|Tom Baker Recalls Jim Morrison
Various excerpts from Blue Center Light
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 movie version of 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.
Soon, we were toilet hugging drunk, and remaining upright seemed to defy the law of gravity, when Ray Manzarek appeared along with one of their managers. They had come to collect him 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 judgement, and I piled into the back of the limo with Jim and the rest of the band. After driving a few blocks, Morrison had the driver pull over and he dashed into a novelty store, returning with six Brechtian masks, every one 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, and 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 on 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 some of the local honchos and 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, 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 by the huge hall.
The ride back was exhausting, my head was pounding and I hadn't eaten all day. It was well after 1 AM when I was deposited on the corner of 57th Street and 7th 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 this day. Christ, I thought, What am I going to tell her? S he'll never believe I've been doing what I've been doing. Shit! Another problem. Fuck Pam! Fuck Jim! Fuck the Doors!
Whenever we went to the rock clubs, such as The Whisky or The 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 spoil, other times I would be ignored as if I were 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 til dawn drinking and talking. One girl soon revealed herself to be a practicing junkie, and she brought out plastic vials 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 stories about himself, including the story of his body being inhabited by the spirit of an old Indian who died 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 hallucinogenics.
After awhile, 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 10 minutes later, she joined the junkie and me, 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 awoke 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. The other girl was feverishly giving Jim head, trying to pump some life into his pathetically limp dick, looking not unlike a lioness feeding on her fallen prey. She glanced over at me for a moment, then went right back to work. I returned to the kitchen and crushed up another pill.
Late one night in the Elektra Studios, after listening to the just-completed mix of the Soft Parade album we were typically drunk and 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 Jim's own. I began to break his chops about the sleek and expensive look of the studios and offices, which had been financed almost completely 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 operations up to Sacramento with the rest of the bureaucrats? I mean look at this, man. Your songs, your words paid for 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 it 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 the 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.
Jim Morrison demanded a reaction. Women wanted to fuck him, boys wanted to idolize him, men wanted to challenge him.
As I sit thumbing through James Douglas Morrison's FBI file, I wonder which rock stars today would be deemed so threatening as to warrant the FBI's interest. Sure, Public Enemy and N.W.A., but what pop stars? Sting? Madonna? Bono?
The New Haven incident, where he was arrested for lewd and obscene performance is in the FBI file, on the rap sheet, number 511 488 F and marked FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY. It is the fourth record of arrest, the first three being drunk and petty larceny of police helmet and umbrella, Tallahassee, Florida 9/28/63; battery Inglewood CA 1/23/66; drunk, Los Angeles CA 12/10/67.
Morrison's file contains seven other records of arrest, mostly for vagrancy and being drunk, But the Miami and Phoenix incidences are also included. Miami is supposedly when Morrison exposed his penis onstage, and Phoenix was when he was traveling to see a Rolling Stones concert with Tom Baker, and they were arrested for interference with the flight of an aircraft.
Soon all of this will probably be the meat of the new Jim Morrison film, which will probably be a big hit and launch another Doors revival, which may be an overstatement, because the Doors songs are played on the radio every two minutes anyway. But even with all this knowledge out there, with all the rock 'n' roll books and movies coming out these days, with all the instructions on how to do it, the music isn't getting any better.
Maybe it's time for some 14 year olds from Des Moines to scream, Turn off the lights!
Yeah, just turn 'em off.
(Excerpts from Blue Center Light c. 1981 by Tom Baker.)
Copyright 2002 by Tom Baker/Waiting-forthe-Sun.net