Jerry Hopkins, an author and veteran Rolling Stone writer that served as the magazine’s Los Angeles corespondent in the late Sixties, died in Bangkok, Thailand on June 3rd after a long illness. He was 82. His wife Lamyai confirmed Hopkins’ death.
In 1980, Hopkins wrote No One Here Gets Out Alive, the definitive Doors biography that was used as the basis for Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie.
“It’s sad to say goodbye,” says Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner. “Jerry was from the founding generation of Rolling Stone. He was a good friend.”
Hopkins got his start in Rolling Stone when he mailed in a review of a Doors concert at the Shrine Exposition Hall in downtown Los Angeles after reading a request for content in the magazine’s fourth issue. The piece was so colorful that it ran as a full page in the February 10th, 1968 issue under the headline The Doors On Stage: Assaulting The Libido. “Morrison backs away from the microphone slowly, then suddenly collapses in the the middle as if he’d been shotgunned at point-blank range or else kicked in the scrotum,” he wrote. “It struck me as if Morrison were a marionette and his manipulator was suffering some sort of seizure.”
At the time, Hopkins was writing for underground newspapers in Los Angeles and running Headquarters, one of the first head shops in Los Angeles. Prior to that, he briefly served in the army and even worked on the Steve Allen Show as a booker charged with bringing bizarre personalities onto the program. But within a matter of months of filing his Doors review, he was on the Rolling Stone masthead as the Los Angeles correspondent and churning out memorable pieces like Frank Zappa: The Rolling Stone Interview along with extensive profiles of L.A. figures like Van Dyke Parks and Cass Elliot.
But nobody fascinated him like Morrison. “Morrison was the most interesting of all the rock stars I met because he was the best conversationalist,” Hopkins told L.A. Weekly in 2013. “Something I always had trouble with at Rolling Stone was that I was interviewing people whose avenue of communication was singing or playing an instrument. Why should anyone expect them to have a political opinion worth listening to? Most of them didn’t, but Morrison was interesting on a totally different level.”
He took a temporary hiatus from Rolling Stone to write Elvis: A Biography in the early 1970s, but returned in 1972 for a stint as the magazine’s London correspondent. While in Europe he began investigating the mysterious death of Jim Morrison. That work laid the groundwork for No One Here Gets Out Alive, which came out in 1980 and turned a new generation of fans onto the Doors.
About a decade later, Stone bought the rights to the book along with Hopkins’ extensive research files about Morrison. “I have mixed feelings about the movie,” Hopkins told writer Scott Murray in 2007. “Mainly that it was so one-sided. Jim was a drunken fool, but that wasn’t all he was. I knew Morrison. I knew him to be a man who had a sense of humor about himself. He was a man of staggering intelligence … Forty percent of the movie is sheer fiction. Stone merged characters. He ignored chronology. It was Stone writing his version of the Sixties.”
In the aftermath of No One Here Gets Out Alive, Hopkins turned his attention nearly full-time to books, writing nearly 40 biographies on everyone from David Bowie to Jimi Hendrix to Don Ho.
Hopkins’ latter works, like Thailand Confidential, Bangkok Babylon and Asian Aphrodisiacs, chronicled his eclectic life and the people he encountered after moving to Bangkok in 1993. He stayed there until his death and reveled in the more lurid aspects of the city. In many interviews, he spoke openly about his encounters with transgender prostitutes. “Being a bottom feeder has a long literary tradition,” Hopkins told LA Weekly in 2013. “There’s a whiff of danger about Bangkok. I hate to romanticize dirt, but we’re talking whores and drugs and the fun things in life.”
Hopkins is survived by his wife Lamyai along with his son Nick and daughter Erin.