at the same time, they were playing us.

Elvis Presley loved the company of females, whether they were adolescents smelling of Spray Net who just wanted his autograph, marriageable Eisenhower girls in rustling petticoats and white gloves who wanted to introduce him to their mothers, feather-bedecked showgirls ready to show him a good time in the dressing room, or even show-business professionals who weren’t sure whether they wished to mother him or shove him into the nearest cupboard and kiss his face off. By September 1956 Elvis was the biggest male sex symbol since Rudolph Valentino. But whereas Valentino had to get into costume in order to embody the full fantasy package and was only available on the big screen, the whole point about the new rock-star celebrity as embodied by Elvis was that while he might apparently live in the clouds he was still available in the normal world if you knew where to find him. A YouGov poll in the UK says that 29% of 18-24 year-olds have never listened to a single Elvis song. None reported to listening to him daily and only 8% admitted to listening to an Elvis song at least once a month. When pressed, only 12% said they liked Elvis, compared to the Beatles (23%) and Bowie (25%). The Guardian also reports that the value of Elvis merch and memorabilia is cratering, a bad sign leading up to the 40th anniversary of his death. Bookings for Elvis impersonators are falling. About the only positive sign is that streams of Elvis music are doing well, with 328 million streams in 2016. Compare that to Bowie (600 million) and Michael Jackson (1.3 billion).

Jerry Lee Lewis’ prodigious talent made him almost a novelty act. His only problem was that he actually was the redneck hoodlum his rock and roll peers only pretended to be. Fellow Southern boys were less easily thrown by Jerry Lee’s front, preferring to say he didn’t mean nothing by it, but even they were forced to concede that he would argue with a signpost. Whereas Elvis was professionally modest, the self-belief of Jerry Lee Lewis went beyond the quality it takes to get up on stage and command everybody’s attention with a prolonged ‘weeeeeeellllll’, passed directly through the braggadocio that showbiz traditionally expects of a headliner, and edged perilously close to an acute psychological condition. He was the first rock star to play up to his public image regardless of the cost. Furthermore, Jerry’s domestic arrangements made him more vulnerable. In looking at those arrangements from the twenty-first century it’s important to bear in mind that this was the real world for many people in the Southern states of America and not a Coen Brothers fantasy. Jerry Lee couldn’t say he hadn’t been warned. Sam Phillips had told him it might not be a good idea to take Myra with him to Britain, where a nymphet would inevitably be catnip to a press pack looking for a story about the decline and fall of morals in the coffee-bar generation. But Jerry was stubborn and in love. He didn’t return to Europe until the next decade and never recovered his momentum as a rock and roll star in the USA.

Born in 1936, the youngest of a poor but musical family, Buddy Holly had little reason to think he would ever amount to anything. In a school essay in 1953 he listed his many shortcomings writing, ‘I have thought about making a living out of Western music if I am good enough, but I will have to wait to see how that turns out.’ Gary Tollett, who sang on some of Holly’s records and came from the kind of west Texas town outside Lubbock that Larry McMurtry depicted in The Last Picture Show, said of his generation, ‘We thought more about work than we did about playing.’ Holly, the first member of his family to graduate from high school, thought he might get work as a draughtsman. The thing is, everybody liked Buddy Holly. His records ‘That’ll Be The Day’, ‘Oh Boy’, ‘Peggy Sue’ and ‘Rave On’, had been hits. His particular strain of ‘western bop’ had enjoyed surprisingly wide acceptance. He had even topped the rhythm and blues charts. He had appeared on all the big TV shows: Ed Sullivan and Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the UK. Nevertheless in the winter of 1958, barely a year since he had been at number one in the US Hot 100, twenty-two-year-old Buddy Holly found himself without funds and embarked his final tour. The longevity of Holly’s songs is guaranteed because the sadness of his passing places every note in a melancholy light. He had an optimistic, gentle self-mocking hiccup in his voice. He was as popular with the boys as Elvis Presley was with the girls, but for different reasons. Buddy Holly was the most influential rock star of his time, possibly of all time.

Jim Morrison's total abandon and blatant sexuality stirred the audience's emotion and the effect was both chilling and numbing.  On being a sex symbol, Morrison once commented: "Sex is just one part of my act. It is important I guess, but I don't think it is the main thing." His essential conservatism came out in an interview he gave to CBC radio in May, 1970: “I don’t want a revolution. A revolution is really just a switch from one faction to another. Democratic ideals are still worthwhile. I lament that so many people are living a quiet life when so many injustices are going on. I think that’s sad. The repression of sexual energy has always been the tool of a totalitarian system. I can’t talk much about sex. Sex will always be a mystery to me.” When he was about sixteen, Jim Morrison began reading Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy, finding insight into the the nature of man. He learned that all men, even his father, had to obey others. Nietzsche described a different kind of man who, because of his creativity and independence, answered to no man. This prophetic independence of the spirit opened hundreds of doors in Jim Morrison's mind. One of these doors may have been a deeper interest in music when Nietzsche described a musician as "a priest, a ventriloquist of God." His concert in Miami in 1969 would prove to be a turning point in his career and life. Beset by legal problems and years of alcohol abuse, Morrison was escaping to France not only to rechart his life, but also to salvage a dream. Paris was the home of the French Symbolist poets. If he couldn't find literary sustenance in that atmosphere, he couldn't find it anywhere. Morrison desired to leave the City of Night for the City of Light. Apparently Morrison had made amends with Janis Joplin just weeks before she passed away, and he was genuinely grateful for it. Jim Morrison was the perfect artist for the sixties generation, a representative mirror for the decade that started out believing music and love would set them free only to wind up ensnared by that freedom into decay and despair. He was faced with a hard choice: he could choose to totally become his rock-image, or he could fight to hold on to his true personality. True to form, Morrison chose neither option. Perhaps Morrison's real legacy is how he took the fear that accompanied the explosions into freedom in the sixties and, after first making it even more bizarre and apocalyptic than anyone thought possible, diffused it all by turning everything we were taking so seriously into a big joke.

