Actor-filmmaker Tom Baker (1940-1982) befriended Jim Morrison in L.A. when he was a budding filmmaker and poet, at the beginning of his Doors’ career. The pair remained friends and drinking buddies for the rest of Morrison’s short life. Baker detailed his relationship with Morrison and Pamela Courson in a memoir, Blue Centre Light (1981). When Baker died in 1982, his parents named Legs McNeil executor of his literary estate. December 8 would have been Jim Morrison’s 77th birthday. To note the occasion, we present a portion of Baker’s writings about the Lizard King.
By Tom Baker
Introduction by Legs McNeil
Tom Baker, actor and filmmaker, was a good friend of mine; I used to stay with him at the “Boho Club,” Bob Brady’s loft on 14th Street that had once been a vaudeville rehearsal space, equipped with a stage where we used to sleep. Tom was a fantastic storyteller, as I learned while eating my morning coffee yogurt, waiting for my Valium to kick in.
I’d sit on one of the beds, quaking with the morning DT’s, begging Tom to tell me about the time he was busted with Jim Morrison for hijacking an airplane.
Thankfully, Tom wrote a version of that story, with my encouragement, for High Times magazine (published Dec. 1978). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, as great true stories can even humble the shakes.
PART I. MR. MOJO RISIN’
“….and they shambled down the street like dingledoddies and I shambled after them, as I’ve been doing all my life, after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time. The ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop, and everybody goes “Awwwww…….–Jack Kerouac, On The Road
When I first heard those words, I was a freshman in high school, living in San Francisco, just a long boccie-ball toss from North Beach. For a long time afterward, I was convinced I might be one of Uncle Jack’s “mad ones,” who would explode across the stars like a “blue center light.” When I reached my 30th birthday, I settled for being another Kerouac. But by then people who, beyond a doubt, fit that classic description of cosmic brilliance; James Douglas Morrison and his wife, Pamela Courson. In their tragically brief and mercurial lives, they would make of one of the most volatile and intensely dramatic romances of modern times.
In November of 1966, I had been living in New York City for three years, tending bar in Greenwich Village, studying acting with Lee Strasberg and working steadily in off-off Broadway theater, when I impulsively, and unwisely, it turned out, signed a seven-year contract with Universal Studios. So, ten days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was whisked from New York’s wind-chilled winter streets to the balmy, subtropical climate of Hollywood. I arrived full of the prejudices towards the place that one develops in Northern California, as well as in New York.
Upon arriving, I went to the Laurel Canyon home of a friend. A young girl came knocking on the door, asking to use the phone. She lived across the street and hers had been cut off. For days now, she had been trying, in vain, to reach her boyfriend. He was working in New York and would neither answer her calls, nor leave a message. She was dressed in old jeans and a man’s work shirt with her hair piled in curlers, but her beauty was still apparent to me. Later that evening, she returned, this time dressed to the nines, and now her ravishing beauty was so visible, even Steve Wonder could have seen it. Her hair was a deep luxuriant red, her eyes a bright dazzling green, and her skin milk white and spotted with freckles. Her relationship with the guy in New York was unraveling, so in his absence and her insecurity, we became immediate friends and lovers and I moved in with her that night, Her name was Pamela. For the next three weeks, we were rarely out of one another’s company.
The studio put me to work right away, and since I had no driver’s license, Pam would drive me to work early in the morning in her old VW, then pick me up in the evening. Once, while walking across the lot, two producers offered her a part in a film. She laughed and said no, and they could not believe she would refuse them. Years later, she would joke about how she had blown her shot at stardom.
It was clear to me she was more than just a pretty face. Although she was only 18 years old and did not have a high school diploma, she was bright and quick with a sophisticated knowledge of literature. She told me all about her boyfriend and how he had exposed her to many ‘serious’ writers, among them Norman Mailer, who was a friend of mine. I had spent the previous summer with him, working on a play of his. Her boyfriend’s name was Jim, Jim Morrison, and he was the singer in a new rock group called The Doors.
Along with our mutual appreciation of Mailer, Jim and I had much else in common, according to Pam. We both came from military families and had a passion for poetry and theater and we possessed “wild Indian” personalities. She said we even had a strong physical resemblance. Hearing all this created a bit of resentment in me toward Jim, because for sure, I had fallen deeply in love with Pam. Just prior to Jim’s return to Los Angeles, I rented a house nearby. Pam was all set to move in until I stipulated, she could no longer see Jim. How naive of me. I realized I had underestimated her, and as a result, I lost some of her love.
On a cold and star-filled December night, missing New York and my friends there, feeling suffocated by my contract to the studio, and most of all, missing Pam, I hopped into my newly purchased car and drove by the house where we had met, hoping to see her. Instead, once inside, I was confronted by two male strangers, but instinctively, I felt I knew one of them. He sat slouched in a large easy chair, loosely gripping a half-empty bottle of tequila. His dark, curly hair exploded from his head and fell down nearly past his shoulder. He had half a smile, half a sneer on his face. His eyes were intensely penetrating, with just enough of a hint of madness to keep you off and awkwardly began to introduce yourself, but he interrupted me. He already knew my name and much more about me. His knowledge was so thorough, I’d have sworn he’d had access to my ‘womb to tomb dossier.’ When he finished, he sat back with a self-satisfied grin, like a precocious student who surprised his teacher by learning a lesson ahead of schedule.
So, this was Jim, and he’d gotten his information from Pam, which surprised me. Had she also told him of our affair? I half expected him to come at me in a rage, but this did not happen. We spent the next 30 or 40 minutes talking around each other, smoking powerful Mexican grass and passing the tequila bottle. He and his friend did much theorizing about Mailer, all too obviously for my benefit, and he impressed me with his ideas and intelligence. The two of them were quite drunk and the other guy, whose name I never did learn, passed out on the couch. Jim drained the last of the booze and lurched out the door. I hung around for a few minutes waiting for Pam, begrudgingly admitting to myself that he was extremely bright and fascinating. She never did show and I went out to my car. Sprawled on the lawn near the driveway, I found Jim, thoroughly unconscious, looking neither bright nor fascinating.
In the first six months of the new year, I saw little of either Pam or Jim, although they had taken a house just down the road from mine. Occasionally we would drive past one another on the narrow canyon hills, and I’d feel Jim’s ‘mad eyes’ burning into me as they sped by. They would be in Pam’s VW, yet another reminder of our time together. Once, in an all-night deli on Fairfax Avenue, I joined them as they argued between bites of a midnight meal. Jim stalked out without a word of goodbye, and Pam was left with the check and no money. I was only too glad to come to her rescue. Later, these acts of generosity towards Pam would be reciprocated by Jim many times over.
Another time, I found them in Gazzari’s, a funky and popular club on the Sunset Strip. The Doors were to perform that night, but he was high on LSD and staggeringly drunk to boot.
Overall, his performance was sadly unspectacular, except for one moment. While stumbling through a song early in the set, he suddenly let out with a deep-throated roar, a bloodcurdling scream, really, and it startled me, as though someone had snapped a wet towel against my bare skin. Pam was furious with him because of his condition and kept telling me I was seeing him far from his best. I replied that he was a good guy, but he should keep his day job.
