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The Decline and Fall of James Douglas Morrison - 1969 Article by Alexandra Tacht

Morrison used to come on like a character out of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, full of black logic, eroticism, fierce savagery and bloodlust, sewed into a pair of black leather jeans, sweating under a three-day-old shirt and generally wreaking havoc on the microphone.

Alexandra Tacht

Morrison finally did it.  He culminated his career as sex symbol of the decade by dropping his pants in front of umpteen thousand screaming teenies in Miami.  Exit Morrison who hopped the country and lef in his wake 35,000 teens turning on a Decency Rally behind Jackie Gleason and Anita Bryant to show that Miami Is really a straight town.  And one indigant girl who wrote a Miami newspaper that she had been “grossed out” by Morrison’s performance at the Miami Dinner Key Civic Auditorium.

Maybe dropping his pants was the only way Morrison could generate any excitement on stage; because if anything has been grossing out his audiences recently, it’s the lackadaisical and sloppy performances he’s been handing out to loyal Fans who pay up to $6.50 a seat to see America’s greatest sex symbol since Marlon Brando’s pre-paunch days.

It wasn’t always that way.  In 1967 and early 1968, the fruition years of the Doors’ considerable power, Morrison used to come on like a character out of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, full of black logic, eroticism, fierce savagery and bloodlust, sewed into a pair of black leather jeans, sweating under a three-day-old shirt and generally wreaking havoc on the microphone.  His performance had all the fury of a revivalist preacher turned rock star.  “I feel spirtual up there,” he said, but the religion he practiced on stage substituted orgasmic cries for hallelujahs.  He was labeled an erotic politican, even though his female admirers who range from 13-yea-old boppers to suburban matrons see him as an erotic god.

But Morrison isn’t a politician or a god- just a rock star, and no more immune from over-hype than any other human.  Maybe he just started believing his own press releases because the performer started losing ground to the legend about a year ago,  It was awfully evident earlier this year when the Doors came to Madison Square Garden in New York where even a great performer has problems fedning with the hawkers who ram through the aisles selling overpriced soda and ice cream, the shattering acoustics as every sound reverberates off the empty recesses of the Garden, and the fact that half of the audience is facing the performer’s back at any point in the act.  That was bad enough.  But then Morrison came on to give a performance that would have been zero at a high school battle of the bands.  The audience was treated to Morrison doing his poetry thing (where he mumbles some of his doggerel, he’s no Rod McKuen, into the mike), lectures on listening to the words, and belching into the microphone.  Highpoint of the set came when he triggered a stampede of teenies up to the platform by asking for a cigaret.  The girls were ecastatic about indulging in this weird form of mass masochism at Morrison’s cult.    Maybe it even reconciled them to wasting five or six dollars of Dad’s loot for seats.  Almost the only thing the Doors didn’t do in New York was to arrive their usual two or three hours late so that the audience could meditate on a blank stage for a while.

Morrison has said, “I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning.”  Whatever its philosopical value, this doesn’t work as an entertainment manifesto.  Chaos and disorder have a cathartic effect on the performers, just as Morrison relieves his internal tensions on stage, but the audience is separated from this activity by more than the gap between their seats and the platform.  They’re strictly onlookers, conditioned by the traditional concept of audience passivity and a decade of TV watching.  So when Morrison and the Doors stopped giving their audiences a coherency or continuity of msical experience to focus on, the audience lost interest.  As the quality of the musical performance slipped, Morrison kept the children’s attention by emphasizing the side effects- the wild gymnastics, the overtly sexual, and studied disdain for his listeners (sometimes exhibited spitting at the audience.)  Morrison’s stage presence began more and more to take on the characteristics of the sideshow barker who throws out any kind of flattery, cajolery and bombast, to persuade the hicks they ought to plunk their money down to see a lady with a beard glued on her chin.

The fabled Miami incident was a relish thrown in to spice up a soggy platter.  Also, Morrison was high that night- not on anything “romantic” or “glamorous” like grass or heroin or amphetamines- but on booze, helped along by a clause in his contrcat that dictates to six-packs of beer be left in his dressing room before each performance.  Morrison has something in common with those beer-bellied Ohio Staters up the coast at Lauderdale after all.