Lou Reed had an unhappy childhood. His misguided parents thought electric shock treatment might snap him out of his adolescent unhappiness. Throughout his life it was difficult to know where his psychiatric problems ended and his overbearing personality began. The standard Velvet Underground review recounted their latest misadventures with the music business, described the state of the tensions within the band and ended by being slightly disappointed with how unadventurous record buyers were not supporting them as they had supported Led Zeppelin or The Doors. The Velvet Underground seemed to have missed the bus. Glenn O’Brien, who edited Warhol’s magazine Interview, commented about Lou that ‘he was brilliant, but had a lot of bitterness in him that fed a mean streak. A mean streak that alternated with empathy and great humour.’ Having apparently failed as a rock star, Reed was attempting in 1971 to reposition himself as a man of letters, publishing poems as Lewis Reed, and attending poetry readings with Jim Carroll at St Mark’s. Reed wrote a piece for Crawdaddy magazine, which was headlined ‘Why I Wouldn’t Want My Son to be a Rock Star or a Dog Even’. Its central thrust seemed to be that only a person with no proper sense of self would ever wish to be a rock and roll star. Some of its passages suggested that Lou Reed considered the life of the rock star beneath his dignity. Reed might have been enjoying the short holiday from the bohemian limelight back in his parents’ home in the suburbs but the rage for repute was building inside. His contradictory nature cried out for expression. He never lost his belief in the power and beauty of simplicity and minimalism in rock. David Bowie wanted to collaborate with Reed after signing a deal with RCA to release his album Hunky Dory. RCA threw a party at a club called The Ginger Man. Among the guests were Lou Reed and Bettye Kronstad, who appeared in the midst of Bowie’s cultivated fabulousness like the suburban figures they had become. Reed was still the elder statesman commercially rejected and Transformer would start to change his luck. Lou Reed made us believe that redemption was always equivocal but never impossible. —"Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars - 1955/1994" (2017) by David Hepworth

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Riding the crest of the wave: Jim Morrison, Timothy Leary, LSD & the American Dream

Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson sharing a moment of tenderness in Muir Woods, outside San Francisco, 1967. Although their relationship was often troubled, Pamela always remained Jim’s sole ‘cosmic mate’. Jim took Pam under his wing, introduced her to pyschedelic drugs and poetry. Although he was not faithful, it was to Pamela he returned, pledging his eternal love. Sometimes when The Doors weren’t playing at the Whisky, Jim went to other bars on the Sunset Strip and ‘sat in’ with the house bands. Pam frequently would go with Jim and for a short while she danced in one of the clubs, until Jim insisted she quit (which delated Jim's jealousy). By then, they were sharing a small apartment in Laurel Canyon. Jim gave his little brother Andy advice— ‘I talked to him about my being slow with the chicks, I just finished high school. Jim said not to worry about it. He said he didn’t get laid until he was at Junior College. He wanted me to feel like I was okay.’

‘We Could Be So Good Together’ was another of many songs Jim wrote about his troubled relationship with Pam. A columnist for the Village Voice, Howard Smith, wrote: ‘There really hasn’t been a major male sex symbol since James Dean died and Marlon Brando got a paunch. Jim Morrison could be the biggest thing to grab the mass libido in a long time.’ Diane Gardiner, The Doors' publicist and Pam's confidant, booked press interviews with Jim at the Phone Booth, the topless bar next to The Doors office. “Jim was interested in strip dancers and how they felt,” Diane said. “He had a real empathy for them. He would go to those places and he would applaud. He’d be a great audience.” Diane also remembered Jim's drunken advances: “Jim had fallen across the bed and he just looked up at me and he said, 'I want to fuck you.' There was that old part of me going, Gee whiz, 'I’d like to fuck you, too.' So I just said, 'Sure, Jim.' I found out he didn’t like women who weren’t feminine. He didn’t like it when women get kind of brash. He thought I was being too mechanized, I found out later. Anyway, we didn’t fuck and he went back out into the front room.” 