But soon, evidence of The Doors’ success was everywhere. An album, a billboard on Sunset Boulevard, their songs played on AM radio and jukeboxes. Still, I was not yet as impressed with their talent as their PR. And I peevishly figured they couldn’t be doing so hot if Pam was still driving the old VW. In any event, it hardly seemed Jim and I were destined to become bosom buddies.
Unexpectedly free of my Universal contract, I returned to New York in July and met with Andy Warhol. After the constraining situation with the studio, my concept of doing an experimental, underground film greatly appealed to me, so when Andy asked me to star in one with him directing, I quickly accepted. I had noticed in the paper that The Doors were appearing in town at The Scene on West 46th Street, and suggested to Andy we go see them.
Pam was sitting by the door to the club as we entered. Jim was standing nearby and he came over and the three of us embraced warmly, which surprised me, as I had no idea what kind of reception to expect. He had brought a copy of the just published play version of The Deer Park containing Mailer’s acknowledgment of my contribution to the original production. Jim was very impressed with that. For the first time, I saw a warm, charming and friendly side to him.
I sat with Andy and his entourage at a long table near the stage. Pam sat alongside me and she was very excited. She told me “Jim’s really up for tonight’s show. Forget that shit at Gazzari’s, now you’re going to see the real Jim Morrison.” I remained skeptical. This was, after all, the premier rock club in New York, and the audience was a hard-nosed bunch. But she was right. His performance was a classic one, as it gave off glimpses of all our beautiful tragic/comic American heroes of the previous 15 years. One moment I saw Brando’s “Wild One”, the next James Dean’s “Rebel”, then Chet Baker playing his golden-horned Blues/Love songs, and finally, he went straight thru to Elvis, the definitive rocker. Throughout the set, he boldly projected the seductively sinister quality of a street ‘punk’ right out of the pages of John Rechy’s City of Night, plying his trade ‘between the lions’ of the public library. Somehow, I got the impression that much of his performance was directed at me.
When he finished, I sat stunned for a moment, then I joined the furious applause. I felt Pam smiling at me and as I looked at her, she leaned into me and said, “I told you so.” Indeed, she had.
Afterwards, The Doors gave a party in the club to celebrate their success. The weeding out of the invited from the uninvited was a messy operation, something on the order of a sweep. Those who could not immediately prove their connection to the complexion were unceremoniously hustled out into the hot, 4th of July, 4-in-the-morning darkness. I felt comfortable and a bit smug as the fat-arm bouncers would treat me with deference, then roughly grab some poor dolt standing next to me who was hopelessly trying to look as though he belonged.
As the party progressed, Warhol and I stood to the side and began to discuss our idea for a film. Soon, Jim, by this time very stoned and no doubt feeling euphoric from his spectacular performance, joined us. He loudly interrupted and began telling Andy that he, and not I should star in the film. I laughed and told him to stick to his music.
Even later, Jim and I stood talking at the bottom of the stairs that led up to 46th Street. It was late, and the area was a dangerous one, with various creeps and cops lurking about. Suddenly, Morrison started throwing empty glasses up the stairs and into the street. I grabbed him by the arm and yelled, “What the fuck are you doing, for Christ’ sake?” He ignored me and threw another glass up the stairs, simultaneously letting out with his “bloodcurdling scream”. I expected a horde of stoned and angry street freaks or a small army of cops to come charging down. After one final glass and scream, Jim turned and was gone.
I felt frustrated when I realized he had left, for I wanted to tell him that, finally, I had met someone who was truly possessed.
One moment I saw Brando’s “Wild One”, the next James Dean’s “Rebel”, then Chet Baker playing his golden-horned Blues/Love songs, and finally, he went straight thru to Elvis, the definitive rocker.
Jim and The Doors left later that day for their extensive tour in large, concert type halls. I did the film with Warhol, it took only three days and we decided to call it I, A Man. I returned to Los Angeles and more or less forgot about it when I learned Andy had opened it in a Broadway theater only weeks after we had finished it. Local and national press gave it much coverage, some even favorable, so I immediately flew back to New York, hoping to capitalize on my sudden, if limited, fame.
My first day back, Andy invited me to the opening of The Cheetah night club and I saw Jim and Pam there. The day before, they had been to see I, A Man and had liked it so much they sat through it twice. Jim went on to tell me, very seriously, how he thought it was one of the best films he had ever seen. Apparently, it appealed to the film student in him. Nonetheless, I graciously and modestly accepted his compliments. Later, I went with them to have dinner with the poet/ playwright Michael McClure.
In the following weeks it became obvious that Jim’s success was permanent and its proportions were overwhelming. Producers vied for his services in films, hailing him as the next James Dean. But Morrison appeared aloof, unconcerned and even uninterested. God, how I envied the bastard. My own career had taken a complete nosedive after the Warhol film. I figured that Hollywood, with their traditional approach to moviemaking would be threatened by Warhol’s unconventionality, but I hoped my background in legitimate theater would help in New York. I was dead wrong. People, who only months earlier had been eagerly offering me jobs, now would not take a phone call from me. To them, Warhol’s people were “speed freaks” and “sex perverts”, non-professional pretenders to the art of acting. Except for the non-professional part, a fairly accurate opinion. So, while I floundered, Jim soared, and Pam along with him.
One cold, gray November day, I was on 57th Street near Carnegie Hall, walking with my head down and cursing the hypocrites who kept me from my deserved fame and fortune. I heard someone call “Heyyyy, Tom,” and looked up to see Jim emerging from a movie house. He had just seen a screen version James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, and he was feeling Irish and poetic. We went to the bar of his hotel, the old Great Northern, and ordered beer and Irish whiskey. I had seen the film myself and we both agreed it was an excellent one. In the story the two sons are named Shem and Shaun and represent the opposite sides of their father’s personality. Shem is the quiet, reclusive visionary poet, and Shaun is the roguish and gregarious extrovert. Morrison decided we were like the brothers and he was Shem and I Shaun. The notion was something of a schoolboy’s conceit but sincere nonetheless.
He asked me about Mailer, wanting to know what he was like to go out drinking with and his friends. Also, he was slyly curious about whether Mailer was aware of him and his music. Jim seemed quite pleased when I told him he was.
I began to recite some poems from James Stephens, a brilliant but obscure contemporary of Joyce’s, along with some of the speeches from the character I had played in The Deer Park. Jim loved it and would roar with laughter as I reeled them off. The drinking became almost competitive and toasted everyone, Brando, Elvis, Mailer, even the bartender, as well as our military backgrounds and our mutual detestation of authority.
Soon, we were toilet-hugging drunk, and remaining upright seemed to defy the law of gravity, when Ray Manzarek appeared along with one of the band’s managers. They had come to collect Jim for a concert that evening. I was amazed he was going to do a show. After all the booze, I didn’t see how he possibly could perform. He urged me to come along, suggesting I introduce the group and recite some poems. My drunkenness clouded my better judgment and I piled into a long black limo with Jim and the band. After going a few blocks, Morrison had the driver pull over and he dashed into a novelty store, returning with six Brecthian masks, everyone a different color. Back in the limo, he handed them out to each of us and we were off. I passed out before we were halfway through the midtown tunnel, only to awake an hour later with an excruciatingly painful need to urinate.
