Long live rock, I need it every night

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Some Thoughts on the Lizard King

I read this article today on the CNN website, which describes comments made by Jim Morrison's family to the authors of a new authorized memoir about The Doors (The Doors on The Doors). Morrison's dad (King Lizard the First?) was an admiral in the US Navy, and the family lived for a time in Alexandria, on Glebe Road. Adm. Morrison looks back on his son's life with a mixture of fondness and regret:

We look back on [Jim] with great delight...the fact that he's dead is unfortunate but looking back on his life, it's a very pleasant thought.
Remember, this was the guy who sang about killing his pops and banging his mom ("The End"). With the exception of one phone call, Mr. Mojo Risin' didn't speak to his parents after he left home (although he did remain friendly with his siblings. Here's his dad on their estrangement:

I had the feeling that he felt we'd just as soon not be associated with his career. He knew I didn't think rock music was the best goal for him. Maybe he was trying to protect us.
The article reminded me of when I was in Cleveland for work last November, and took some time to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There’s an exhibit on The Doors in there, and I remember they had a letter from Admiral Morrison to the Florida Probation and Parole Commission, regarding Jim’s arrest, and subsequent conviction, for indecent exposure and profanity at a 1969 Doors concert in Miami. Through the magic of Google I was able to find the letter, which I post below:

Letter to Jim's Father from probation department: (dated September 24,

Florida Probation and Parole Commission District Office

Admiral George Morrison,
I am presently conducting a pre-sentence investigation on your son.

As you are probably aware, Jim has been found guilty of indecent exposure and profanity in Dade County.

Jim tells me that it has been 2 or 3 years since he last had any contact with you. I would very much appreciate any comments that you would care to make regarding your son's behavior and his present situation to include in my investigation.

The sentence date has been set for Oct. 30, 1970.

Thank you very much,

Robert Disher

Admiral Morrison's reply: (dated October 2, 1970)

Thank you for your letter of September 30. I appreciate this opportunity to comment on my son Jim.

I saw him last about 5 years ago during his senior year at UCLA. He was successfully completing his fourth year of college. As in all his academic work through grade school, high school, and college, he was an excellent student. While he had always been an intellectual rebel, he had always obeyed and respected authority.

In 1965 I began a two-year assignment in England. Although I invited him to join us in London after graduating, he declined to start his own career. Since that time he has been completely independent of me financially and in every other way. We have very little contact with him since that time due partly to the physical separation and partly because of some criticism from me.

While in London, I was called by an old friend in California who had been approached by Jim for a loan to finance his first record. Concerned by his appearance, particularly his long hair, the friend called me. I, in turn, wrote Jim a letter severely criticizing his behavior and strongly advised him to give up any idea of singing or any connection with a music group because of what I considered to be a complete lack of talent in this direction. His reluctance to communicate with me again is to me quite understandable.

Since returning to the United States I have on several occasions made an effort to contact him. One time I was successful in talking with him by telephone. Our conversation was quite pleasant and I congratulated him on his first gold album, but nothing of consequence was discussed. We have had no direct contact since that time. However, while we all lived in California in 1969, Jim's younger brother and sister visited with him frequently and got along famously as they always did during their childhood days at home.

Also an old friend of ours had dinner with Jim in LA several months ago and reported to us that he was the 'same ol' Jim'. I have followed his career with a mixture of amazement and in the case of Miami, great concern and sorrow.

While I obviously am not a judge of modern music, I view his success with pride. Based on my knowledge of Jim through his twenty first year, I firmly believe that his performance in Miami was a grave mistake and not in character.

I will always follow his progress with the greatest of interest and concern and stand ready to assist him in any way, should he ask.

Thank you again for this opportunity to affirm my conviction that Jim is fundamentally a respectable citizen.

Very truly yours,
G.S.Morrison, Rear Admiral USN

I don't know what lessons are to be drawn from this, but it struck me as incredibly sad, especially given that the next exhibit, alongside the above letter, was a telegram, dated August 10, 1971, from the U.S. Embassy in Paris informing the Morrisons that their son had been found dead in his apartment. Children turn their backs on their parents, and parents respond in kind--it's been this way since before rock and roll and the birth of the "counterculture". Either way, the family Morrison still look back on their wayward son and brother with pride:

Jim Morrison died of a heart attack in Paris in 1971, and his grave at the Pere Lachaise cemetery is one of the city's top tourist attractions. His family pays the authorities to take care of the site. George Morrison said it was "quite an honor ... for the family" to have his son buried near cultural giants like Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Frederic Chopin.


Jumbo Slice said...

When I first saw the post, I looked at the picture and wondered "why Captain Stubing is on our blog"? While I knew Jim Morrison used to live in this area, I had no idea his father was an Admiral.

Put in the context of everything that happened, the letter really is sad. You can tell how much he cared for his kid and the pain he felt that they were somewhat estranged. The whole Morrison saga is pretty fascinating. I think I'm going to read this book.

Thanks for posting that.

Jimbromski said...

Tonight...a very special Rock Club...