Michael McClure, one of the ‘Beat Generation’ poets whom Jim so admired when he was in high school, had written a play in 1965 about Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid (The Beard), and a Hollywood producer thought Jim should be cast as Billy the Kid. Michael McClure said: ‘I knew Jim was a poet and I enjoyed his singing, but I never had seen any of his poetry. I sat down and read his stuff and I was terrifically impressed. These were the poems that appeared in The  Lords and the New Creatures. Later Jim told me they had been sorted out by Pam, who’d edited it down from a much larger manuscript at Jim’s request. He seemed to explicitly rely on Pamela.’ Although Pamela’s sporadic affairs didn’t seem to bother Jim, his sublimated rage came out in other ways—shitty performances, self-negating behavior, and generally abusing himself and almost everyone who depended on him. After Jim's death Jerry Hopkins met Pam over lunch. His impressions were she was "beautiful, fragile, vulnerable, and manipulative".

HWY—An American Pastoral (1969): the script’s atmospheric desert imagery and cast of mythic American hobos and lowlifes seems to have been modeled on the surreal world of Michael McClure’s The Beard. The scenario included a homicidal hitcher, Billy Cooke, murdering whoever picked him up: a homosexual, a sheriff, a pilot who had served in Vietnam. ‘I don’t think the shaman is too interested in defining his role in society, he’s just more interested in pursuing his own fantasies,’ Jim Morrison said: "There's this theory about the nature of tragedy comedy that Aristotle didn't mean catharsis for the audience but a purgation of emotions for the actors themselves. The audience is just a witness to what's taking place on stage." In his autobiography Long Time Gone, David Crosby remembered Morrison as having ‘a masochistic bent; he sublimated it. He’d go out and get monumentally trashed – drunk, high, and really polluted. He did it repeatedly.’

Morrison had written these lines in one of his Paris notebooks: ‘Leave the informed sense in our wake/you be the Christ on this package tour/Money beats soul/Last words, last words, out.’ Later, some biographers would use these lines to support a suicide theory. In November 1971, four months after Jim died, Pam filed a ‘declaration in support of widow’s allowance’, claiming ‘at all times since September 30, 1967, I have considered that I was married to James D. Morrison, and that I was in fact his wife at the time of his death and am now his widow’. Pam had Jim ask Max Fink which states had the loosest laws recognizing common-law marriage. In her court statement, Pam said, ‘Jim reported to me that he learned from Fink that to create a marriage in the state of Colorado it was sufficient if two people stayed together, had marital relations and agreed to thereby be husband and wife, if in fact they thereafter conducted and held themselves out as each other’s spouse. We spent the night at a hotel, had sexual relations and agreed that we would forever after, be husband and wife. We very briefly honeymooned in Colorado and then continued our [the Doors] tour.’ Pam’s statement went on to say that during their relationship, all her living expenses were paid from Jim’s earnings, and she and Jim were given $2,500 in cash each month. 

Lizzie James, from Creem magazine, Autumn 1969: Jim would astonish me each time he gave me a chilling glimpse of his loneliness. At three or five in the morning, sometimes, he called and said, ‘Come and take me away…’ as though it was some winged denizen of heaven he had dialled. At one point, I told Jim, ‘You look like a Greek god.’ He shook his head, laughing with the bashfulness and insecurity of any ordinary guy. He was a stranger, a ‘rider on the storm’ thrown into this world. He was surrounded by an ever-present collection of buddies, gofers, groupies, associates and hangers-on. But when I said that I wanted to be his friend, he put his arm around me in quick acceptance, with feeling in his voice that I seriously recognised to be nothing other than need. After he was gone, I was sorry about nothing except that I hadn’t given him more. For what I did give, which was to plunge my greedy curiosity and eagerness into his mind in thirst for his ideas, had seemed to me no gift at all. But it was clear that it had seemed so to him, because he gave me so much in return – desperately careful in his explanations, because he saw my craving to understand. "The Lizard King, The Essential Jim Morrison" (ekindle, 2014) by Jerry Hopkins

Jim Morrison had a huge stash of Owsley Stanley’s “White Lightning” acid that looked like aspirin tablets, the cleanest LSD in 1966-67. In those early days of LSD and other mind-altering drugs, there was a series of tests on experimental drugs being conducted by the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Center. Of course the tests were strictly monitored, and students were allowed to sign up for only one of them because of the potential dangers of abuse. Morrison was among the first to sign up, and using a series of aliases he signed up for every test!

Timothy Leary went to California and made the rounds of the research community. In Los Angeles he attended a number of parties that were similar to the ones he and Richard Alpert had organized in New York, full of literate, intelligent seekers quietly discussing their trips to the Other World. One night, a sloshed Marilyn Monroe slipped into Tim's bedroom and asked him to turn her on. There were moments when Leary had to agree with Allen Ginsberg: everyone was becoming hip. This was an illusion, of course. Maybe 10 percent were becoming hip, the rest were getting nervous. And one of the focal points of their anxiety was LSD.  —"Storming Heaven: LSD & The American Dream" (2011) by Jay Stevens

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream—a novel written by Hunter S. Thompson in 1971—follows its protagonist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they descend on Las Vegas to chase the American Dream through a drug-induced haze, all the while ruminating on the failure of the 1960s countercultural movement: “Strange memories—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place... no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant... that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave... So now, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” 

Sunday, May 14, 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."