So, after 41 years, the State of Florida, in the person of Charlie Crist, the departing governor, has issued a pardon to Jim Morrison for his 1969 conviction for lewd conduct. (Photo: Jim Morrison and counsel Max Fink at the courthouse.)
Did he whip it out, or didn't he? Whether he did or didn't, the charges were obviously nothing but the railroading of a rock star, as a result of the influence of the religious right and political oddballs like Anita Bryant. Why Jim chose to do this in Florida, his home state, when he no doubt had considered what the consequences might be, is known only to him, but the man was always fond of risk-taking. Of course, the problem with that is you can't always predict the consequences, and in this case, it didn't pay off. Jim was knocked off his game by forces he underestimated. And although his crime, if it even occurred, was not much by today's standards, he was convicted of it, and not forgiven for many years. Some of Jim's friends believe the depression brought on by the trial and its results began the downward spiral that ended in his untimely death in Paris in July 1971.
Which brings me to my first encounter with Mr. Morrison in Los Angeles in September of 1969.
After a visit to LA in late 1968, I determined to return permanently, and in July of 1969 - the 4th to be exact - I arrived in New York from London, met my friend Angela on West 183rd Street, and we then caught a midnight plane, arriving in LA on the morning of the 5th. By the end of that week, I began work as a cocktail waitress at Thee Experience on Sunset and Gardner, a little bit east of the Strip, a job arranged for me by my friend Joanne Carroll, another Brit, who was then living with Art Tripp of the Mothers of Invention.
Run by the jovial Marshall Brevetz, the club opened in March of 1969 and closed in December of that year. Marshall was a Florida transplant, and the club quickly became a haven for fellow Floridian Morrison, as well as many other rock musicians. During its short life, there were legendary shows and jam sessions at Thee Experience, but the word was out from Elmer Valentine and Mario Maglieri of the Whisky that if you played at Thee Experience, don't expect to ever play the Whisky again. However, because Marshall was unable to pay any of his bills, including fees to bands and so on, the place went belly-up and that was that. But it was a fun spring and summer.
During my first week I was told to watch out for Jim Morrison and to be sure and let management know if he was there, so they could presumably personally take care of him. I had very little idea about the Doors, or Jim, having only briefly been exposed to their music in the UK. I had to be shown a photo of Jim, which was the famous Joel Brodsky "Young Lion" shot (right), about which Elektra president, Jac Holzman remarked "Jim looked like that for about 20 minutes." Well, I thought, that'd be hard to miss!
I was also told that he was a dedicated drunk, but some of the crowd I'd been hanging with in London could do their share, so I didn't take it as the warning it was probably intended to be. However, he never came in, so I stopped looking out for him.
I was an indifferent waitress, and the patrons really didn't tip, but I hoped to make connections so I could get back to work in the music business. Fortunately, Thee Experience only served beer and wine, so that wasn't difficult, but there was food, banana splits, hamburgers and so on. To say the room was difficult to work is an understatement - near darkness, constant loud music, customers who were several sheets to the wind on not only booze but whatever other substance they might have encountered.
Over the Labor Day weekend, Delaney and Bonnie & Friends came in for a couple of days, plus every guest they could load on stage, including Jimi Hendrix, Stephen Stills, Dave Mason, Frank Zappa, you name it. I thought this would be a good time to take a couple of days off - I never had a good section to work anyway, and this line-up would drive all the big customers down to the front of the room, plus it would be Complete Chaos.
As luck would have it, I got a call from one of the other waitresses, asking me to fill in for her, as her little boy was sick, so on the promise I could work the back section, I reluctantly went in. It was indeed chaos, as I had suspected. With the attraction of a holiday weekend, and a great show sprinkled with mega-stars, the joint was jumping. I was glad to be in the back, where there was nobody to wait on, except those up in the bleachers, up to whatever they got up to back there! They certainly didn't need a waitress, that's for sure, and I didn't want to know!
As we waitresses couldn't sit while working, I kept walking up and down between the sections, in a wide aisle, just in case someone was crazy enough to move into my section. The front sections were jammed with revelers, and I noticed one table at the edge of the aisle, that was becoming rowdy, even by Thee Experience standards. Someone got up on the table, and there was a lot of raucous behavior, audible even over the band. Further, one of the party, a heavy-set man with long hair and a big, bushy beard, kept moving his chair further and further into the aisle, as if to block my passage.
As we weren't supposed to wait on other sections, I kept away, and continued to stroll up and down, now and then casting an eye on the table, to make sure it didn't go over on other customers, due to the continued hilarity, and wondering whether to go and bother Bill, who did security, just to have him drop by and make sure things didn't escalate further.
By this time, the bearded guy had moved his chair smack into the middle of the aisle, sitting there all alone, facing me, like the lone gunslinger. I had no idea what he was up to, but continued to keep my distance. I vaguely wondered where their waitress was. Up and back, up and back. Then suddenly, I was grabbed from behind, by the hair, and pulled off my feet backwards. Next thing I knew I was lying across this idiot's lap, while he bellowed into my face, "GET ME A BEER, BITCH!!"
I came up like lightning, put my right foot on the chair he was still sitting in, spraddle-legged, and kicked it over, with him in it. (To be continued) ...