|Remembering The Lizard King:
Classmates Talk About The Jim Morrison They Knew
by Sandy Barnes, Alexandria Gazette, March 21, 1991
Jerry Ainsfield was with the Peace Corps in Liberia when he first heard about Jim Morrison's rock star fame.
NOT EXACTLY TYPICAL
For Ainsfield and others who knew him at GW, Morrison was not exactly the typical
local boy who made good." For one thing, Morrison - who became the leader of the Doors rock group in the '60's - was not all that local. The son of a Naval Officer, Morrison had lived all over the country before coming to Alexandria in 1958, three years before finishing high school. Also, many who knew him were later mystified that Morrison had become a singer, as he had not seemed interested in music during his days at GW.
Some, like Ainsfield were totally unaware of their former classmate's success until it came crashing to their attention.
Speaking in his easy, Virginia flavored voice, Ainsfield described Morrison as a friend he used to "hang out with ... A handsome guy, but quiet and on the shy side. Morrison didn't even sing in high school," he said. "He liked to write poetry and he was a talented artist." Ainsfield said he and others focused instead on the singing abilities of classmate Ellen Cohen, who later became Mama Cass Elliot of the Mama and Papas group. "She had a beautiful voice," he remarked.
Stan Durkee is among those who remember Morrison for his intelligence, his literary brilliance and his enigmatic personality. "Intellectually, Jim was head and shoulders above all the rest of us - he read every book you could imagine," he said. "He inspired me." Durkee said he and Morrison used to go to book stores in Washington to look for works of beat generation authors who intrigued him.
Durkee remembers being in an English class with Morrison while studying James Joyce's Ulysses. "Even the teacher was learning from Morrison's interpretationn of the work." Durkee said, "We all were ... He was sort of an intellectual leader." However, Durkee said, "Nobody really understood Morrison (as a person). He was detached, creative ... Few, if any, people in our class were really close to him."
Durkee, who gave Morrison a ride to school every morning, said Morrison was alienated from his family as well, "He went for weeks without seeing his parents," he said. Although Durkee saw Morrison as someone, "who would have become a dramatic person", he said "it was a shock to everybody that he evloved into 'a teen idol.'"
On the other hand, Durkee was not surprised by accounts of Morrison's temperamental and sometimes bizarre behavior during his performing years. Once during a class, he said, "Jim got really angry and exploded," because a teacher questioned his judgement. "In a sense", Durkee said, "Morrison was rebelling against the 'smugness' and 'mindlessness' of the late '50's. Jim took everything to the max," Durkee said.
WE ALL EAT SMALL DOGS
Patricia Madison, who was also in classes with Morrison, described him as hyper, high IQ and weird. She recalls a time in Spanish class when he wrote, "We all eat small dogs" on the blackboard as a sentence to be translated. Madison also remembers an incident when Morrison brought a rotting fish with him on the bus without air conditioning during a hot summer day to elicit a crowd reaction from the other passengers (which of course, he did.) "Morrison would do things we didn't dare do," Madison remarked. She said once Morrison urinated in his locker, because he didn't feel like using the restroom.
Ainsfield said he believes some of Morrison's acting out in high school was alcohol-related, recalling that Morrison, "liked drinking bourbon." However, Ainsfield said he does not believe Morrison was involved with drugs at that time.
Dick Sparks viewed Morrison as the leader of a "tight little intellectual group who followed him like puppies" and "made fun of other people." Sparks said he did not make the connection between the Morrison of the Doors and the teenager he had known in high school until he read Morrison's obituary in 1971.
Although Tommy Edwards has a distant memory of Morrison "walking down a street in Warwick Village barefoot with a guitar around his neck," he too was surprised to learn of his later fame. Edwards sang in the high school chorus with the future Mama Cass Elliot, and thought that she - if anyone - would be the one to become successful in music, just as Ainsfield thought.
Apparently, neither Edwards nor the others who knew Morrison in high school had any premonition of the musical success he would achieve. When asked if he had seen the current movie about Morrison, (Stone's The Doors), Edwards replied, "No. Thats not the Jim Morrison we remember."
Visit The George Washington High Alumni webpage section on Jim.
Copyright 2002-2008 by Sandy Barnes/Waiting-forthe-Sun.net