The show was to take place in a dull little town called Danbury, Connecticut, and the driver was none too swift coming out of the chute, and it took longer than necessary to find the place. But he finally figured it out, and I was able to relieve myself.
I looked around and quickly realized we were a long way from 46th Street. It was a new and ugly building, prison-like in its coldness, an all-purpose high school auditorium and gymnasium, very distinctly ‘American heartland’. Well, that’s good, I thought, let Jim carry his dark messages directly to the folks.
But the atmosphere made me apprehensive about the introduction. Jim seemed to sense this and chided me about losing nerve. I was wearing a deceptively expensive looking black fur coat, with the mask, felt very much out of place.
The band took up their places behind the curtain and I peeked out from the wings, trying to get a fix of the audience. I nearly choked when I saw all these prepubescent runts with their Ma’s and Pa’s, clutching Doors albums to their heavily beating breasts.
I took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight. The image of row after row of beaming, clean-cut faces clashed in my head with the more familiar and expected sights of dark, murky, dope-in-the-air, sex-drenched clubs, and I couldn’t help thinking we had made a wrong exit on the turnpike.
I rushed through the shortest poem I knew, muttered something about having known ‘the boys’ from the Los Angeles days, then made a quick check behind the curtain and got the hell out of there. I watched from the wings, flanked by local honchos and some of their lovely daughters, who must have pulled their parents by the short hairs to gain access. Jim threw himself into his performance, and the kids loved him. They were on their feet throughout, yelling, “Jimmy, Jimmy,” and begging him to sing “Light My Fire” until he obliged. He was still brilliant and exciting, but for me, much of his magic and dangerous spontaneity were swallowed up in the huge hall.
A live recording of The Doors’ concert at Danbury High School, October 1967:
The ride back was exhausting, my head was pounding and I hadn’t eaten all day. It was well after one in the morning when I was deposited on the corner of 57th Street and Seventh Avenue. Jim and I had not spoken throughout the trip and now he lifted slowly, and nodded at me, saying, “see ya next time”. My hangover increased my paranoia, and I worried that he was disappointed by my uninspired beginning.
The limo disappeared into the flowing traffic, and I headed down the subway stairs. He was going on to piles of money and great adulation. I was faced with door pounding and job searching. I pondered the ironic reversal of our fates in the past year as I rode down to Greenwich Village on the BMT. As I approached my apartment, I remembered my girlfriend had been waiting for me since early in the day. “Christ,” I thought, “What am I going to tell her? She’ll never believe I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing. Shit! Another problem. Fuck Pam! Fuck Jim! Fuck The Doors!”
I saw The Doors perform again in February 1968 at the Fillmore East in New York City. At the conclusion of the show, the Unknown Soldier film was shown and the audience went wild. Jim was excellent but again, the cavernous hall detracted from his performing strength.
Backstage, he encouraged me to be sure and make it back to Los Angeles as he felt, “It’s going to be an interesting summer.” Work was still scarce for me and when I, A Man opened to genuine raves in Los Angeles, I rushed back, hoping to change my luck. Perhaps some far-seeing young filmmaker would take a chance on me.
A portion of I, A Man, featuring Tom Baker and Nico:
Back in Los Angeles in April, Jim was a bona fide star now, The Doors’ second album having sold as well as the first, and they would be headlining the Hollywood Bowl in early July. He and Pam were living in Westwood and I called and went out to visit. Jim was in the studio and working on a new album, so Pam and I had a chance to talk privately for the first time in over a year. Our ‘fling’ was far in the past and no longer interfered with our friendship. She was very much a part of Jim’s success. Riding over the studio, I commented on the shiny new Porsche she was driving and she laughed and assured me she still had the VW.
Inside the studio, Jim greeted me loudly. I never knew what to expect from this guy, and it would take a little while before I could accurately comprehend his mood whenever I would see him. But there was no mistaking now that he was happy to see me and renew our Shem and Sham relationship.
He played me the master track of “Five to One,” and he was like a new father as we listened, puffing on a cigar and beaming proudly. While it was not my favorite Doors song, millions of kids would make it their ‘revolutionary anthem.’
The Doors had rented office space in West Hollywood across the street from Elektra Records and afterward we went there to drink and look at old student films. I was introduced to Jim’s “circle of friends,” many of them, such as Paul Ferrera and Frank Lisciandro he had met with Manzerek at the UCLA film school. Another one was Babe Hill, an old ‘neighborhood’ pal of Ferrera’s. Hill was a stout, beer-bellied character with long hair, a beard and earring and the strength and stamina of an ox. He would come to play Sancho Panza to Jim’s Don Quixote, and the times he bodily carried Morrison out of the bar and poured him into his motel room are beyond the count of the most advanced computer.
When we did drive, Jim would take Babe and I on ‘death runs.’ He would fly through intersections, often running the red light, passing cars on the right-hand side, all the time keeping the gas pedal to the floor.
The area surrounding the office was, coincidently, the location of the few decent bars in all of Los Angeles, and for the next three years, until his fateful visit to Paris, Jim, along with myself and Hill and others, would be found in one or the other of them whenever he was not out of town touring. There was Barnet’s Beanery, The Garden District and America’s original topless bar, The Phone Booth. Our favorite, and the one we usually started the day in was The Palms, a dark and atmospheric ‘neighborhood’ bar with a pool table in the rear. The owner’s wife was a good-natured woman of Mexican descent who served up the best plate of ‘huevos y churizo con arroz y frijoles’ this side of Durango. A plate of this deliciously hot and spicy grub with a cool Dos Equis tooling down the back of your throat, and even West Hollywood was bearable.
The I, A Man backlash was as strong as ever, so I found myself with far too much time on my hands and much of it would be spent with Jim and usually Babe Hill. The sessions would begin in earnest, and we would discuss different ideas about doing a play or some multimedia event, but the liquor soon fogged our imaginations beyond hope of that, coupled with Jim’s obligations to The Doors prevented nearly all of them from coming to fruition.
Most times, we restricted our activities to the clubs within walking distance of the office. As drunk as we would get, driving was nearly as hazardous as swimming thru shark-infested waters with an open wound. When we did drive, Jim would take Babe and I on ‘death runs.’ He would fly through intersections, often running the red light, passing cars on the right-hand side, all the time keeping the gas pedal to the floor. Babe and I would sit there acting as though nothing was wrong, trying to be blasé about the recklessness.
How we avoided getting killed or maimed, I’ll never know, but as soon as the rides were over, I always felt a little closer to the man upstairs.
Whenever we went to the rock clubs, like The Whiskey or Thee Experience, Jim would cause a stir as we walked in and the kids gathered around him. Morrison was usually in a semi-conscious stupor and seemed oblivious to the fans. As soon as we sat down, the resident groupies would pounce on him. Sometimes, I would share in the spoils, other times I would be ignored as though I was invisible, and still other times, Jim would be so comatose, I would get them all to myself.
