The Doors in Mexico
Mexico City – The “foreign intrigue” had long begun when the Doors entered Mexico for what was supposed to be a series of at least six public appearances – “intrigue” that quietly linked two revolutions, that which the Doors represented in America and that of the Mexican nation itself.
By the time it was all over, several planned and announced concerts had never been held, and the unofficial explanation was that a year earlier the students of Mexico came within an hour of overthrowing the government and since that time, it had been considered wise to prevent large gatherings of young people from happening.
Of course it was never stated that the Doors were a threat (although one television executive did call them “subversive”) and none of those involved in negotiation with the Doors ever hinted the reasons for cancellation of events were political. It was, rather, just a matter of manana and permits were never signed.
There were a number of noteworthy aspects to the five-day visit in June and July … beginning over eight weeks earlier when a 31-year-old interior decorator named Mario Olmos (one of a very few Mexican nationals with a beard) said he wanted to produce a Doors concert in the Plaza Monumental, Mexico City’s huge bull ring.
Tickets to the 48,000-seat arena were to be priced from five to 12 pesos (40 cents to a dollar) to enable many of the poor to attend. It was also planned that the Doors would perform a United Nations or Red Cross benefit at the Camino Real Hotel and in an expensive (but unnamed) supper club. The idea being that in one visit the Doors could perform to all levels of Mexican society.
There were additional factors making this an unusual program of events. Only three other Anglo/American groups had preceded the Doors to Mexico (Eric Burdon’s Animals, the Byrds and the Union Gap) and with Mexico’s pop scene largely dependent upon American rock, a visit by a leading band would be a significant event. Too, no American group had ever played more than one concert in Mexico and none had appeared in the bull ring-ever!!
There was also the matter of hair. In recent months, the shearing of hippie types has become a favorite police sport at beach resorts like Acapulco and Mazatlan, while at the border many long-haired or bearded young people reportedly had been refused entrance into the country. There also were stories about vigilante gang attacks on long-haired males in Mexico City itselt.
Lest these tales seem exaggeration based in paranoia, the Banco Nacional de Mexico recently had prohibited its employees from wearing mustaches and sideburns and the Restaurant and Hotel Workers Union had announced it would consider the mustache issue at its next national convention. The days of Emiliano Zapata—when long, drooping bandido mustaches were not only approved but nearly necesario—had passed.
So the trip was anticipated with excitement and anxiety as slowly the necessary signatures were collected on the bull ring permission form. All the signatures but that of the Regent of this city, that is. The Regent left town unexpectedly and the concert had to be rescheduled.
Mario started greasing palms (as natural in Mexico as haggling over the price of a souvenir) and worked his way to Presidente Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, who reportedly gave his verbal okay.
When the Regent returned, however, the president’s verbal go-ahead disappeared in a swirl of polemic dust (and unanswered calls) and apparently the buck was passed back to the Regent, who just never got around to saying yes or no.
Time running short before the Doors’ scheduled departure from Los Angeles, Mario then went to Javier Castro, one of the Castro Brothers, a singing and guitar-picking act that played second to Cass Elliott when she appeared so briefly in Las Vegas last year. Javier, 26, owned the Forum, a 1,000-seat supper club in the city that is roughly equivalent to the Copacabana in New York, the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles.
Mario told Javier he could deliver the Doors to Javier’s posh club for four nights at $5,000 a night. Together they found a friend who provided a $20,000 cashier’s check to take the Doors as a guarantee, and the next morning, a Tuesday, Ultimas Noticias carried a full-page ad beralding the appearance of the Doors at the Forum that weekend.
At this point, the Doors (still in Los Angeles) did not know that the bull ring performance was becoming more and more unlikely by the minute and that they had been booked into the Forum. The first they heard of it was when Javier and Mario came waltzing into their offices Wednesday evening with the newspaper ad in their bands. The Doors were furious.
Meetings that lasted long into the night ended with the Doors agreeing to leave the next day as planned-but it was also agreed that additional appearances would be arranged, one or two in the National Auditorium (which seats 18,000), another on one of the three television stations controlled by Telesystema Mexicana, the world’s fifth-largest television production complex, run by a chum of Javier’s.
The Doors office that night was subtly lighted, the desk of Bill Siddons, the Doors’ manager, littered with bottles and posters and Forum newspaper ads, members of the band sitting around with long faces, talking about how maybe they should have called in that psychic the week before after all. It was with minimal enthusiasm they packed that night.