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Jim Morrison Lives: The Legacy of the Lizard King

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At Pére La Chaise, one of Paris' most famed cemeteries, Leslie was looking at the graves of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Balzac and Chopin when she saw "Jim" spray-painted on a tombstone from the early 1700s. Leslie followed the arrow underneath the name to another grave, where another spray-painted arrow pointed her to the plot where Jim Morrison rests. A little past Morrison's grave was one more arrow and the words YOU PASSED IT. GO BACK.

"The graves in the background of Morrison's looked like a subway wall," said Leslie, an international law student. On one grave was a dome-shaped piece of concrete with a pair of fancy, made-up eyes and big red lips painted on it. Beneath it was written L.A. WOMAN. On another tombstone, a picture of Morrison had been spray-painted through a stencil. Another bore the legend KILL PEOPLE OVER THIRTY.

At Morrison's grave, four fans stood smoking cigarettes and reading the words on the other graves. Pills, wet from the rain, were scattered on his burial site, along with cigarette butts. So were an old pair of brown boots and empty bottles. The scene compelled Leslie to return more than once. "People came to party at Morrison's grave. From going there, I realized people were starting to trip again. And everybody could find significance in every little thing around the grave."

Leslie's friend, also a law student, went to pick up guys at Morrison's grave. "Aside from lots of Americans, she met Germans. The Germans loved Morrison. Lots of the graffiti was in German." said Leslie. "Some of it was even in Latin. She met one German guy there and they went away together.

"I thought the grave was an example of how there is an eternal flame for Jim Morrison. Most of them came only to see his grave. They didn't know that anyone else of importance was buried in Pere La Chaise. Me, I was wondering how Morrison had gotten into the place."

I saw some better pictures of Morrison's grave than the one Leslie gave me," Kelly said. "In a book of rock stars' graves." She turned and inspected her muscular legs. "I have to watch out for my hips.

"Hi, Claude," Kelly said to a boy who walked past.

"Quaaludes and beer," Claude said.

"No," Kelly said and turned away. Kelly put her unfinished Coke back into Harry's cooler. "I only smoke a little pot."

Inside the cooler were Kelly's three Cokes and forty-eight bottles of Schmidt's beer. Harry took one out of the cooler and walked over to his $200 JVC radio-cassette player. He was only playing the radio this afternoon because his batteries were almost gone and eight size-Ds cost eight dollars. Besides, "they play so much Doors on the radio, you don't even need the cassette."

"And they don't play New Wave," Kelly said of their favorite station. She scrunched her face as if she were chewing aspiring aspirin. That's about how much she likes New Wave. She'll listen to Frank Sinatra's rendition of "New York, New York," and Harry even likes Anne Murray, his religious mother's favorite. But forget New Wave. It doesn't even get a first chance with a lot of kids. Only Harry showed even a little interest in X, the band Ray Manzarek now produces.

But the kids do love rock. Last year, the Doors' Greatest Hits package sold almost a million copies. "It was basically an album that had been released already, but we remastered, remixed and cleaned it up,"says Joe Smith. All totaled, the Doors sold 2.5 million albums in 1980.

According to Ray Manzarek, the worst years for Doors record sales were 1974 through 1976. "Everything was swept away by disco. I think Saturday Night Fever sold 26 million records," Manzarek says. By comparison, the Doors catalog averaged about 100,000 a year. But, as Manzarek points out, "Disco dissipated; the Doors are still here."

Aside from buying the records, kids love merchandise, which is Danny Sugerman's department. Sugerman, coauthor of No One Here Gets Out Alive, manages Ray Manzarek's career and runs a management-public relations firm in Los Angeles. Now twenty-five, he started out handling Jim Morrison's fan mail at age thirteen. He was paid ten cents for each letter he answered. "He gave me hope. He was my hero, my friend," Sugerman says.

Addressing the recent Doors boom, Sugerman contends, "No one is selling the Doors. Business is great. We don't need to take advantage of anything." Sugerman initiated an official Doors fan club because of the demand for product, and because "we want to keep the quality and class. There's an incredible amount of bootlegging." Among the legitimate offerings, a shiny, French-design T-shirt with an airbrushed picture of the Doors. A cable-TV documentary about Morrison and the Doors will soon be aired. A live album is planned, using tapes that have surfaced of Doors performances on the Isle of Wight and in Amsterdam. And there's been persistent talk concerning a featurelength movie about Morrison. Sugerman throws out the names of David Essex, Roger Daltrey and John Travolta as among those who won't play the singer. Sugerman's already at work on a new book about Morrison — coffee-table size — with 30,000 words and lots of pictures. "He's bigger in death than in life," says Sugarman. "My dream was to manage Jim, and this is as close as I could get. I do everything with a lot of concern and responsibility. What Jim would want."