One night we went to the grim little Hollywood flat of two of these creatures and sat up till dawn drinking and talking. One girl soon revealed herself to be a practicing junkie and she brough out a plastic vial of pills, blue tablets called ‘New Morphine,’ a strong synthetic morphine. We crushed them with a tablespoon and sniffed the powder. The high was speedy and euphoric and Jim became loose and talkative, telling us endless tales about himself, including the story about his body being inhabited by the spirit of an old Indian dying by the side of a New Mexico highway. The junkie offered to let us use her ‘outfit’ but we declined. Jim was not inclined to use downers and hated the thought of using a needle on himself. Aside from this night, I only saw him use cocaine or a hallucinogenic.
As soon as we sat down, the resident groupies would pounce on him. Sometimes, I would share in the spoils, other times I would be ignored as though I was invisible, and still other times, Jim would be so comatose, I would get them all to myself.
After a while, I went to bed in the front room with the junkie and the other girl began to wrestle Jim into her room. He had become somewhat inert and sat with his head on the kitchen table. After a great effort, she got him into her bed and shut the door. About ten minutes later, she joined the junkie and I, complaining about Jim’s lack of interest. Soon, the three of us were engaged in a robust bout of interchanging sexual positions and then I passed out, exhausted and content.
I woke at the crack of noon, alone. I sat in the kitchen drinking instant coffee and smoking cigarettes for about 15 minutes, then curiosity got the best of me and I slowly opened the bedroom door and looked in. The little beggars had abandoned me for Jim and he and the junkie were asleep alongside one another…
We ran afoul of the law about three or four times, common drunk and disorderly charges resulting in a night in jail. For a while it seemed the West Hollywood sheriffs were reserving a cell for us along with booking sheets with our names already on them. Behind bars, Jim, once he sobered up, remained calm and collected and he would talk to the other prisoners about their lives and backgrounds.
Once he was charged with drunken driving and the case against him appeared to be airtight, but his lawyer came up with some fancy legal footwork and Jim beat the rap. This did not please the uptight judge, who was ready to throw the book at him. When the proceedings were over, the judge took Jim aside and told him his teenage daughter was a Doors fan and she had instructed him to ask Jim what was going to happen to the world. Jim coolly told the magistrate to “tell your daughter, everything’s going to be all right.”
I was still on the top of Hollywood’s ‘hardcore unemployables’ and my reputation seemed to deteriorate daily. Jim started to call me the “white nigger of the year.” My carousing with Jim did not make me number one in the hearts and minds of the people who worked for The Doors, and some of them, like Bill Siddons, his manager, would bite down hard on his bridgework whenever I came around.
Jim’s personality demanded a form of indulgence and protectiveness from those who knew him and sometimes I would get fed up with the boorish rages he got into when he was past a certain point in his drunkenness. But it was difficult to stay mad at him for long.
The night after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and officially pronounced dead, Los Angeles was riddled with tension up to its armpits. Two days earlier in New York, our old friend Any Warhol had been shot and nearly killed by a deranged actress who had appeared in I, A Man with me. This event fed with the Kennedy madness, created a sense of paranoia that seemed like a vicious mescaline high. I called Jim at his apartment in Westwood to talk to him about the incredible chain of events of the last few days. I heard Pamela in the background making a scene. She must have grabbed the phone from him and we were disconnected. He called me back and asked me to come pick him up. Pam was throwing him out and even threatening to call the police.
When the proceedings were over, the judge took Jim aside and told him his teenage daughter was a Doors fan and she had instructed him to ask Jim what was going to happen to the world. Jim coolly told the magistrate to “tell your daughter, everything’s going to be all right.”
I found him standing on the street, looking rather forlorn, holding a small overnight bag. Riding back to West Hollywood, I started to ask him how he felt about the shootings, but he wanted to talk about Pam. I asked him why she was so upset.
“I don’t know, but every time you call, she starts wigging out”.
“What do you mean?” I asked him. “What does she say?”
He looked at me, “Did you ever make it with Pam?” he asked me point blank.
He caught me off guard and I told him, “Well, yeah sure, but it was a long time ago, Jim, even before I met you. Anyway, I figured she told you about it. Christ, she told you everything else.”
“No,” he said, “she never told me that.” He looked confused and betrayed, and I realized I had made a mistake in admitting anything, but it was too late to retract it now.
“Look, Jim, it was a long time ago, she was alone and broke and she couldn’t reach you. It’s over and done with and there’s nothing to do now.” We stopped at a liquor store and when he got back in the car I started to explain again, but he said to forget about it and for as long as I knew him, it was never mentioned again.
We went to the ‘Alta Cienega’ Motel across the street from his office, where he kept a room on a permanent basis. Between pulls on a bottle of Jack Daniels, we watched LBJ on the telly plead for calm and reason throughout the land.
Later, in a bar in Santa Monica Boulevard, we were invited by a friend to go to his apartment in Beechwood Canyon. Riding over in the unseasonably heavy downpour, we were stopped by the police for no apparent reason. They made a thorough search of both ourselves and the car before allowing us to go on. Somehow, we avoided locking horns with the cops, but the potential for a real ugly incident was all there.
Relieved to be safely inside the apartment, we listened to music, smoked grass and drank and talked. I made some calls to New York to check on Andy, then at some point Jim slipped into a spare room and passed out. Soon, there was a loud banging at the door and six angry and uptight cops barged in. I lost my temper and came awful close to getting busted in both senses of the word, before my friend managed to calm everyone down. Just before leaving the cops told us a neighbor had summoned them after hearing what sounded like a “bloodcurdling scream, like someone being strangled.” Good ole Jim, even in his sleep he could stir things up.
PART II. MR MOJO FALLIN’
The Troubadour was a club about a mile west of Jim’s office, and for some reason still unknown to anyone, we seemed to reserve our worst behavior for this place. At the time, it was just becoming known as a select showcase for fresh new talent in the music industry. The place was packed out nightly with music fans, celebrities, both real and imagined, and recording ‘honchos’ with their girlfriends and assistants.
The first time I went there with Jim, Joni Mitchell was playing and being hailed as the great star she was about to become. The atmosphere was charged with intense energy. We sat at the bar, which was separate from the showroom, and Jim started talking to a girl on his right who turned out to be Janis Joplin. Later, they would have a legendary battle when, after a booze and a dinner party at someone’s home, Jim grabbed her by the hair and dragged her around the room…But for now, all was chummy and humorous as the three of us drank and laughed together.
The layout of The Troubadour requires you to pass through the showroom to go to the toilet. Jim left to take a leak and Janis and I bought each other drinks and talked about mutual friends in San Francisco. Jim returned and ordered a beer, which arrived along with some angry employees of the club. They grabbed him and started hauling him out the door. Janis and I tried to intervene, protesting it was a helluva way to be treating someone of Jim’s stature. This earned us an invitation to leave with him and soon we were all three on the street looking in. It was later explained that on his way back from the bathroom, Jim had cut loose with a bloodcurdling scream during one of Joni’s more sensitive songs.