What actually happened in Miami is about as clear as the Cuban invasion.  One sotry comes from super-promoter Ken Collier who, together with his partner Larry Tizzi, run a place called Thee Image in Miami which is self-assertively the Fillmore of the great Southeast.  Collier is long on his woes as the victim of persecution by the squares of Miami, but the Dinner Key concert started a ruckus he enjoyed.  He wants to enter the political ring next year on some kind of Peace-Brotherhood-Crewcut Hippie program and, as he put it, “This got my name in the papers.”

The Rock Incident of the Year (maybe even eclipsing the Lennon-Ono alliance) started about an hour through a very dull performance.  Morrison was doing his poetry thing again and wasn’t singing very well.  In fact, he was hardly singing at all.  So he started moving things by taking his shirt off and urging everybody to shed their clothes and get together; “Let’s have a revolution right here.”  Collier was sitting in the balcony and getting nervous, so he ran the hundred yards up the stage and took the microphone from Morrison.  “I told them, ‘This is Miami. This isn’t going to happen here.’  Then I made the peace sign,” he told us.  The audience had been rushing up the stage but receded when he spoke, then advanced againas Morrison urged them on.  So the two continued like a couple of rival prophets, one preaching revolution and the other making his peace sign right and left.  Morrison drenched himself with a bottle of champagne and shrieked “Get these people off the stage.”  Then he shoved Collier’s brother off the platform and kept on doing what the promoter called “a hypnotic dance” while the band played “Light My Fire.”  About this time he also committed other irregularities politely termed by the newspapers as “indecent exposure.”

The struggle between good and evil, between Morrison and the Peace candidate, lapsed into a comic burlesque when Collier turned off the PA system and the amps kicked the drums in.  Morrison lurched at the nearest ack which happened to be that of Larry Tizzi, possessor of a blackbelt in karate, who neatly flipped the singer over his shoulder and into the audience where he flailed away, in Collier’s words, “like a minnow in a pond of fish.”

Morrison showed up briefly on the balcony a little later to oversee the havoc below, then disappeared.  His last confrontation with Collier was the dressing room backstage when the promotor brought his four girls around who had found Morrison’s passport in the ruckus on the floor.  “I guess if I hadn’t given it to him, he wouldn’t have been able to leave the country,” Collier said later.  The only comment he made to Morrison at the time was ironically, “God bless you, Jim Morrison,” because Collier sees some kind of muddled symbolism in the Doors’ appearance in Miami, that he, Collier, was “opening doors” for rock in the area over the dead bodies of the solid citizens.  That and the fact that he made money from the concert and got some publicity for his candidature.  “I can’t complain,” he says, “Now people know my name.”

He went on,  “Miami is not a sex and liquor center.  The kids ewre disappointed with the dull performance and the incredible action which occurred.  I can’t say if the newspaper accounts were correct, but I know he had pants unfastened and I saw him reach inside a few times.  It was due to my personal influence that we wasn’t arrested.  Drinking is out and Jim Morrison doesn’t know it.”  Maybe Jim Morrison is out and Jim Morrison doesn’t know it.

There was the inevitable newspaper reaction of stunned concern and the famous Decency Rally which fell somewhere between an “Up With People” concert and a Kate Smith testimonial.  Anway Nixon liked the rally because it “strengthens my belief that the younger generation is our greatest natural resource and therefore of remendous hope for the future.”  So much for Morrison and the rest of those hippies.

Meanwhile, when the rallies are over and the warrants are served, maybe somebody will take a look at rock concerts and decide to charge an honest admission and see that the stars of the show don’t have six-packs of beer in their dressing room and that they show up on time and maybe even sing a little.  Otherwise we may all go back to groovin’ along with super-clean Pat Boone types.

Article by - Alexandra Tacht, 1969

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Dinner Key Auditorium
Event Start Date: 
3/1/69
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Morrison used to come on like a character out of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, full of black logic, eroticism, fierce savagery and bloodlust, sewed into a pair of black leather jeans, sweating under a three-day-old shirt and generally wreaking havoc on the microphone.

Alexandra Tacht

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