At the time of Morrison's death, his estate was estimated to be worth about $30,000. The Doors' music is owned by the three surviving Doors and the Jim Morrison estate, which is administered by Morrison's deceased wife's parents and by his own mother and father. Pamela Courson Morrison's dad is a retired high-school principal, Jim's father a retired admiral. "They buy condos and cars," Sugerman says. "Jim would have given it to Andy." Andy is Morrison's younger brother. However, Sugerman and most others associated with the band prefer not to discuss monetary matters. When asked how much in royalties is presently coming in, Sugerman says. "I don't like to talk about money."

"A promoter offered us ten or twenty grand to play in some arena. Without Jim," says John Densmore. "He didn't care who sang. Just that he could advertise the Doors. I'm worried. I'm waiting for some backlash. Will it get saturated? Is this going to turn against us?"

When "riders on the storm" came on the radio, five young boys laying on beach blankets began singing in out-of-tune voices. Only Kelly didn't know every word of the song, but she gave it her best shot. "Most girls think they're into the Doors, but all they listen to is Greatest Hits," said Harry disparagingly. He's been into the Doors for three years now, ever since he shared a room with his older brother. "My brother's in the marines now. Morrison got him through boot camp. He'd go to sleep singing Doors."

Harry listens to about three Doors albums each day. On July 4th, Harry's best friend, Jim, said that Led Zeppelin was the best rock group ever and "Stairway to Heaven" the best song. Harry has not spoken to him since. Harry's father once ventured to listen to the Doors, but he left the room after quickly deciding that Morrison was a crazy man. Harry's favorite baseball player is Jim Morrison, a third baseman for the Chicago White Sox.

Harry was seven when Jim Morrison died. He was three when "Light My Fire" reached Number One in Billboard magazine. The closest anyone he knows has come to seeing the Doors is a "tribute band" called Crystal Ship. They're just one of at least four such groups cashing in on the revival. In Detroit, there's Pendragon. In L.A., There's Strange Daze. "I just had a great time listening to Strange Daze." John Densmore says." They had every lick, every drum beat down. The singer even had some of Jim's rap down. Every note was copied exactly. They're making a living. They usually play clubs, but now I hear they're going to play a thousand seater in the valley."

Harry couldn't have picked a safer idol than Morrison. That's the greatest thing about the guy: he's not going to change. He's not going to go Christian on you. He's not going to preach against liquor and drugs. Morrison is going to stay twenty-eight and keep saying the things he always did, the things that teenagers like to hear. If Morrison's death is a hoax, which few kids actually believe, the best thing he could do is remain dead. He'd be thirty-eight now. Probably out of shape and with a burnt-out voice. For Jim Morrison, there's nothing quite like being dead to keep him popular.

With kids, Morrison hits home in a lot of ways."He was always rebellious," said Harry. "He hated school. He hated cops." What more do you need? Rebellion is a very popular word when you're growing up. Even if you've never had an encounter with a cop, at seventeen you've got to say you hate them.

"You know, Morrison could drink a quart of Jack Daniel's," said Harry. "He must have had some stomach. And drugs. He could get unbelievably wasted and still write. He was a genius. He read books."

"The lyrics are really the thing," Kelly said. "I can understand the words when I hear them. When I listen to the Stones, I can only make out a word here or there. You know how you listen to a record and you think they're saying one thing, but when you see the words on the cover, they're not what you thought? You feel really stupid. Well, I usually understand Morrison's words."

"You can listen to the words and relate to them," Harry said.

To be honest, most kids can't articulate what it is about the lyrics that they "relate" to. But that doesn't mean they ought to be written off as losers. At seventeen, it's just that you still haven't figured out a way to get what's in your brain out of your mouth. So you end up sounding a little ignorant, and everybody else talks about you as going nowhere.

"I think the kids are getting the message. I think they understand the words and the music," Ray Manzarek says. "I'm very proud of them. They're not a bunch of little idiots. All hope is not lost.

"Morrison introduced them to a bit of literature. Obviously, he was a poet. They might want to know what he read. Maybe from the popularized account of a wild poet, a crazy guy, they might go buy Jack Kerouac's On the Road or pick up William Blake. One of them might even read Nietzsche. Hope is in the kids."

Next: Jim Morrison is Alive and Well All Over the Place

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