Once, over drinks in The Phone Booth, we impulsively decided to fly back to New York and campaign for Norman Mailer, who was making a serious bid for Mayor. But, crossing the street to the car to go the airport, Jim lost his credit card. End of trip. I accused him of losing it on purpose, but he denied it. Instead we presented a poetry reading on successive weekend nights and screened I, A Man, and Feast Of Friends.
Feast Of Friends, a film by Paul Farrara and Jim Morrison (1970):
McClure and some other poets read with us and Robby Krieger improvised along behind the poems. Jim began monopolizing the microphone, singing some old blues with Robbie. I pulled his stool out from under him, but he never missed a beat as he climbed back on his perch.
The next night, we recruited a former instructor of Jim’s from UCLA, Jack Hirschman, to replace McClure, who had to return to San Francisco. When Jack began to read, Jim started interrupting him until the furious professor stormed out shaking his fist in anger at his one-time student. Jim later sent him a copy of his privately printed collection of poems as a form of apology and told me he did not know why he had done it, as Hirschman had always been one of his favorite teachers and poets.
The Doors gave a concert at the Aquarius Theater in Hollywood in July of 1969, and it was easily the best show I saw them do in a large hall.
“Five to One”-The Doors, Aquarius Theater, July 1969:
At one point I ran upstairs to the bathroom and on the way bumped into a girl who worked for Electra Records. She was a beauty I had long fancied and I invited her to come with me. She followed me into the stall where we had it off. Short, but oh so sweet. At the post-concert party, Jim was sober and somewhat serious. He asked me what I thought of the show and I told him how much I liked it and then went on to describe my trip to the bathroom. The story broke him up and he thought it was perfectly appropriate.
We returned to The Troubadour one night to see Bobby Darin, who had given up impersonating Sinatra in favor of Tim Hardin and Bob Dylan. We spoiled the show when we drunkenly tried to “occupy,” then “liberate” the stage. The nervous employee of the club sounded the alarm and when the cops arrived, they came close to arresting the manager for overreacting.
The incident caused us to be permanently banned from the premises but after what we felt was a reasonable cooling out period, we returned, both of us sober, to see Laura Nyro, who was our current favorite singer/songwriter. The girl in the box office looked at us, then excused herself for a moment, and returned to say there was no way she could sell us a ticket. Too bad, we were anxious to meet Laura.
Late one night, in the Elektra recording studios, after listening to the just completed mix of the Soft Parade album, we were typically drunk, Morrison was more than a little apprehensive about the album. For the first time, the Doors had recorded with horns and strings, and only a few of the songs were his own.
I began to break his chops about the slick and expensive looks of the studio and offices which had been financed almost entirely from the profits of the first two Doors albums.
“Jesus, look at this place Morrison, it’s fucking disgusting. You did this, Jim; you financed this whole round-haircut establishment. Why’n fuck don’t you just move your whole corporate operation up to Sacramento with the rest of the bureaucrats? I mean, look at this man, your songs, your words paid for all this!”
I indicated the brand-new latest model IBM typewriters and shiny file cabinets and desks. Jim had a slight smile and was silent, but I could see I was getting to him. He looked at the equipment as the others with us tried to suppress nervous laughter. Next thing we knew Jim hopped on top of a desk and began to heel-stomp the costly IBM, kicking it to the floor and jumping down on it, then pouring beer over papers and files. I thought sure there would be hell to pay, but the next day the mess was cleaned up and nothing was ever mentioned about it.
In the late Sixties, the Living Theater returned from a long period in exile, as they wandered over Europe performing their radical and revolutionary brand of theater. The U.S. government had them up on tax evasion charges and the group’s message was one of the leading voices of the anti-war movement.
They came to the campus of the University of Southern California, in the middle of a predictably controversial tour, and Jim was looking forward to their arrival for weeks. He purchased a block of tickets for all of the week’s shows and invited me to meet him there for the final night, a performance of Paradise Now.
At the end of the show, members of the cast confront the audience in their seats, shouting slogans of protest, the encouraging everyone to join them on stage and take off their cloths and reject “uptight” society. About three-quarters of the people joined in, and things were getting very chaotic when the school authorities called in the dogs and pissed on the fire. At one point, Jim turned to me and said, “Let’s start a fire in the balcony, or something, get a riot going.”
He had a madder than usual look in his eyes, though I knew he was sober. He left his seat and walked to the edge of the stage for a few minutes, then left, telling me he was leaving town for Miami early in the morning.
It’s too bad he did not get some of the ‘crazies’ out of his head before he left, because the next night, his concert in Dade County resulted in a riot, he would later be charged with ‘indecent exposure’ and other outrageous behavior.
It’s possible no one knows what really happened that ridiculous night. Jim was guarded and stoic, saying only he felt confident his lawyers could take care of it. I’m convinced he was influenced by the antics of the Living Theater from the night before. But, more significantly, I believe he was simply tired of it all.
I have never met anyone whose sensibilities were more unsuited to the rigorous demands of being a rock star and sex symbol. No doubt, he had enjoyed the music and the explosive reaction of the young people he so strongly identified with, as well as savoring the rush of success and sense of power and manipulation. But Jim was a scholar and all his life his academic achievements were outstanding. His success as a rock & roller was so sudden and tremendous, he never really understood it and soon felt trapped by the image, longing to be thought of only as a poet.
Professionally, I remained on the treadmill to oblivion, the “Warhol Stigma” clinging to me like white on rice. Almost as an act of desperation, simply to give myself something constructive to do, I began filming a documentary about an odd little character from Beverly Hills who actually fancied himself as a werewolf and who called himself ‘Bongo Wolf.’ Jim applauded my efforts and along with leading moral support and some equipment, he and the rest of The Doors allowed me to use “People Are Strange” on the soundtrack. Jim was greatly amused by Bongo and came along a few times when Paul Ferrera, Lisciandro and Babe Hill and I were filming on Hollywood Boulevard. I then locked myself in an editing room for nine weeks, seeing no one, working 14 hours a day to put together a suitable version of the film in order to raise completion money. This accomplished, I drove by Jim’s office to report on my progress to him and the others. As I walked in the door, he was on the phone, apparently trying to call me.
At one point, Jim turned to me and said, “Let’s start a fire in the balcony, or something, get a riot going.” He had a madder than usual look in his eyes, though I knew he was sober.
“Hey, where the fuck you been, man? Come on, we’re going to Phoenix to see the Rolling Stones…” He handed me a bottle of whiskey and waved a fistful of choice front row tickets around. His manager Bill Siddons was a co-promoter of the concert and had given them to him. He planned to sit outside the auditorium and randomly hand them out to fans unable to afford a ticket, saying, “This is courtesy of your old pal, Jim Morrison; enjoy the show.” He felt this would be good-natured and a harmless way to slightly upstage Jagger and Co.
