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Jim Morrison’s Indecency Arrest: Rolling Stone’s Original Coverage

'Uh-oh, I think I exposed myself out there,' the Doors singer said at the time

April 5, 1969
Jim Morrison’s Indecency Arrest: Rolling Stone’s Original Coverage

Miami — Jim Morrison, the Doors' cataclysmic, electroplastic lead singer, finally let it all hang out at a March 2nd concert in Miami, Florida, and in the outraged aftermath became the object of six arrest warrants, including one for a felony charge of "Lewd and lascivious behavior in public by exposing his private parts and by simulating masturbation and oral copulation."

The five other warrants are for misdemeanor charges on two counts of indecent exposure, two counts of open public profanity and one of public drunkenness. The total maximum sentence the 25-year-old Morrison could get would be three years and 150 days at Raiford State Penitentiary, one of the tougher state pens in the South.

This article appears in the April 5, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

And judging by local sentiment in Dade County, it's likely they'll throw the book at him. "They'd crucify him if they could, they're so worked up," said Larry Mahoney of the Miami Herald, the reporter who's done most of Herald's reportage which has served to work everybody up.

Jim Morrison Pardoned By Florida Clemency Board

A complicating factor for "The King of Orgasmic Rock" (as the Miami Herald labels Morrison) is that the felony charge makes him liable to arrest and extradition anywhere in the U. S. He and the rest of the Doors are presently vacationing in the Bahamas, each on his own island, and it will be interesting to see what happens when they try bringing it all back home again.

Exactly what depths of lewdness, lasciviousness, depravity and creepiness did Morrison descend to that the full wrath of Dade County and the State of Florida should be visited upon him?

The Rolling Stone Interview: Jim Morrison

Accounts vary. Morrison (still sunning himself outside the country) is unavailable for comment. Doors' manager Bill Siddons, in Los Angeles, passed the incident off as a mere nothing, "just another dirty Doors show. It didn't seem to be too big a deal," he added, "until the police chief took it on as his crusade."

Siddons acknowledged that the typical Doors rap had passed from the lips of Morrison: "You know, shitfuckpiss and the rest of them." But there had been no onstage penis exposure, Siddon said. "I mean," the manager explained, "no one in the group saw him do it. Morrison said he did it, but not onstage. Like he had been tucking in his shirt or something and he might have slipped a little. But offstage."

Jim Morrison as an Enduring Pop Icon: Rolling Stone’s 1981 Story

The Miami police, meanwhile, subpoenaed Miami Herald photos of the concert, and it is on the basis of these, they say, that exposure charges were placed. A further problem with the tucking-in-his-shirt explanations is that Morrison had (by most accounts of the concert) already taken off his shirt by the time the incidents in question transpired.

And Siddons does recall that as Morrison left the stage, he said something like, "Uh-oh—I think I exposed myself." Nonetheless, Siddons discounts any claims that Morrison was trying to start a riot. "We had seen the Living Theater the night before, you know, and Jim copped a few lines. He said some things like 'Why don't we have a revolution here?' and things like that—but that's not inciting to riot."

Ken Collier, proprietor of the Miami rock dance hall Thee Image, who was one of the promoters of the Dinner Key Auditorium concert, was contacted to give his description of the event. "He was obscene, no question about it," said Collier's wife before he came to the phone. "You could say he was trying to incite a riot and not get much argument from me. He was saying 'Let's have a good time, let's have a revolution, everybody come up onstage.'"

Then Collier himself described how the capacity crowd of 10,000 (who'd paid $6 and $7) had gotten worked up to a very excitable pitch by Morrison's "hypnotic but musically very mediocre" performance. The band had played for about an hour, with Morrison singing bits of this, then that, the audience shouting for "Light My Fire," Morrison ignoring that request, exhorting them increasingly with each new song.

Late in the session, Morrison whipped off his shirt and began to pull out all the stops. At one point, according to Collier, Morrison was asking, "Do you wanna touch me?" Then it became a command: "Come up and touch me." At another point Morrison was pouring champagne over his own head. "He was really drunk; he's a big drinker," Collier says.
Then, just before the stage filled up with about 60 people, Morrison asked, "Do you wanna see my cock?" according to Collier; and this was when Collier went into action, grabbing the microphone away from the singer, flashing the two-finger peace and victory sign at the audience and saying: "Keep calm, sit down, keep quiet, peace, this can't happen in Miami, we're not going to have this in Miami, sit down ..."