We finished off the bottle and then he and I along with Frank Lisciandro and a sometimes publicist for The Doors, Leon Barnard, made a mad run for the airport, although we managed to stop and buy some beer and a pint of brandy. We were escorted onto our flight and took seats in the first-class compartment. Jim and I were seated on the aisle across from each other, he was on the row ahead of me. We had concealed the bottle rather ineptly, in a comic book and we passed it back and forth and drank from it openly, expecting any moment to have it confiscated, which never happened. The wait for take-off was longer and more interminable than usual. Finally, we were airborne and the grim-faced stewardesses began their duties. The head stew, a tight-lipped young crone whose name tag read Reva Mills, leaned over me to serve Leon his drink. I asked her, “If your name is Reva, does that make your father Old Man Reva?”
We broke into a brief chorus of song, ‘Ole Man Reva,’ but she did not see the humor and icily informed me her father was not her old man. […]
Jim smoked a cigar while the NO Smoking sign was brightly lit, and we leaned over the aisle to talk to one another throughout the flight. I went to the bathroom and took a handful of small soap bars back to my seat with me, dropping a few into Jim’s drink along the way. He imitated a small child and told on me to the stewardess who quickly gave him a refill to keep him quiet. About halfway to Phoenix, the captain appeared in front of us, and without using our names, told us to shape up or he would turn the plane around and hand us over to the authorities in Loss Angeles. We felt we were being unfairly singled out but what the hell, it was their football.
We were on our feet the moment the plane rolled to a halt, anxious to get off the claustrophobic aircraft. At the door to the plane, we were greeted by four of Phoenix’s finest, who pushed us back down on our seats and informed us it was not an arrest, they just wanted to talk to us. But the captain appeared and demanded that we be taken into custody. The cops were only too happy to oblige, and we were handcuffed and led off to the airport holding station, then transferred to the downtown lockup. Frank and Leon did the only thing possible; they went to the show.
Any hopes we had of an early release and dashing off to see the concert soon faded and we made the best of a bad situation by talking to the other prisoners and leading a singalong of ‘oldie goldies’. Sorry Mick, see ya next time.
At midnight, we were taken separately into a room and an agent of the FBI tried to question us. I could not understand what the FBI wanted with two drunks and he politely told me the charges pertaining to the 1964 Sky Piracy Act were being considered. This nightmare would have been funny with different actors. Back in the cell, I told Jim what was up and he in turn refused to be questioned, as was our right.
We talked it over and decided it was a ruse to put some fear into us, an effective one at that, but there was no basis for the charge, nothing to warrant such a move. Guess again.
In the morning, we were fined $65.00 each for drunk and disorderly and returned to our cell, then at noon, transferred by US Marshalls to the Federal Courthouse to be booked on the hijacking charge. Siddons arrived with an attaché case full of cash, receipts from the concert, and posted bail, $2,500.00 each. Finally, a taste of freedom after 18 hours of confinement.
On the flight back to Los Angeles, we were joined by two lovely sisters who had been to see the Stones. We went to The Palms but the mood was understandably somber. It was everyone’s foregone conclusion that I was the “instigator,” and the whole thing would never have happened if I had not been there to provoke Jim. Even Babe Hill lectured me on my behavior, placing Jim in jeopardy. We curtailed our get-togethers for the most part, except for two trips to Phoenix to make obligatory court appearances. Evidently, the idiotic authorities were going ahead with this farce.
My fortunes appeared to be changing at the first of the year when Dennis Hopper called and hired me to do his next film to be shot in Peru. I had to post an additional $5,000.00 bond to go to South America and was only allowed to stay a few weeks. Early in March, some former associates of Roger Corman signed me to star in a ‘biker’ film they were going to make in a small resort town close to Bakersfield. Some real life ‘bikers’, a motley crew to be sure, were hired to be extras and they took a liking to my wild recklessness and clung to me day and night, sitting in my motel room all night long, drinking and playing guitar.
The locals were outraged and insisted I be moved to the other side of the lake and not be allowed to socialize after work with the rest of the crew. Oh, well, when you’re hot, you’re hot.
The day after filming ended, Jim, Frank, Leon and I flew to Phoenix where we met to discuss our legal strategy with our lawyers. We brought some blazers, ties and slacks to smooth out our appearance, but kept our hair shoulder length. The trial was the next day and we spent the night in our rooms, drinking and convincing ourselves we would be easily acquitted.
Early the next day, the condemned ate a hearty meal, then went to the courthouse where a crowd of young longhairs shouted words of encouragement to us. On the advice of our lawyers, we waived the right of trial by jury, eliminating the costly and lengthy selection process, but leaving ourselves at the sole mercy of the judge, who was of the hanging variety, a dead ringer for the mad bomber of the air force, Gen. Curtis LeMay.
We sat rigidly at the defense table, flanked by our lawyers, and got a glimpse at our accusers. The first to testify was Sherry Ann Mason, one of the stewardesses. She was 22 years old, the median age of the three yet, amazingly, none of them had heard of The Doors, or Jim. The prosecutor expertly led Sherry Ann through her testimony and she told how, although they all could plainly see our drunkenness when we boarded, they served us additional drinks, then we began ‘using foul and obscene language.’ But you have to hear her tell it.
Question: “Sherry…. give the court an example of the type of language you were subjected to….
Answer: “I don’t use this kind of language…. but I think…they were cussing about the plane…. This goddamned, son-of-a-bitchin’, fuckin’ airplane, would have been the…common language that was used….”
For someone who doesn’t use that kind of language, she did alright.
She went on to say we made obscene gestures, tried to trip and hit the other girls, threw plastic glasses at them and generally made their jobs difficult, if not impossible and endangered the lives of our fellow passengers. One of her more outrageous accusations was that when I left the bathroom just prior to the new infamous ‘soap in the drink’ incident, I deliberately tried to strike her with the door, all the while admitting that it is impossible to see out while it’s shut. And what would prove to be the most damaging, she claimed that just before landing, Jim grabbed at and tried to kiss her knee or thigh…
Sherry was followed on the stand by my old friend Reva Mills, whose testimony echoed Sherry’s almost verbatim. When the ‘Old Man Reva’ was repeated, she blushed and grimaced, but I swear the judge had a hint of a smile. Reva was a prig of the highest order and when asked about my ‘striking’ Sherry with the bathroom door, she pressed her thin lips together and acknowledged I had been in the room ‘a normal period of time…. a few minutes… however long it takes.’
Subsequent witnesses could not or would not substantiate any of the testimony outside of the language, and things looked pretty good for our side. But the most perplexing development was the fact that the girls had Jim and I confused, both of them insisted that we were in opposite seats than we actually were. When they were describing something I did, they were actually talking about Jim, and vice versa. Everyone else who testified, including the other government witnesses, would contradict this, but the judge accepted their word, along with the claim that Jim had made an ‘obscene gesture’ toward Sherry and uttered the ‘pussy’ phrase.
So, based on the cockamamie testimony of these two airheads, Jim was convicted of a misdemeanor, and I was totally acquitted. Jim was confused because if anyone made a move, it was done by whoever was sitting in my seat. Understandably, he was rankled over the outcome, but the lawyer assured him it would be thrown out on appeal, and it was, some two months later. But before that, it would have a delayed reaction on Jim that would disrupt our friendship for many months.
We returned to the bar of the hotel to celebrate our ‘tainted’ victory. Temporarily satisfied that it would be worked out in his favor, Jim loosened up and toasted the end of the ordeal. To our surprise, the stewardesses and the captain joined our table. What gall! Reva was unwavering in her tight-bunned animosity toward us, but the other two cozied right up, telling us they had been coerced into pressing charges. They were brazenly flirtatious and gave us their room number, saying they would love to hear from us, later in the evening.
We were followed back to the room by the Phoenix-based lawyer, a greedy, legal-beagle schmuck who had long begun to wear on our nerves. Sitting around Jim’s room, drinking and laughing it up, he and I started talking about calling Sherry Ann and her friend. The lawyer could not believe that we would have anything to do with them after they had tried to put us in jail.
After more jubilant shouting and drinking, during which Jim dashed towards an open window and hung from the windowsill from his fingertips 14 stories above the ground, we all fell into a drunken sleep.
Jim called my room first thing in the morning and woke me up. He was in high spirits and anxious to get an early start. Back in Los Angeles we were greeted by the gang from the office when we walked into The Palms to continue celebrating. We got in the marathon pool game with some strangers and I beat all comers for close to an hour. Finally, it came down to me and a short, older crew cut guy in a shiny blue suit. He was very friendly, actually, and a hell of a pool player, but I had a hot stick and matched him shot for shot, as Jim and Babe and the others cheered me on. Every time I sank a particularly difficult shot, Jim would yell, “Hooray for the young people!” I narrowly missed a pisser of an eight-ball shot and the ‘old timer’ beat me.
Naturally, I turned over the pool table.
A friend of mine had come to pick me up and he walked with us to the office parking lot. I had left some belongings in the office before going to Phoenix and went upstairs to collect them. Suddenly, Jim came charging in the room and began loudly ordering me out. He kept saying I shouldn’t be there; it was a place of business. When I laughed, remembering all the times I had seen him destroy the place in a drunken rage, he jumped on me and we rolled around on the carpet for a few minutes. He was too drunk to harm anyone, and I laughed and pretended to wrestle with him for a few seconds, then pulled myself away and started to leave. Babe came bursting thru the door and grabbed me, thinking I might be pummeling Jim. He was closely followed by Tony Funches, a large bodyguard formerly employed by the Stones, now working for The Doors.
I have never met anyone whose sensibilities were more unsuited to the rigorous demands of being a rock star and sex symbol.
When my friend came in, he thought all three were ganging up on me and jumped into the fray. A real donnybrook broke out and four of us tumbled down the wrought-iron steps to the parking lot. Jim stayed out of it and called the police. They wasted no time getting there, and along with me, were flabbergasted to learn it was Jim who had called them. Now, I was really mad. Morrison stood at the top of the stairs, in the shadows, but I could see him looking down at me.
I yelled, “You called the cops, Morrison, you actually called the fucking cops on me, you son of a bitch.”
The cops laughed their asses off and threatened to arrest Jim and Babe, then they broke us up and I left with my friend, who had been hit hard and wanted some revenge. He drove around the block, picked up a rock the size of a softball, and returned to the deserted office. He stopped the car and handed me the rock, “Here Baker, take this.”
“What for, I don’t want the fucking thing.”
“Throw it, ” he said, pointing to a large picture window on the second floor.
“Ah hey Marco, I can’t do that, no shit man.”
“Baker throw the goddam rock; after what just happened we ought to burn the place to the ground.” I knew he wouldn’t rest until we had taken some action, so I threw it and we drove away to the sound of breaking glass.
I did not see Jim or Babe or anyone associated with The Doors for the next eight months. I felt bad about the fight and the window but I didn’t feel all that guilty. After all, it wasn’t my fault that Sherry Ann and Reva couldn’t tell us apart. I talked to McClure and he told me that when Jim had begun describing it to him, he had broken up laughing before he could finish. This indicated to me he was getting over his wrath, but I still steered clear for a while. And I knew Jim was under enormous pressure, what with the ‘wolves’ of Miami to be dealt with.
My good fortune continued to the astonishment of everyone, I raised the money to finish my film and traveled to London and Paris, where I sold it for distribution.
I was relieved to read the outcome of Jim’s Miami problem. Even though they had nailed him on a charge similar to Phoenix, for all intents and purposes he had beat it. But the amount of legal hassles Jim got from both state and federal officials was downright scary. When those ghouls are determined to get someone, they spare no expense.
I returned from Europe late in January of 1971 and moved into a small house in Laurel Canyon. It was not more than fifty yards from where I had met Jim and Pam some years earlier. I soon received a message via ‘friends’ that Jim wanted to hear from me. Evidently all was forgotten and he wanted to bury the hatchet. I rang him up and he invited me to come join him for lunch and drinks.
Everybody was actually glad to see me when I walked into the office for the first time since the falling out. Jim and I went to sit at an outdoor restaurant and reaffirm our friendship. Shem and Shaun, back together again. He told about a fall he had taken from the window of his room at the Chateau Marmont Hotel. Walking on the edge of a high-rise roof or dangling by his fingers from open windows and balconies was one of his favorite and ‘provocative’ jokes, but this time it had caught up to him. Fortunately, the window was not a high one up, and his fall was ‘broken’ by a porch roof, but he still felt much pain in the vicinity of his kidney. He also told me how he had the opportunity to patch things up with our old drinking buddy Janis just weeks before her passing away, and he was grateful for that. He toasted my success with the ‘Bongo Wolf’ film and said that my stock in Los Angeles had “risen 1000% when he heard the news.”
I was abstaining from booze, after my travels, I was feeling a bit run down, but Jim was drinking, although he was restricting himself to white wine. He told me he could not imagine not drinking. I looked at him and remembered the first time I had seen him. The comparison did not hold up well at all. His once sharply defined face was now bloated by alcohol, his features were soft and pale. his eyes lacked that fierce sparkle and he moved with what appeared to be great effort.
He told me he and Pam were getting on reasonably well, living together in an apartment nearby. My stories of living it up in London and Paris and Malta the previous eight weeks appealed to him and he confided to me his intentions to move to Paris with Pam once he was finished with the LA Woman album. “Yeah,” he told me, “my rock and roll days are over, I guess.”
Along with Babe Hill, we would meet regularly for the rest of his time in Los Angeles, and I could tell he had lost much of his fascination for that town. We had many drunken nights during that period, and even raised some hell much like in the old days.
His last day in Los Angeles, he and I and Babe spent wandering around the Santa Monica Pier. We ate seafood, drank beer, played pinball, and took our pictures in the 50-cent booth. Late in the afternoon we returned to his office and he tossed notebooks, manuscripts and other belongings into cardboard boxes. Various friends stopped in to wish him “Bon Voyage,” a lot of the street characters we had met over the years were there and it was a nice, funky moment.