While Collier was rapping, Morrison was in action, pushing people around the stage, bellowing, and acting as if he were masturbating, Collier recounts; but Collier did not see Morrison liberate his penis, he stresses. Other observers told Collier that Morrison had exposed himself, but Collier himself missed it.

Between shoving matches, Morrison would grab the mike and shout out more about revolution. But the rest of the band, organist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Rob Krieger and drummer John Densmore, were playing at such ear-bending volume and intensity that little could be heard of the rap.

There was some more tug-of-war with the microphone, then Morrison went one way, shoving more people around, and Collier went the other, ripping out amplifier cords ("the lead guitar was mesmerizing the audience") and kicking in drumheads to silence the music.

Morrison managed to push Collier's brother off the stage into the audience, according to Collier. Then the vinyltrousered singer made the mistake of hitting on a colleague of Collier's named Larry Pizzi who holds a black belt in karate. As soon as Pizzi felt the rock-singer grab at him from behind, he grabbed Morrison by the arms and flipped him head over heels in a perfect are off the front edge of the stage into the audience, who scrambled out of the path of the falling star.

At about precisely this instant, Collier had succeeded in unplugging the band, and the house lights had been brought up, and the audience, somewhat stunned, began to get to their feet and file out, slowly and quietly, flashing V signs. Morrison, unhurt, picked himself up and hurried backstage.

There were several off-duty police on hand (31 of them, according to the Miami Herald's story) but they made no arrests, upon consulting with Collier. "We were only afraid," said the promoter, "that the way Morrison had revved up everybody's emotions, it could start some real trouble if cops came onstage to stop the show."

Said Miami Herald reporter Mahoney: "I saw it all, and I wasn't offended at the obscenity. What did offend me was that he was trying to start a riot." Mahoney's stories told how there'd been no riot—all Miami seemed to congratulate itself on that—and how obscene the show had been. "The King of Orgasmic Rock"—"the hypnotically erotic Morrison"—"flaunting the laws of obscenity, indecent exposure and incitement to riot," Mahoney reported, "appeared to masturbate in full view of his audience," etc., etc., on and on.

"The reaction," Mahoney says today, "was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. I personally don't want to see Morrison hung. He didn't hurt anybody. But Florida's a very conservative, staid place ... and I talked with Morrison afterward and he seemed to me to be in a very poor emotional condition. He might not be able to stand three and a half years in Raiford Penitentiary." A native Floridian (b. Melbourne, Florida, went to St. Petersburg J.C. and Florida State University), Morrison doubtless knows Raiford's reputation.

The reaction went like this:

The Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, personally cancelled a Doors concert in his city scheduled for the following weekend.

The Miami Herald went for the throats of the off-duty cops who'd failed to arrest Morrison on the spot: "They saw and heard laws being broken.... We cannot see why some of the policemen did not make the arrest."

The president of the Crime Commission of Greater Miami called for a Grand Jury investigation both into the alleged obscenities and into how Morrison had been allowed to perform there in the first place.

In response, Collier copped out by issuing a public statement to the effect that he had no idea Morrison would come on anything like he had and (in the classic phrase) "anyway, if we hadn't brought him here, somebody else would have."

It was Wednesday, four days after the concert, before the State Attorney's Office weighed in with its warrants (which set bonds totalling $4,500), under the pressure of the public uproar.

"I was extremely shocked at the facts in this case as to what this man did, and the State Attorney's Office will prosecute him and ask for the maximum sentence on each count to run consecutively," promised Joe Durant, an assistant to State Attorney Richard E. Gerstein.

"It is our intent to serve these warrants on him and bring him before our courts," chimed Acting Police Chief Paul M. Denham.

In the past, Morrison has gotten off without serving any time. His major contretemps with the law have taken place in New Haven, Connecticut (breach of the peace and giving an indecent or immoral exhibition were the charges there), in Phoenix, Arizona (started a riot at the State Fair—and will never, the manager said, be invited back again), and in Long Island, New York (another riot).

These were the acts of an "erotic politician," to use Morrison's own term. "I just think I'm lucky to have found a perfect medium to express myself in," he recently told the New York Times. "When I sing my songs in public, that's a dramatic act, but not just acting as in theater, but a social act, real action."

The Doors were paid $25,000 for this latest social act of Morrison's, and it will be wise for them to save it carefully. It may be some time before they are allowed to carry out another social act of this kind—within the framework of Floridian/American society, at any rate.

But there's a brighter ending to this story for Ken Collier, the promoter, who said: "There's one good thing in this for me. Before this happened, nobody ever heard of me or the club in New York. But now I think they have."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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