He told me he could not imagine not drinking. I looked at him and remembered the first time I had seen him. The comparison did not hold up well at all. His once sharply defined face was now bloated by alcohol, his features were soft and pale. His eyes lacked that fierce sparkle and he moved with what appeared to be great effort.
Bill Siddons began to make nervous suggestions about my going to the airport, which I had no intention of doing. Finally, Jim and I shook hands and said goodbye, then Babe and I went to Barneys Beanery for a drink. Siddons and a few low-key types went to the airport with Jim and, ironically, he missed his plane, as he sat quietly drinking a glass of wine. In the morning, he boarded the next scheduled flight, never to return to Los Angeles. I had seen the last of James Douglas Morrison.
Fueled by the success of Bongo Wolf, I spent the months following Jim’s departure in my Laurel Canyon house hammering out screenplays tailored to my unique talents. Babe Hill would stay with me off and on and from him and Frank Lisciandro and the others at the office, I would get intermittent reports on Jim and Pam. I tried to call them a few times but could never reach them, and I simply never got around to writing.
One morning, almost to the day of his performance at The Scene, I received a phone call from someone, I don’t remember who, telling me Jim had died in Paris, two days earlier. I refused to believe it at first, but Babe confirmed it for me. I was devastated and it would be some time before I could be rational about the subject. It was very tempting to believe the rumors that he had ‘faked’ his death.
More than a year later, I saw Pam at a party. She was drunk and excited. We left together in her rented sedan and she drank from a bottle as she careened down Santa Monica Boulevard, talking non-stop in a semi-coherent monologue, and shouting out every few minutes, “Oh Tom, let’s go, let’s go see Jimmy!” I was in a period of sobriety and had to force myself to remain calm as she swallowed a long swig of tequila and narrowly missed a parked car. I kept looking for an old familiar red light to come flashing up behind us, and was tremendously relieved when she screeched to a stop in the driveway of the Beverly Terrace motel, across the street from The Troubadour. Jim had favored the place before he switched his allegiance to the Alta Cienega.
Inside her room, she continued her ‘rap’. I went in the bathroom and came out to find her asleep on the bed. I took the car and left, returning in the morning to give her the keys. She was sitting by the minuscule swimming pool with a grimy looking Morrison ‘clone’. Saying goodbye was awkward for both of us and I did not expect to see her again.
I would hear many stories about Pam for the next few years, none of them very pleasant. She was involved in a bitter legal battle with Jim’s family, contesting the validity of the marriage and the eventual rights to Jim’s estate. Most disturbing was the story was that Pam was living with a sleazy despicable character, and she had a daily and expensive drug habit. I dismissed the tales whenever they were repeated to me, but the idea of it nagged at me.
Late one night, more than a year since I had last seen her, I was driving down a nearly deserted but well-lit Sunset Boulevard. The only other car was a familiar VW, being driven by a girl with a male passenger. We pulled alongside one another at a red light, and I looked to my right. Pam was staring back at me, quite defiantly, and her passenger was stretching around her trying to get a look at me. From the looks of him, it was obvious the stories I had heard were true. It was a very uncomfortable moment, and before I could say anything to her, the light changed and I just took off. I never told anyone about it, preferring to remember the beautiful redhead who had come to my door to use the phone.
A year had passed before I next saw her. I was standing in front of my apartment house in Hollywood when she drove by in a new foreign economy car. She recognized me and stopped to talk, inviting me to come with her to lunch. She never touched a bite of her meal but did manage to swallow three codeine tablets, washing them down with red wine. She had gotten rid of the creep and won her court battle. Overall, she was much improved though she was still strung out on dope.
We made arrangements to go out that night and she dropped me off, promising to call later on. Later, when she phoned, she was even more stoned than she had been at lunch, sounding euphoric and slurring her words badly. She had many plans for the future and wanted to renew our friendship. Her rap sounded like that night in her car as she again talked of going to see Jim. I finally got her to hang up and as I was going out, the phone rang again. It was Pam and she was even more stoned than she had been just twenty minutes earlier, if that was possible. She had changed her mind about going out but made me promise to call her in the morning to ride out to Malibu with her.
I woke about eleven AM and reached for the phone to call her. A woman answered, it was Pam’s mother, and I could detect anxiety in her voice. She asked who was calling and I identified myself, she told me Pam was dead. She had died in her sleep, peacefully, thank God, at the age of 27, and it’s fairly certain I was the last to speak to her.
A memorial service was held a week later at Forest Lawn. Babe Hill went with me and many old and good friends were there. Ray Manzarek played organ and Pam was cremated and her ashes flown to Paris to be with Jim.
I was in Paris in May of 1979 for the first time in more than eight years. I had been meaning to visit Pere Lachaise, the historic old cemetery in a run-down section of the city where Jim and Pam were buried. I took the Metro out there and walked around the neighborhood until I found it.
I woke about eleven AM and reached for the phone to call her. A woman answered, it was Pam’s mother, and I could detect anxiety in her voice. She asked who was calling and I identified myself, she told me Pam was dead. She had died in her sleep, peacefully, thank God, at the age of 27, and it’s fairly certain I was the last to speak to her.
Before going into the cemetery, I stopped in a small Bistro across the street to buy beer and think about the both of them and our many experiences together. There were some Doors songs on the jukebox. I played them and sipped my beer, recalling the time nine years earlier when I had come across an interview with Groucho Marx. He was a big favorite of both Morrison’s and mine. Toward the end of the article, Groucho told of a pact between he and Harpo and Chico where they agreed that whoever died first would attempt to spiritually contact the others. The closing line was “Well, I haven’t heard anything yet.” I showed it to Jim and we both got a kick out of that line.
I finished my beer and went over to the cemetery. A map of the grounds telling who was buried where cost a franc and the gendarme who sold it to me pointed me in the direction of “Mistair Jaame Morrrisonn.”
The place is set on the side of a steep hill and I walked slowly up, checking occasionally on the map. It was a warm and sunny day and I was sweating from too much Parisian beer. The tombstones were old and it was difficult to read them. Then, on my left, scrawled on the side of a large headstone, ‘King Lizard This way,’ with an arrow pointing up the hill. Then another clue, ‘This Way To Jim,’ and a few more before I located it. The ‘front’ of the stone faced away from the path and the ground below it was covered in burnt out incense sticks and flowers long faded and wilted. The face of the headstone was so covered with graffiti it resembled the dressing room wall of the Fillmore Auditorium.
I stood there somewhat numbly, staring at the headstone. An ardent admirer had silkscreened a glamorous and well-known picture of Jim onto the stone and his mad eyes peered out. The whole effect was very eerie.
The face of the headstone was so covered with graffiti it resembled the dressing room wall of the Fillmore Auditorium.
An ancient couple shuffled by and I looked around for anyone else, but I was alone, such as it was. I started calling, quietly at first, then louder and louder, “Hey Jim…” Again, “Hey Jim, it’s me, Baker.” Again, “Hey Jim, it’s me Baker, are you there?” I kept this up for maybe a minute, then turned and walked down the Hill towards the Metro. I haven’t heard anything yet.